This publish was written by Emily Becker, BMTM’s resident Mexico journey knowledgeable.

The traditional Mayan Empire prolonged all through the present-day Yucatán Peninsula, Chiapas, and into components of Guatemala, Honduras, and Belize. There may be a number of thriller round and hypothesis about what occurred to a few of these cities, as lots of them had been deserted even previous to the arrival of the Spanish within the sixteenth century. Some tales say the Mayas obtained messages from the heavens warning them in regards to the colonizers; some imagine that the residents died from illness and famine, amongst different issues.

There’s a frequent false impression that the Mayan individuals ceased to exist after the Spanish got here, however the actuality is sort of the opposite. There are nonetheless Mayan communities tucked into the jungle all all through the Yucatán Peninsula and components of Chiapas. They proceed to talk completely different dialects of Mayan and follow the identical traditions and rituals from centuries in the past. I’ve additionally taken fairly a number of Mayan lessons — it’s a fancy language that fascinates me.

The Mayan individuals are accountable for a lot of what’s thought-about to be Mexican tradition in these components of the nation. The delicacies is closely influenced by Mayan recipes, sure phrases in Spanish have been tailored from Mayan phrases, and even the model of Catholicism practiced right here has taken on sure points of Mayan beliefs and customs.

Need to be taught extra? A good way to begin diving into the mundo maya is to soak up a number of the finest archaeological websites. Having lived within the Zona Maya for a short while in faculty after which once more for a couple of yr, I’ve visited my justifiable share of historic Mayan ruins, that are at all times a humble reminder of how unbelievable these civilizations had been and the way related they had been with nature and the cosmos.

Listed below are my favorites, by state:

Quintana Roo

The state of Quintana Roo (also called the Riviera Maya) is stuffed with unbelievable archaeological websites. Whereas most of its tourism comes from seashore resorts in and close to Cancún, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum, there may be a lot extra to see there.

Being a coastal state, the historical past of the ruins in Quintana Roo differs from different locations the place the Mayas constructed their cities. The Mayas of Quintana Roo had been and proceed to be fishers and knowledgeable marine navigators, which impacted how they constructed the buildings that now lie in break all through the state. Listed below are a number of of one of the best ruins to take a look at there:

13. Cobá

These ruins are between Lago Cobá and Lago Macanxoc within the jungle. That is distinctive, as a result of it was as soon as probably the most populated Mayan metropolis, with over 50,000 individuals dwelling there at its peak.

The positioning’s largest pyramid Nohoch Mul was once accessible for climbing. I reached the highest again in 2017, and the view is spectacular. On account of COVID-19 restrictions, nevertheless, the positioning doesn’t presently permit guests to climb it. Fingers crossed they open it once more sometime!

In addition to the Nohoch Mul Pyramid, there are many different treasures round Cobá. There may be an historic Mayan ball court docket and a community of stone highways known as the sacbe. One in every of these is 62 miles lengthy and connects Cobá with the traditional metropolis of Yaxuna.

For the reason that web site is free on Sundays for Mexican residents, it’s finest to keep away from visiting on that day. To keep away from crowds and scorching sizzling temperatures, go to within the early morning, proper as the positioning opens up. Between 8am and 11am is the candy spot.

  • Value: 80 pesos ($4 USD) entrance payment
  • Hours: 8am to 5pm day by day
  • Transportation: There are ADO and Mayab buses that go to Cobá from Tulum for about 50 pesos ($2.50) every means. Be certain that to test the schedule, because the journeys are sparse all through the day. There are additionally colectivos that run between Tulum and Cobá, which you could find exterior the ADO station in Tulum. Nevertheless, renting a automotive is the best choice for visiting.
  • Parking: There’s a payment of fifty pesos ($0.25) per automotive.
  • Getting round inside: You may lease a motorbike for the day for 50 pesos ($2.50) or a motorbike taxi for 70-100 pesos ($3.50–5), plus tip.
  • Guides: Bilingual guides can be found on the entrance for round 200 pesos ($10). You may haggle for each a information and bike taxi for about that worth as properly.
  • Excursions: There’s a tour that features a go to to a cenote, together with a information for the Cobá ruins. E-book on GetYourGuide.

12. Tulum

There are few locations on this planet the place historic ruins jut up from the shoreline like they do in Tulum. This archaeological web site is totally breathtaking. I do know it’s one of the standard locations on the Riviera Maya, and a few individuals would possibly say it’s overrated, however suppose it’s genuinely one of many coolest issues to see within the space.

