Many people booking a break to Cancun do so to visit the city’s beautiful beaches, take advantage of the renowned party atmosphere and stay at exclusive hotels. And, while these are all elements certainly well worth experiencing, there’s much more to Cancun – such as the regions fascinating Mayan heritage.
If you’ve booked an all inclusive escape to Cancun, you should see if your holiday provider offers excursions to historical sites as part of your package. The main hotspots to visit and learn more about Mayan history are Chichen Itza, Coba and Tulum – keep reading to find out what makes each of these such important landmarks.
Located on the Yucatan peninsula, the ancient site of Chichen Itza is the most intact Mayan ruin in the entire world. This former city was a spiritual spot as opposed to a commercial hub, and the temple remains at the site among the dozens of buildings that can still be seen here.
As you make your way around, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time as you admire the well preserved stone structures, including columns, palaces and houses. El Castillo is perhaps the best-known building at Chichen Itza, and this large temple was established in honour of the deity Kukukan, a feathered serpent. The step pyramid is approximately 30 m high and has stairways on each of its steps into which serpents heads have been carved.
There are more than a dozen ancient ball courts at the site, as well as a platform on which skulls were impaled. A water bath, ceremonial square and series of caves are among the other historical features to be seen here, in addition to the Cenote Sagrado, which is a natural sinkhole that was found to contain human skeletons, jade, gold and pottery items.
Coba – which means ‘ruffled waters’ – is one of the oldest settlements in Mexico. It was a hub of activity from 600 AD onwards, although it was inhabited for hundreds of years beforehand. The thriving city is home to plenty of fascinating ruins, including pyramids like the 42 m tall Nohoch Mul, which you can climb. At the summit, expect awe-inspiring views of the surrounding lakes and jungle landscape.
The remains of La Iglesia are also worth taking in, and this somewhat smaller pyramid-type structure is flanked by an ancient shrine. Another landmark you should visit is the Conjunto Las Pinturas, or the Temple of Paintings, where you can take a look at colourful fragments of murals painted at the top of a pyramid.
The renowned site of Tulum is particularly famous as the ruins also include a surrounding city wall, which few Mayan archaeological sites have retained. The formerly busy trading location overlooks the Caribbean Sea and is close to a beautiful beach, which you should definitely visit after you’ve explored the site.
As part of an organised excursion, you can often take a guided tour of the area, during which you’ll be able to see the imposing Pyramid El Castillo, the vast Temple of the Descending God and the Temple of the Frescos, among other interesting ruins.
Once you’ve taken in all the site has to offer, you can visit the beach, but bear in mind the beautiful spot is protected for nesting sea turtles and is also a spiritual place for locals, so swimwear or scant clothing isn’t really permitted.