The Best 35 Mayan Ruins of Mexico You Must See in 2023

If you are planning a visit to Mexico you cannot skip some of the best Mayan Ruins, which should be more accurately called Mayan Archeological sites, the most impressive historical landmarks in Mexico, and the heritage of the prehispanic civilizations, and their accomplishments.

If you are interested in the Mexican culture as much as its incredible natural wonders, this post will help you figure out which of the ancient Archeological sites are worth visiting depending on where you are staying and your schedule.

Chichen Itza temples
Chichen Itza

Mayan Ruins in Mexico: An Overview

The Maya civilization is undoubtedly one of the most important Mesoamerican civilizations. It was one of the few pre-Columbian civilizations to develop a written script and complex calendar.

Their writing system was, by far, the most advanced in the pre-Columbian Americas.

The civilization originated around 3100 BC in what is now southeastern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, western Honduras, and El Salvador.

The Mayan people developed sophisticated architecture and were skilled mathematicians and astronomers.

They were also excellent craftsmen who made beautiful objects out of obsidian, jade, stone, pottery, and gold.

From the artworks and artifacts that they left behind, it’s also pretty clear that the Maya had extensive knowledge of natural resources, like plants, animals, and landscapes, which they used for different purposes.

Chichen Itza Castillo
Chichen Itza El Castillo

The Maya civilization reached its peak around 900 AD and slowly declined by 1600 AD. and not necessarily because of the Spanish invasion. In most cases, historians still can’t exactly figure out what were the causes of their decline.

According to the site, “scholars have suggested a number of potential reasons for the downfall of the Maya civilization in the southern lowlands, including overpopulation, environmental degradation, warfare, shifting trade routes, and extended drought. It’s likely that a complex combination of factors was behind the collapse.”

However, their language and culture are still very much alive in parts of Mexico, as well as in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

But let’s get into the actual ruins, where are the most incredible Mayan archeological sites and how to visit them.

Keep scrolling till the end of the post to find the interactive map of the Mayan ruins of Mexico!

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The Best Mayan Ruins in Mexico + 2 outside Mexico

1. Chichén Itzá archaeological site (one of the world’s seven wonders)

One can’t very well write about archaeological sites in Mexico and leave out Chichén Itzá. It is THE place to visit, even if you’re not in Mexico to visit historical ruins. So obviously we’re starting with Chichen-itza.

The rest of the ruins on this list are grouped according to the general area they’re located in, but I thought Chichén Itzá deserves to be mentioned separately.

Proclaimed UNESCO heritage site and one of the Seven Wonders of the world, there is a lot to be marveled about in Chichen Itza.

Chcihen Itza Entrance fees

  • Adults: $533 MXN (around US$30) per person.
  • Children (3-12): $80 MXN (around US$4) each.
  • Mexican Citizens (ID required): $237 MXN (around US$12) per person.
  • Yucatan locals (ID required): $80 MXN (around US$4) per person.

Free admission on Sundays for Mexican citizens and foreigners with permanent residence in Mexico, ID is required.

General admission tickets for Chichén Itzá can be bought online using their website. And I highly recommend you do so.

Depending on where you are in Mexico when you decide to visit, you might have to travel a lot just to get here, and, if you haven’t booked your tickets beforehand, they might be sold out.

You also get to avoid the hassle of carrying extra cash just to buy the tickets.

Chchen Itza Night Show

Every night, there’s an incredible projected light show at Chichen Itza. These nights are called Kukulkan Nights, named after the Mayan serpent god, Kukulkan. The entrance fee for Kukulkan Nights is $600 MXN (around US$30).

It’s also worth mentioning that, unlike general admission tickets, the tickets for Kukulkan Nights are not available online.

Tickets for the night show are available from 3 PM onwards, Tuesday to Sunday.

Opening hours

Chichén Itzá’s opening hours are from 8 AM to 5 PM daily.

Don’t go near the closing time though, the last visitors are allowed entry up to 4 PM. Also, due to the pandemic, only 3,000 visitors are allowed daily.

Both of these restrictions are worth keeping in mind; if you arrive later than 4 pm or if the number of visitors has been reached for that day, you won’t be allowed in.

And if this number seems a lot, keep in mind that the record number of daily visitors reached by Chichen Itza has been 18,696 !! That was before the pandemic.

So I would definitely either get there at 8 am or buy my ticket in advance.

Chichen Itza Mil Columnas
Chichen Itza a thousand columns

What to see in Chichen Itza: a suggested itinerary

► First things first, if you’re set on buying tickets in person, you’ll have to get here before the opening time. Chichén Itzá is a really popular tourist attraction and it’s not uncommon for the tickets to get sold out really quickly.

► It’s important to mention that you don’t need a tour guide to fully enjoy your day trip but it will be useful if you want to learn more about Chichen Itza’s history.

However, it’s perfectly possible to do your research beforehand and still have an enjoyable experience; plus, you get the flexibility of touring the grounds alone.

► Start at the Temple of Kukulkan. The temple is hard to miss as it’s the most iconic structure at this site and it’s humongous.

It’s also one of the first you’ll encounter once you’re through the gates, so it’s a great place to start.