The Tulum ruins, which have particular religious and ceremonial significance in Mayan tradition, are a number of the most simply accessible within the area. There may be additionally a staircase that leads all the way down to a seashore, which is a enjoyable means break up your go to.

It will get extremely popular in Tulum within the afternoon, which is why I like to recommend going to the ruins as early as potential, so you’ll be able to spend the remainder of your day floating in a cenote or on the seashore. Like all different ruins in Quintana Roo, keep away from happening a Sunday, when entry is free for Mexican residents, as that’s the busiest time of the week.

  • Value: 80 pesos ($4) entrance payment
  • Hours: 8am to 5pm day by day; the ticket sales space closes at 3pm
  • Transportation: From wherever in Tulum, you’ll be able to both stroll, experience a motorbike, or take a taxi to the Tulum Archaeological Zone. An alternative choice is to take a colectivo from the centro, which prices simply 20 pesos ($1). From Playa del Carmen, you’ll be able to take an ADO bus to the Tulum ruins for simply 50 pesos ($2.50).
  • Parking: There’s a payment of 180 pesos ($9) for the complete day.
  • Getting round inside: Whereas the ruins are fairly unfold out, you’ll be able to simply stroll via them.
  • Guides: Hiring a information for these ruins is sort of costly, at round 400-600 pesos ($20-30 USD). Take into account a tour, which incorporates extra than simply the information, to get extra bang in your buck.
  • Excursions: Since going within the morning is one of the simplest ways to see the ruins, try this half-day Tulum tour, which begins early within the morning.

11. Muyil

This small web site is simply off the freeway about quarter-hour south of downtown Tulum. It’s one of many few ruins within the space the place you’ll be able to anticipate to see only a few individuals at any given time, except Sundays, when the park is extra crowded.

Muyil is a hidden gem that has the identical degree of unbelievable structure as Tulum, however it’s extra secluded and has a totally completely different setting. It borders the Sian Ka’an Biosphere, which is the realm’s largest pure protected zone and is residence to a plethora of native natural world. You possibly can spend a whole day exploring the grounds of Muyil and a little bit of Sian Ka’an whilst you’re there.

There’s a small hidden path behind the primary fortress of the ruins, which leads you to a wood hut. There you’ll be able to pay 50 pesos ($2.50) to enter the Sian Ka’an Biosphere. This path will take you to an statement deck the place you’ll be able to gaze out onto the lagoon behind the ruins and take within the jungle views.

I like to recommend you begin your go to proper when the positioning opens up at 9am with the intention to keep away from the afternoon warmth as a lot as potential. The world is sort of buggy, so be sure to carry some eco-friendly bug repellent. Whereas a lot of the positioning is throughout the jungle, if you happen to resolve to enterprise out to the lagoon, you’ll undoubtedly need to be certain to have sunscreen (reef secure, please!) as a result of the noon solar is intense on the market.

  • Value: 45 pesos ($2.25) entrance payment, plus 50 pesos ($2.50) to enter the Sian Ka’an Biosphere space
  • Hours: 9am to 5pm day by day; the ticket sales space closes at 3pm
  • Transportation: From Tulum, you’ll be able to take a colectivo going towards Chetumal or Felipe Carrillo Puerto. Inform the motive force you need to get off at Muyil. The doorway to the ruins is true off the freeway. It’s also possible to very simply take a taxi from Tulum for round 200 pesos ($10).
  • Parking: There’s a free car parking zone proper on the entrance.
  • Getting round inside: You may simply get round on foot on the archaeological zone itself, however if you happen to go into Sian Ka’an, you would possibly want to rent boat transportation to get to completely different components of the biosphere.
  • Guides: Discovering a information to Muyil is hard. There isn’t a selected stand there the place you’ll be able to rent a information, like there are at different extra standard websites. Doing a tour is one of the simplest ways to find out about Muyil.
  • Excursions: Reap the benefits of Muyil’s proximity to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere with this Birdwatching and Guided Stroll Tour!

