13 Best Mayan Ruins to Visit in Mexico

best mayan ruins

13 Best Mayan Ruins to Visit in Mexico.

Wherever you choose for your vacation in South Mexico, there are likely to be Mayan ruins nearby. A private tour is ideal for history and culture lovers to learn more about the Mayans and the extraordinary legacy they left behind.

The Yucatan Peninsula has a rich historic heritage with many Mayan ruins to explore in each of its 3 states:  Quintana Roo, Yucatan State and Campeche State. Further south, Chiapas State has its own archaeological treasures. Here are the best sites of Mayan ruins in each state:

Best Mayan Ruins in Quintana Roo State

tulum ruins

Tulum

Tulum ruins - the most visited Mayan ruins after Chicken Itza, Tulum ruins are in a beautiful location overlooking the beach and sea. Explore the well-preserved temples and Castillo, appreciate the Mayan culture and take photos of this breathtaking spot.

coba

Coba

These ancient Mayan ruins were swallowed up by the jungle and lost for centuries until being rediscovered. Coba ruins has many raised paths (sacbes), pyramids and standing stones (stelae).

muyil

Muyil

One of the oldest Mayan ruins in Quintana Roo, Muyil includes the beautiful Sian Ka’an lagoon.

Chacchoben

Chacchoben

A huge site of Mayan ruins located one hour from Bacalar. Set among palms and tropical hardwood trees, this peaceful site has two large restored pyramids.

Best Mayan Ruins in Yucatan State

Chichen Itza

The massive El Castillo step-pyramid stands 30m high and is one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. This 1.9 square-mile archaeological site is the most visited in Mexico with a ball court, temples, pyramids and El Caracol observatory.

Uxmal

This UNESCO Word Heritage Site has many ceremonial buildings from the late Mayan period.

Mayapan

The political and cultural capital of pre-Columbian Maya civilization, Mayapan is still under excavation with cenotes, pyramids and over 4000 structures within the city walls.

Best Mayan Ruins in Campeche State

Calakmul Mayan Ruins

Calakmul

Deep in the jungle and close to the border with Guatemala, Calakmul was one of the most powerful Mayan cities ever uncovered. It has 6,750 ruins of Mayan structures including a 45m-high pyramid containing four tombs.

Becan Mayan Ruins

Becan

Off the usual tourist trail, visitors hike through the rainforest to Becan, a powerful ancient city dating back to 550 BCE. It includes many towering pyramids, palaces and ceremonial structures.

Dzibanche

Climb the K’inich Na’ (House of the Sun God) pyramid on this compact archaeological site which was once the capital of the Kan dynasty.

Best Mayan Ruins in Chiapas State

Chiapas is the southernmost state in Mexico, bordering the Pacific Ocean and home to several ancient Mayan ruins.

palenque

Palenque

Built in the 7th century and lost beneath the jungle, the Mayan ruins in Palenque have since been recovered. They include examples of fine carvings and hieroglyphic inscriptions.

bonampak

Bonampak

Engraved stone pillars (stelae) and temple murals record Mayan life, war practices, human sacrifices and politics from AD580 to 800.

Yaxchilan

These Mayan ruins have well-preserved carved lintels above the doorways to the rooms in many ancient structures,

With such a wealth of fascinating Mayan ruins and archaeological sites, Southern Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula are the ideal travel destination for history lovers.

Early Morning Coba Tour

Coba early morning tour

The Advantages of an Early Morning Tour at Coba.

The Coba Maya Ruins and cenotes are one of the most visited attractions in Riviera Maya. It makes sense to beat the crowds and avoid the heat by booking an early morning Coba Tour, especially if you want to climb the pyramid. It’s an unforgettable experience!

Be first to enjoy Coba adventures

The Coba Ruins are one of the few places where visitors can still climb the huge Mayan pyramid. Our early morning Coba tour means you can be first to ascend the stone pyramid and enjoy the view from the top– it’s amazing! It’s also safer and more enjoyable without crowds of other climbers, especially on the descent.

It’s fun to rent a bicycle to explore the extensive site. Enjoy the ride when no-one else is around, getting in the way.

Another advantage of early morning tours to Coba is the chance to see birds and wildlife. Once the crowds arrive and the heat rises, they quickly hide away.

Avoid the crowds

Not only will you beat the crowds and avoid the lines with an early morning Coba tour, you will also get the best souvenirs. Browse the freshly laid-out stalls and haggle with traders for the best price.

The peaceful morning atmosphere allows you to get up close to each building and take beautiful photos when no-one else is around.

Practical advantages of early morning Coba Tours

Early morning tours to Coba arrive just as the site opens at 8am. There are no lines at the ticket office and restrooms and no need to wait to rent a bicycle or taxi tricycle.

The morning air is fresh and cooler than later in the day, allowing you to explore the Coba ruins and climb the pyramid in comfort.

