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14 Best Mayan Ruins in the Yucatan Peninsula to Visit

Looking to travel back in time and visit some Mayan ruins on your next visit to the Yucatan Peninsula? With over 200 Mayan ruins to visit in this area of southwestern Mexico, it can seem overwhelming knowing which ones to see if you are limited on time.

Not to worry, we have compiled our list of the best Mayan Ruins to visit in the Yucatan Peninsula. You may already be familiar with popular spots like Chichen Itza or the Maya ruins of Tulum overlooking the beach.

We’re going to cover these and many more, and no matter where you’re staying, whether it be in Tulum, Cancun or Merida, in the Yucatan there is always bound to be an exceptional Mayan site nearby.

1. Chichen Itza

The most famous and popular Mayan site in Mexico, and arguably the nicest, Chichen Itza is also one of the ‘New 7 Wonders of the World’ and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

With exceptionally symmetric architecture, the main ‘El Castillo’ pyramid is like no other found in Mexico due to it’s simplistic design and stunning beauty. Founded around 600 AD it was once the center of trade for the Mayans, until the conquest of the Spaniards many centuries later.

Chichen Itza is closest to the town of Valladolid, but it’s also only around a 2 hour drive from both Tulum and Cancun. Along the way you’ll find many amazing cenotes and cute little colonial cities to explore.

Entrance fee: 500 pesos ($25 USD)

Hours: 8am-5pm everyday

2. Calakmul

My personal favourite Mayan ruins site in Mexico, Calakmul is in the state of Campeche and located only 35 kilometers from the border of Guatemala. Be warned – it’s not easy to get here as it’s deep within the jungle and you’ll need a car or a tour.

Mayan ruins of Calakmul

The reason this place is so special is that it’s secluded in the middle of the jungle, taking almost 2 hours to get there by car from the nearest highway. Because of this there are almost no tourists to be found.

In fact, when we were there, we saw only one other group tourists. This archeological site is considered one of the greatest Mayan sites found in the lowlands and was one of the Maya’s largest and most powerful ancient cities.

The breathtaking view from the top of Structure 2

There are over 6,750 ancient structures identified to date at Calakmul, with three very large temples which you can climb, one being the second tallest Maya pyramid in the world at 45 metres (148 ft), Tikal in Guatemala being the first.

Entrance fee: 55 pesos ($3 USD)

Hours: 8am-5pm, everyday

3. Tulum Ruins

The most famous landmark and attraction in Tulum, the Tulum Ruins are very unique as it’s one of the only Mayan ruins in Mexico that’s right next to the beach – so don’t forget to bring your bathing suit!

Tulum ruins from above

Founded in 564 AD the “Tulum pyramids” as they’re sometimes called, was one of the last cities built by the Maya and during the 13th-15th centuries it was at it’s peak being a major trading port for the region.

The ruins are perched on a 12 foot cliff face overlooking the beach below, where you can go swimming. There are several ruins at the site inlcuding the main “El Castillo,” “House of the Columns” and many others. It’s right next to the town of Tulum, so getting here is very easy.

Check out our extenstive Tulum Ruins guide here.

Entrance fee: 70 pesos ($3.50 USD)

Hours: 8am-5pm everyday

4. Coba Ruins

Located only 50 minutes from Tulum, the Coba Ruins is one of the most important Maya sites in the world with an estimated 6,000 structures scattered throughout the jungle still waiting to be excavated.

Climbing the main Nohoch Mul pyramid

The city was founded in the 1st century AD and lasted even after the Spanish arrived in the 15th century, housing 50,000 inhabitants at it’s peak. It’s one of the few pyramids in Mexico visitors are allowed to climb, Nohoch Mul being the centerpiece and largest pyramid with 120 steps.

The archeological site is so big and spread out it would take around 2-3 hours to explore the whole area. Luckily, you can rent bikes here which is the best way to get around, you’ll need them to bike through the jungle from the main road anyway.

Check out our extensive Coba Ruins guide here.

Entrance fee: 80 Pesos ($4 USD) and 60 pesos for parking

Hours: 8am-4pm everyday

5. Uxmal

Located around 65 km (40 miles) south of Merida, Uxmal was another one of the largest and most important cities in the ancient Mayan world. The buildings are intricately decorated in the classic Puuc style from thht region.

The ‘Pyramid of the Magician’ is the main attraction which dominates the archeological site at 114 feet high and built between the 6th and 10th centuries. The “Governer’s Palace” is a long building next to it that is adorned with exquisite stone carvings of snakes, birds and flowers.

It’s one of only a handful of places where you can climb the pyramids, except for the “El Adivino” building. Even though it’s very impressive, it doesn’t get as many tourists as Chichen Itza, which is a huge plus.

Entrace fee: 450 pesos ($23 USD) and 80 pesos for parking

Hours: 8am-5pm everyday

6. Muyil

The first thing you may notice is a resemblance to the famous Tikal site in Guatemala to the south, which is referred to as Peten architecture which usually have steep walls. The Muyuil Ruins are only 15 km (9 miles) south of Tulum, making it an ideal day trip from the beach town.

