The ancient Maya civilization, known for their advances in science, astronomy, and architecture left a vast legacy extending from Mexico to Honduras throughout a territory spanning roughly 400,000 km². It hosted a culture that disappeared inexplicably, leaving us with the task of exploring and deciphering their mysteries, learning from their knowledge and appreciating the sites of their ruined cities that date back hundreds of years ago. The following are the most popular sites in the Mexican Maya zone:
5. Chacchoben, Quintana Roo.
Rising above the canopy of the Maya jungle is the most important settlement of the Lakes Region, Chacchoben, or “Place of the Red Maize.” It is thought to have been a ceremonial center and the site covers 173 acres with still many secrets waiting to be discovered.
4. Palenque, Chiapas.
One of the most powerful cities of the Maya Classic period. This site hosts over 1400 buildings and temples, many of which are tightly ensconced in the jungle to this day. It is a carefully planned city featuring sophisticated architectural designs which are enhanced by the area’s natural beauty and its nearby rivers.
3. Cobá, Quintana Roo.
This city is located near several lakes, which is a major factor behind its agricultural richness. Cobá is not as extensive as other sites, but it is estimated to have thousands of temples and buildings, which are still covered in deep jungle foliage. During its peak, the city was inhabited by approximately 50,000 people.
2. Uxmal, Yucatán.
The most important city of the Puuc region in the Yucatan Peninsula is characterized by its architectonic style, also known as Puuc. The city of Uxmal (Maya for “thrice built”) was established around 700 AD and inhabited by 25,000 people and is a strong representative of late Maya art and architecture.
1. Tulum, Quintana Roo.
A walled Maya city overlooking the turquoise waters of the Mexican Caribbean, Tulum was established during the late post-Classic Maya period, and thought to be used mainly as a trading port. It is rather small in comparison to other sites, although it features at least 60 buildings and a spectacular view.
Bonus: Chichen Itzá, Yucatán
Of course we couldn’t leave out this world-famous site, the main structure of which – “The Castle” or “El Castillo” – was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. This site features numerous buildings, such as the observatory or Caracol, the Great Ball Court, the Group of a Thousand Columns and the Temple of Warriors. Not to mention the neighboring Sacred Cenote, which is known to have been a sacrificial site. Chichen Itzá is well known for its equinox natural spectacle, where lights and shadows of the sun outline the silhouette of a serpent, known as Kukulcan, slithering down the pyramid’s stairway.