The five best Maya ruins on the Yucatan Peninsula


The five best Maya ruins on the Yucatan Peninsula


It is estimated that there are almost 70,000 Maya ruins throughout Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Belize, most of which have yet to be discovered. But we all have to choose, don’t we? Here are the five best ones to visit on the Yucatan Peninsula.

1. Ek Balam

Ek Balam (“the glorious jaguar” in Mayan) is a fairly small site (measuring less than half a square mile) that was inhabited between the 8th and 11th centuries. Although it’s close to Cancun, it’s less popular than other sites, so you can visit it in relative peace and quiet. Of particular interest is the carved stucco face of its 100-foot-tall main pyramid. Don’t be put off by the steep steps; the view from the top is worth the effort!

2. Chichen Itza

Just 45 minutes from Valladolid lies Chichen Itza, the most famous Maya ruins in the world. And it’s also one of the most visited. That’s why you need to arrive early (by 9:00 a.m. at the latest) to avoid the big crowds from Cancun and enjoy the wonders of the site, such as the Pyramid of Kukulkan, the Maya pelota court, the Temple of the Warriors and its thousand columns, the Sacred Cenote, and the Observatory.

3. Uxmal

Located 50 miles southwest of Merida, this site is the other star of the Yucatan Peninsula’s Maya cities. In its prime, between the 9th and 11th centuries, more than 20,000 people lived in Uxmal. You can't help marveling at the 125-foot-high, oval-shaped base (unique in Maya architecture) of the Pyramid of the Magician, the Great Pyramid, the Maya pelota court, the Governor's Palace, and many other buildings.

4. Calakmul

The most isolated of the sites featured here, Calakmul lies deep in the jungle, 19 miles from the Guatemalan border. Along with Tikal, at its peak, it was the largest Maya city: 10 square miles, over 6,000 buildings (the largest of which, Structure 2, is nearly 175 feet tall!), and a population estimated at 60,000 to 100,000 people. What’s left is an absolute must-see!

5. Tulum

The only Maya site beside the sea, Tulum is also one of the most visited. Like with Chichen Itza, we strongly recommend arriving early in the morning. After your visit, you can relax on the beach, which is one of the most beautiful in Mexico!