Best Mayan ruin sites in Mexico

28 Best Mayan Ruins in Mexico That You Should Visit

You don’t know true Mexico if you haven’t visited at least one of its Mayan ruins. 

The Mayans were one of the most powerful civilizations in the world, and to this day Mayan influences are present in the Mexican culture. The capital of Yucatan, Merida has the largest number of people with Mayan heritage, and if you want to learn more about the Mayan culture, spend a few days in Merida.

Visiting Mayan ruins in Mexico is a great way to learn about the country’s pre-Columbian past and better understand its present. There are hundreds of Mayan ruins in southern and southeastern parts of the country.

Best Mayan Ruins in Mexico

In this article, I will share some of my favorite Mayan ruins in Mexico. Make sure to bookmark them for your next adventure.

PRO TIP: Need to plan a trip to Mexico, but don’t know where to begin? Check my tips for visiting this country!

How did Mayan ruins in Mexico come about?

The Mayan civilization stretched from today’s Mexico all the way to Hoduras and covered parts of El SalvadorGuatemala (which is considered the center of the Mayan civilization) and Belize.

Before the Mayan empire collapsed due to a variety of factors such as famine, climate and military conflicts, the Mayans weighed a significant economic and political power and built over 4,000 cities in the region that thrived on agriculture, trade and farming. 

Find Your Rental Car

Best way to see Mayan ruins in Mexico

The majority of Mayan ruins in Mexico can be found across the Yucatan Peninsula as well as portions of Campeche, Veracruz and Chiapas

Most Mayan ruins in Mexico are serviced by public transportation, but I suggest ""” target=”_blank”>renting a car to see some of the best Mayan ruins in Mexico. This way, you can travel at your pace and not worry about catching a bus.

One of the best car rental companies in Mexico is City Car Rental that offers a good inventory at competitive prices. You can find them in major destinations like Cancun, and Playa Del Carmen in Yucatan. 

PRO TIP:  Read my article on how to rent a car in Mexico to avoid common mistakes and stay safe on the road.

Best Mayan Ruins in Yucatan State

Best Mayan Ruins in Mexico

Chichen Itza

Where to stay: Hotel San Clemente in Valladolid

Chichen Itza is one of the Seven Wonders of The World and a UNESCO-listed site that is visited by 3 million people per year. 

The 75-foot Kukulkan Pyramid is the main feature of the sight and it was built by Myanas to follow astronomy and make sacrifices.

Chichen Itza is considered one of the most important archaeological sites in the world. Dominated by the Kukulkan pyramid, it also has a well-preserved market, Ball Court for the Mesoamerican game Pok a Tok, and a Temple of Warriors

El Caracol, one of the buildings in the complex was used to gauge the movements of the sun and planets. 

If you are visiting Chichen Itza for the first time, come early to beat the crowds. Get a skip-the-line ticket which will save you a lot of time, since this a busy archeological area.

Best tours of Mayan ruins in Chichen Itza

Joining a guided tour of Chichen Itza is also a great option, especially if you don’t have a rental car, and don’t want to deal with the logistics of getting here. 

Price: 533 Pesos 

Hours: 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Can you climb the ruins: No

Visiting ruins of Uxmal in Yucatan

Uxmal

Where to stay: Casa Continental

Once one of the most powerful Mayan cities in Yucatan, Uxmal is one hour away from Merida, the capital of Yucatan State. 

During its height, Uxmal was one of the most powerful Mayan cities in Yucatan, and you can still see the remains of its old glory when you visit this site.

One of the coolest features of Uxmal is the Pyramid of the Magician, an impressive 35-meter tall structure with rounded corners.

FUN FACT: According to the legend, Uxmal was built overnight, after the king of Uxmal gave a series of challenges to a dwarf. Other features of Uxmal are the House of Turtles, the Ball Court where Mayans played the famous Pok-Ta-Tok game, and the Governor’s House.

Best Mayn ruins in Mexico

Uxmal is part of Ruta Puuc (or Puuc Route) that also includes the sites of Sayil, Kabah, and Labna, wonderful and less-explored sites.

Driving to Uxmal from Merida: A drive to Uxmal from Merida is a straightforward shot along several major roads. Parking at Uxmal is 30 Pesos.

Taking a colectivo from Merida to Uxmal: Colectivos from Merida to Uxmal depart from Terminal de Segunda Clase and cost about 65 pesos one way. 

Guided tour of Uxmal from Merida: A guided tour of Uxmal is a great option because it can save you a lot of time. Tours depart early and include several stops like Choco-Story Museum/or Mayan Planetarium.

Hours: 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Price: 418 pesos. 

Can you climb the ruins: Yes

Puuc Route Mayan Ruins

Where to stay: Hotel Boutique Casa Flor De Mayo

Puuc Route is one of the best day trips from Merida if you want to get off the beaten track.

