The Mayan Civilization is a Meso-American Civilization that made a huge impact on the history of the world today by establishing their own, written language, mathematical and astronomical systems, art, culture, and architecture. Originally dating back to the pre-classic period of c.2000BC to 250AD and reaching its peak during the classic period of c.250AD to 900AD, the Maya civilization was known to have an extravagant social system including kings, temples, and warriors. The Maya had important spiritual connections to the earth and sky giving great significance to agriculture, astronomy, and their beliefs of the heavens, the earth, and the underworld. Although, it has been said that the Mayan civilization had fallen sometime in the post classic period upon the arrival of the Spanish, the culture and the ruins are still very much alive and thriving today in the areas of the Yucatan Peninsula, Southern Mexico, and especially rich in Guatemala. The states of Yucatan, Quintana Roo, Campeche, and Chiapas in Mexico as well as the country of Guatemala hold the richest locations of the many amazingly historical and nicely preserved Mayan Ruins today. Below we have compiled information based on facts and our own personal reviews of the Mayan ruins of this region and just outside. Enjoy!
Chitzen Itza being one of the most well known and largest ruins in the northern part of the Yucatan Peninsula , it lies in the northern center of the stateYucatan. The Maya name "Chich'en Itza" means "At the mouth of the well of the Itza." This derives from chi', meaning "mouth" or "edge", and ch'e'en, meaning "well." Itzá is the name of an ethnic-lineage group that gained political and economic dominance of the northern peninsula. The name is believed to derive from the Maya itz, meaning "magic," and (h)á, meaning "water." Itzá in Spanish is often translated as "Brujas del Agua (Witches of Water)" but a more precise translation would be Magicians of Water. This pre-Columbian archeological site was noted to have reached its peak in the early classic period to late classic period somewhere around c.600-900 AD lasting on in to the 13th century. The site itself is a popular and well traveled site for vacationers and tourists in the northern part of the peninsula. Depending on what time of year it is it can be very hot and overcrowded but is still definitely worth seeing. You are not allowed to climb on the ruins at Chitzen Itza as they have been restored and protected to preserve what is left of this long lasting empire. All public ruins to our knowledge are federal property. There are endless information sites with more in depth history of Chitzen Itza.
Tulum Ruins are the next on our list lying on the coast of Quintana Roo directly north of Tulum Pueblo. This site overlooks the beautiful Caribbean coast line bringing mysticism and beauty to this must see set of ancient Mayan ruins. Tulúm is the Yucatec Mayan word for fence or wall, and is known for the giant walls that fortressed the ruin compound protecting its people from invasion. These ruins were recorded to have been constructed in the post classic period around 1200 AD and lasted until the end of the 15th century known to have been abandoned by the 16th century. These ruins were known to be rich in color and extravagant murals showing its wealth and culture and have been said to have been a port for the larger Mayan city of Coba. There are also stories of this site being a place of worship to the “diving god” or “descending god”. The Tulum ruins are a very popular site amongst travelers and vacationers because of its central location and outstanding back drop making it one of the numero uno Mayan ruins to see.
Coba Ruins are next on our list. This set of ruins are also an exciting adventure and a must see of the area, especially if you are on a ruin tour you can’t miss these. They are about 40 kilometers west of Tulum and are the home of the tallest temple in the Yucatan, it is known as the Nohoch Mul pyramid. There are two lakes located at the ruin site, Lake Coba and Lake Macanxoc, these lakes are a significantly recognized for pointing out the location of the ruins and were probably a big resource for the Mayan people during Coba’s peak years but are not swimmable or all that clean these days. Coba was known to last until the 14th century and documented as a new city somewhere in between 500-900AD. The ruins are settled in a hot jungle environment so bring plenty of water and sunscreen.
The next three ruins on our list are all south of Tulum in the area of the Costa Maya. They are Chacchoben, Kohunlich, and Dzibanche. These three ruins are very remote and unpopulated ruins perfect for the true Mayan ruin adventure seeker.
Chacchoben means “place of red corn” and was recorded to have been settled in or around 200BC. The current structures are known to date back to 700AD and have been highly excavated. This set of ruins is about 180 kilometers south of Tulum in the jungle close to Bacalar. These ruins were not discovered until 1972 and remain a low key unpopulated yet beautiful set of ruins.
Dzibanche means “writing on wood” this ruin amazingly dates back to 200BC and is recorded to have peaked in around 200AD. It is in the jungle and is wooded by the beautiful ceiba trees. This ruin is very close to Kohunlich which is also a really awesome set of ruins that lies in completely remote jungle in the south central part of Quintana Roo approximately 45 minutes from Bacalar and Chetumal. Dzibanche and Kohunlich can both be visited in one day as they are very close to each other. There is also another small ruin called Kinichna nearby if you wanted to squeeze in a third one. The most extravagant of the three of these is definitely Kohunlich due to the amazing pyramid of the masks built in honor of the sun god, Kinich Ahau, and have been incredibly reserved. The site of Kohunlich was settled by 200 BC, but most of the structures were built in the Early Classic period from about 250 to 600AD and lies on a spread of 21 acres. The masks here at Konhulich are absolutely one of our favorite images in all the Mayan ruins we have visited. For more information on how to get to these ruins email us and we will gladly direct you to these amazing untouched ruins.
Calakmul and Palanque are our last two ruins to discuss at this time in which both are in different states than Quintana Roo yet we feel it is necessary to discuss and briefly describe both as they are very important ruins for the ruin tourist.
Calakmul meaning the “city of the two adjacent pyramids” is one of the largest ancient Maya cities ever discovered. It is located in the sprawling 1,800,000 acre Calakmul Biosphere Reserve in the state of Campeche which borders Quintana Roo and also Guatemala. Calakmul was one of the most extravagant cities of its time with governments covering a huge area of the southern part of Campeche. It lies in the middle of thick jungle where you’re likely to see howler monkey swinging from the trees and is known for its ruling of the serpent head polity who reigned during most of the classic period. Calakmul is thick with carvings and murals that have been somewhat impressively reserved and excavated but holds one of the richest Maya energies of all of the ruins. Calakmul has a broad time period of 550 B.C. - 900 A.D. this ruin is a little out of the way but this is what makes it the most special and amazing experience in Mayan ruin touring.
And last but not least on our list, is Palanque which is truly one of the most famous and spectacular ruins in Mexico. This ruin was the Maya city ruled by the King Pakal who’s tomb is one of the main draws of this sprawling and incredibly excavated set of ruins. Palanque is in the beautiful state of Chiapas which holds an extremely rich Mayan culture even today. With rich jungle, mountains, waterfalls, and rivers this area is a beautiful vacation spot. Palanque Ruins peak time dates back to the Mayan Classic period from about AD 300 to 800. This site is a must see, it is an amazing experience in an amazing place. Visiting Palanque will be an unforgettable adventure. Bring lots of water as it is extremely hot at certain times of the year. There are all kinds of places to stay just outside of the national park or in the town of Palanque.