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Historic Mayan sites to visit in Mexico

17 May 2015 ( 08 February 2017 )

Take a look at just a couple of the Mayan sites in Mexico that you should discover: Chichen Itza, Tulum and Coba.

Tulum ruins overlooking the beach
Tulum ruins overlooking the beach

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The incredibly fascinating and impressive ancient world of the Mayan Empire is still present in Mexico’s landscape, especially around the ruins of the southern Yucatán Peninsula. 

Explore the Mayan ruins and sites on your Mexico holiday by booking onto one of the many tours available, or get hold of a site map and pave your own adventurous route.

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Visit Chichen Itza

The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Chichen Itza is an open window to the Mayan ancient city of Mexico between 750 AD and 1,200 AD. 

This was a spiritual site that has been incredibly well restored and proves to be the most popular of the Yucatán Maya ruins in Mexico.

You will find the Gran Juego de Pelota ball court ruins, where important games were held within imposing, stone grounds. 

The nearby ‘Group of a thousand columns’ called ‘Grupo de las Mil Columnas’ houses the mighty Temple of the Warriors, a ceremonial meeting place for the people of ancient Maya Chichen. 

Tours also take place underground in the Grutas de Balankanché, so that visitors to Mexico can see the dark passageway where a 1959 explorer found Mayan objects from 800 years earlier.

However, it might just be the El Castillo Maya ruins that really transport you back in time during a stay in Mexico. 

You’ll have seen the 800 AD temple on front of the Mexico travel guides but nothing will prepare you for its 365 steps (one for each day of the year!) and 25 metre high magnificence. 

This particular ancient ruin is a strong indicator of the Mayans’ brilliance in astronomy, as a serpent shadow falls on the pyramid twice a year.

Explore Tulum

Translated to ‘place of the dawning sun’, from its ancient Mayan name of Zama, the architectural ruins of Tulum sit on 12 metre high cliffs that face the Caribbean waters of Mexico. 

This was an important city in ancient Mayan Mexico during 1,000 AD and 1,600 AD and it was one of the first places to be encountered by the Spanish Conquistadors.

Sightseeing tours of the Maya ruins in Tulum treat you to some incredible Mayan landmarks on the very pretty coastline of Mexico. 

The Temple of Frescoes was used as an observatory by the Mayans to track the sun’s movements and help with their growing astronomy skills. 

Although guests aren’t permitted to enter the temple in order to preserve its indoor frescoes, you can study the outside ruins, which boast red frescoes along with figurines of the Maya Diving God. 

Visit the Tulum ruins early in the morning or late in the afternoon when there will be fewer crowds of Mexico tourists, to fully absorb the other-worldly surroundings.

Take in Coba

From Tulum, head to nearby archaeological site Coba by bus, or even bike it there to climb the 130 foot tall Nohuch Mul (or ‘large mound’) and take in the leafy views and gentle streams. 

This is the tallest pyramid in the ancient Maya Yucatán Peninsula, and you can jump in the Gran Cenote cave waters in Tulum after all that trekking.

Riviera Maya, Cancun and Playa Carmen are the major resort drawers with top hotels in Mexico but there are plenty of tours to neighbouring ruins, like Tulum and Chichen Itza, which are a must on any itinerary. 

Along with high temperatures, welcoming locals, flavourful cuisine and fun fiestas, Mexico holidays with Saga are nothing short of mesmerising.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.