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.

6 Top Things to do in Akumal Riviera Maya

things to do in Akumal

6 Top Things to do in Akumal Riviera Maya.

The natural beauty and variety of attractions near Akumal make it ideal to visit for the day on a private tour. Located midway between Tulum and Playa del Carmen, Akumal has breathtaking beaches and lagoons. From sea turtles to cenotes, here are 6 must-do activities in Akumal.

akumal turtles

Swim with sea turtles

Akumal has a natural sheltered bay protected by a reef. It’s the perfect place to snorkel with sea turtles in their natural environment. Make sure you book a tour guide (mandatory) and read the Akumal bay regulation before the activity.

akumal beach

Akumal beaches

Akumal’s beaches are the jewel of the Riviera Maya coastline. Stroll on the sand or swim and snorkel in the clear warm sea.

tulum ruins

Tulum ruins

Situated on a headland overlooking the beach and sea, Tulum ruins are the most visited archaeological site in Mexico after Chichen Itza. Marvel over the engineering feat of these well-preserved buildings and imagine 13th century Mayan life in this beautiful spot. Take captivating photos of this historic site before enjoying a refreshing swim in the sea.

lagoon yalku

Yal Ku Lagoon

Don’t miss Yal Ku Lagoon in Akumal. The lush site has footpaths, statues, benches and the calm lagoon waters are safe for less confident swimmers. It’s like snorkeling in an aquarium with a lot of colorful fishes!

cenote dos ojos

Snorkel in cenotes

There are many excellent cenotes near Akumal including Taak Bi Ha, Dos Ojos and Nicte Ha. Snorkeling in the crystal clear waters is a unique experience and each cenote is different. Some are covered, like caves; others are open to the sky and edged with ferns. Why not visit several?

Delicious lunch in Akumal

Escape the heat with a relaxed lunch at one of the excellent restaurants in Akumal. Our favorites are “Buena Vista” and “La Cueva del Pescador” for fresh fish and yummy seafood.

Why not plan to spend a day in Akumal, swimming, snorkeling with sea turtles and enjoying the nearby attractions? Choose a private tour which includes transport, snorkel equipment and a friendly local guide.

6 Reasons to Book an Early Morning Tulum Tour

tulum early morning tour

6 Reasons to Book an Early Morning Tulum Tour.

Enjoying a lie-in is an important part of your vacation in Riviera Maya, so you may not be thinking of booking an early morning Tulum Tour.

Our early morning Tulum tours arrive when they open at 8am. There’s no line at the ticket office and restrooms, so walk right in and get started. What a difference from arriving later in the day... Here are 6 good reasons to make you think again!

Beat the crowds

Beat the crowds

Tulum Ruins are a must-see for anyone enjoying a vacation in Riviera Maya. This ancient Mayan site is the second most popular archaeological site after Chichen Itza, attracting thousands of visitors every day. Dozens of coaches deliver hordes of visitors from 9.30an onwards, but the site opens much earlier for the best early morning tours of the amazing Tulum Ruins.

Better pictures

Better photographs

Arriving early means you can take beautiful atmospheric pictures of the Tulum Ruins and its stunning coastal location when no-one else is around. Professional photographers say that the best light for taking photographs is early or late in the day.

First to the beach

First to the beach!

Once you’ve explored the ruins on your early morning Tulum Tour, head to the beach for a cooling dip. Be first to make footprints in the sand!

avoid heat

Avoid the heat with early morning Tulum tours

The dusty site of the Tulum Ruins quickly becomes hot and sticky as you walk around. Our early morning Tulum Tour allows you to fully enjoy the experience in the cooler morning air.

wildlife

See more wildlife

Get the chance to see (and hear) some of the beautiful birds and indigenous coatis that inhabit the park.  Once the crowds arrive, they quickly hide.

relax cenote

Pack more into the day

Early morning Tulum Tours mean you will have time to do something else in the afternoon, like coof off in a cenote! While other groups are out on the road, you can be relaxing by the cenote or sharing your photos with friends back home.