Yucatán

Many archaeologists think about Yucatán to be the center of the Mayan civilization. There you’ll discover a number of the most well-preserved websites, seemingly as a result of the state’s authorities has invested a lot in them. Yucatán the state is to not be confused with the Yucatán Peninsula, which additionally incorporates the Mexican states of Campeche and Quintana Roo, plus components of Belize and Guatemala. The state of Yucatán has its personal cultural identification and historical past, which is ready to be found at considered one of its many archaeological websites:

10. Chichén Itzá

Whereas Chichén Itzá is well probably the most visited and most crowded archaeological web site in the entire Mayan world, it’s a must-see. I do know that going to a crowded place is an enormous turn-off for many individuals, however the historical past and significance of Chichén is just too mind-blowing to go up.

The positioning is stuffed with locations the place sacred geometry was a important a part of the town’s building. For instance, the architects of the Kukulcán pyramid had been so related with earth’s rotation that they discovered the right way to place it to make shadows dance down the pyramid like a snake in the course of the spring and autumn equinox.

To keep away from the crowds as a lot as potential at Chichén, go on a weekday and get there quarter-hour earlier than the positioning opens. That means, you’ll seemingly be towards the entrance of the road to purchase tickets and you may get in instantly. Keep away from happening the weekends in any respect prices, as that’s the busiest time. It solely takes about 2 to three hours to see the whole lot.

When you do occur to be within the space in the course of the spring or autumn equinox, anticipate giant crowds. The positioning hosts occasions to look at the lights and shadows, that are probably the most thrilling occasions of the yr. If you wish to catch a glimpse of the shadow present, you would possibly have the ability to see it as much as two days earlier than the precise equinox itself and keep away from lots of the crowds.

  • Value: 539 ($27) pesos for adults, free for kids below 13. You’ll pay at two separate ticket home windows.
  • Hours: 8am to 5pm day by day; the ticket sales space closes at 4pm. For updates on particular hours for holidays and occasions, try the official web site of Chichén Itzá.
  • Transportation: Attending to Chichén Itzá is best from both Mérida, Valladolid, or Cancún by taking an ADO bus. Try the ADO schedule and purchase tickets on the closest station the day earlier than.
  • Parking: When you have rented a automotive, you’ll be able to park on the entrance of the positioning for 80 pesos ($4).
  • Getting round inside: The whole web site is totally walkable.
  • Guides: I 100% suggest getting a information for Chichén Itzá with the intention to really admire the positioning and find out about its important historical past. You may rent an English-speaking information on the web site itself for about 600 pesos ($30).
  • Excursions: When you’re staying in Cancún or Riviera Maya, an all-inclusive tour with a cease in Valladolid is a superb possibility. When you’re in Mérida, think about a full-day tour with lunch.

9. Mayapán

The Templo Redondo (Spherical Temple) at Mayapán

If Chichén Itzá is the mom of all Mayan ruins, Mayapán is the daughter. This web site is small but mighty and has lots of the identical options of Chichén however scaled down considerably. For instance, Mayapán has a a lot smaller model of the well-known Kukulkán pyramid.

Mayapán stands out from different extra standard websites due to its murals. Whereas different websites’ murals have closely deteriorated, those at Mayapán’s Corridor of the Frescoes have withstood the check of time. One other key characteristic of the positioning is the gathering of beheaded warriors carved into the stucco on the facet of one of many substructures subsequent to the primary pyramid.

Since Mayapán is way much less crowded than different websites, you’ll be able to go to at any time of day and any day of the week (besides Sundays, when the positioning is free for Mexican residents and due to this fact extra crowded) and discover only a few individuals. The warmth of Yucatán is intense within the early afternoon, so purpose to go to both within the morning or late afternoon round 3pm till the park closes at 5pm.

The small dimension of Mayapán means you can spend 1-2 hours exploring the whole lot. In a single hour you can simply roam round, see the websites, and take photos. When you’re a die-hard archaeology fan that wishes to learn each placard, 2 hours is sufficient time.

  • Value: 45 pesos ($2.25)
  • Hours: 8am to 5pm day by day, even on holidays
  • Transportation: The archaeological web site is a number of miles south of Telchaquillo, which is 25 miles south of Mérida. You may take an ADO bus from Mérida to Telchaquillo after which a taxi to the ruins. The journey is sort of far if you happen to’re staying in Cancún or wherever else on the Riviera Maya, so it’s clever to remain the night time in Mérida or Izamal.
  • Parking: Free
  • Getting round inside: The whole web site is totally walkable.
  • Guides: The one amenities on the premises are the bogs and ticket sales space, so that you gained’t seemingly discover guides there for rent. Your finest guess for getting a totally guided expertise is doing a tour. If not, you’ll be able to learn up on Mayapán’s historical past and significance beforehand to get a greater thought of what there may be to see.
  • Excursions: When you’re staying in Mérida, this tour of a small Maya neighborhood features a full tour of Mayapán plus a breadmaking class!