Chichen Itza temple

Here are the other temples I recommend visiting on the grounds:

►Temple of Warriors

► Temple of the Skulls

►Cenote Sagrado (Sacred Cenote) – you can’t swim here but there are many other cenotes near Chichen Itza that you can check out after your visit.

► House of the Deer

► Great Ball Court

► One thousand columns

Keep in mind that this list of places is by no means exhaustive, and that’s on purpose. While here, explore on your own as much as possible and go see stuff that appeals to you personally. There’s no wrong way to explore the grounds here.

Every time I go to Chichen Itza ( I went several times) I just walk around until the heat wins over me

How to get there

There are several ways of getting to Chichén Itzá, depending on where you are.

In case you’re on a budget, you can take the ADO bus from Cancun directly to Chichén Itzá. There’s an ADO bus that departs for Chichén Itzá from Cancun around 8:45 AM daily, and the return schedule is at around 4:30 PM.

Alternatively, those of you who are in other parts of Mexico can first travel to Valladolid. As I’ve mentioned before, Valladolid is situated very close to the Chichén Itzá ruins, and there are several buses that depart for the ruins throughout the day.

You can also check out my specific posts on how to get to Chichen Itza:

How to get to Chichen Itza from Cancun
How to get to Chichen Itza from Tulum
How to get to Chichen Itza from Playa Del Carmen
How to get to Chichen Itza from Merida
How to get to Chichen Itza from Valladolid


Mayan Ruins of Mexico near Tulum

2. Tulum ruins

Tulum archaeological site are the most iconic and popular ruins in Mexico, mainly because they are the only ones right on the water, offering postcard-worthy pictures.

It’s located right in the trendy beach town of Tulum and you cannot miss them if you are staying either in Tulum, Playa del Carmen, or Cancun.

Tulum opening hours

Open every day from 9 am to 4.30 pm  Last access at 3.30 pm

Tulum Archeological Site

Tulum entrance fee

85 MXN (4 USD) per person

On Sundays, the entrance is free for Mexican and foreigners with permanent residence. 

Access to the Mayan ruins is open every day for kids up to 12 ys old, students, teachers, and seniors (must show ID).

If you want to learn more about Tulum, how to get there and the best way to visit you can get over to the other site I started with a very good friend of mine, on Mexico Cenotes and Ruins.

There you can find all the details you need about Tulum archaeological sites.

3. Cobá Ruins

Coba Ruins - Mayan Ruins
Pyramid Nohoch-Mul – Coba – Mayan Ruins

Cobá ruins might not be as popular with tourists as some of the others on the list, but they’re well worth a visit.

It’s an ancient Mayan city that’s located in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, and is home to the largest network of stone causeways in the entire Mayan world.

Cobá used to be a very important city for the Maya people, and, as such, the ruins are a veritable treat for anyone who’s interested in Mayan ruins or ancient history in general.

Entrance fees

  • Coba ruins entrance fee: $80 MXN (around US$4) per person.
  • Parking fee: $50 MXN (around US$2.5).

Opening hours

  • Opening hours: every day from 8 AM to 5 PM. However, do keep in mind that visitors aren’t allowed into the grounds after around 3:30 PM, so try to arrive before that.
mayan ruins in the jungle
Coba Xaibe temple

Suggested Itineraries (what to see)

When you visit Maya sites in Mexico, in general, you won’t be allowed to climb the pyramids.

However, it’s different at Cobá; the largest pyramid, that used to be at the center of the Mayan city, is climbable. It wasn’t during the pandemic but it should be open by now.

I highly recommend you do so because the view from the top is well worth the climb.

There are also several beautiful stelae around the site that depict the life and important events of the Maya people; some even depict the city’s rulers.

I recommend taking as much time as you can to explore the site.

Since the site is quite extended, if you are not into walking around 3 km, you can also rent a bike or hire a bicitaxi. It’s so much fun!

Cobá isn’t nearly as excavated as most other archaeological sites, which lends it a certain charm that you won’t find at most other places.

Once you’re done exploring here, there are also three cenotes near Coba that are situated within 10 minutes of the ruins.

You can refresh yourself by taking a dip in their waters. Cenote Choo-Ha, Tankach-Ha, and Multun-Ha are situated nearby and the entrance fee for them is around $50 MXN (around US$2.5).

Choo ha cenote
Cenote Choo-ha Coba

How to get to Coba Ruins

The easiest way to get to any of these ruins would be to have your own car rental. These ruins are about a 50-minute drive from Tulum or a 1.5-hour drive from Playa del Carmen.

Alternatively, you can take a taxi there and back but it’ll be the most expensive option usually.

The other options are taking a colectivo, ADO bus, or a tour.

Since these ruins are close to Tulum and Valladolid, you’ll find many more options for colectivos or ADO buses in these two towns.

4. Muyil Ruins

The Muyil ruins are situated about 10 miles from Tulum, and many buildings here date back all the way to 300 BC.

In my humble opinion, the biggest reason to visit these ruins is that they’re not as popular as the previous two I’ve mentioned.

Most of the time, when you visit, they’ll be practically empty and you’ll have the place to yourself. Your mileage may vary though.

