The Riviera Maya is an extension of the Caribbean coast in the Yucatan Peninsula. It is a Mexican region known for its paradisiacal beaches in the Caribbean Sea, although it is also the scene of the footprints left by the Mayan civilization in Mexico, still standing today and allowing to the travelers to discover its history and ways of life, of one of the cultures with the greatest legacy in the whole world.
In this post we will tell you which are the 9 Mayan ruins near Cancun, most visited and with greater ease of access so that, on your next trip to Mexico, you can have them as an option if it is not beach day ( or yes? we’ll see ).
Why visit Mayan Ruins near Cancun?
As travelers, those who travel to Cancun, Playa del Carmen, the island of Cozumel or anywhere in the Riviera Maya, are surely looking for sunny days, paradisiacal beaches with coasts of the Caribbean Sea and water activities to enjoy the colors of the sea and the underwater life of the region. However, the legacy of the Mayan civilizations in Mexico, especially in the Yucatan Peninsula, has managed to be preserved over the years in the form of temples, ceremonial centers and ruins It seems like they tell a story just by looking at their details.
Destining a day that has not dawned “on the beach”, or leaving a break from the sun or even being curious about the peoples they inhabited thousands of years ago, with a technology, an advance and a knowledge that, to this day, are still being discovered, are already reasons to visit the Mayan ruins in Mexico.
The 9 best Mayan Ruins near Cancun to visit
1. Chichen Itzá, one of the best preserved Mayan ruins in the world
Whoever has ever heard of the Mayan ruins in their life, surely the first of all that comes to mind is the magnificent Chichen Itzá ceremonial center that, as if that were not enough, is find it in the list of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World.
According to history and records, Chichen Itzá was the capital of a vast Mayan territory between the years 987 to 1200 AD, still to this day, incredibly preserved. The largest temple, called the Temple of Kukulcán, is the place where the most outstanding feature can be observed: the play of light between the sun and the shadow which, during each equinox represent a snake descending the gigantic pyramid, being able to be achieved by the perfect location and inclination of the Mayan construction.
Did you know that the height of the Chichen Itzá pyramid is exactly 365 steps? Representing the days of the year (not counting leap years, of course).
In addition to the pyramid, being a Mayan city, there are more ruins to see such as the ball court, the sacred cenote or the observatory.
Travel advice : in certain places in the world, such as the Mayan ruins, it is always advisable to hire a guide, an excursion or have knowledge about the places that are being visited, to be able to capture the essence that each construction represents.
The best way to get to Chichen Itzá from Cancun or Playa del Carmen is taking the tourist bus from either point, hiring an excursion or traveling in your own car for almost 180 kilometers.
- How much does the entrance to Chichen Itzá cost? General admission is 417 Mexican pesos.
2. Tulum archaeological zone
Located perfectly in a second position behind Chichen Itzá and one of the best Mayan ruins a few kilometers from Cancun, is the archaeological zone of Tulum. Probably, in terms of ruins, they are not the most impressive (especially when compared to Chichen Itzá) but it has something that makes it more than special: its viewpoints.
The Archaeological Zone of Tulum is a spectacular place, not only for having been a walled city, but for being located on cliffs overlooking the Caribbean Sea, even with a castle, used as a watchtower, almost on the edge of the precipice.
The best: there are stairs available to descend to the beach and be able to enjoy the ruins from the sea or resting on the white sand.
In addition to El Castillo, you can admire the details of the ornate towers, temples dedicated to the God of the Wind, temples with murals and frescoes and even a dance platform.
Tulum has easy access from federal highway 370 so getting there in your own car has no problem, it is also possible to hire excursions to learn more about the destination.
- How much does the entrance to Tulum cost? It has a cost of 80 Mexican pesos.
3. Cobá, the Mayan ruins of the Yucatan Peninsula, “hidden” in the middle of the jungle
Finding history, discovering the “secrets”, photographing a different landscape and seeing that nature has “appropriated” history, makes visiting the Mayan ruins of Cóba is a great plan to do < / strong>, especially if you are looking for what to do in Cancun with rain or on a cloudy day.
“An expedition through the jungle”, that is the feeling generated by exploring the Mayan ruins of Cobá, located almost 2 and a half hours from Cancun. This feeling is stronger when looking for the Mayan traces among the trees, little explored sites (since mass tourism has not yet “invaded” them) and an extreme curiosity to know that there are still more than 5 thousand vestiges Mayans who are still hidden in the jungle.
The best: being a little explored site and with only some vestiges available to be visited, it is possible to visit the Mayan city together with, for example, Tulum or a cenote and combine both activities in one day. < / strong>
Travel advice: enjoy native Mexican food in one of the restaurants by the lake.
- How much does the entrance to Coba cost? The entrance costs 80 Mexican pesos.