8. Uxmal

At one time, Uxmal and Chichén Itzá had been the 2 most vital cities within the Mayan Empire.

Uxmal was the primary Mayan break that I ever visited, so it’s a bit sentimental for me. The sprawling web site contains towering buildings, detailed carvings, and the well-known Yucatecan iguanas. I don’t know why, however seeing so many iguanas operating round Uxmal actually caught with me.

The Pyramid of the Magician is a must-see. It’s the tallest constructing at Uxmal, with a top of just about 115 toes and rounded corners. Sadly, you can not climb it, however you’ll be able to climb to the highest of the Nice Pyramid to get a superb view of the grounds. The Nunnery Quadrangle has probably the most intricate carvings in Uxmal and was totally restored lately.

Whereas Uxmal doesn’t draw the identical crowds as Chichén Itzá, it has been gaining reputation steadily and is unquestionably one of the visited websites within the state. To keep away from the crowds as a lot as potential, go to as early as you’ll be able to. Identical to Chichén, I recommend arriving a couple of minutes earlier than the positioning opens. I do know that’s early, however the noon solar on this space is intense within the dry season. Within the moist season (Might to October), rain is most frequent within the afternoons. Both means, a morning go to will yield good climate and fewer guests.

  • Value: 418 pesos ($20). You’ll pay at two separate ticket home windows.
  • Hours: 8am to 5pm day by day (the ticket sales space closes at 4pm), even on holidays
  • Transportation: You may take an ADO bus from Mérida to Uxmal, which takes about 2 hours. From Cancún, Playa del Carmen, or Tulum, there are additionally ADO buses that go to Uxmal, however be certain to test the schedule forward of time as departures may be rare. If driving from Mérida, Uxmal is simply an hour away.
  • Parking: 80 pesos ($4)
  • Getting round inside: The whole web site is totally walkable, though it’s expansive. Take it gradual, discover shade when it is advisable to take a break, and convey loads of water.
  • Guides: There are English-speaking guides obtainable on-site for round 500 pesos ($25).
  • Excursions: A tour from Mérida is a superb possibility, and there may be one that features a go to to a chocolate museum together with a tour of Uxmal.

7. Ek Balam

Restoration started on Ek Balam in 1997, so it’s nonetheless a comparatively new archaeological web site. Tourism there has solely simply picked up within the final 5 years, so now is a superb time to go try the positioning earlier than it explodes in reputation.

Like many different ruins, the primary attraction at Ek Balam is the 96-foot pyramid within the heart of the positioning. You may nonetheless climb to the highest of it, which supplies a candy view of the encircling jungle. A part of the restoration of the positioning included rebuilding the wood and palm buildings, so that you’ll see thatched roofs on the high of the pyramid.

There you’ll additionally discover the pristinely preserved stone carvings that make Ek Balam particular. These carvings embrace feathered serpents which might be fairly frequent in Mayan artwork and sculpture. There are additionally jaguar sculptures that remember the positioning’s namesake, balam, which implies jaguar in Mayan.

Solely the middle of the town of Ek Balam has been excavated; archaeologists are engaged on uncovering the remainder of it. When you take any of the quick paths across the jungle on the outskirts of the positioning, you’ll see hills the place there are seemingly extra buildings ready to be found beneath the bushes.

An ideal characteristic of Ek Balam is the cenote subsequent to the archaeological web site. It’s known as Cenote Xcanche, and it’s a further 70 pesos ($3.50) to get in.

I recommend going early to Ek Balam, spending 1-2 hours testing the ruins and climbing the pyramid, after which taking a dip within the cenote within the late morning or early afternoon. That means, you’ll keep away from the crowds as a lot as potential. The positioning doesn’t permit meals or drinks in addition to water, and there aren’t very many meals choices close by, so be certain to gas up earlier than you go!