The route includes several Mayan ruin sites Uxmal, Labna, Xlapak, and Sayil in the jungle-covered terrain. When you visit these archeological areas, you will notice that many of them have intricate ornate facades and masks of the Mayan God of rain Chaac.

😃 These are some of the lesser knowns Mayan ruins in Yucatan, with only few people visiting them.

How to visit Puuc Route?

Translated as “hills” from the Mayan language, Puuc Route is a 36 mile-long (58 kilometers) route along Hopelchen-Uman Highway south of Merida.

Since public transportation in the area is limited, visiting Puuc Route is better with a car, which can be rented in Merida

If you don’t have a rental car, you can catch the Ruta Puuc Bus (which operates ONLY on Sundays between 8 a.m.-5 p.m.) and can take you to all the Mayan ruins along the Ruta Puuc. The bus departs from the main bus station in downtown Merida.

Alternatively, you could also take a guided tour of the Puuc Route from Merida, which also includes a stop at Loltun Caves.

PRO TIP: Plan your drive east to west, starting with Labna, Xlapak and finishing with Sayil, because this way, you will also be able to visit Kabah, the archeological area that is not part of Ruta Puuc, but makes for a great stop.

Price: Each archeological area long the Puuc route has its own entrance fee. And each of them has to be paid in cash.

  • Labna entrance fee: 55 pesos
  • Xlapak entrance fee: Free
  • Sayil entrance fee: 55 pesos
  • Kabah entrance fee: 55 pesos

Hours: All four sites are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Labna

Labna takes a lot of praise for being one of the most beautiful Mayan ruins along the Puuc Route. Famous for its Labna Arch, a delicate symmetrical structure with ornate carvings, Labna is worth a stop. Another prominent feature is El Mirador, a pyramid with an impressive temple with a lot of original details.

Xlapak

Xlapak is a smaller archaeological area that boasts spectacular stone-carved ornaments and representations of the Mayan rain of God Chaac. Since this is a smaller archaeological area, it’s better visited along with Uxmal and Labna, located right nearby.

Sayil

Round up your tour of Ruta Puuc with a visit to Sayil, a remarkable area that boasts 10,000 structures that can be found along the jungle trails near the excavated area. The 300-feet long Great Palace is the most prominent feature of Sayil.

Kabah

While some consider Kabah part of the Puuc Route, it’s not. Kabah is the second largest Mayan ruin set along the Ruta Puuc after Uxmal.

It has many interesting features including the former administrative site called Codz Poop, and the Palace of the Masks with hundreds of stone-carved masks dedicated to the Mayan Rain of God, Chaac. Also at the site, you can find the 11-mile ceremonial passage.

Dzibilchaltun

Where to stay: Casa Lecanda

Dzibilchaltun is one of the best Mayan ruins near Merida. This small, under-the-radar archaeological area makes for a nice getaway from the Yucatan Capital because it’s less than 30 minutes away.

Dzibilchaltun was an important center for Mayan trade, but it declined quickly when Chichen Itza came to power. The main feature of this site, Temple of the Seven Dolls (El Tiemplo De Las Siete Munecas) got its name after archeologists found seven effigies during excavation works.

If you decide to visit Dxibilchaltun while staying in Merida, bring your swimsuit: There’s also a Cenote Xlakah on site where you can cool off after exploring this archeological area.

PRO TIP: If you visit Merida during the equinox which takes place on March 21 and September 22, make your way to Dzibilchaltun at sunrise to see El Tiemplo De Las Siete Munecas light up in colors, because the doors of the temple are aligned with the sun.

Taking a collectivo from Merida to Dzibilchatun: Colectivos to Dzibilchatun depart from Parque San Juan and cost 15 pesos (which has to be paid in cash). A colectivo drops you off about 1 km away from the site, and you have to walk (or take a Moto taxi).

Taking a taxi from Merida to Dzibilchatun: The fastest way to get from Merida to Dzibilchatun is by taxi if you don’t have a car rental. A taxi costs about 250-300 Pesos for a round trip.

Taking a guided tour of Dzibilchatun: It’s also possible to join a guided tour of Dzibilchatun from Merida. Tours of Dzibilchatun typically include other stops in the region such as Progreso Beach on the Gulf Coast of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Entrance Fee: 152 pesos (for combined entrance to the ruins and Cenote Xlakah). If you travel by car rental, you also have to pay 20 pesos for parking.

Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. but the cenote closes at 3:30 p.m.

Can you climb the ruins: No

Mayapan is one of the least visited Mayan ruins in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula

Mayapan

Where to stay: Rosas Y Xocolate Boutique Hotel And Spa

If you are looking for the best Mayan ruins off the beaten track, visit Mayapan about 35 miles (55 kilometers) southeast of Merida near the town of Telchaquillo.