The ruins are right next to the beautiful Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, so we definitely recommend checking this out also if you’re in the area.

The actual name of the site is Chunyaxché, built around 350 BC and is one of the earliest Mayan sites. Stretching of 38 hectares, it’s surrounded by a lush jungle and you won’t find many tourists here which gives it a unique, peaceful and mystical vibe.

Check out our extensive guide to the Muyil Ruins here.

Entrance fee: 65 pesos ($3 USD)

Hours: 9am-3pm everyday

7. Mayapan

Mayapan is a site of several ruins found just 40km south-east of Merida, the main pyramid is a smaller replica of the one found at Chichen Itza, also called Kukulkan at only 50 fee high. It’s considered one of the last sites to be built before the Spanish arrived.

Other than the main Kukulkan pyramid there is also a circular building known as the “Templo Redondo” or “Observatory” which is unique to this Mayan site in the Yucatan. Crawling all over the site and buildings you’ll see many Iguanas which call this place home.

The ancient walled city has an estimated 4,000 structures, and like other sites around Mexico, most have yet to excavated. Unlike the pyramid at Chichen Itza, these can be climbed and there are fewer tourists, making it an excellent day trip idea from Merida.

Entrance fee: 40 pesos ($2 USD)

Hours: 8am-4pm everyday

8. Edzna

The archeological site of Edzna, meaning House of the Itzás in the Mayan language, is a reference the to Itzá people (think Chichen Itzá), is around 2 and a half hours south from Merida in the state of Campeche. It’s much closer to the city of Campeche, and many tours can be taken from there.

In my opinion, this is one of the most picturesque and beautiful sites in the Yucatan region. The main structure is known as the “Temple of Five Stories” and for obvious reasons with its 5 levels, standing at an impressive 131 feet tall

It’s another archeological site that you’re allowed to climb, apart from the Temple of Five Stories pyramid. There are many sites to explore, and you may be surprised about how few visitors there are.

Entrance fee: 55 pesos ($3 USD)

Hours: 9am-5pm everyday

9. Ek Balam

About a two hour drive from both Tulum and Cancun, Ek Balam is Mayan site that has recently become a more popular tourist destination. Only 30 km (19 miles) north of Valladolid, Ek Balam means “Black Jaguar” and its main “El Torre” structure rises 95 feet (29 meters) off the ground.

Like other Mayan sites in the Yucatan, you can climb the pyramids here, and the tallest structure gives you a fantastic vista of the jungle surrounding the site. There is also a very cool cenote nearby you should check out while there: Cenote X’canche.

Entrance fee: 415 pesos ($21 USD)

Hours: 8am-5pm everyday

10. Becán Ruins

Becan is another one of the nicest Mayan ruins in the Yucatan but remains largely unknown and undiscovered to this day, and that’s a good thing because there’ll only be a few tourists tourists there when you are.

Like Calakmul, it’s also located in the state of Campeche but is much easier to access because it’s right near the main roads and towns. You can take tours to here from Campeche city and also Bacalar.

Becan is also quite large, like many other Mayan ruins as you may have noticed by now. There are around 20 structures, the tallest being 90 fee (27 meters) tall which you can also climb, giving you fantastic views of the jungle surrounding the ruins.

Entrance fee: 65 pesos ($3.50 USD)

Hours: 8am-5pm everyday

11. Chacchoben

177km (110 miles) south of Tulum you’ll find Chacchoben, 11km from the little town that bears the same name. It’s not far from Bacalar and the coastal town of Mahuahual which is a popular destination for cruises.

The two groups of structures found here date from approximately 700 AD, with the main “Temple Pyramid’ structure dominating the site. Three of the pyramids are restored, the others remained still buried within the jungle.

Entrance fee: 60 pesos ($3 USD)

Hours: 9am-3pm everyday

12. Kabah Ruins

Considered part of the ‘Puuc Route’ which also includes Uxmal a 3 others, the Kabah Ruins are the second largest in the Puuc region after Uxmal, located just south. It’s quite different than other sites in that it doesn’t have a pyramid but rather a long buildings instead.

One of which is the ‘Palace of Masks’ which has more than 300 carvings of masks of the Mayan rain god Chaac.

Entrance fee: 55 pesos ($2.50 USD)

Hours: 8am-5pm everyday

13. Sayil Ruins

Also part of the Puuc region, Sayil is very similar in architecture to Kabah, and is just a little smaller. The main structure is once again a long 3-tiered palace which you’re allowed to walk along. The vew at the lookout at the end is quite nice.

Photo via Juan José Acevedo Góngora – Wikimedia Commons

Entrance fee: 55 pesos ($2.50 USD)

Hours: 8am-5pm everyday

14. Kohunlich

The impressive Kohunlich ruins is a popular destination from Bacalar, being only 1 hour away. Sitting around 21 acres, this ancient site contains almost 200 mounds which remain mostly unexcavated to this day being completely surrounded by the jungle.

Most of the structures were made between 250 and 600 AD and the most popular site is the ‘Temple of the Masks’ which has a central staircase containing 8 foot tall mask carvings.

Entrance fee: 75 pesos ($ USD)

Hours: 8am-4:30pm

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