  • Value: 413 pesos ($21). You’ll pay at two separate ticket home windows.
  • Hours: 8am to 5pm day by day (the ticket sales space closes at 4pm), even on holidays
  • Transportation: Ek Balam is about 13 miles north of Valladolid, which is the place you’ll should go first if touring from Mérida, Playa del Carmen, Cancún, or Tulum. You may simply get to Valladolid by way of an ADO bus from any of these cities. On the intersection of forty fourth Avenue and thirty seventh Avenue in Valladolid, you’ll discover colectivos that may take you to Ek Balam for 50 pesos ($2.50).
  • Parking: Free, however you need to tip the attendants 5-10 pesos (25-50 cents) to “watch” your automotive.
  • Getting round inside: The positioning is walkable, however if you wish to get to the cenote, you’ll be able to lease bikes on web site and bike there and again.
  • Guides: There are English-speaking guides obtainable on-site for round 600 pesos (500 for Spanish) ($25-30).
  • Excursions: If staying in Mérida, there’s a tour obtainable on GetYourGuide that features an indigenous craft workshop, a go to to Ek Balam, and a cease at Cenote Xcanche.

Campeche

Campeche is a state that usually will get missed due to its proximity to tremendous touristy Yucatán and Quintana Roo. I feel Campeche is underrated and deserves extra recognition! This vibrant state is thought for its historical past of pirates, its scrumptious seafood, and all of the brightly coloured buildings in its charming cities.

This state is without doubt one of the least populated in Mexico, and far of it’s lined by jungle, together with the Calakmul Biosphere. The federal government has gone to nice lengths to protect the biodiversity of Campeche, so a go to to any of those ruins additionally guarantees a formidable look into the natural world of the realm.

The architectural model of the buildings at these websites is exclusive to this state, which is a testomony to the variety of ornamental artwork, dialects, and traditions within the Mayan world.

6. Becán

The first a part of the traditional metropolis of Becán is surrounded by a 16-foot deep moat and contains 20 buildings in complete. The perfect factor about Becán is its distinctive structure and distant location, as you would possibly have the ability to spot some wildlife.

Becán remains to be very a lot off the common vacationer monitor, so you’ll be able to anticipate to see only a few individuals there at any given time of yr and any time of day. Take into account that it will get extremely popular and humid in Campeche, so visiting within the early afternoon isn’t advisable except you might be completely okay with intense warmth.

Whilst you gained’t discover a stand with guides obtainable for rent at Bacán, there are many indicators which have English explanations for every of the buildings to information your go to. The entire buildings, together with the biggest pyramid, are accessible for climbing if you happen to fancy a higher-up view of the grounds.

  • Value: 65 pesos ($3.25)
  • Hours: 8am to 5pm day by day
  • Transportation: The closest touristy metropolis to Bacán is definitely Bacalar, Quintana Roo. From there it’s a couple of 1.5-hour drive. There may be one bus that goes from Bacalar to Xpujil, the closest city to Bacán. The bus solely runs as soon as a day, nevertheless. The best choice to benefit from the ruins is to have a rental automotive; that means you may also try Calakmul and different close by websites which might be additional off the vacationer monitor.
  • Parking: Free
  • Getting round inside: You may simply see the whole lot on the web site on foot.
  • Guides: There aren’t any guides on the ruins, however all of the indicators are in English.
  • Excursions: You actually gained’t discover many (if any) excursions together with Bacán on-line. That is seemingly due to how far it’s from standard websites. Not being an enormous vacationer spot may really be factor, as a result of it signifies that there shall be fewer guests there.

5. Calakmul

Calakmul is well considered one of my favourite Mayan ruins. The positioning is nestled within the coronary heart of the Calakmul Biosphere, simply 22 miles from the Guatemalan border. The biosphere itself is residence to a number of species of monkeys, toucans, jaguars, and different native species.

Calakmul was as soon as one of the vital Mayan cities within the lowlands area. Calakmul is taken into account to be one of the structurally wealthy archaeological websites uncovered thus far. It has 117 stelae (stone slabs with carvings), 8 sacbes (raised paved roads), and an in depth community of canals and water reservoirs.

Solely a small portion of the 27-square-mile metropolis is open to the general public, however it features a 148-foot pyramid that you could climb to the highest of. The view of the biosphere from up there may be breathtaking. Whereas not as standard as Chichén and Tulum, Calakmul is probably the most visited archaeological web site in Campeche, so that you’ll discover extra individuals there than you’d at Becán or Edzná.

There may be a number of data to uncover in regards to the web site, so I extremely suggest hiring a information to stroll you thru. With a information, you can spend 3-4 hours at Calakmul. Like a lot of the different websites, one of the best time to go is true when it opens, and keep away from happening Sundays.