While Chichen Itza and Uxmal are far more popular than Mayapan, this under-appreciated archeological area can help you to better understand the history of the Mayan civilization.

Best tours of Mayapan from Merida

Brief history of Mayapan

Translated as the “flag of Mayans,” Mayapan was the last Mayan town before the arrival of the Spanish. It was the last standing city during the final years of the Mayan civilization, becoming a powerful economic center when other Mayan cities were collapsing.

While the actual date that Mayapan was settled is unclear, some believe that the city originated in 1000 AD under the alliance with neighing Uxmal and Chichen Itza. You can find many signs of Chichen Itza’s influence in Mayapan, especially in the Castillo de Kukulkan, the highlight of this archaeological area.

Driving to Mayapan from Merida: If you are traveling by rental car, take State route 184 south of Merida. Once you pass the town of Telchaquillo, you will see the signs directing you to the ruins.

Taking a bus from Merida to Mayapan: To catch a bus from Merida to Mayapan, head to Noreste bus terminal at Calle 67 and Calle 50. Don’t confuse Mayapan Archaeological area with the town of Mayapan, because they are two different places. 

When buying a ticket, specify that you are going to Ruinas Mayas de Mayapan. The bus departs about every couple of hours, so make sure to check the schedule, as there could be changes. The bus makes stops in villages along the way and takes about 1,5 hours on average. Ticket is 25 pesos one way.

Ek Balam Mayan ruins in Yucatan

5. Ek Balam

Where to stay: Atrapa Sueños in Valladolid 

Ek Balam is another Mayan ruin site in Mexico’s Yucatán that lies off the beaten tourist path.

Ek Balam is one of the best Mayan ruins in Mexico not only because it’s undiscovered, but also because you can climb its main pyramid El Torre from where you can get superb views of the jungle below you.

One of the biggest constructions excavated in the Yucatan Peninsula, El Torre features well-preserved details as well as statues and frescoes. It is also home to the tomb of Ukil-Kan-Lek-Tok, who ruled Ek Balam around 800 A.D.

Ek Balam is one of the best Mayan ruins in Mexico

Archaeologists discovered Ek Balam ruins only in the late 1980s, when the extensive excavation work was conducted at the site. With only 1 square mile uncovered of the total 10 miles, Ek Balam is one of the most fascinating Mayan ruins in Yucatan!

As bonus, you could also visit X’Canche cenote near Ek Balam! To get here, you have to pay a separate fee and can also rent a bike, as the cenote is about 2 kilometers away from the entrance to Ek Balam.

Price: 460 pesos

Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Can you climb the ruins: Yes

Best guided tours of Ek Balam Mayan Ruins

You can catch a colectivo to Ek Balam from Valladolid, which should be about 200 pesos, take a taxi or book a guided tour of Ek Balam.

To plan your trip to Ek Balam, check my article here. 

Price: 413 Pesos

Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Can you climb the ruins? Yes

Kinich Kakmo Pyramid

Where to stay: Hotel Los Arcos

Izamal, Mexico’s Yellow City has a rich history and several impressive pyramids that attribute to the importance of this area in pre-Colombian history.

Thousands of years ago, Izamal was a beautiful Mayan town with six pyramids built around the ceremonial plaza. But when the Spaniards arrived in the North Yucatec Plains in the 16th century, they constructed colonial buildings right on top of Mayan pyramids forever changing the entire area.

The highlight of Izamal is the towering Kinich Kakmo pyramid on the northern side of town. It’s the best spot in Izamal to watch the sunset and get a panoramic view of the entire city.

Kinich Kakmo sits on top of the first tier pyramid, which is pretty easy to ascend, however, the climb to Kinich Kakmo is a bit more challenging due to steep stairs and the lack of railings.

Make sure to wear comfy shoes and bring plenty of water when you come here!

Entrance fee: Free

Xcambo Ruins

Where to stay: Hotel Ola De Mar

Located on the Gulf Coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, Xcambo ruins are better suited for those visitors who plan to visit some of the beaches in the area, particularly Progresso and Telhac Puerto.

This small archeological area was an important commercial center that was linked with other Mayan cities around Yucatan Peninsula.

The early structures at Xcambo archaeological area feature the traditional Peten style that suggests influence from the Peten region in Guatemala, while later constructions feature the Puuc elements. Xcambo history dates back to the early classic period (250-600 A.D.) as it served as part of the growing trade network before fading during the late classic period in 600-900 A.D. when new trade routes were created

The site was opened to the public only in 2001 and has a relatively short history of exploration.

Entrance fee: 75 pesos

Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Can you climb ruins: Yes

Best Mayan Ruins in Quintana Roo

Tulum-Ruins-Mexico

6. Tulum ruins

Nearest town: Hotel Bardo

Facing the turquoise Caribbean waters, Tulum ruins are considered some of the most scenic Mayan ruins in entire Mexico.