An early morning Tulum Tour is definitely the best way to beat the crowds, avoid the heat, take beautiful photos and get the most from your visit. It pays to be an early bird!

Top 10 Things to Do in Tulum

top 10 things to do in tulum

Top 10 Things to Do in Tulum

If you’re planning a holiday in Riviera Maya, there are many unique things to do in Tulum which reflect its natural beauty and historic heritage. Check our top 10 list of amazing activities around Tulum so you don’t miss a thing!

Mayan Ruins

Tulum Ruins

Tulum Ruins are one of the most visited archaeological attractions in Mexico. The best way to visit these Mayan ruins is on a private guided tour combined with swimming, snorkeling and sunbathing on the nearby beach.

Coba ruins

Coba ruins

Surrounded by lush jungle, the less-visited Coba Ruins offer some unique things to do near Tulum. Climb to the top of the ancient pyramid or explore the network of sacbes (white roads) around the Mayan ruins by bicycle.

Muyil ruins

Muyil ruins

The ancient site of Muyil is off-the-tourist-path and boasts the highest Mayan pyramid on the Riviera Maya.

Snorkel and Swim!

Cenote Swim

One of the best adventure to do in Tulum is swim in a cenote, a natural sinkhole filled with crystal clear water. Visit Dos Ojos with its underwater caves or the hidden gems of Sac Aktun, Taak Bi Ha or Nicte Ha.

Swim with turtles

If you dream of swimming with turtles, unspoiled Akumal Bay is the place to encounter these gentle, beautiful creatures.

Boat Trip

Enjoy a scenic boat trip in Sian Ka’an Lagoon and swim in Mayan canals, after or before visiting Muyil ruins.

Things to Do on Tulum Beaches

Playa Paraiso

Witness a stunning sunrise on Playa Paraiso, one of the best beaches on Riviera Maya.

Beach festivals

Visit Tulum during one of the music festivals for top live entertainment. Sound Tulum is in early January and Tulum Live Music Festival is in mid-April, so book your passes ahead of time.

Beach clubs

Papaya Playa Project, Coco Tulum Beach Club and Ahau Tulum blend culture, wellness and sustainability with great things to do in Tulum including watersports.

No visit to Tulum is complete without visiting one of the local restaurants in downtown area. Check out our favorites – Camelo, Barracuda and Aguachiles - for a memorable meal.

By following these top 10 things to do in Tulum, you’ll have an amazing vacation in Riviera Maya!

Weather in Riviera Maya

Weather in Riviera Maya

Weather in Riviera Maya - Playa del Carmen - Cancun - Tulum.

The beautiful weather is just one of the many reasons that the Riviera Maya is so popular as a tourist destination. The Riviera Maya is located in a humid subtropical climate area, which means that it enjoys warm temperatures all year long, with humidity levels that hover around 90% most of the time. Its annual average temperature is between 75 and 82°F (24 and 28°C), which is perfect for both sunbathing and swimming since the Caribbean Sea always stays warm.

Winter

If you come from a snowy climate, then you probably won’t agree that the weather in Riviera Maya from November through February deserves to be called “winter”. While temperatures fall to their coolest levels during these months, it’s still quite comfortable to stroll through the city and take part in all the exciting activities it offers. In the evenings, you’ll probably want to trade your sandals in for closed-toe shoes and grab a light sweater to wear, as temperatures can reach as low as 65°F (18°C).

Spring

Springtime is gorgeous due to the flowers that bloom everywhere. Between March and May, the weather warms up to the point that you’ll rarely need a sweater in the evenings. The sea also gets calmer and warmer, which makes swimming even more enjoyable than it is in the winter.

Summer

It should come as no surprise that summers are hot!!! You won’t mind though, since the crystal clear water is gloriously warm, meaning you can swim and dive all day long under its spectacular blue skies. Rain showers and thunderstorms are common between June and August, but they generally only last for an hour or two. Come prepared for the sun – you’ll want a hat and sunscreen to protect your skin from sunburn.