  • Value: 80 pesos ($4) to enter the archaeological web site, 160 pesos ($8) complete in charges to enter the biosphere and entry the highway to the ruins.
  • Hours: 8am to 5pm day by day; the ticket sales space closes at 4pm
  • Transportation: It’s best to get there by rental automotive. It’s also possible to take an ADO bus from Cancún to Xpujil (it takes 8 hours), which makes stops in Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and Bacalar, so you may get on the bus in any of these cities. There are some inns close to Xpujil if you wish to discover the Calakmul biosphere for extra than simply sooner or later. From Xpujil, you’ll be able to take a taxi to Calakmul for round 500 pesos ($25).
  • Parking: Free
  • Getting round inside: Whereas the ruins are straightforward to discover on foot, the biosphere isn’t. If you wish to see the biosphere, a tour is one of the simplest ways to do it.
  • Guides: There aren’t many English-speaking guides obtainable on the web site, so it’s finest to rearrange a information at your lodge if staying in Xpujil.
  • Excursions: Ka’an Expeditions is one of the best place to e book a tour of the ruins and biosphere. They’ve a number of choices, together with a dawn hike on the biosphere and alternatives to attach with the close by Maya communities.

4. Edzná

Stated to imitate the format of the traditional metropolis of Teotihuacán close to Mexico Metropolis, this web site is intriguing and filled with historic significance. The Itzá household from Chichén Itzá additionally had nice affect in Edzná, and due to this fact a lot of the structure is harking back to Chichén. Like many Mayan cities, it’s nonetheless a thriller why the inhabitants of Edzná deserted it.

The tallest construction at Edzná is the Gran Acropolis, which is a 5-level pyramid with a small room on the high. You may climb up and take a peek inside. One other must-see is the Temple of Masks, which is a small constructing with two stucco masks: one represents the Dawn God to the east, and the opposite the Sundown God to the west.

This distinctive archaeological web site is commonly missed and due to this fact doesn’t appeal to very giant crowds. Past a ticket sales space and a rest room, the positioning doesn’t have every other facilities, so be certain to carry something you want for the day with you, together with snacks and loads of water. Go to within the morning, so that you don’t should journey again to Mérida or Campeche after the solar units.

  • Value: 65 pesos ($3.25)
  • Hours: 8am to 5pm day by day
  • Transportation: There’s a colectivo that runs from the primary market in Campeche Metropolis to Edzná for 80 pesos ($4) and takes about an hour. In any other case you’ll be able to take a taxi from Campeche for round 400 pesos ($20). From Mérida, the drive is about 3 hours if you happen to lease a automotive. In any other case, you’ll be able to take an ADO bus to Campeche after which journey to Edzná from there.
  • Parking: Free
  • Getting round inside: It’s utterly accessible by foot.
  • Guides: There aren’t any English-speaking guides obtainable for rent on the web site itself, however you’ll be able to request one at your lodge in Campeche or Mérida to accompany you.
  • Excursions: When you’re staying in Mérida, there’s a full-day tour obtainable that goes to Campeche and features a cease at Edzná.

Chiapas

The Mayan Empire in Chiapas was distinct from the Yucatán Peninsula. There you’ll see an enormous distinction within the structure, metropolis planning, and artwork motifs. Lots of the finest archaeological websites in Chiapas are in distant components of the jungle, which is a novel and adventurous place to go to.

Whereas the websites all through the Yucatán Peninsula boast close by cenotes and seashores, these in Chiapas are nestled within the mountains, alongside rivers, and close to a number of the nation’s finest waterfalls. Intrigued? Listed below are my high three Mayan ruins in Chiapas:

3. Palenque

When you do something whilst you’re in Chiapas, go to Palenque. It’s an absolute must-see archaeological web site and by far my favourite in Mexico. I’ve been there a number of instances, and what retains me coming again is the truth that archaeologists are discovering new issues about Palenque yearly. In actual fact, solely 10% of the settlement has been totally excavated, which means there shall be increasingly more discoveries to come back.

Palenque’s location within the lush mountains of Chiapas and the multiplatformed buildings give the positioning a harmonious really feel. The greenery is totally completely different from the Yucatán Peninsula, and the structure is distinct.