Tulum was built as a fortress on the Caribbean Sea and served as an important trading point for the ancient Mayans.The most prominent feature of the site is the castle, El Castillo is perched above the cliff along the coast. If you continue going north of El Castillo, you will see a trail going along the cliff.

The Temple of the Frescoes is another notable feature of this site where you can see cool hand-painted artworks inside.

One of the biggest draws of Tulum ruins is the stunning beach with powdery white sand right below the ruins where you can swim after taking a walking tour of the ruins.

How to visit Tulum Ruins

It’s also a perfect trip from Tulum without having to rent a car or get on a bus, but the downside is that these ruins get crowded even early in the morning, so I recommend visiting when the site opens.

Another thing that you should keep in mind is that these Mayan ruins have no shadow. The entire site is very open and it can hit, especially if you are visiting in late spring or summer.

Price: 65 Pesos + additional fee of 30 pesos if you have a camera and want to take photos 

Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Can you climb the ruins: No

muyil is one of the best things to do in tulum

7. Muyil

Where to stay: Diamante K 

Part of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, Muyil is about 20 minutes south from Tulum along Carretera 307 on the way to Bacalar.

While Muyil is one of the most important Mayan sites in the region, it sees very few tourists, compared to the nearby Tulum ruins that are visited by thousands of people every day

Muyil has several temples that are connected by white routes (or Sac-be in the Mayan language).The ruins that you will find here are very impressive and you can also walk along the boardwalk surrounded by the lagoons and mangroves before you arrive at the tall observation tower.

Muyil is is one of the best places to visit near Tulum
Why you should visit Muyil near Tulum

After exploring Muyil Mayan ruins, walk along the wooden boardwalk toward the wooden tower. When you climb to the top, you can get the incredible view of the Sian Ka’an Lagoon, a UNESCO-listed biological reserve that covers 500,00 acres!

Since Muyil is a small archaeological area, it’s best to visit Muyil as part of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve tour because you will be able to see both places on the same trip.

The easiest way to reach Muyil is by renting a car, but you can also catch a colectivo from Tulum toward Felipe Carillo Puerto and ask your driver to stop in front of Muyil.

Entrance fee: 45 Pesos + 50 Pesos to access an observation deck

Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Can you climb the ruins: No

How to visit Coba Ruins in Mexico

8. Coba

Where to stay: Kaan Coba

If you are visiting Tulum and want to take a day trip without driving too far, visit Coba ruins.

Located less than 40 minutes from Tulum by car, Coba ruins are spread over dozens of kilometers and have numerous structures including the tallest pyramid in the Yucatan Peninsula, Nohoch Mul.

Coba ruins are located near the small pueblo also called Coba that has hotels and restaurants. After touring Coba ruins, grab some food and continue your journey to Coba Ruins, Tankach-Ha, Choo-Ha and Multum-Ha which are about 10 minutes away.

PRO TIP: Read my complete guide on how to visit Coba ruins and Coba cenotes

How to visit Coba cenotes

Best tours of Coba Mayan ruins

Taking a guided tour of Coba is a great way to save time, money and effort, if you don’t have a car and don’t feel like worrying about taking public transportation. Some Coba tours also include visits to nearby cenotes.

Coba ruins are pretty spread out around the Archaeological Park with some of the sites located about 1 km away from one another. Most of the trail goes through the jungle, but you should still put on plenty of sunscreen and bring snacks and water. 

Price: 70 Pesos

Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Can you climb the ruins: Yes

Best Mayan Ruins Near Cancun

El Rey

Where to stay: Live Aqua Beach

Cancun is the busiest destination in Yucatan, but it has a hidden secret: a small archeological area El Rey that is perfect for those travelers who are looking to enjoy the nature.

Located in the hotel zone of Cancun, El Rey is believed to have served as a major stop along the Mayan trade route. Evidence suggests that El Rey was closely linked to Xel-Ha, Tankah, and Tulum – a group of communities that also played an important role in the Mayan trade route.

Named after the stone structure depicting a king, the site was also home to a burial site for royalties, and an astronomy center. The stone sculpture of the king was discovered in 1923, and today you can find it at the Cancun Mayan Museum down the street from the El Rey ruins.

Here you can also find a neat botanical garden that is home to many plants and trees native to this region of Mexico. In the pre-Columbian times, the site was well protected as it was sheltered by the Nichupte Lagoon.

For the best experience, combine a visit to El Rey with nearby San Miguelito ruins.

How to get to El Rey Ruins: This archeological area is located at 18th kilometer of the Cancun Hotel Zone near Boulevard Kukulkan. Nearby you can also find Playa Delfines and the Sheraton Cancun Resort. You can take a taxi cab, a public bus, or a guided tour.

Price: 35 pesos

Hours: 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Can you climb the ruins: Yes

El Meco

Where to stay: Sandos 

A small, but well-preserved Mayan ruin site in Cancun, El Meco was opened to the public in the early 2000’s.

