Mayan ruins – 10 Best Ruins in Mexico to visit

June 23, 2021 / Backpacking
mayan ruins

Mayan Ruins are the best places to visit in Mexico. Mexico is a North American country with a rich and colorful culture. The Mayan people are thought to have settled in Mexico and Central America around 1800 BCE, and today there are about 7 million Mayans who still keep the old traditions and are native Mayan speakers. You’ll find many remnants of their ancestors have been located, excavated and made available to the public. Here are 10 Mayan ruins in Mexico to excite the explorer in you.

1. Chichen Itza

One of the more popular ruins, Chichen Itza sits on about six square miles of land. Here you’ll find Kukulkan Pyramid, which on the equinoxes the sun casts shadows on the steps shaped like a snake. 

2. Tulum

This one is on the coast. Perched atop a cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea, it was a major trading post where things like chocolate, cotton, turquoise, jade and copper were traded. Some areas of the Tulum ruins even have the original painted murals visible.

3. Calakmul

Not only will you find pyramids at Calakmul, but you’ll also find ancient reservoirs that gave tens of thousands of Mayans water access. Located near the Guatemalan border, it’s part of a jungle reservation that is home to howler monkeys, jaguars and more. 

4. Teotihuacan

Just outside of Mexico City, Teotihuacan is expansive. This ancient city is home to both the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon. Once a year, the Avenue of the Dead aligns perfectly with the setting sun. 

5. Monte Alban

This UNESCO World Heritage Site in Oaxaca was inhabited for at least 13 centuries. Many of Monte Alban’s structures still look inhabitable. You’ll find temples, an observatory, palaces and more here.

6. Chacchoben

The entirety of Chacchoben isn’t available for exploration, but don’t let that deter you. Many structures still look much as they did centuries ago, with evidence of red paint still on them. 

7. Templo Mayor

In Spanish it means The Greater Temple as it was considered to be the epicenter of the Mayan civilization. It’s located in Mexico City and situated next to a large cathedral. Templo Mayor is dedicated to the Gods of War, Rain and Agriculture.

8. El Rey

Right in the middle of Cancun, visiting El Rey doesn’t have to take all day. There’s no pyramids here as it’s more of a temple complex. But it’s still full of history and culture.

9. Ek Balam

Ek Balam translates to Balck Jaguar in Mayan. It’s also home to King Ukit Kan Lek Tok’s tomb inside the largest Mayan pyramid. There’s even some art and calligraphy still plastered on the walls. 

10. Izamal

Here lies one of the heaviest pyramids in Mesoamerica. This is a very important site for Mayans, and after the Spaniards conquered Izmal and built a church here, it became equally important to Mexican Catholics. 

With so many Mayan ruins across Mexico, you’ll likely be close to a site no matter what area of the country you visit. Some are close enough to major cities that there’s little to no hiking involved.