Entrance fees

  • Entrance fee: $50 MXN (around US$2.5) per person.

Opening hours

  • Opening hours: 9 AM to 5 PM daily.

Suggested Itineraries (what to see)

The whole site is worth seeing and exploring, but there are a few places I really recommend stopping at.

The Castillo is the largest structure in the ruins and you can hardly miss this pyramid.

Also worth visiting are Building 8 located north of the ruins and the Sian Kaan boardwalk.

The Sian Kaan boardwalk will cost an extra fee of $50 MXN (around US$2.5) but it’s worth this price as you’ll get to experience the flora and fauna around the area.

It’s not uncommon for tourists to catch sight of the wildlife here, which includes howler monkeys.

How to get there

Muyil ruins are situated a bit off the beaten path, so the most convenient way to get here would be to rent a Car Rental and drive here.

Alternatively, you can take the colectivo bus from Tulum that goes to Felipe Carillo; the bus ride will take about an hour and will drop you right in front of the ruins entrance.

However, if you decide to go the colectivo route, you should be aware that it’s more difficult to find a colectivo back to Tulum. It’s not impossible by any means, but be prepared to wait a while.

Alternatively, from Cancun you can get to Playa del Carmen and get on a bus to Tulum; make sure to get off at the entrance of these ruins.

Car rental

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5. Xel-Há Ruins

When most people mention visiting Xel-Há, they usually mean the Xel-Há theme park. The park, which is situated close by, is much more popular than the ruins.

While that’s a pity, it also means that the Xel-ha ruins are rarely ever crowded and you’ll get to explore them (and the beautiful nature around them) in peace.

Entrance fees

  • Entrance fee: $85 MXN (around US$4) per person.

Mexican residents and foreigners with permanent residence can have free entrance to Xel-Há ruins on Sundays.

Opening hours

  • Opening hours: Every day from 8 AM to 5 PM.

Suggested Itineraries (what to see)

While there are no pyramids to see here, these ruins are still well worth visiting.

The frescoes, paintings, and murals here are beautiful and you shouldn’t miss them if you get to visit. The buildings here are divided into 5 groups.

You’ll start at the House of Birds, then proceed to the Lothrop Group followed by the Palace and the House of Pilasters.

In the end, there’s a group of buildings called the Jaguar Group, and you’ll also find a cenote close by.

However, this cenote is not for swimming; but it is still beautiful enough to be worth a visit.

How to get there

If you don’t have a rented car, you can take a colectivo either from Playa del Carmen to Tulum or from Tulum to Playa del Carmen and ask the driver to drop you off at the Xel-ha ruins. Be specific on that.

If you are coming from Cancun you will need to get from Cancun to Playa del Carmen first and then to Tulum.

Ek Balam

6. Ek Balam Ruins

Ek Balam was a Mayan city that once used to be more powerful than the famed Chichén Itzá. It might not have the same reputation today, but you should by no means discount these ruins.

There are more than 40 structures here, and, as they were recently restored, they’re in far better condition than many other Mayan ruins.

At the time of writing this, most people who visit Tulum (or the surrounding areas) don’t visit Ek Balam, so this is another one of the sites where you’ll most likely be exploring in relative peace and quiet.

Ek Balam

Entrance fees

  • Entrance fee (for tourists): $413MXN (around US$20) per person.
  • Entrance fee (for Mexican citizens): $150 MXN (around US$8) per person (ID required).

Mexican nationals and foreigners with permanent residence in Mexico can have free entrance to Xel-Há ruins on Sundays.

Opening hours

  • Opening hours: 8AM to 5PM. Last entry allowed at 4PM.

Suggested Itineraries (what to see)

The first thing you’ll notice when you visit here is that the architecture is quite unique compared to other archaeological sites in the area.

The acropolis/pyramid here is one of the largest in pre-Hispanic buildings in Central America; it’s about 90-foot high and features intricate carvings along the way.

Yes, you can climb this one… for now, and the view from the top is breathtaking. As this site becomes more popular, climbing the pyramid will most likely be restricted to protect the ruins.

Ek Balam is one of the very few archaeological sites where you can find stucco art. Most other archaeological siteshave stone sculptures and carvings, stucco work is very rare.

While here, make sure to also visit the Oval Palace and the twin pyramids. And, at the end of your visit, there’s a beautiful cenote on the grounds where you can take a swim and refresh yourself before heading back.

How to get there

The most convenient place to stage your visit to Ek Balam is Valladolid. If you’re currently in Tulum and don’t have your own car, what you can do is catch a bus to Valladolid, and from there you can take a taxi or another bus to Ek Balam.

If you’re in Cancun, I definitely recommend having a car as it’s a long day-trip to Ek Balam. Just the drive here will take you 2.5 hours.

But you can also get a bus to Valladolid, either directly or by first going to Playa del Carmen, and reach Ek Balam that way.

Many tours will combine a visit to Ek Balam ruins with Las Coloradas (the pink lakes) or Rio Lagartos reserve where you can see the graceful pink flamingoes.