El Meco Mayan Ruins have a close resemblance to the Itzamna style in Chichen Itza. Historians believe that El Meco worked closely with El Rey and San Miguelito to develop Maya trade networks. While the actual history of the site is unknown, it is believed that it has been abandoned with the arrival of the Spanish.

The location of El Meco across from Isla Mujeres suggests a connection between this Mayan city and the island.

How to get to El Meco: This archaeological area is located north of Cancun on the way to Puerto Juarez. To get there, you can either rent a car in Cancun or take a taxi.

Price: 50 pesos 

Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

San Gervasio Ruins

Where to stay: Villas El Encanto

The only archaeological area in Cozumel, the San Gervasio Mayan ruin site located right in the middle of the island. This is a smaller archeological area divided into 4 sections spread over 2 square miles.

Before the arrival of the Spanish, San Gervasio served as a pilgrimage site for the goddess Ix Chel, and it’s believed that area was a religious Mecca for the Mayans. Many statues of Ixchel were found in this area and you can find an altar leading to the ceremonial route.

One of the most interesting features of San Gervasio Ruins is the Temple of The Hands with several small red handprints (Las Manitas) on the wall. Other features include the reconstructed arch, Ka’na Nah (Tall House), Nohoch Nah (Big House), Los Murcielagos, and Central Plaza.

If you are spending a couple of days in Cozumel, you can visit San Gervasio either by car or by taxi. You can also visit San Gervasio Ruins with an organized tour. These Mayan ruins offer a great retreat from busy areas of the island.

Read my complete guide to the best things to do in Cozumel

Entrance: 50 Pesos

Hours: 8 a.m.-3:45 p.m.

Can you climb the ruins: Yes

Best Mayan Ruins in Costa Maya

Chacchoben

Where to stay: Hotel Casa Hormiga

The most popular Mayan ruins in Mexico’s Costa Maya region, Chacchoben makes a perfect mini-trip from Mahahual and Bacalar, the two nearest towns.

Located away from the major tourist route, Chacchoben is one of the lesser-known Mayan ruins in the Yucatan Peninsula. Translated from the Mayan language as “red corn,” this archaeological site was discovered only in 1972 by Dr. Peter Harrison. 

Best Chacchoben tours

Only a small part of Chacchoben has been uncovered with many pyramids and structures still covered by vegetation. Look closely while walking around the site and you will see big structures covered by soil and trees – these could be hiding a lot of secrets!

This archaeological area is also home to many animals. While walking around, you can spot spider monkeys, armadillos, and grey foxes. Deeper in the jungle, there are tapirs, pumas, and even jaguars – although it’s extremely rare to see these nocturnal creatures during the daytime.

How to get to Chacchoben: The best way to visit these Mayan Ruins is by renting a car, as the drive can be about 30-40 minutes, but you can also book a guided tour of Chacchoben.

Entrance Fee: 70 Pesos

Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Can you climb the ruins: No

Make sure to visit best Mayan ruins on your next trip to Mexico

Kohunlich

Where to stay: Casa Delia Hotel in Bacalar

Kohunlich, is a remote Mayan ruin site just over 1 hour away from Bacalar in the middle of the thick jungle.

Kohunlich is one of those less-visited Mayan ruins in Mexico that doesn’t see the traffic of Chichen Itza or Tulum ruins. This archaeological area is as remote as it is tranquil, and if you want to have this amazing place to yourself, come early morning when the site is about open.

Best tours of Kohunlich

The most notable feature of Kohunlich is the temple of the masks that was built to honor the God of the sun. Inside the temple, you will find six incredible stucco masks along the staircase that played an important role in the Mayan traditions and culture.

Price: 55 Pesos

Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Can you climb the ruins: Yes

Located in Costa Mayana, Dzibanche is one of the best Mayan ruins in Mexico

Dzibanche & Kinichna

Nearest town: Hotel Sun Ha Bacalar

Just north of Kohunlich, Dzibanche and Kinichna are two remote Mayan ruin sites, located a few miles apart from each other. The road to these Mayan ruins is bumpy and has many potholes, so make sure take your time getting here. 

Dzibanche and Kinichna guarantee fun and uncrowded experience, as VERY few people make their way out here. Dzibanche is often called one of the best secrets of Mexico’s Costa Maya region thanks to its location in the middle of the deep jungle.

Best tours of Dzibanche Mayan ruins

If you don’t have a car, you can get a guided tour of Dzibanche and Kinichna from Bacalar. I visited both of these sites on my own with a car rental and happened to be the only person there when I arrived in the morning.

Entrance fee: 55 Pesos (covers both Dzibanche and Kinichna)

Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Can you climb the ruins: No

Best Mayan Ruins in Campeche

Calakmul is one of the best Mayan ruins in Mexico

Kalakmul

Where to stay: Casa Ka’an 

Calakmul is one of the least known and arguably most impressive Mayan Ruins in Mexico.