The Temple of Inscriptions is maybe an important construction on the grounds. When it was found, archaeologists had been baffled by the 80-foot staircase that descends to the burial chamber of King Paka, probably the most highly effective ruler of Palenque. Whereas the innermost chambers of the tomb at the moment are closed to the general public, a lot of it stays open and is fascinating to discover.

I like to recommend hiring a information and visiting the on-site museum. A fast zip via it should present sufficient historic data to understand the ruins, however having a information current to reply questions is one of the simplest ways to get probably the most out of Palenque.

Identical to different standard websites, visiting Palenque within the early morning is good. There’s loads of shade to chill off in if you happen to do resolve to go to within the afternoon, however it will likely be extra crowded from late morning to late afternoon. Deliver loads of bug spray, because the humidity lends itself to some intense swarms of mosquitoes! The perfect time of yr to go to is between November and March, when it’s cooler and drier.

  • Value: 80 pesos ($4), plus 35 pesos ($1.75) to enter the nationwide park, plus 20 pesos ($1) for a fast experience to the doorway of the positioning
  • Hours: 8:30am to 5pm day by day (the ticket sales space closes at 3pm)
  • Transportation: The city of Palenque is okay to remain in a single day in, and there are colectivos exterior of the ADO bus station marked with “Ruinas” that may take you to the ruins for 40 pesos ($2). When you’re touring from San Cristóbal de las Casas, the drive is about 5.5 hours by way of rental automotive, and as much as 8 hours by way of ADO bus.
  • Parking: Free
  • Getting round inside: The positioning itself is a bit smaller than Chichén Itzá, so it’s utterly accessible on foot. If you wish to discover the nationwide park across the archaeological web site, you would possibly need to think about taking a taxi or driving to the completely different entrances.
  • Guides: There are English-speaking guides giving excursions in teams, which value about 200-300 pesos ($10-15) per particular person, relying on the scale of the group.
  • Excursions: There are many wonderful excursions obtainable for Palenque on GetYourGuide. This one from San Cristóbal de las Casas contains stops at two waterfalls together with a guided tour of the Palenque ruins.

2. Yaxchilán

Situated alongside the Usumacinta River, which divides Mexico and Guatemala, this distant web site is without doubt one of the most sacred locations in Chiapas for the Lacandon Maya individuals of the realm, who make pilgrimages there. The buildings on the grounds have superbly preserved stucco carvings, altars, stelae, and murals. These options inform the story of the traditional civilization and led archaeologists to conclude that Yaxchilán was at struggle with Palenque for a few years earlier than it will definitely fell.

Yaxchilán has a number of historic significance for the Mayan Empire, however what makes it price visiting is its location. To get there, it’s a must to take a ship alongside the Usumacinta River, and the encircling nature is totally breathtaking. The journey seems like one thing straight out of an Indiana Jones film, making it excellent for journey lovers.

I wouldn’t suggest attempting to go to Yaxchilán by yourself, as it may be difficult to coordinate buses, colectivos, and the boat. Even if you happen to drive your self, discovering a ship to take you may be difficult. The easiest way to go to is on a tour, which additionally features a information and takes off the stress of getting to do additional planning.

Wet season on this space of Chiapas begins in June and ends in late September, which is the worst time to go. The river tends to rise considerably in the course of the wet season, so transportation to the ruins may be harmful. The perfect time to go is between October and March, because the temperatures are cooler and it’s a lot drier.

  • Value: About 30 pesos ($1.50), though there is no such thing as a official details about the doorway payment supplied by the Mexican authorities
  • Hours: 8am to 3pm day by day
  • Transportation: From San Cristóbal or Palenque, you’ll be able to take an ADO bus or colectivo to Frontera Corozal. From there, you’ll be able to take a ship to the ruins. The boat prices 1,200 pesos complete ($60), divided by nevertheless many individuals are aboard. The boat will wait to refill, which may take hours except somebody presents to pay for the remaining seats. For that reason, I solely suggest visiting Yaxchilán on a tour from both San Cristóbal or Palenque.
  • Parking: There are free locations to park on the boat launch in Frontera Corozal, however you’ll have to pay an attendant 5-10 pesos (25-50 cents) to look at your automotive.
  • Getting round inside: The whole web site is walkable.
  • Guides: When you get to the positioning, there aren’t any guides obtainable, and the one fashionable construction is a tiny ticket sales space. If you’d like a information, you’ll have to rent one in Frontera Corozal except you’re on a guided tour.
  • Excursions: From Palenque, you’ll be able to take a tour of Yaxchilán and Bonampak with stops within the Lacandon jungle.