Mayan Ruins in Mexico near Playa del Carmen

7. Cozumel Ruins (San Gervasio)

The Mayan site of San Gervasio was dedicated to the goddess Ixchel, whom the Mayans worshiped as the goddess of moon, love, fertility, medicine, midwifery, and weaving.

Many Mayan women used to make a pilgrimage here in order to pray for childbirth or to receive healing (both spiritual and physical).

However many historians say that this is only a legend. There is a good book that talks about The true story of Cozumel, it and I am reading as I am writing this.

San Gervasio Mayan Ruins

Entrance fees

  • Entrance fee: $278 MXN (around US$14) per person.

Opening hours

  • Opening hours: 8 AM to 5 PM. The ticket office closes at 4 PM.

Suggested Itineraries – what to see in San Gervasio archaeological site

One of the first structures that you’ll encounter when you enter the ruins is Las Manitas; this was the residence of the ruler of this area.

The two other structures that are included in the Las Manitas Group are a small temple and a tomb that was discovered in 1973.

The Central Plaza Group is also worth seeing and will give you access to several structures, including The Columns, The Niches, The Temple of the Murals, and more.

The most impressive structure of San Gervasio is located in the Central Plaza Group and is known as Ka’na Nah (Upper House).

The Upper House is a pyramid with a small temple at the top; this temple was dedicated to Ixchel.

Insider tip – if you are there in the rainy season, or after a shower, make sure you cover yourself up and use a lot of mosquito repellent because the mosquitos there are a lot and famished!

How to get to San Gervasio

Since San Gervasio is located on the island of Cozumel, that significantly limits the options you have when it comes to getting here.

In order to get to Cozumel, you’ll have to first get a ferry from Playa del Carmen.

Thus, if you’re staying at Cancun, Tulum, or elsewhere, you’ll first have to get to Playa del Carmen in order to visit these ruins.

Once you get to Cozumel, getting to the ruins is as simple as either driving there or taking a taxi. Cozumel isn’t that big of an island, so taking a taxi isn’t very expensive here.

You can also read: Cozumel Travel Guide


Cancun Ruins

You will be surprised to read that in Cancun there are three Mayan Archeological sites and although they are not that popular, they are indeed worth a visit.

8. El Rey Ruins

The El Rey ruins are situated right within the Hotel Zone in Cancun and are very easy to visit once you make your way to the city.

Sure, they might not be the most expansive ruins around, but that’s a plus in my opinion; you only need one visit to see everything at this site and learn about the rich history here.

It is located right in front of one of the most popular beaches in Cancun, Playa Delfines.

El Rey Entrance fees

  • Entrance fee: $50 MXN (around US$2.5) with an extra charge of $45 MXN (US$2) if you have professional recording equipment with you.

Opening hours

  • Opening hours: 8 AM to 5 PM daily.
El Rey Mayan Ruins Cancun Palm
El Rey

Suggested Itineraries (what to see)

Strangely enough, a lot of people who visit El Rey ruins find themselves fascinated by something they didn’t expect to find at a Mayan site: iguanas.

There’s a huge colony of iguanas that inhabit these ruins, and they’re quite used to the human company by now.

There are 47 structures on the site, but a lot of them are just foundations now.

Some stone walls retain their murals, and the Mayan temple, as well as the burial site of a Mayan king (reputedly), are definitely worth visiting.

Since these ruins are short on Mayan artifacts, I highly recommend finishing your trip here with a visit to the nearby San Miguelito ruins (also covered down below) and Museo Maya in the Hotel Zone.

Here, you’ll find plenty of Mayan artifacts and learn a ton about their culture.

How to get there

As I’ve mentioned above, these ruins are one of the most convenient to visit since they’re located within Cancun.

So, in order to get here, you’ll first have to get to Cancun; which can be done through a direct flight, a bus, or a drive if you’re in a nearby town like Playa del Carmen or Tulum.

From there, visiting these ruins is as simple as taking a taxi or a bus. If you’re driving here, keep in mind that there is not much parking in the area, unless you park by playa Delfines, if you find space.

El Rey Mayan Ruins Cancun close up

9. El Meco Cancun

Visitors to the El Rey ruins often complain that there’s no Mayan pyramid to see there. Well, that can easily be fixed by taking a short trip to the El Meco Ruins, which sport the highest Mayan pyramid in the Cancun area.

These ruins are situated in the northern outskirts of Cancun, near Punta Sam. Also, compared to the El Rey ruins, this site is very well preserved.

Another good thing about this site is that it’s off the beaten path, and very often you’ll find the place to yourself, with very few other people around.

Entrance fees

  • Entrance fee: $65 MXN (around US$3).

Opening hours

  • Opening hours: 8 AM to 5 PM daily.

Suggested Itineraries (what to see)

There are plenty of iguanas to be found at El Meco ruins as well, which will provide you with ample opportunities for taking great photos of them.

Some people even encounter coatis that seem very friendly. Just remember not to feed them as they are wild animals and they need to keep following their hunting instinct when it comes to food.

Climbing on top of the El Meco pyramid is prohibited, in order to keep it preserved. But you can still visit the temple inside the pyramid and marvel at the murals on the walls.