Located in the heart of the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve near the Guatemala border, Calakmul is not easy to access: It’s about halfway between Bacalar and Escarcega and requires a dedicated trip, which is why it’s better to visit while you are in Bacalar.

Calakmul is one of my favorite Mayan ruins in Mexico, and while it’s requires time and effort, I recommend it, if you want a unique experience.

Fees: To Enter Calakmul, you have to pay three separate fees that total about 160 pesos. First, you need to pay 40 pesos as you enter Highway 186. Second, you need to pay 65 pesos to enter the national park where the ruins are located. And third, you need to pay a fee of about 55 pesos at the welcome center near the ruins. 

All of these fees have to be paid in cash.

From the entrance where you pay for tickets and optionally can hire a guide (which I recommend), you need to drive for about one hour through the jungle to get to the entrance of the ruins. When you arrive, you will be able to climb the Great Pyramid, the largest of all Mayan pyramids from where you can get a 360-degree view of the surrounding jungle.

Calakmul has several routes: short, medium, and long, and you could spend as much as your entire day here. Make sure to bring at least two bottles of water because there are no facilities on site.

PRO TIP: Consider renting a car for your trip to Calakmul, since there is no public transportation in the area.

Chicanna

Where to stay: Hotel Casa Las Lolas in Xpujil

Chicanna is a perfect place to visit on your way to Calakmul. But since there are several other Mayan ruins nearby, it’s better to spend one night in the area to see all of them.

At Chicanna, you will find many examples of the Rio Bec designs and types of constructions that were typical for the Rio Bec region. Some of these examples include elongated constructions, ornate design motifs, and decorations that aligned with stars.

Located near the town of Xpujil, this site was discovered in 1966 and researchers believe that it was used for ceremonies and important rituals because of its high elevation, as Mayans thought they were closer to Gods.

PRO TIP: Stay in Xpu-jil for a day to visit other less visited Mayan ruins in the area. Visiting archeological areas Hormiquero, Xpuhil, and Becan makes for an incredible experience.

Price: 50 Pesos

Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Can you climb the ruins: Yes

Becan

Where to stay: Cabanas Chaac Calakmul in Xpujil

The neighboring site of Chicanna, Becan is believed to be the former capital and economic center of the Rio Bec region. Although Becan is a smaller site than Chicanna, it boasts impressive Mayan pyramids with unique designs that are sticking out from the dense jungle.

Near the pyramids, you can find large plazas that are surrounded by several buildings. It is believed that Becan was one of many Mayan cities that were fighting with the powerful Tikal located in today’s Guatemala for the economic and political dominance of the region.

Price: 65 pesos

Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Can you climb the ruins: Yes

Edzna Mayan Ruins in Campeche

Edzna

Where to stay: Hotel Plaza Colonial

If you are traveling in Mexico’s Campeche state, make a stop in Edzna, a Mayan ruin site about one hour away from the city of Campeche. Edzna sits off the beaten tourist track, but it is famous for its multi-level pyramid that is also believed to be home to a palace.

When you come to Edzna, make sure to visit the Temple of Masks where you can find well-preserved masks of the gods that were honored by Mayans.

Price: 60 Pesos

Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Can you climb the ruins: You can climb some structures on site, but not the Temple of Masks

Best Mayan Ruins in Chiapas

Palenque

Where to stay: Hotel Tulipanes Express

Located in the beautiful state of Chiapas, Palenque is UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site and is one of the most famous Mayan Ruins in Mexico.

Palenque an elaborate archaeological complex dominated by the Temple of Inscriptions, where many hieroglyphic inscriptions were found. Archaeologists discovered a crypt under the temple in 1952 where they found the remains of what is thought to have been a ruler of Palenque from the 7th century. 

If you are visiting Palenque for the first time, join a guided tour of the archaeological area that also includes stops at waterfalls Misol-Ha and Agua Azul

Best tours of Palenque

Another notable feature of Palenque is its plaster buildings which are different from the usual limestone construction that you can see in many Mayan ruins in Yucatan. 

While the town of Palenque doesn’t have anything worth seeing, many travelers stop here to visit ruins before departing to other destinations in Chiapas such as San Cristobal De Las Casas, El Canyon De Sumidero, and El Chiflon waterfalls.

Price: Palenque National Park entrance fee: $34. Palenque Ruins entrance fee: $70 pesos. Unless you are visiting Palenque with a tour, you also need to pay about 20 Pesos for a colectivo because the archaeological area is located outside the town of Palenque.

Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Can you climb the ruins: No

Yaxchilan is one of the most remote Mayan ruins located in the state of Chiapas, Mexico

Yaxchilan

Where to stay: Villas Adriana

Straddling the Mexico-Guatemala border, Yaxchilan is the only Mayan ruin site that can’t be reached by car or public transportation.

