13 Must-Visit Mayan Ruins in Mexico

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Looking to visit the ancient ruins in Mexico? 

Mexico is a country steeped in history and culture, and nowhere is this more evident than in the ruins dotted throughout the rugged landscape. They’re a must-see for anyone visiting Mexico and offer an insight into the fascinating world of the Mayans. 

In this guide, we’ve covered the history of each ruin, why you NEED to visit it, how to get there, and what to expect when you arrive. 

What are you waiting for? Let’s dive in… 

Incredible Mayan Ruins in Mexico

Tulum Ruins, Tulum

The Tulum Ruins are some of the most well-preserved Mayan ruins in all of Mexico, and offer a glimpse into the lives of this ancient civilization. This site was once an important port city, and is located on the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula.

One of the main attractions of these ruins is their location – perched atop a cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea. This makes for some stunning views, and provides a unique backdrop to the ruins themselves.

Other highlights of Tulum’s ruins include the Temple of the Descending God, which is decorated with intricate carvings, and the Castillo (or Castle), which was used as a watchtower by the Mayans. 

A visit to Tulum is a must for any history or architecture lover – and even those who aren’t typically interested in ruins will be blown away by the beauty of this site!

Muyil Ruins, Tulum

The Muyil Ruins are located just south of Tulum, and are considerably less well-known than their more famous neighbour. However, these ruins offer a fascinating glimpse into the Mayan culture and are well worth a visit.

The Muyil Ruins are famed for the large number of stelae (or stone tablets) that can be found there. The stelae are carved with hieroglyphics, which provide insight into the religious and political life of the Mayans.

Other highlights of Muyil include the Gran Plaza, which is a large square flanked by Mayan temples, and the Chac-Mool Monument, which is a statue of a reclining figure. 

If you’re looking for a less-crowded alternative to Tulum, Muyil is the perfect place to visit.

Palenque, Chiapas

Palenque

The Palenque ruins are some of the most famous in Mexico. This may be due, in part, to the fact that they are among the most recently discovered Mayan ruins – they were only first excavated in the 1940s. 

The site is located in a lush jungle setting, and is thought to have been the capital of a Mayan kingdom from around 600-900 AD.

One of the most impressive structures at Palenque is the Temple of Inscriptions, which was built in honor of Pakal the Great, the ruler who commissioned its construction. 

This Maya temple is decorated with elaborately carved reliefs, and is the longest known hieroglyphic inscription from the Mayan world.

Other highlights of Palenque include the Palace, with its distinctive roof comb, and the Temple of the Sun, which features a series of intricate steps leading up to the summit. 

Tikal, Yucatan

Tikal

The Tikal ruins are some of the most spectacular in all of Central America, and are well worth a visit if you find yourself in the Yucatan Peninsula. 

This site was once the capital of a powerful Mayan kingdom, and is now home to some of the best-preserved ruins in all of Mexico.

Tikal is perhaps most famous for its towering temple pyramids, the largest of which is the Temple of the Jaguar. This pyramid reaches a height of 70 meters, and offers stunning views over the rest of the ruins. 

Other notable temples at Tikal include the Temple of the Mask, which features intricate carvings on its facade, and the Mayan Temple of the Inscriptions, which is decorated with hieroglyphs.

In addition to the temples, there are also a number of other impressive structures to be seen at Tikal, including palaces, plazas, and ball courts. A visit to this ancient city is sure to leave you awestruck by the beauty and sophistication of the Mayan civilization.

Chichen Itza, Tinum

Chichen Itza

The Chichen Itza ruins are some of the most well-known in all of Mexico, and are a must-see for any visitor to the country. This ancient city was once home to one of the most powerful Mayan kingdoms, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The most famous structure at Chichen Itza is the Temple of Kukulkan, also known as the Pyramid of the Sun. This pyramid is 75 meters high, and is covered in intricate carvings of serpents – it is said that when you walk up its steep steps, you can hear the hissing of the snakes.

Other highlights of Chichen Itza include the Temple of Jaguars, the Ball Court, and the Observatory. A visit to this ancient city is sure to leave you with a deeper understanding and appreciation for the Mayan civilization!

Coba, Tulum

Coba Ruins

The Coba ruins are a lesser-known but nonetheless fascinating destination for anyone interested in Mayan history. This site was once the capital of a powerful Mayan kingdom, and is now home to some of the best-preserved ruins in all of Mexico.

Coba is most famous for its Nohoch Mul pyramid, which is the tallest in all of Mexico and soars to a height of 42 meters. This pyramid is accessible via a series of steep steps, and offers stunning views over the rest of the ruins.

Other notable structures at Coba include the Temple of the Jaguar, the Temple of Masks, and the Ball Court. 