Autumn

September and October are the windiest and rainiest times of the year in the Riviera Maya, though the temperature stays warm. If you’re planning a visit this time of year, you’ll want to keep up to date with weather information by using forecasts from meteorological services, since this is the season when tropical storms and hurricanes tend to pass through the area. You can stay safe by following the recommendations provided in local travel advisories.

5 Reasons to Visit the Tulum Ruins

Tulum ruins

5 REASONS TO VISIT THE TULUM RUINS

One of the Best Conserved Mayan Sites

Vacations in Mexico are far more than sunshine, sand and sea. One of the reasons that makes the Riviera Maya a top year-round tourist destination are the amazing Mayan ruins, like Tulum ruins,  just a short drive from Cancun and Playa del Carmen.

1. Short Trip to Tulum Ruins

Tulum’s well-preserved Mayan ruins are one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. They make a popular half-day trip for those staying in the Riviera Maya being much closer than Chichen Itza. The amazing ruins at Tulum are just 70 miles (115km) south of Cancun, and 38 miles (62km) from Playa del Carmen.

2. Spectacular Sea Views at Tulum

Located overlooking the azure Caribbean Sea, the walled Mayan city at Tulum was built as a center of trade. You’ll definitely want to share the spectacular views and “screen saver” photos with friends and colleagues via social media!

3. One of the Best Conserved Mayan Sites

The ruins of Tulum were one of the most recent Mayan sites, built between the 13th and 15th centuries. This pre-Colombian Mayan city has three main highlights: the impressive El Castillo (Castle) right on the headland, the Temple of the Descending God, and the impressive Temple of the Frescoes with its beautiful carvings and paintings.

4. Fascinating Half-Day Tulum Tours

The walled city of Tulum is compact, so you can see all the main buildings in about 90 minutes. Visiting with an English-speaking guide as part of a Tulum Tour provides you with fascinating information even if you are not a fan of history or archaeology. Discover how the Mayans lived, who built Tulum, and why it was abandoned.

5. Combine a Swim in Cenote with the Ruins visit

Visitors can enjoy a swim from the stunningly beautiful beach within the Tulum Ruins site, provided there’s no red flag. Look up at El Castillo for a moment you’ll never forget! And combine this popular activity with another unique Mexican experience - a cool swim in a cenote (limestone sinkhole), you'll get amazed!

Tulum Magic Town

tulum magic town

TULUM MAGIC TOWN

A Stronghold Before – An Amazing Wonder Now

Tulum has undoubtedly become one of the most visited destinations after Chichen Itza in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. And the primary reason for that is the very fact that it is located near the Caribbean Ocean. Moreover, Tulum has also officially become a Pueblo Magico along with the beautiful and magnificent island of Isla Mujeres and Bacalar. So, in essence there are a total of 3 Pueblo Magico in the Quintana Roo state.

Tulum Magic Town: A Stronghold Before – An Amazing Wonder Now

It is no wonder Tulum has been named Pueblo Magico – after all the place overlooks the Caribbean Sea, what a sight to behold! The entire place is full of archeological wonders with landscapes you haven’t seen before, anywhere in the world.

The ruins you see now played a significant role when the Mayans thrived – it provided them with different routes via land and sea, giving them economical advantages for trading. The Mayans also built an astronomic observatory and the walls so provided a solid defense. The main temple refers to Venus. Did you know that Venus was the most important planet to the Mayans after the Sun and the Moon?

There is a plethora of activities you can indulge in while enjoying your trip here. You can go on a tour of the entire Mayan city, taking pictures of various archeological discoveries, you can go snorkeling or diving in vast, exhilarating cenotes (underground rivers) – and who can forget swimming in the beautiful ocean!

The Ruins of Tulum

The ruins of Tulum are nothing short of magical; the palaces and houses there are exhilarating and will take you back in time when the Mayans thrived.