There are more than 15 structures on the site, but some of them are not accessible to the public as they’re either located on private property or they’re still being excavated.

These structures are divided into three groups. Plaza A contains the pyramid as well as the remains of about 7 other structures. Plaza B and C contain 4 and 3 structures, respectively.

The site is small enough that you can see everything within half an hour but you can hang out for as long as you like.

How to get there

The most convenient way of getting here would be by car, because these ruins are situated a bit off the beaten track.

There are public vans from Lopez Portillo Avenue but keep in mind that it is not a very safe zone so It’s better if you get there by taxi or private car.

Of course, this is all assuming you’re already in Cancun.

10. San Miguelito Ruins

San Miguelito Ruins

I mentioned San Miguelito ruins in my itinerary for El Rey ruins. The two are situated close enough that you can visit both within the same day.

Though I recommend visiting these ruins after El Rey because you can then finish your visit by going to the excellent on-site museum the Cancun Mayan Museum.

Entrance fees

  • Entrance fee: $80 MXN (around US$4) – covers museum entrance as well.

Opening hours

  • Opening hours: 9 AM to 4:30 PM (closed on Mondays).
San Miguelito Ruins Cancun

Suggested Itineraries (what to see)

The buildings on this site are divided into four groups. As you enter the site, you’ll first encounter the North Group, which consists of the remains of 5 structures and is thought to have been a residential zone.

Out of these four, the Chaak Palace Group (named after the Mayan rain god, Chaak) is definitely the most impressive, as it contains both the palace and the pyramid.

Several stone blocks still bear the image of Chaak, as well as Venus and a few other elements.

I also recommend viewing the dragon sculptures located in the Dragon Complex (named after the sculptures).

The structures here are a mix of residential, palaces, shrines, and more. Lastly, the South Group contains another palace along with residential structures.

How to get there

Since these ruins are situated so close to the El Rey ruins, the directions for them are pretty much the same.

You can take a bus or taxi to get here, both are pretty easy. If you decide to travel between the two ruins (El Rey and San Miguelito), it’ll take you about 25-30 minutes; whereas it’s around 3-5 minutes by car.

11. Temple of Ixchel Ruins (Isla Mujeres)

Punta Sur Isla Mujeres

The Temple of Ixchel on Isla Mujeres was constructed in honor of the Mayan deity Ixchel, the goddess of moon, love, fertility, medicine, midwifery, and weaving.

It’s located on Isla Mujeres, which reputedly got its name because when the island was first discovered, they found on the shore small figurines representing women.

It’s been thought that they were brought there as offers to the Goddes Ixchel, god of fertility.

The temple is located on the south side of the island, and, due to its elevation, some historians say it used to be a lighthouse (and not a temple).

Punta Sur is now a nice area where you can enjoy spectacular views and an open museum with interesting sculptures.

Temple of Ixchel Ruins entrance fees

  • Entrance fee: $30 MXN (around US$1.5).

Temple of Ixchel Ruins opening hours

  • Opening hours: 9 AM to 5 PM daily.

How to get there

Given that this temple is on Isla Mujeres, you’ll first have to get a ferry from Cancun in order to arrive at the island.

The ferry ride takes around 20 minutes, and, in my humble opinion, a trip to Isla Mujeres is a must if you’re visiting Cancun.

Once you’re on the island, you can either take a taxi or rent a golf cart and drive yourself to the ruins.


Merida Mayan Ruins of Mexico

12. Uxmal Ruins

Uxmal (pronounced oosh-mal) ruins are one of the most impressive Mayan ruins you can find in the Mesoamerican region, and definitely deserve a place in the top 5.

The Zona Arqueologica Uxmal has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognizing its cultural and historical significance.

Touring here, you get a sense of walking around in a grand Mayan city.

The main ruins of Uxmal cover an impressive 150 acres and most of the buildings are still in great condition today.

Uxmal temple

Uxmal ruins entrance fees

  • Entrance fee: around $480 MXN (around US$24)per person.

Uxmal ruins opening hours

  • Opening hours: 8 AM to 5 PM.

Uxmal ruins suggested itineraries

The first building you’ll encounter when you pass the entrance is the Pyramid of the Magician (also known as Pyramid of the Soothsayer).

While you cannot climb this one, the great pyramid, on the other hand, is open and offers incredible views of the overall site.

The Nunnery Quadrangle, situated beside the Pyramid of the Magician, is also worth seeing. Each of the 4 structures here has a unique design, indicative of the Puuc architectural styles.

The Palace of the Governor is thought to have been one of the last buildings constructed on the site (archaeologists estimate that it was constructed around 990 AD).

The building features some beautiful Mayan geometric art.

Uxmal sought-sayer pyramid

How to get there

The best way to get to Uxmal ruins is by renting a car. You get the liberty of setting your own schedule, and, if you’re like me, you can set out for Uxmal super early so that you’ll arrive by 8 AM and have the place all to yourself.

If you’re on a budget, ADO buses do run from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Merida, and Tulum, and will take you directly to Uxmal. Visit the ADO website to check out their schedule.