Uxmal, Muna

Uxmal

The Uxmal ruins are one of the most well-known and popular destinations for those interested in Mayan history. This ancient city was once home to a powerful Mayan kingdom, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Uxmal is most famous for its imposing Pyramid of the Magician, which reaches a height of 30 meters. This pyramid is decorated with intricate carvings, and is said to be the most well-preserved of all the pyramids at Uxmal.

Other notable structures at Uxmal include the Pyramid of the Governor, the Temple of the Dwarfs, and the Nunnery Quadrangle. 

There are so many amazing Mayan ruins to be explored in Mexico – each one offers a unique glimpse into this fascinating ancient civilization. 

Whether you’re interested in history, architecture, or just want to experience something truly unique, these ruins should definitely be at the top of your list.

Calakmul, Campeche

Calakmul Ruins

The Calakmul ruins are some of the most impressive and least-known Mayan ruins in all of Mexico. This ancient city was once home to a powerful Mayan kingdom, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Calakmul is most famous for its imposing Pyramid of the Serpent God, which reaches a height of 45 meters. This pyramid is decorated with intricate carvings, and is said to be the second tallest in all of Mexico.

Other notable structures at Calakmul include the Temple of the Jaguar, the Palace of the Masks, and the Ball Court. A visit to this ancient city is sure to leave you with a deeper understanding and appreciation for the Mayan civilization!

Bonampak, Chiapas

Bonampak

The Bonampak ruins are definitely worth a visit for anyone interested in Mayan history. This ancient city was once home to a powerful Mayan kingdom, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Bonampak is most famous for its murals, which depict scenes of life and death in the Mayan civilization. These murals are some of the best-preserved examples of Mayan art, and are a must-see for anyone visiting this ancient city.

The Bonampak ruins were built sometime between 600 and 900 AD.

Yaxchilan, Chiapas

Yaxchilan

Situated on the banks of the Usumacinta River, the Yaxchilan ruins are another must-see destination for anyone interested in Mayan history. 

This ancient city was once home to a powerful Mayan kingdom rivalled by the civilization that lived in Piedras Negras. 

The Yaxchilan ruins were built sometime between 350 and 800 AD, and are most famous for the hieroglyphs, which depict scenes of life and death in the Maya civilization.

Today, Yaxchilan is a beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Monte Alban, Oaxaca

Monte Alban

You’ll also want to head to Oaxaca to see Monte Alban’s Mayan ruins. 

The Monte Alban ruins were built sometime between 500 and 900 AD, and the site is most famous for its tombs, which date back to between 500 and 800 AD. 

These tombs offer a unique glimpse into the lives of the ancient Maya, and you’ll also find huge plazas and courts where the ball game tlachtli was played by local Mayan children.

El Rey Ruins, Cancun

El Rey

Towards the southeast of the country, the El Rey Ruins were built sometime between 200 and 600 AD. The ruins are made up of 47 separate structures, and remains of detailed mural paintings and drawings have even been recovered by archaeologists.

Between the years of 200 and 1200 AD. it’s believed that the civilization residing at the site worked mainly as fishermen and salt extractors – though, in later years, it housed immigrants fleeing from the Yucatan area of South America.

The site was quickly abandoned when Spaniards arrived in the 16th century.

Chacchoben, Mahahual

Chacchoben

A must-see destination for anyone interested in Mayan history, the Chacchoben Ruins were once home to a powerful Mayan kingdom, though today they’re visited by thousands of tourists each year.

But how old are the Mayan ruins, we hear you ask? It’s believed that the Chacchoben Ruins were built sometime between 600 and 1000 AD.

The Chacchoben Ruins are most famous for their pyramids, which date back to between 600 and 900 AD. These pyramids offer a unique glimpse into the lives of the ancient Maya, and are a must-see for anyone visiting this ancient city.

Who Were the Mayans?

The Maya were a Mesoamerican civilization that developed in the lowlands of southern Mexico, and reached its height around 250-900 AD. 

The Maya are perhaps best known for their elaborate temples and hieroglyphic writing system – which was one of the most advanced in the ancient world.

Mayan ruins can be found all over Mexico – each ruin has its own history and significance, and is well worth a visit for anyone interested in the Mayan culture.

How to Get to the Mayan Ruins

Most of the Maya ruins in Mexico are located in the Yucatan Peninsula, which is easily accessible from Cancun or Playa del Carmen. There are also a number of ruins located in the states of Chiapas and Tabasco, which can be reached by bus or car.

For those looking to visit several different sites, it may be helpful to hire a tour guide who can take you to all the best ruins in the area. This is the easiest way to make sure you see everything, and can often be done at a fraction of the cost of doing it on your own.

We love this guided tour, which takes you to the Muyil and Tulum ruins from Cancun. Alternatively, this one takes you to Chichen Itza and includes Tequilla tasting.

So, if you’re looking for an unforgettable adventure in Mexico, be sure to include a visit to some of its amazing Mayan ruins.

Mayan Temples and Ruins: Map

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