Mayan Ruins in Mexico

Chichen Itza

  • A trip to Mexico is incomplete without a visit to one of New Seven Wonders of the World – Chichen Itza!

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  • One of the largest Mayan cities built around the 10th century, this place boasts of some amazing engineering feats. It takes around 2.5 hours from Cancun and it’s a comfortable drive. We booked a day trip from Cancun to Chichen Itza through Viator. The trip also included a visit to nearby cenote and town of Valladolid.
  • Once you get through the bustling entrance, walk through the trees and follow the signs to the central clearing. Your first glance at the central pyramid standing around 100 feet tall is breath-taking! The central pyramid (called El Castillo) is a temple for Mayan snake god Kukulkan. Do note that only 2 sides have been restored.
  • While you can’t walk up the pyramid, do hire a guide who will explain the symmetry of the structure including some cool astronomical facts. One of the cool things to do is stand near the base and clap – the sound that bounces back is surprisingly a bird call!

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  • Do venture around the complex through the trees to see other interesting structures like the planetarium (called El Carcoal) and the Great Ballcourt. There is a lot more to see other than the Pyramid! SS Tip: Ballcourt is a great place to take selfies with the pyramid without the crowds!

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  • While walking around the premises, you will see lots of vendors selling souvenirs. With a little bit of haggling, you can get great deals for interesting Mayan themed stuff (like a Mayan calendar!)

 

Tulum

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  • This ruin is famous for its beautiful location along the coast. This walled port town was built around the 13th century. Based on tides, you can even walk down to the beautiful white sand beach right next to the ruins.
  • It is around 2 hours from Cancun and is easily accessible by public transport. We booked a day trip to Tulum, Coba and a cenote through Viator.
  • Suggest you hire a guide who will explain the Mayan life in this old town. There are few structures which have survived the ages and still stand tall. You will be amazed at how the Mayans understood the movements of the sun and built the structures to take advantage of it.
  • Do walk away from the main entrance (from left to right if you are facing the sea) along the coast to see the ruins from a distance and appreciate the beauty. SS Tip: Do Tulum before Chichen Itza or it may seem underwhelming!

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Coba

  • Home to one of the tallest Mayan ruins in the world at around 140 feet, this spot offers a very different experience from the other two. Firstly, you can climb the pyramid and secondly, a significant part of these ruins are still covered by the jungle adding to the mystery. Only a small portion has been cleared and restored by archaeologists.

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  • Coba is just an hour from Tulum and 2 hours to Cancun. So, it’s easy to cover Tulum and Coba on the same day. You can take a break in between by visiting a nearby cenote!
  • From the main entrance, you can either walk, bike or take a bicycle rickshaw (seats 2) to the pyramid. We walked on the way to Pyramid which gave us time to soak in the atmosphere and see few more structures on the way. One of the structures was a ball game court – though this is much smaller than the one at Chichen Itza.

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  • The climb up the pyramid is lil tricky with around 120 steps but not very difficult. The view from the top is amazing and well worth the effort. You can see the lush green jungle around you and wonder how the original city looked at its peak.

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  • We took the rickshaw on the way back as we were lil tired from climbing up and down the pyramid!

 

A special mention to Cenotes

  • Do take time out to visit cenotes – these are natural pools connect to underground rivers. We went to two different ones and thoroughly enjoyed our time.

Sinkhole – Close to Chichen Itza

  • As its pretty deep, lifejackets were mandatory here. You could also dive in! They had restrooms, changing rooms, lockers and a restaurant.

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Open Cenote – Close to Tulum

  • The water was shallow in some places so you can see the limestone rock. Quite a few small fishes were there to give us company !

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