Visit Mayan ruins in Mexico

Many people visit Mexico for the sun and sea. The coast of the Yucatán Peninsula is a favourite tourist destination. The beach is not the only thing of interest in this area. This is an area that was home to the ancient Mayan civilisation. There are several sites with impressive Mayan ruins which can easily be reached from the coastal resorts.

The Mayan people built the first cities in this area around 500 BC and this civilisation thrived for 2000 years. The Spanish invaded in the 16th century and the civilisation disintegrated. The last Mayan city fell to the Spanish in 1697.

The Mayans were skilled workers in stone and these stone buildings have lasted for hundreds of years. Buildings include both pyramids and temples. We are fortunate to be able to visit these remains today.

Chichen Itza

The remains of the city at Chichen Itza are a very popular tourist destination.  Some may argue that it is spoilt by the number of visitors. 2 million tourists came here in 2016. Consequently the site is crowded and over run with tourists. The most famous building on the site is the pyramid below called the Temple of Kukulcan.

pyramid at Chichen Itzá

Visitors are no longer able to climb the pyramid after an American woman fell to her death in 2006. In addition to the pyramid significant structures include the ball court and the Temple of the Warriors. 

Although less famous there are two Mayan sites described below which may appeal to you more than the site at Chichen Itza. A great advantage of being less famous is that they are less busy.

Coba Archaeological Site

The archaeological site at Coba is dominated by Nohuch Mul pyramid. At 42 meters tall it is substantially taller than the pyramid at Chichen Itza which is only 30 meters tall. Tourists are allowed to climb this pyramid and there is a steady flow of people up and down.

tall mayan pyramid

From the top you have an impressive view over the dense jungle below. You can just make out the top of the next highest structure on the site just above the tree canopy.

view from the top of pyramid

You can see from the picture below that the building is not well preserved. The route to the top is a challenging climb as the steps are uneven and in places totally absent. This is less of a problem going up compared to coming down. I would strongly recommend those people who are not certain they can get down not to begin to climb. Yes the view is good from the top, but not worth risking an injury.

descent of nohuch mul pyramid

Close to this enormous pyramid there is another known as La Iglesia or The Church. You cannot climb this pyramid and as a result it maintains a good state of preservation.

pyramid known as the church

Close by you can find a ball court which was used for a game with rules that are lost in time. The ring you can see at the top of the court is known to play a part in the game. Maybe it is a goal. This ball game might have started as a simple sport. Murals of decapitated players have been found which suggest that later it became something far more violent. You can find these ball courts in other Mayan cities in the region.

ball game court with stone ring on side

Given the possible ritual sacrifice associated with the ball game the skull below is rather macabre.

stone skull

There are many other remains of the city which are now covered by the jungle and remain to be excavated.

Tulum

More striking than either of the other sites are the remains at Tulum. You can see below the building on the rocky outcrop above the warm waters of the ocean.  The building here is known as the temple of the God of wind. Certainly it is in a windy spot open to the passing weather systems.

temple of the wind god on rocky outcrop

Following the winding path behind the beach you find another impressive structure, the pyramid known as El Castillo.

pyramid at Tulum

There are a number of other buildings and temples on the site which is only about 500 meters long. It is a nice size just to wander amongst the ruins. The sea below is very inviting for a swim.

beach below temple of the wind