Famous for their amazing architecture, for their mathematical contribution (the number zero) and excellent astronomical knowledge, Mayans established in Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and in the southern area of México, being the Yucatán Peninsula the last region where they lived. This makes Yucatán the best place to visit Mayan ruins, and this is because such big “modern cities” are very well preserved here.
A great piece of advice for travellers like you is to stay in Mérida so you can easily and quickly reach any Mayan ruin you want. If you haven’t decided which one to visit yet, tranquilo amigo, here’s a list of 7 great Mayan cities you should not miss:
Chichen Itzá is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and it’s only an hour and a half away from Mérida. Apart from the magnificent El Castillo de Kukulkán, it is full of cultural heritage and prehispanic buildings. Like for example: El Juego de pelota, El Caracol, Templo de los Guerreros and a sacred cenote were ceremonies, offerings and human sacrifices took place.
To access the complex you have to buy a ticket at the entrance, the cost is 480 MXN. You can enter from 8:00 to 17:00 hrs but we highly recommend to arrive early so you can avoid crowdedness and enjoy the whole place with no rush.
If you want to live a more unique experience, they offer a spectacular light and sound show at night (at 19.00 or 20.00hrs depending on the season). You have the chance to quickly visit the ruins by night with not so many people around and enjoy a very fascinating projection on the main pyramid telling the story of Chichen and the Maya. For this show, make sure you buy your ticket online as there are only a few seats available every day, the cost is $520 MXN.
These Mayan ruins are only an hour away from Mérida and they are the second most famous complex in Yucatán. Uxmal has unbelievable architecture, the buildings have incredible details with “God masks” carved on the walls made of stone. Back in time, Uxmal was one of the most important civilizations for the Maya. It marked the beginning of the Ruta Puuc, an hilly area that combines caves, Mayan ruins and cenotes. Except for the main pyramid, you can climb up pretty much all buildings, making a very unique experience filled with beautiful views.
Uxmal is open from 8:00 to 17:00 hrs. and the prices are about $415 MX. As in any other ruin, we highly recommend going early to avoid the crowd and to have the chance to eat in one of the picturesque nearby villages. This place also has a recommended light and sound show displayed on one of the main ruins. You can ask for more information at the main entrance.
A city with more than 45 buildings surrounded by Mayan jungle. This definitely makes it a must-go during your trip in Yucatán. Ek Balam may not have the tallest and biggest pyramids, but the complex is unique for the well preservation of its buildings and the stone sculptures. Moreover, the surrounding lush vegetation makes the place even more special.
To go to Ek Balam, take the Mérida-Cancún highway for about an hour and a half till you see the Tizimín exit, then drive 20 minutes more till you get there. The ticket price is $340 MXN and is open every day from 8:00 to 17:00 hrs.
Dzibilchaltún is a famous destination not because of the size of the pyramids, but because the Maya created a very special temple, called Templo de las Siete muñecas. Every equinox, the sun perfectly aligns behind the main door of the temple illuminating the entrance with its rays. In this complex, there is also a wide open cenote where you can chill and take a swim and a museum full of tools and Mayan heritage. The cherry on the top is that this place is just 10 minutes away from Mérida taking the Mérida-Progreso highway. It’s the perfect destination for a (half a) day trip.
Dzibichaltún opens every day of the year at 8:00 and closes at 17:00 hrs. and the museum opens Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 to 16:00 hrs. We highly recommend living the equinox experience as it is very magical and unique. If you happen to be in Mérida at the right time, definitely consider going but keep in mind that you will have to wake up before sunrise and share the magic with lots of people as it tends to be very crowded.
This beautiful small city is surrounded by stone walls and it is considered the last Mayan capital before the whole civilization started to fade away. This archeological site is not very big but it offers many buildings to explore. The site is very well preserved, with sculptures carved in stones and pyramides. It actually looks like a little Chichen-Itza but it’s definitely less touristic giving you the chance to explore the place with very few people. Plus, you can go to the top of this pyramid and enjoy the view.
The place opens every day of the year from 8:00 to 17:00 hrs. and the entrance it’s only about 45 MXN. Mayapán is 40 minutes south of Mérida, near the cenotes area.
This important Mayan civilization is only 35 minutes away from Mérida, half way between Mérida and Izamal. It was one of the main cities of commercial exchange. Aké is a very wide open complex with a big esplanade where you can contemplate antique buildings and find inner peace.
Like all the other Mayan cities, it opens at 8:00 and closes at 17:00 hrs. It is also very cheap, only 45 MXN to get in. All you have to do is drive 35 minutes on the Mérida-Cancún highway till you find the Aké exit. A perfect day trip could be visiting this nice archeological site, refresh in one of the many nearby cenotes and then visit the pinturesque village of Izamal
Check out our travel guide to discover Yucatán like a real expert. It’s full of travelling tips to create low-budget itineraries to make sure you are not missing out, including the Mayan ruins. If you need any help planning your visit let us know down below in the comments amigo!