4. Uxmal, Mayan ruins in Mexico, little known but with much to discover
Uxmal means “three times built” and, according to historians, this name is due to the dedication given to the Mayan civilization for its construction. It is one of the largest Mayan cities in the entire region, full of buildings, ceremonial centers and even
From Cancun to Uxmal, there is a journey of about 4 and a half hours which, although it seems quite remote, is a great opportunity to visit “the other side” of the Yucatan Peninsula, full of natural parks and cenotes to explore, moving a little further away from mass tourism. Many travelers take advantage of the visit to Mérida to stay in the town and visit the ruins of Uxmal from there, as it is the closest tourist spot.
- How much does the entrance to Uxmal cost? The cost is 338 Mexican pesos.
5. Ruinas de Xaman-Há, the closest Mayan ruins to Cancun
Within the tour of the Mayan ruins of Mexico, we must highlight the ruins of Xaman-Há, located in the same area of Playa del Carmen that, despite their proximity, are part of the least visited Mayan ruins in the region.
According to the story, the Mayans inhabited the “northern water”, the meaning of Xaman-Há, between 1200 and 1500, at which time the Spanish conquest arrived. During the inhabited time, the Mayans have built various buildings such as temples and houses that today can be visited.
Unlike other Mayan ruins, in order to visit the Xaman-Há ruins, it is necessary to schedule a prior visit by calling the INAH Quintana Roo Center, since only a few tourists are allowed to enter throughout the day, with prior reservation.
- How to visit the Ruins of Xaman-Há? Phones: 01 (983) 837 24 11 and 837 0796, ext. 318002 and 318003
6. Mayan ruins of San Gervasio, a great opportunity to visit Mayan ruins in Cozumel
The island of Cozumel, located right in front of Playa del Carmen, is another of the most visited sites in the state of Quintana Roo that, in addition to its beaches and marine life, it also has ancient Mayan settlements. For travelers staying in Cozumel or visiting the island, a great option is to visit the Mayan ruins of San Gervasio.
According to the story, the Spaniards arrived through the island of Cozumel, the site where they found these settlements, which began their apogee from the year 1200 where, in addition to dwelling houses and ceremonial centers, it is possible to admire the cave paintings within each one.
The ruins of San Gervasio are located about 7 kilometers from the city of San Miguel de Cozumel and correspond to a great alternative to do on the island in case you avoid going to the beach.
- How much does the entrance to San Gervasio cost? It has a value of 188 Mexican pesos.
7. Xcaret, Mayan ruins and theme park
Xcaret, like Xamanhá, is located right in front of the island of Cozumel and, according to the story, they were used as a trade port between one area and the other, and to a key point of passage for pilgrims seeking to visit Cozumel to worship the goddess Ixchel (goddess of medicine, childbirth and tissue), a sanctuary currently destroyed.
The Xcaret ruins are located a few meters from the Xcaret Theme Park, 5 kilometers from the center of Playa del Carmen, the entrance only includes a visit to the ruins, although, as a travel recommendation, if you have the budget and time, the Xcaret park It was several times declared the best theme park in the world and visiting it is really worth it.
- How much does the entrance to Xcaret cost? The entrance to the Mayan ruins of Xcaret costs 50 pesos but, if you want to enjoy the entire park, it is necessary to buy the total entrance Through the official Xcaret page.
8. Kohunlich Archaeological Zone, Mayan art at its finest
Mayan art in the most incredible ways can be seen in the archaeological zone of Kohunlich, located in the state of Quintana Roo, just over 3 hours away from Tulum. Despite being somewhat more remote than other ruins, Kohunlich allows a trip more than just buildings, but the possibility of see works of art thousands of years old surrounded by extensive hills and lands of vegetation, having been used for cultivation. & nbsp;
Such are the traces that the Mayans have left in this area of Quintana Roo that to this day, there are still archaeologists working to discover more remains than can already be seen, as well as walls sculptures and iconographies.
Traveler fact: Kohunlich is a great place, too, to admire the native flora and fauna.
- How much does the entrance to Kohunlich cost? The access charge is 75 Mexican pesos.
9. Ruinas de San Miguelito, Mayan ruins almost in the center of Cancun
Access to the Mayan ruins of San Miguelito is through the Mayan Museum of Cancun, located in the center of the city, another of the best things to do in the event that Cancun dawns with rain.
Of course, San Miguelito is not a Mayan name, but it was the name that was given to differentiate them, honoring the coprero ranch (ranches specialized in the production of coconuts) that worked next to the ruins between the 1950s and 1970s.
In addition to the different buildings of San Miguelito, related to public buildings, dwellings and Mayan ceremonial centers, in the archaeological zone more than 50 human burials, tools and foreign articles have been found.
- How much does the entrance to the Mayan Museum of Cancun and San Miguelito cost? The cost of access is 80 Mexican pesos.
Throughout Mexico there are about 200 Mayan ruins, better expressed, as archaeological sites and zones. Visiting the Mayan ruins of any area of Mexico, takes travelers to know the history of one of the most important, developed and advanced civilizations of humanity through the vestiges and traces that have been demarcated in different aspects. Visiting the Mayan ruins near Cancun allows you to know that piece of history of the Riviera Maya and the Yucatan Peninsula, places where history, in each of its constructions, continues “alive” to this day.