Conclusion!

The best way to experience the Coba Ruins is definitely on an early morning Coba tour. Have a nap on the journey, beat the crowds, and be back at your hotel in time to enjoy the rest of the day.

Coba Ruins

Coba ruins

Coba Ruins

The Best Mayan Site for History and Adventure

The Coba ruins provide many top reasons for tourist to visit, especially if you have visited the Yucatan before. Less popular (and far less crowded) than Tulum or Chichen Itza, Coba has many unique highlights. For example, you can still climb 130 steep steps up the highest Mayan temple pyramid in Mexico at Coba. You’ll see amazing jungle views from the top!

What to See at Coba Ruins

What makes Coba Ruins Tours so exciting is the fact that many of the buildings still remain covered by dense jungle. Just imagine what archaeological secrets lie undiscovered beneath the dense rainforest!
Coba is much older than similar Mayan sites at Tulum and Chichen Itza. In fact, evidence suggests that Coba was inhabited as long ago as 50BC, although the majority of the city was built during the Late Classical Period (500-900AD). It’s hard to imagine that the city was flourishing when the Roman Empire was at its peak.
In addition, Coba has many ancient stelas with Mayan symbols carved into the stone. They probably marked important events in ancient Mayan civilization.

Ruins of Coba for Young and Active Travelers

Families, teenagers and those who enjoy fun adventures will love exploring this unique archaeological site. Unlike other Mayan sites in the Yucatan, the ruins of Coba are very hands-on and definitely not boring. The 30 square-mile (80km²) site is so widespread, the best way to explore it is by bicycle, taxi-tricycle or rickshaw.

Coba Ruins Tours

Coba is less than two hours from Playa del Carmen. Why not opt for an affordable Coba Ruins Tour with private guide? Learn the mysteries of when and how Coba was built and why it was abandoned in 1550 before lying undisturbed for over 300 years.

Mayan Ball Court

Mayan ball court

MAYAN BALL COURT

More than a game, a very special ritual

Through archeological discovery it became evident to experts that Mayans were indeed pretty good sportsmen. The Mayans built grandiose ballcourts to organize games that had ritualistic implications.

Ball court in Chichen Itza

The biggest mayan ball court or as the Mayans put it ‘juego de pelota’ is in Chichen Itza and it is an incredible sight to behold. This great ball court measures a whopping 225 feet in width and 545 feet in length. It is an open-sky ballcourt with no coverings whatsoever. Moreover, the Mayan ballcourt in Chichen Itza is also acoustically perfect. This means that a whisper from one end of the court travels clearly to the other end of the court, being heard by all players.

It is so perfect that the sounds waves are barely ever affected by climatic conditions and wind direction. Regardless of whether it was night or day, nothing affected the acoustics of the ballcourt.

Each side of the court is embedded with a stone hoop or goal. There are various engravings on the walls and pillars surrounding the ballcourt, which give a darker meaning to what may seem like an innocent game of put-the-ball-through-the-hop. The Mayans played with a very heavy ball made out of chicle (a raw material extracted mainly from Mesoamerican trees, chicle is also used to make chewing gum). The ball weighed about 3 to 4 kg or 6 to 8 pounds, which they could only play using their hips, shoulders, knees and elbows. The game could not be played using feet, hands and head.

Although there is a myth surrounding the game that the winning captain of the team is sacrificed, experts on the other hand believe it to be the other way around.

And this is solely because Mayan engravings portray that a player is kneeling-down before being sacrificed for the Gods. And archeologists believe that this act of submission can only depict the loser, whose head is then cut off.

Ball Courts in Coba

There are two courts in the ancient Mayan city of Coba, which are in no way near the court in Chichen Itza in terms of size. However, both ball courts in Coba are different in terms of architecture and design. In Chichen Itza the ball court has straight walls while the in Coba the courts have inclined walls. Experts believe that this smaller ballcourt in Coba was particularly used for ceremonial games.

Toltecs and Human Sacrifice

According to what historians and archaeologists believe, the Toltecs introduced the Mayans to human sacrifice. It became a tradition in the Mayan culture, where the sacrifice was carried out by the high priest (nacom) and the victim was held down on a stone tablet by the priest’s elderly helpers called Chac (named after the Mayan rain god). The victims were mostly slaves, orphans, criminals and children. The victims were called up at the temple one by one held down by the chacs, and that is when the priest pierced their heart with a flint knife. The bodies were then thrown down the steps of the temple.

Human Sacrifices were common and were casually held at various ritual ceremonies in Maya.

Automutilation

Automutilation refers to intentional self-harm. And this was fairly a common practice among the Mayans as well. The noblemen from upper class Mayan families voluntarily and frequently used to cut themselves to please their gods and to communicate with them. Suicide too, was common in Maya and there was even a god named after suicide.