1. Bonampak

Bonampak has one of the best Mayan Empire murals which have but been found. These frescoes inform the story of the traditional metropolis of Bonampak in nice element, giving archaeologists a transparent look into the previous. You’ll discover these unbelievable work in three completely different buildings. In an effort to protect them, solely 150 individuals are allowed into the positioning per day, and solely 4 individuals are allowed in every constructing at a time.

The doorway to the archaeological web site is about 5 miles from the ruins themselves, so you’ll have to take a colectivo or lease a motorbike to get there. Whereas it’s a prolonged bike experience, it’s fairly scenic and could be a enjoyable means to soak up the jungle ambiance.

Bonampak is way simpler to get to by yourself and not using a tour than Yaxchilán, however I nonetheless suggest visiting on a tour that additionally contains neighboring Yaxchilán, which has an identical historical past. Transportation on this space of Chiapas may be unpredictable, and the freeway needs to be averted after darkish.

  • Value: 75 pesos ($3.75)
  • Hours: 8am to 4:30pm day by day; entry closes at 3pm
  • Transportation: From Palenque, you’ll be able to take a 3-hour bus, which is able to drop you off about 2 miles from the doorway to the ruins. From there, you’ll be able to take a colectivo to the doorway. When you decide out of taking a tour, the simplest solution to go to Bonampak by yourself is by way of rental automotive, which you’ll be able to drive proper as much as the ruins.
  • Getting round inside: The whole web site is walkable.
  • Guides: When you get to the positioning, there may be solely a small ticket sales space and bogs. There aren’t any English-speaking guides obtainable, however the plaques across the ruins are all in Spanish and English.
  • Excursions: From Palenque, you’ll be able to take a tour of Yaxchilán and Bonampak with stops elsewhere within the Lacandon jungle.

Earlier than You Go to:

  • Be certain that to have money: Most websites (even Chichén Itzá) don’t settle for playing cards of any form, so just be sure you have sufficient pesos available to pay in your entrance, parking, meals, and the rest earlier than you go. If the positioning occurs to have an ATM, it should seemingly cost an absurd payment to withdraw cash, so it’s finest to reach ready.
  • Pack like a professional: Don’t forget that many of those websites are situated in distant locations, typically within the jungle. Come ready with bug spray (eco-friendly every time potential) and solar safety. Put on comfy footwear and garments that you just gained’t thoughts getting sweaty in.
  • Research up: I’ve observed that the tales that some guides inform foreigners in regards to the websites are a bit embellished and never at all times traditionally correct. I feel this occurs because of overtourism in these locations. I recommend studying up a bit on the websites you need to go to earlier than you go. That means, it will likely be a lot simpler to decipher truth from fiction if you happen to occur to get a information that likes to stretch the reality a bit.
  • Respect the foundations: Some websites can have indicators advising guests to keep away from touching or climbing on the ruins. More often than not there gained’t be anybody there to verify the foundations are adopted, so please obey the indicators. They’re there for a purpose, and your epic Insta publish isn’t price damaging and disrespecting the ruins.

Map of the Ruins

Stepping foot on any considered one of these archaeological websites feels surreal. I typically discover myself closing my eyes and attempting to think about what these cities regarded like again of their prime. It’s exhausting to think about the stone buildings stuffed with individuals bustling about, promoting fruit, and praying at locations of worship, however that’s how these cities used to thrive. They had been civilizations with superior mathematical programs in place, some extra superior than these in Europe throughout the identical period.

It’s unbelievable to me that the buildings and artifacts have stood the check of time. Nevertheless, probably the most wonderful factor is that the direct descendants of the traditional Mayan individuals proceed to follow the identical traditions and even a number of the identical constructing methods of their ancestors.

Subsequent time you head to Mexico, think about making a cease at a number of of those websites and studying extra in regards to the Mayas. For extra concepts on issues to do within the Yucatán Peninsula, try our Bacalar or Tulum information and issues to do in and round Cancún. Heading to Chiapas? Get a head begin on planning with our Chiapas information and issues to do in San Cristóbal de las Casas.

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Concerning the writer: Emily is a Mexico journey fanatic based mostly in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas. She is a part-time freelance author for BMTM and a part-time doula.

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