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Caribbean INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL

Discovering Cancun—Mayan Style

Vaclav Volrab / Shutterstock
Vaclav Volrab / Shutterstock
Dave Odegard
Written by Dave Odegard

Hear the name Cancun and your mind probably flashes with visions of tropical beaches, pristine blue waters, and plenty of spring break partying. And while all that can be found on a trip to the Mexican resort city on the Yucatán Peninsula, there’s actually more to explore and discover.

The area surrounding Cancun also happens to be rife with Mayan ruins and historical sites of the pre-Columbian culture, and people. We decided to take a look at just what Mayan discoveries you can find, in just a short trip from the beach. Partying is nice, but there’s something kind of mind-blowing about gazing on a temple that’s over a thousand years old!

El Rey

Amber Earnest / Shutterstock

Amber Earnest / Shutterstock

Cancun tourists actually don’t have far to go to bump into some Mayan ruins, the site known as El Rey is right within the city’s hotel zone, meaning it’s a quick bus ride away from wherever you’re staying. Perhaps not surprisingly, a lot of Cancun visitors don’t even know about El Rey!

With a bunch of different structures that you can climb, a healthy giant iguana population, no pesky vendors (since most tourists don’t know about it), and located right across the street from what is often referred to as, Cancun’s best public beach, El Rey may be Cancun’s best kept little secret!

Tulum

Anastasiia Markus / Shutterstock

Anastasiia Markus / Shutterstock

Tulum combines the two coolest reasons to visit Cancun, Mayan ruins and beautiful beaches. This ancient outpost sits on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean, offering you an amazing view. Once you’re done exploring, you can take some stone stairs down to the beach below, and have some fun in the sun.

Ek Balam

Borphy / Shutterstock

Borphy / Shutterstock

If you want to dodge the crowds while checking out some Mayan ruins, Ek Balam is probably the site for you. A two-hour trek from Cancun, this site features a massive temple and ornate carvings. Being less crowded allows you to enjoy your Mayan adventure in peace.

Chichén Itzá

Chris Mullins / Shutterstock

Chris Mullins / Shutterstock

The must-see Mayan site for every visitor to Cancun is Chichén Itzá, probably the most famous Mayan historical location of all.

This ancient city, which rose to regional power in the 10th century, has been restored, and is now a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located about 150 miles from Cancun, the site is serviced by plenty of tours, ferrying visitors from the city. If you prefer you can even make it a solo adventure and make your own way here. Chichén Itzá highlights include, the famous El Castillo pyramid, the Observatory, and the Temple of the Warriors. Stay a little longer to catch the nightly light and sound show, a visitor favorite!

Cobá

karamysh / Shutterstock

karamysh / Shutterstock

A little further from Cancun than Chichén Itzá, is Cobá. Unlike at Chichén Itzá, you’re able to climb the ruins at Cobá, and rent bikes to fully explore the site. There are several tours that also offer additional adventures in the nearby area, like canoeing and zip lining.

Have you been to Cancun and thoroughly explored the Mayan ruins in the area? Got any tips or advice for first time visitors? Let us know in the comments section below.

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About the author

Dave Odegard

Dave Odegard

Dave Odegard is an ex-army brat turned internet word person, whose work has been published on Maxim Online, USAToday, Buzzfeed, and more. He is currently the Senior Content Writer at Fareportal (CheapOair's parent company) and spends his free time exploring the wilds of Brooklyn, New Jersey, and Sweden.

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