Uxmal main plaza

13-16.Ruta Puuc: Sayil, Labná, Xlapak & Kabah – The Ruta Puuc

There are actually 5 Mayan sites that come under the Ruta Puuc (also known as Puuc Route): Uxmal, Sayil, Labná, Xlapak, and Kabah.

Uxmal I’ve already covered right above, because I thought it deserved to be covered separately.

First things first, what is the Ruta Puuc? Some of you might have heard the name, others might be completely clueless (which is okay too). Let’s cover the route before we get into the ruins.

Sayil Ruta Puuc

What is the Ruta Puuc (or Puuc Route)?

La Ruta Puuc (or the Puuc Route), meaning “Road of the Hills”, is the name given to the secondary road network which connects a group of 5 Mayan sites that were pretty much connected during the Mayan times.

The route is more than 40 kilometers long, so I recommend having your own car if you’re going to follow it. It’s not just Mayan ruins you’ll encounter on the route, though.

There are multiple haciendas and villages, and more situated on it; all in all, it’s a great experience that I highly recommend you take, especially if you’re a fan of culture and history.

Entrance fees

Since I’m covering 4 sites under this entry, I’ll mention their entrance fees separately.

  • Labna, Sayil, and Kabah entrance fees: $55 MXN each (around US$2.5 each) per person.
  • Xlapak entrance fee: free.
Labna Mayan Rurins - Mayan Ruins in Mexico
Labna’ Mayan Ruins in Mexico

Opening hours

  • Opening hours: 8 AM to 5 PM for all sites.

Ruta Puuc suggested itineraries

There are two ways to go on the Ruta Puuc. I’ll cover both separately below.

In the first, you can start on the far end of the route and start at Labna. This way, you’ll get to save the best and most impressive ruins (Uxmal) for last. Or you can start from Uxmal and visit Labna last.

However, I highly recommend the former because it’s also much more convenient for travelers.

The accommodations that are available between Kabah and Uxmal are much better, so the end of your journey will be very comfortable.

Also, if you arrive at Uxmal in the evening (at the end of your tour) you’ll get to enjoy the famous laser light show.

If you’re going to start from Uxmal, my recommendation would be to get here as early as possible to avoid the crowd.

At 8 AM, when the site opens, there might be a few tour buses that arrive, but the site is peaceful and gets crowded around 11 AM or so.

I’ll cover notable places at each ruin below starting from Labna.

Labna ruins date back to the 8th century AD, and are one of the most impressive of the 5.

The Palace at Labna is one of the biggest in the Puuc area, there’s also a pyramid here that’s worth seeing, and don’t forget to visit El Arco, the arch that leads to the elite residences.

From Labna you can proceed to Xlapak, which are the smallest ruins of the bunch; there are 3 palaces and 2 residential complexes here.

After Xlapak, Sayil will be a very impressive sight. At its height, this town is thought to have been a home to 10,000 people.

Make sure to visit the huge palace here and the remains of the Mirador structure.

You’ll encounter Chaac (Mayan rain god) masks at all of the aforementioned ruins, but the Palace of Masks at Kabah takes this to another level; there are over 300 masks on display here.

Also, make sure to visit the palace on site.

Lastly, you’ll get to Uxmal itself. I’ve covered the Uxmal ruins and itinerary above so please make sure to read that as well.

Ruta Puuc kaba
Kabah Ruta Puuc

Interesting Fact on the Ruta Puuc

In all 5 sites, you will see the facial representation of Chaac, the rain God in the Mayan Civilization. Why, do you think?

That is because being situated at a higher altitude compared to the rest of the Yucatan Peninsula it was harder to find cenotes.

Therefore they could not rely on the water from the subterranean rivers and lakes. Their only chance to get water was from the rain

In fact, in Uxmal, you will also see many rounded-shaped structures. Well, those were the cistern where they used to collect water.

And that is why they used to do many ceremonies and rituals dedicated to Chaac asking him to make it rain.

Ruta Puuc Labna

How to get to the Ruta Puuc

How to get to Ruta Puuc depends on where you’re starting your trip. If you’re starting at Uxmal, I’ve covered the directions above under Uxmal.

Whereas, if you’re starting at Labna, I recommend first getting to Merida.

From either of these locations, touring Ruta Puuc is as simple as deciding how you want to do so. You have basically 3 options:

✔ Take a Sunday bus to Ruta Puuc from Merida. The bus will briefly stop at all 5 ruins along the route. The price for the bus is around $300 MXN (around US$15). Keep in mind that this price does not include the entrance fee for each site or a tour guide.

✔ There are also many organized tours available from Playa del Carmen, Cancun, and Merida that you can take.

The advantage of taking these tours is that you don’t have to do your own research about the history and culture of these ruins.

✔ Lastly, my recommended option for the adventurous types would be to rent a car and drive through the Ruta Puuc yourself.

There’s so much more to Ruta Puuc than just the archaeological sites; you can explore fascinating places like Loltún Caves, Mayapan ruins, Oxkintok ruins, the Monastery of San Miguel Arcángle in the town of Mani, enjoy the culture and food at Ticul and Santa Elena, and much more.

