Top 5 Mayan archaeological sites
Exploring the Yucatan Peninsula
Places you must visit to see the Mayan world
Talking about Mayan culture make us travel centuries behind us to learn about the roots, history and culture of the country you are visiting. This excursion takes us to the magnificence of an era and one of the mother cultures, it is imagining the wise Mayans walking through the sacbé* of an ancient city.
Join us into this tour through the Mayan world, and discover this five archaeological sites you can’t miss:
Without a doubt, one of the most famous Mayan ruins is Chichen Itza, especially after becoming one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Chichen Itza is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Its name means “at the mouth of the well of the Itza” and it was founded in the year 525 A.D; it was one of the most important religious and political centers of that time.
Chichen Itza’s architectural style has many influences, including the Puuc and Toltec style. One the most incredible detail of this style is the hieroglyphic inscriptions used as a reference of the Mayan governors.
The main attractions at Chiche Itza are: the Castle or Kukulkan’s pyramid, the Great Mayan ball game, Temple of the Warriors, the Observatory, and the Nun’s House.
TIP: After visiting Chichen Itza, stop by to swim in a fresh, open-air water sinkhole with crystal clear water. Ik Kil, the sacred blue cenote can be found just five miles from Chichen Itza.
This archaelogical site is located in the Puuc route and it is considered one of the most representative of the architectural style. In 1996, the Mayan site has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in recognition of its significance. Its name has two different meanings or interpretations: “what is to come, the future” or “three times built”.
Mayan legends says that Uxmal’s highest pyramid was built in just one night. Because of this and its truly beautiful architecture, its buildings are wrapped in mysticism. The importance of Uxmal lies in its vast territory. During its time of glory, Uxmal was home to more than 20,000 habitants. Besides Uxmal, the sacbé* is connected to other Maya cities that belongs to the Puuc route such as Kabah.
Uxmal main buildings are: Pyramid of the Magician, the Nunnery Quadrangle, House of the Doves and the Old Lady’s House.
TIP: If you want to witness the magic of Uxmal and its leyends, you should definetely try to take the visit at night and enjoy the light show under the stars of the Mayab.
The Coba archaeological site is known for being one of the largest settlements of the Mayans, its name means “ruffled waters”, and is constantly compared with Chichen Itza because during their time of glory, they were eternal rivals. One aspect worth mentioning is that Coba is in the middle of the Mayan jungle and has 45 sacbés* that connect it with other Mayan cities under its domain. These roads facilitated trade, militaty and religious activity.
Its main buildings are: Nohoch Mul, the Church and the Painting Complex.
TIP: You will find the highest pyramide in the Yucatan Peninsula: Nohoch Mul, a 42-meters height building where you will enjoy a wonderful panoramic view after climbing 120 steps.
Its name means “Black Jaguar”. This site was unknown until a few years ago and it has been a very valuable discovery for its Mayan decorative samples which you can observe as soon as you walk through the Entrance Arch. Another distinctive thing about this settlement is that the main buildings are protected by 3 walls.
Ek Balam has more than 40 buildings and is known for its wall paintings and structures inside them. Inside the main buildings you will find: the Oval Palace, White House of Reading and the North Plaza.
TIP: Don’t forget to visit “The Acropolis” and look for the “Mayan Warriors”, an impresive stucco figure that resembles a human body.
This is an unique city because is the only archealogical site which is built next to the seashore of the Mexican Caribbean. This site was formerly known by the name Zama, meaning “City of Dawn” because it faces the sunrise.
Its architecture is typical of the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. In Tulum you will find walls that are still conserved inside the temples.
Tulum is a must in your visit, not only for the beauty of the turquoise waters surrounding, but because it is one of the cities that has been more studied, it help us understand the life of the Mayan during the Post-Classic period, especially the importance of Tulum as a trading port.
The main buildings in Tulum are: the Castle, Temple of the Frescoes, the House of the Halach Uninic and the House of the Cenote.
TIP: Visit the Temple of the Wind and enjoy the sound of the waves while you are enjoying the blue turquoise of the Mexican Caribbean.
After this tour full of history, we have discover a little more of the fascinating world of the Mayan and their important settlements in Yucatan, Campeche, Quintana Roo and Chiapas. It is also important to note that the Maya settled in Guatemala, where the astonoshing archaeological site of Tikal is located.
Which of these Mayan ruins have you visited?
*Sacbé: are raised paved roads built by the Maya civilization of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. Most connect temples, plazas, and groups of structures within ceremonial centers or cities.
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