Best Mayan Ruins

Best Mayan Ruins

Planning a trip to Central America and on the hunt for the best Mayan ruins? We’ve got your back. If you didn’t already know, the Mayan civilisation was located in a region that extends from present-day Mexico to Honduras. It was one of the most advanced and sophisticated cultures of the ancient world and left behind an impressive architectural legacy, building myriad architectural wonders; many of which still stand today in the form of pyramids, temples and palaces. From the impressive structures at Chichen Itza to the detailed carvings in Uxmal, the Mayan ruins in Mexico and northern Guatemala are a true testament to the skill and innovation of this ancient civilisation. Want to delve deeper into these unique and must-see destinations? Read on to discover our round-up of the best Mayan ruins to visit.


  1. Check out Chichen Itza
  2. Talking about Tikal
  3. Understanding Uxmal
  4. Be Captivated by Calakmul
  5. Take a Tour of Tulum


Check out Chichen Itza

One of the best Mayan ruins we can think of is also one of the most famous archaeological sites in Mexico. Located in the Yucatan Peninsula, Chichen Itza is an ancient city that was once a major centre of Mayan civilisation. In fact, it’s one of the largest Mayan cities ever built. It’s home to a complex of ruins, including the iconic El Castillo, also referred to as the Temple of Kukulcan, a pyramid that stands 98ft tall and is decorated with carvings of serpents and other creatures (see if you can spot the feathered snake at the top). While you’re here, make sure to explore the Great Ball Court that’s 225ft wide and 545ft long, as well as the Temple of the Warriors, one of the most impressive and important structures here. Don’t miss the Sacred Cenote either. This naturally formed open well was the site for many cult ceremonies back in the day. While this particular cenote is not suitable for swimming in, there are a few in this city that are open to the public if you fancy a dip. So don’t forget your swimsuit!


Talking about Tikal

Next up is an ancient city located deep in the rainforests of northern Guatemala. You guessed it – we’re talking about Tikal. This awe-inspiring place is part of Tikal National Park and is a recognised UNESCO World Heritage site. Some of the architecture here dates back as far as the fourth century BC and the city was inhabited until the tenth century AD. Known for its rich artistic and cultural heritage, Tikal contains countless stone sculptures and artifacts that offer valuable insights into the religion, politics and daily life of the ancient Maya people. It’s home to several huge and towering pyramids, including the 150ft Temple of the Great Jaguar and Temple IV: a 213ft structure that offers unbelievable views of the surrounding jungle. You’ll want to check out the Central Acropolis, the Palace of the Windows and the Great Plaza. Other highlights include the Temple of the Masks, the Temple of the Inscriptions, and the North Acropolis.


Understanding Uxmal

Now, this site is the most important representative of the Puuc architectural style prevalent in this region. It goes by the name of Uxmal and it was built in Mexico between the sixth and tenth centuries AD. The site is best known for its innovative use of engineering as there are a series of canals and reservoirs here that were originally used to manage water resources. One of the architectural wonders that’s hard to miss is the Pyramid of the Magician: an usual design as far as Mayan structures go as it features an oval base and is believed to have been built in various stages over a period of several hundred years. Another highlight is the Governor's Palace with its detailed carvings and secret rooms – just try not to get lost.


Be Captivated by Calakmul

Another one of the best Mayan ruins to explore has to be Calakmul, located in the Mexican state of Campeche. Similar to Tikal, its remote location is one of its most unique features as the city is nestled deep within the jungle and anyone wanting to visit must venture through miles of forest to get there, so it’s worth bearing this in mind before planning your trip. It’s one of the largest and most impressive Mayan ruins in Mexico and – like many other ancient cities in this country – is home to several massive pyramids, temples and intricate carvings. One of the largest pyramids in the Mayan world is here: the Great Pyramid, which stands over 140ft tall.


Take a Tour of Tulum

It seems appropriate to save this entry until the end, as Tulum was one of the last Mayan cities to be built and inhabited, back in the 13th century. This breathtaking ruin is situated on the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula and was once a major seaport for the Mayan civilisation, serving as an important centre for trade and commerce. You’re in for some seriously amazing views of the Caribbean Sea when you get here, especially from the castle. One of the first things you’re likely to notice about this place is the remains of defensive walls and watchtowers that border the city, originally built to protect it from invasion. Another impressive structure here is the Temple of the Frescoes, which features elaborate carvings as well as a collection of murals that depict some significant Mayan gods and rituals. The site is easily accessible from nearby Cancun and Playa del Carmen, so there’s no excuse to miss out on this unforgettable place.