Mexico’s rich and mysterious past is still visible in the amazing ancient ruins scattered throughout the country. From impressive towering pyramids in the Yucatan Peninsula to elaborate ancient cities found in Coba, the Mayan heritage continues to draw millions of tourists from across the globe. If you are looking to extend your knowledge and your travels beyond the Yucatan and Riviera Maya, we have shared our travels to remote Mayan ruin sites in southern and western locations. When traveling to the Riviera Maya, you will have a wealth of INAH ruins to visit, ranging from the Tulum ruins overlooking the Caribbean Sea to Chichen Itza, the 8th wonders of the world!
Balamkú, located just a few miles from Calakmul in the state of Campeche, has the largest surviving stucco frieze found at any of the excavated Mayan settlements. The Four Kings Frieze is protected from the sun and inclement weather in the House of the Jaguar. Dating back to 550 to 650 AD, the symbolism and artistry found in these four friezes is worth the drive and the experience at Balamkú.
Becán was "discovered" by archaeologists Karl Ruppert and John Denison in 1934. The name Becán means “ravine formed by water, ('Be' meaning roadway and 'Kan' meaning serpent) a contemporary Yucatecan-Maya name that Ruppert and Denison selected for the site. The ancient Maya name is not known. It is this architectural feature that sets Becan apart from other Mayan settlements.
The Bonampak archaeological zone in Chiapas, Mexico is small, but don't let its size determine the significance of this Mayan Ruin. The preserved murals in Bonampak, dating back to 790 A.D., are worth the trip to Chiapas. Archeologists believe that Bonampak has the finest examples of classic Mayan frescoes. These murals introduced a different understanding of the Maya culture unseen in other archaeological sites.
Located in Campeche, Mexico, Calakmul is only 22 miles from the Guatemala border. Located within a protected UNESCO Biosphere and a UNESCO site itself, Calakmul has vast jungle, monkeys, and over 230 species of birds. Remote and beautiful, the Calakmul Ruins is a unique settlement that deserved it's award for its cultural and environmental importance. Jhon 12.00 Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE MicrosoftInternetExplorer4...
Located in the Costa Maya, just south of the Riviera Maya, Chacchoben, "The Place of Red Corn," (in Spanish "Lugar de Maiz Colorado,") is a largely restored Mayan site. Chacchoben has a mystical feel to it. The towering mahogany trees, enormous cohune palms, strangler figs, and banyan trees makes Chacchoben a special place.
This adventure takes you deep into the Sian Ka'an Biosphere just south of Tulum. Ever since we glimpsed the Santa Rosa peninsula on a flight along the southern coastline we have dreamed of making the trip to the Chac Mool Ruins. Located on the Santa Rosa peninsula, the Chac Mool ruins lie between two large bays in the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve; Bahia de la Ascension and Bahia Espiritu Santo.
The Mayan Ruins of Chicanná were rediscovered and named in 1966 by Jack D. Eaton during his exploration of the Yucatan. Eaton was poking around prior to the official start of the National Geographic/Tulane University archaeological study at the Becán Ruins and found this site. The design on the famous Structure II, 'House of the Serpent Mouth' inspired the Mayan name Chicanná. In Mayan “chi” is mouth; “can” is serpent and “na” is house.
We were first introduced to Chichen Itza through John Lloyd Stevens travel book "Incidents of Travel in Yucatan' published in 1843. Now, Chichen Itza is a UNESCO World Heritage site, the #2 most visited archaeological site in Mexico and in 2006 awarded the title of one of the new 7 Wonders of the World. Chichen Itza has played an important role in understanding Mayan and Mexican history making it a top tour in the Riviera Maya and an excellent Loco Adventure.
Archaeologists believe Cobá was one of the most important ruin sites on the Yucatan Peninsula. The design and purpose of this settlement was very different from other Mayan cities, with various settlements existing in one area. The white roads lead from each settlement to the main pyramid, Nohoch Mul. Learn more about this off-the-beaten-track Mayan Ruin.
Located in the southern part of the State of Quintana Roo, Dzibanche and Kinichna is a unique off the beaten path experience in the heart of local villages. To our surprise, these sites have two separate entrances but visitors pay only one entrance fee. Each site is smaller than the surrounding archeological sites but worth the driving adventure to reach them. The cities were discovered by Thomas Gann, a military doctor and amateur archeologist, in 1927
Dzibilchaltun Ruins are located near the colonial city of Merida, Yucatan. Dzibilchaltun was a large settlement and still occupied when the Spanish arrived during the 1500s. Archaeologists estimate there were as many as 200,000 inhabitants and 8,400 buildings during its history with artifacts dating back to the middle of the classic period (700 – 800 A.D.) Highlights are the large plaza, sacbe trails, the Temple of the Dolls, and the Open Chapel, an unusual amphitheater shaped structure.
El Meco, a small but influential Mayan Archeological site located in Cancun, was just recently opened to the public. The site is well preserved and worth a visit before heading to Cancun beaches or hopping on the Isla Mujeres ferry. The Itzamna influence is evident in this location. Serpent heads decorate the castillo staircase, the highest Mayan pyramid in the Cancun area.
