Cancún is one of the best places to visit in Mexico if you like beaches, water sports and live music venues. But there’s an ancient side to the city that is unmissable if you’re staying in the land of the Maya, who blossomed in the region about 2,500 years ago.
Some of the most frequently visited Mayan ruins (and palaces, temples and burial sites) are in Mexico, of which some are located right within Cancún’s hotel zone - home to a huge number of all-inclusive hotels. In fact, the Ruinas Del Rey excavation site, which is thought to have once been a Mayan burial site, can be found in the Hilton Resort complex and is home to a mess of iguanas.
But there are several Mayan ruins around the Yucatan Peninsula that can all be reached by car or bus. Just 3 miles north of Cancún is El Meco, which was once an ancient coastal city that provides visitors with impressive views of the nearby Chacmochuc Lagoon. Only excavated from 1997, El Meco is thought to have started as a fishing port and slowly morphed into an important trade and commercial port due to its prime location.
Perhaps the most famous Mayan site in the world, Chichen Itza is about 120 miles away from Cancún and well worth the trip. Thought to have been built as early as 445 BC, this 75-foot pyramid was inhabited until 1204 AD when it was inexplicably abandoned. Owing to the statues of serpents at its apex, the pyramid accurately predicts the summer and autumn equinoxes using shadows, indicating the Mayan’s knowledge of science.
Shrouded in mystery, the Mayan ruins are a source of fascination for visitors from around the world. Easily accessible by bus or car, places like Itza and El Meco as well as Tulum, Coba and Xelha speak to the majesty that was once this fascinating civilization. Visit Cancún and hit up the beaches, but don’t forget to pay a visit to these ancient remnants of culture as well.