Since you’ll be traveling in your own car, you get to make your own itinerary in the Yucatan Peninsula and decide which places to visit (or which places to skip).

xlapak ruta puuc

17. Dzibilchaltún Ruins

Dzibilchaltun ruins are situated just a short drive away from Merida.

It might not be the biggest Mayan site you can find in the area, especially with Uxmal around, but Dzibilchaltún has its own charm that deserves to be experienced.

This Mayan city is surprisingly rich in culture, what with being one of the longest continuously inhabited Mayan cities and all.

Archaeologists estimate that the city was originally founded in 500 BC and was still inhabited by the Maya when the Spanish arrived in the 16th century.

You can imagine the cultural significance of this place.

Here, you can find evidence of both Mayan and Spanish cultures. The city used to be a trade hub for the Mayans, and, when the Spanish took over, they used the stones from the Mayan buildings to construct their own structures.

Dzibichaltun ruins entrance fees

  • Entrance fee: $137 MXN (around US$8) — includes museum access as well.

Dzibichaltun ruins opening hours

  • Opening hours: 8 AM to 5 PM daily.

Dzibichaltun ruins suggested itineraries

One of the most impressive structures here is the Temple of the Seven Dolls.

It’s situated on a pyramid base and was discovered in 1950s buried under the ruins of a larger pyramid. The temple gets its name from the dolls that were found buried in the temple; these dolls can now be viewed in the on-site museum.

The temple’s construction is very deliberate and reflects the Mayans’ understanding of the solar system.

During the Spring and Autumn equinox, the sun perfectly aligns with the doorways of this temple. During these two days, the ruins open early around 5:30 AM so visitors can see this spectacular phenomenon.

The Chapel is one of the first buildings that was constructed by the Spanish using the stones they took from existing Mayan structures.

Dzibilchaltún is one of the rare places where you’ll find Spanish structures coexisting with the Mayan ones.

For a detailed insight into the area, visit the museum (the ticket price for which is included in the entrance fee). There are many exhibits on display here, including both Mayan artifacts and Spanish-era items.

Lastly, you can finish your trip with a refreshing dip in the Cenote Xlakah, which is situated just off the main square. Make sure to bring your bathing suit and towel!

How to get to Dzibichaltun Ruins

Since these ruins are situated at such a short drive from Merida, getting here is quite easy. Almost everyone who visits here comes from Merida, since it’s the most convenient place to stage your visit from.

From Merida, you can take a taxi or a colectivo to get to the Dzibilchaltún ruins. It’s easy to find a colectivo that’ll take you directly to the ruins with no stops in-between.

Alternatively, if you’re on a car, these ruins are situated about 3 kilometers off of the Merida-Progreso Highway.

18. Mayapan Ruins

Mayapan Observatorio

The Mayapan Ruins are believed to be the remains of the last great Maya capital. This walled city was the result of an alliance between Maya families when the Spaniards arrived in Mexico and started their spread.

It is one of my favorite archeological sites to visit in Mexico and I went back there multiple times.

The architecture and murals of the last standing Maya community are definitely impressive, and since one of the Mayan families involved in creating this city was the Itzaes, the resemblance between Mayapan and Chichen Itza is uncanny as well.

Mayapan ruins entrance fees

  • Entrance fee: $45 MXN (about US$2).

Mayapan ruins opening hours

  • Opening hours: 8 AM to 5 PM every day of the week.

Mayapan ruins suggested Itinerary

The Mayapan Ruins are a straightforward day trip from Merida, and great for a fun adventure whether you’re going with your friends, family, or on your own.

If you’re taking a day trip to Mayapan Ruins from Merida, adding a cenote visit into the mix will be just the touch to make it more memorable and exciting. But you will need to drive to the ruins to do that.

Once you have explored the ruins, you can head to Telchaquillo and visit the family-friendly cenote there. Another great cenote can be found in the remote village of Pixya 5km from Telchaquillo.

Chac God

How to get to Mayapan Ruins

Visiting Mayapan Ruins from Merida is an easy day-trip. You can either drive to the site or take a bus to get there. Despite being an incredible ruins site, not many people visit it so you won’t have to worry about crowds.

Driving to the ruins site is hassle-free. It’s off the 184 on the way to Chetumal, just after you see the sign for Telchaquillo. You can also take a bus to Mayapan Ruins from the Centro, which would cost about 45 pesos per head.


Mayan Ruins of Mexico near Bacalar Lagoon

19. Chacchoben Ruins


The small site of Chacchoben Ruins is an interesting place to visit. The ruins have been restored very nicely, and there are impressive sights to be seen here, including the unique features of the Petan-style architecture of the structures found on the site.

Just make sure you’re ready for some steep climbing if you want to enjoy your visit fully.

Chacchoben ruins entrance fees

  • Entrance fee: $60 MXN (US$3).

Chacchoben ruins opening hours

  • Opening hours: From 8 AM to 5 PM daily.

Visiting it early or later in the afternoon is recommended because there are fewer people around, so your experience will be more intimate and you will also get to see more wildlife, part of what makes Chacchoben so appealing.

Chacchoben Ruins
Chacchoben Ruins

Chacchoben Ruins suggested itineraries (what to see)

Visiting Chacchoben Ruins makes for a wonderful trip. Driving through the scenic route is a delightful experience, and once you get to the ruins, you will immediately fall in love with the thriving nature around the site.