The only way to get to Yaxchilan is by crossing the Usumacinta River, and while you technically can get on your own via a boat ride from the small town called Frontera Corozal, joining a guided tour of Yaxchilan is a much better option, because you will not have to worry about the logistics.

Translated as the “Place of Greens” from the Mayan Language a visit to Yaxchilan is a real Indiana Jones-like experience as it’s surrounded by the dense jungle – and not much else.

The archaeological area is divided into the Great Plaza, the Grand Acropolis, and the Small Acropolis and is mostly famous for its temples and plazas adorned with stunning carved sculpts and ornaments. During its height between 800 and 1,000 AD, Yaxchilan was a powerful trade center on the banks of the Usumacinta River.

Price: 45 Pesos

Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Can you climb the ruins: No

Bonampak

Where to stay: Hotel Museo Xibalba

Another famous ruin site in Chiapas, Bonampak means “painted wall” in the Mayan language.

The main attraction of the site are unique frescoes that are considered among the best-preserved Main wall art in Mexico and date back to 790 A.D. These frescoes tell the history of Mayan culture, traditions, and day-to-day life and are a must-see if you plan a trip to Chiapas.

Consider visiting nearby Yaxchilan, another impressive Mayan ruin site near the border with Guatemala. Due to their remote location, both of these ruins are better visited with an organized tour. If you are visiting on your own, you can stay in one of nearby eco-lodges in the surrounding jungle.

Price: 55 pesos

Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Can you climb the ruins: No

Tonina

Where to stay: Casa Tonina

Located 13 kilometers east of the town of Ocosingo, Tonino is a less famous Mayan ruin site. When I visited Chiapas for the first time, most tourists were going to Palenque and to a less extent Yaxchilan and Bonampak. Not many tour agencies advertised Tonina, and until I did my research, I had never heard about it.

This archeological area is located against the backdrop of Chiapas mountains, unlike many Mayan ruins in Yucatan that sit in the flat humid jungle.

The site boasts several temple-like pyramids, a large plaza, and a ball court. Here you can also find over 100 carved monuments most of which are believed to date to the period between the 6th and 9th centuries A.D. The area behind the main site has not yet been excavated and is thought to have a lot more structures.

Most tourists come here either from Palenque or from San Cristobal De Las Casas that is 55 miles away. Although the distance is relatively short, it takes about 2 hours to get from San Cristobal to Tonina because of the mountainous winding road.

Tonina remains of the best-hidden gems of Chiapas, and, if you plan on visiting the state, make sure to visit this archeological area.

How to get to Tonina: Tonina is about 8 kilometers away from the town of Ocosingo from where you can take a colectivo for about 15 pesos toward Tonina. The last colectivo from Tonina to Ocosingo leaves at 5 p.m., but be sure to check with the driver, as transportation options here are limited.

Hours: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Price: Free

Best Mayan Ruins in Veracruz State

1. El Tajin

Where to stay: Hotel Veracruz Centro Historico

One of the most mysterious Mayan ruins in Mexico, El Tajin is a UNESCO-designated archaeological area in the state of Veracruz.

Just north of the city of Veracruz, this Mayan ruin site is best combined with a visit to the town of Papantla, one of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos that is known as the birthplace of vanilla. Many people come to Papantla to see the famous “voladores” and shop its colorful markets.

Did you know that Mexico has 132 Pueblos Magicos? To learn more about Papantla and some of the best Pueblos Magicos in Mexico, read my guide.

El Tajin makes for a perfect half-day trip from Papantla, as it is located only 13 kilometers away and can be reached by taxi. Translated as “thunder” from the Toltec language, El Tajin is is believed to have been contacted by a tribe closely related to Maya.

The most prominent feature of El Tajin is the 60-feet tall Pyramid of Niches (Pirmaide de los Nichoes), which is believed to have relevance to the Mayan calendar.

Other notable features of the area include the Plaza Menor (which is believed to be one of the most important ceremonial places in the area), as well as Southern Ball Court, one of the most remarkable ball courts of all Mayan ruins in Mexico because of its intricate wall carvings showing ritualistic games during which players were sacrificed.

Since there’s little shade, make sure to bring a hat and plenty of water and wear sunscreen.

Getting there by air: the closest airport to El Tajin in Veracruz and Poza Rica. There are daily flights to Veracruz from Mexico City

Getting there by bus: You can also take a bus from Veracruz to Papantla

Getting there by car: From Veracruz take Highway 180 north toward Papantla

Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Price: 80 Pesos

Can you climb pyramids: Yes

Tips for visiting Mayan ruins in Mexico

Pay in cash – This is one of my top tips for visiting Mayan ruins in Yucatan and beyond. Most of the archaeological areas that I visited accept only cash, and since very few of them have ATM’s, you should come prepared with enough cash to pay for the entrance ticket. 