The most famous structure in Tulum, which is what most tourists come to look at from around the world, features an ingenious fortress with a temple on top. The temple has three different entrances riddled with various statues of deities, columns made to shape as serpents and you will also see zoomorphic masks. After you enter the ruins, you will be greeted by an exhilarating view of various rolling hills.

Temple of the Frescoes

In front of the El Castillo you will also see the Temple of the Frescoes. This temple was primarily utilized as an observatory for tracking how the sun moves. You can also see various frescoes dating back to the 13th century.

Temple of the Descending God

If you move towards the left of El Castillo, facing directly the sea, you will see the Temple of the Descending God, which consists of a small staircase. There is also a figure carved on the door to the entrance.

Overlooking the Caribbean Ocean

After you are done taking pictures and dozens of selfies in the temple, the next unforgettable and truly magical thing you should do is take a walk near the cliff that overshadows the beautiful ocean. This experience is guaranteed to leaving you awe-inspired, the majestic view is alone to make your trip memorable.

Tulum’s archeological site is one of the best conserved Mayan cities of the coast. All in all, the once great city of Tulum still remains popular because of the ruins and because how it built on limestone cliffs.

Book one of our tours that includes Tulum Magic Town!

The Mayan Calendar

mayan calendar observatory

Some Crazy Facts about the Mayan Calendar

The most incredibly complex calendar that has ever existed

The calendar was purely made using integer arithmetic – whatever that is! There are as much as 17 different ways of counting the Mayan calendar. Despite the mind-numbing complexities behind it, it is indeed deadly accurate.

Understanding a bit about the Mayan calendar will make your trip with us to the Chichen Itza and/ or the ruins of Tulum, when you talk about the historical significance and aspects of the temples. And in light of this, we decided to share some interesting facts about the calendar, which you are going to love and you won’t have to scratch your head in confusion, trying to understand anything.

The Maya Calendars

The Mayans made their calculations for different calendars based on the cosmos. Did you know that some Mayan calendars date back 10 million years? But the calendars that were deemed relevant and precise include three, the Haab, Tun-Uc and the Tzolk’in. Each of the three calendars have different mathematical calculations and interpretations behind them.

For example, the Haab has only 20 days for each month and a total of 18 months and 365 days, and is based on the cycles of the earth. The Tun-Uc is based on lunar readings and calculations and the Tzolk’in is based on the sacred and divine numbers 13 and 20, crazy right!

The Long Count

One of the most mind-boggling ways to count the Mayan calendar is through using the Long Count. The Long Count is also referred to as the Gregorian Proleptic Calendar, which spread backwards into time before the calendar wholly came into existence. A date calculated using Long Count can be converted to a single digit, which can represent the number of days that have passed.

The 2012 Controversy

Well the world didn’t end as it turned out – quite obviously. Although the end of the world as depicted by the Mayan calendar was and is highly implausible, experts did reveal that whenever the Mayan Long Count calendar ended, a new one followed with the initiation of a new cycle. So, just like the Gregorian calendar starts on the first of January every year, the Maya calendar starts after the end of one earth cycle.

Plenty of Nations at that Time Adopted that Mayan Calendar

Several Mesoamerican tribes, people and nations, more popularly the Aztecs, used the Mayan calendar and tweaked it to their own use. For instance, the calendar was technically not altered, except for the different names given to describe a day of the week and the months in the calendar. But the factor that constituted for the inferiority of Aztec calendars, which were purely based on the Mayan calendars, was that the Aztecs replaced the complex number system of the Mayans with way more primitive number systems. This resulted in several discrepancies in their calendar system, especially when it came to recording different dates.

Our tours in Chichen Itza and Tulum will give a more thorough experience of this once great and proud civilization. You will be amazed to witness the opening of various sacred temples, as well as intricately built Chichen equinoxes with the shade enveloping various mystifying snake sculptures. Plus, you will also experience a breathtaking display of various Solstice events in Tulum and watch an exhilarating display of light passing through some of the main temples in Tulum.