El Rey Ruins located in the Hotel Zone of Cancun is part of an important ancient Maya trade route. Named after 'The King' stone sculpture found on the site, this post-classic community is a historical location as well as a great botanical garden. We were hoping to see the King sculpture which named this site, but our search turned into an adventure that had us exploring more Mayan ruins in Cancun.
The word Edzná comes from "House of the Itzás", which has led Archaeologists to believe that this Mayan city was influenced by the family Itzá long before they founded Chichen Itzá. It has also been documented that the layout of Edzná mimicked that of Teotihuacán near Mexico City. This Mayan site is as intriguing as it sounds and is a great trip through the Yucatan Peninsula. Adventure awaits at Edzná.
Ek Balam is a Yucatec Maya name that translates to "the black jaguar" or "bright star jaguar." Located near the colonial city of Valladolid in Yucatan, Mexico, Ek Balam's most important cultural period was during the Late Classic Period 700 - 1000 A.D It wasn't until the late 1980's when the site was mapped, and research continued into the 1990's. This is a mesmerizing ruins site if you are looking for something a bit off the beaten path.
Kohunlich pronounced (KOE•HOON•LEECH) is a Spanish derivative of 'Cohune palm tree'. This Mayan city is in the middle of the jungle in the south of Quintana Roo and home to Howler monkeys that can be heard, but not seen as you walk into the site. The jungle, moss covered terrain and majestic temples found on this site will keep you busy for a good portion of the day. This is a unique southern destination in Quintana Roo that should be seen.
Uxmal and Chichen Itza can overshadow the Mayapan Ruins, but reconsider your ruins visits as Mayapán is a worthy site to see. This site will add to your education and understanding of the Maya. Mayapán was the last standing civilization before the arrival of the Spanish and holds a wealth of information.
We love this ruin site! Muyil is the modern name used to refer to this archaeological site, but it is also know as Chunyaxché. This site is located within the northwest boundaries of the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve off Hwy 307. Muyil Ruins is small, lush, has few visitors, and feels magical. This is an easy site to navigate, fun site to walk through, and the lagoon adds a new dimension to this Mayan history lesson.
The Mayan Ruins of Palenque are as important as Chichen Itza, Uxmal and Tikal in architectural magnificence and historical significance. Located 400 miles (650 kilometers) from the Riviera Maya, this is a great 3 day road trip from the beach. As an UNESCO Heritage site, Palenque is testimony to the mythology and resources of the Maya.
Jacque Costeau has long been credited for making Playa del Carmen and Cozumel popular but the Maya have been traveling between these two cities for centuries. The Playacar Ruins were a launching point for Maya women to honor the Goddess Ixchel on Cozumel Island. This annual spiritual pilgrimage was necessary in the eyes of the Maya for a healthy pregnancy and childbirth.
San Miguelito Ruins is located on the property of the Cancun Mayan Museum, a great combination that deepens visitors understanding of the Maya community. The museum has a wonderful archive of Mayan artifacts from various Mayan archeological sites. The ruin site of San Miguelito compliments the museum beautifully. Located to the west of the El Rey ruins in the Cancun Hotel Zone at KM 16.5, there are some wonderful surprises at this location.
Just south of Uxaml on the Ruta Pucc (Hwy 261) are three small ruin sites considered the suburbs of Uxmal. Few visit these small sites as Uxmal towers over the area both historically and culturally. Missing these three archaeological gems will leave a hole in your historical knowledge of the Maya. Being small sites, Sayil, Labna, Kabáh are easy to tour in just a few hours. Located close to Uxmal, they are easy to get to.
The greatest attraction at the Tulum Ruins is its location. Built on a bluff facing the rising sun, this ruin site is the only Maya settlement located on the beaches of the Caribbean. The views continue to be described as spectacular as millions of people visit this Maya ruin in the Riviera Maya.
For us, Uxmal has a magical feel and deep spirit not found at Chichen Itza. This UNESCO Mayan ruin site is less crowded than others and entices visitors to an overnight stay at local hotels so you can fully enjoy the Uxmal experience during the day and in the evening. The Uxmal archeological site is a wonderful balance of jungle, wide open spaces, and few visitors as you marvel over the classic Puuc architecture of the Maya.
Xel-Ha Ruins seems to be missed as people head to the Tulum Ruins overlooking the coast or venture into the Xel-Ha Eco-park. The Xel-Ha settlement has an important trade history and houses some great murals not found in Tulum or Muyil. The cenote located on the west end is a nice surprise and historical asset. Take a moment to stop into the Xel-Ha Ruins in the Riviera Maya. You will discover more about the Maya and the importance of coastal settlements.
Our journey to Yaxchilan Ruins had us heading down the Usumacinta River in Chiapas, Mexico. Located a fair distance from the Riviera Maya, the state of Chiapas is environmentally diverse with pasture lands, mountains, jungles, rivers, waterfalls and canyons. Culturally, Chiapas is rich with colonial cities, and has a long history of Mayan settlements.