This blog post was updated on October 16, 2018.
Set in between the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, Cancun is in a constant party mood that it never seems the city sleeps or experiences a hangover from the previous night.
One of the Western Hemisphere’s biggest tourist draws, they all come flocking mostly to experience the resort hotels, over the top nightlife and stunning beaches that make up Cancun.
Beyond the beaches and bottomless drinks, those boarding flights to Cancun can find an archeological heart that is not just made of margaritas.
Within reach of the resorts and strips of sand, you can still experience some of the best examples of ancient Mayan civilizations.
Those who can tear themselves away from Cancun’s year-round celebration won’t be disappointed in these Mayan sites.
Stick Close to the Party: Right in Cancun are a few Mayan ruins you can see without ever leaving the city limits. El Rey archeological site sits within easy reach of Cancun. What was once a Mayan trading and fishing port can still be seen today through a number of small temples and ceremonial platforms. Its origins date back to the 12th century.
Tuck Away for the Day in Tulum: A short drive from Cancun brings you to Tulum, the once busy and buzzing Mayan ceremonial center and trading port. Dating back to 1200 to 1500 A.D., Tulum holds around 60 buildings. Of particular note is the Temple of the Frescoes, adorned with original Mayan frescoes. While the ruins at Tulum might not be as impressive to some as that keg stand back in Cancun, the location is worth the drive. The Mayan center rests on a cliff, gazing out on the Caribbean Sea.
Continue to Coba: Another short drive from Tulum will bring you to Coba, the Pre-Columbia Mayan archeological site. Archeologists have concluded the space was first settled between 100 B.C. and 100 A.D. Once the Spanish arrived, the Mayans dispersed in 1550. Before the rude awakening by the Spanish, Coba was a massive settlement, home to 6,500 temples and 50,000 inhabitants at its peak. You won’t have these ruins to yourself however. Coba is considered one of the Yucatan Peninsula’s most popular archeological ruins. Be sure to snap a shot of Nochoch Mul, the second highest temple in the Mayan world.
End with the big cheese, Chichen Itza—Just over a hundred miles from Cancun, you can arrive to one of the New World Wonders, Chichen Itza. Such a title does not come without reason. For centuries, from 750 to 1200 A.D., Chichen Itza was the Mayan center of the Yucatan Peninsula. This pre Hispanic city is a Mayan archaeological site you have to see to fully believe. You might be rubbing your eyes from last night’s party in Cancun, in disbelief over visions such as El Castillo, the Temple of the Warriors and the Great Ballcourt. The game played out on the Ballcourt was similar to that of basketball. The only difference, the losers generally did not make it to the next match up.