Bring a bug repellent – Most Mayan ruin sites are located in the middle of the jungle which means there are tons of bugs and mosquitoes. Make sure to spray yourself with some bug repellent if you don’t want to get bad bites. 

Consider hiring a local guide – You can find licensed guides at the entrance of most Mayan ruins in Yucatan. If you are visiting the region for the first time and are not familiar with the history of the Mayan civilization, hiring a guide on site is a great idea. Similar to entrance to the ruins, guides require a cash payment before starting the tour. 

Visit early morning – Depending on the Mayan site that you plan to visit, consider arriving by the opening time. For example, if you plan to visit Chichen Itza, the most popular Mayan ruin site in Yucatan, I recommend starting at 8 a.m. as there will be far fewer people than at midday. 

Check public transportation options – Some Mayna ruins in Yucatan are serviced by public transportation, especially those near major cities like Tulum, Valladolid and Merida. If you don’t have a car, check if you can get around by bus or colectivo. 

Consider a tour – If a Mayan ruin site is not serviced by public transportation, and you don’t have a car rental, consider joining a guided tour. Get Your Guide is an excellent platform for finding tours of Mayan ruins in Yucatan 

Carry plenty of water – Although some Mayan ruin sites have restaurants ad concession stands, its’ not always the case. Always carry plenty fo water if you plan to spend a couple of hours around the archeological area 

Bring a hat – Some Mayan ruins are more exposed than others which means you could spend a couple of hours under the open sun. This could be a bad idea, especially if you are visiting on a hot sunny day, which are common in this part of Mexico. Make sure to bring a hat for your trip. 

Take sunscreen – If the site that you plan to visit is exposed to the sun, make sure to bring some sunscreen in addition to a hat to avoid sunburns.

Respect posted signs – As I already mentioned, not all Mayan ruins in Yucatan are open for climbing. Make sure to follow posted signs, as every archaeological area has its own rules.

Parking could require a fee – Some archaeological areas also require a parking fee which normally run between 30 and 50 Pesos. Keep it mind if you are visiting by car rental. 

Best Mayan ruins in Central America

Although Mexico is home to the biggest number of Mayan ruins, it’s not the only country that has them. If you want to see some of the best Mayan ruins in Central America, consider visiting the following archaeological areas:

1. Tikal

Often considered the most powerful Mayan cities at the time, Tikal is one of the most impressive Mayan ruins in Central America. Located in Guatemala near the border with Belize, Tikal is spectacular archeological area that can take more than 2 hours to explore this area. 

A designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tikal boasts the Grand Plaza, 24 pyramids and other constructions. 

2. El Mirador

Home to the tallest pyramid in the region, El Mirador is the most impressive Mayan ruin site in Central America that has been discovered only in the last few decades. The site is still covered in dense jungle and tourism here is very limited, although there are options for hiring a guide that will accompany you on a multi-day hiking trip to this majestic ruins.

If you are visiting Guatemala, consider trekking to El Mirador for the ultimate adventure!

3. Copan

Located in Honduras, Copan is considered one of the most important Mayan ruins in Central America. Archeologists discovered many decorations, sculptures and art work here that have played a big role in understanding of the Mayan culture. Historians believe that Copan lasted four centuries and was ruled by the single dynasty. 

The site is close to the Guatemala border and is a popular day trip for many travelers from places like Antigua and Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. 

4. Caracol

Located near the border with Guatemala, Caracol is a remote Mayan ruins site whose visitation hovers just above 10,000 people a year – a remarkably low number, when you consider other popular spots in the region such as Tikal, Palenque, and Chichen Itza, that see millions of tourists.

Once the most powerful city in the Mayan world, Caracol was a rival of Tikal in neighboring Guatemala and commanded a significant economic and political influence.

Visiting Caracol requires time and effort. The road to this archaeological area is rough and bumpy, and it takes about 1,5 to 2 hours to get here from San Ignacio, the largest town in Belize near Guatemala border.

5. Lamanai

Famous for its incredible crocodile art, Lamanai is the longest-occupied Mayan site nestled along the New River Lagoon in Northern Belize. Lamanai means “submerged crocodile” in the Mayan language, so there’s little surprise about the presence of these reptiles at this place. Oh, you can see them on the banks of the river too, if you get lucky!

Among the highlights of Lamanai are impressive crocodile art, several plazas, and Mayan temples (High Temple, Mayan Temple) that house impressive Mayan artifacts.

Final word on visiting Mayan ruins in Mexico

The best Mayan ruins in Mexico are not always those that are popular or advertised. While all of them are very unique, I encourage you get off the beaten track and discover some of the most beautiful less visited archaeological sites that will leave you speechless. I hope you enjoy your adventure!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, I might earn a small commission if you make a purchase through the links in this article. 

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