Chaccoben Ruins are in fact located on the way from Bacalar to Merida, a beautiful road!

You can hire a guide at the entrance.

Chacchoben Mayan Ruins

How to get to Chacchoben Ruins

You can take a drive to the Chacchoben Ruins from Costa Maya or pretty much anywhere in Riviera Maya.

The name of the site is derived from a nearby village, so make sure you don’t end up confusing the two.

The site is located 3 kilometers from Lazaro Cardenas, and you can take Hwy 307 to Hwy 293 to reach here.

There are also plenty of tours and excursions offered for cruise ships docked at the Costa Maya port that also include Chacchoben Ruins, so you can opt for one of those instead if you don’t want to drive to the site on your own.

It’s also one of the unique things to do in Bacalar and it makes a great day trip!

20. Oxtankah

Located just north of Chetumal, the Oxtankah ruins site is a spectacular place to visit if you want to see Mayan history combined with Spanish construction.

The site is believed to be the pre-Hispanic city where mestizos first originated.

This is also where you will see the unique sight of a Christian chapel among the native Mayan structures of the site, highlighting the Spaniards’ efforts to eliminate traces of the former Maya religion.

Just beware of the clouds of mosquitos around you if you explore this site during the wet season from June through September.

Oxtankah entrance fees

  • Entrance fee: $42 MXN (about US$2).

Oxtankah opening hours

  • Opening hours: 8AM to 5PM daily.

Oxtankah suggested Itineraries

There are plenty of things to see on the site, the drive to it is also quite pleasant, and then you can check out one of the beach clubs along the coast for a nice lunch with sea views.

The labyrinth of Plaza de las Abejas and the pyramid of Plaza de las Columnas are very impressive and worth seeing along with the various temples and pyramids of the site.

How to get there

The directions to get to Oxtankah are simple once you’re in Chetumal. Take the Chetumal-Calderitas route north from Chetumal town.

Keep going on the paved road that runs along the bay and you will see the sign that marks the entrance to the ruins less than 5 kilometers north.

Don’t worry about overlooking the sign, it’s hard to miss. If you followed my advice and bought a Mexican sim card you can always use google and get there even more easily.

21. Kohunlich Ruins

Photo © Canva

The Kohunlich Archeological Zone is a gorgeous site on the Yucatan Peninsula, with lots to see and explore in it.

The site is in the middle of a great jungle, and all around it, you will get glimpses of the Maya lifestyle and how it was intertwined with nature.

Spreading over 21 acres of land, the Kohunlich Ruins site is definitely large, but only some portions of it are open to the public.

Climbing the temples and pyramids isn’t allowed, but you can see around, enjoy nature, and take plenty of pictures.

Located on the way to Calakmul, it’s a short detour and if you want to give yourself a treat you could stay in the nearby The Explorean, a fabulous all inclusive hotel inmerse in the Mayan Jungle.

Photo © Canva

Kohunlich entrance fees

  • Entrance fee: $80 MXN (US$4).

If you plan on taking pictures, you will need to pay a separate copyright fee for it.

Kohunlich opening hours

  • Opening hours: 8 AM to 5 PM daily.

Kohunlich suggested itineraries

Visiting Kohunlich from Bacalar is an amazing experience. There are plenty of trees to make it a beautiful trip, and you will definitely find the sounds of Howler Monkeys coming from the surrounding jungle a fascinating aspect when you get there.

Not many parts of the Kohunlich Ruins are open to the public, so you can explore everything on the site easily.

The places you should pay special attention to are the Temple of the Mask, the 27 Steps, and the residential buildings.

The remarkable engineering techniques used in every part of this city highlight the ingeniousness of the Maya people of the region.

Kohunlich Mayan Ruins of Mexico
Photo © Canva

How to get to Kohunlich Mayan Ruins

The Kohunlich site is only an hour’s drive from Bacalar. All you need to do is to drive about 65 kilometers on Hwy 186 from Hwy 307.

It’s a straight drive, so you won’t have any trouble driving, and the entrance to the ruins is marked with clear signs that are hard to miss.


Campeche Mayan Ruins of Mexico

22. Calakmul Ruins

Calakmul aerial view
Calakmul Ruins Mexico

Nestled deep in the jungles of the Petan Basin, Calakmul is one of the most important Mayan cities discovered in the region and one of the best places to visit in Mexico.

With more than 6,500 structures on the site, Calakmul is believed to be one of the most powerful Maya cities of its time.

You will find lots of imposing structures and one of the tallest pyramids here, and the biosphere reserve it’s located in is also rich with wildlife and nature.

Both the archeological site and the biosphere reserve are protected UNESCO sites.

Calakmul Pyramid
Calakmul – Photo © Canva

Calakmul entrance fees

  • Entrance fee: $55 MXN (US$2.5).

There are also a couple of other fees you will pay while visiting them. First you pay a toll of $40 MXN (US$2) when driving on the highway that takes you to the biosphere reserve.

Halfway through the road to the ruins, you will pay the biosphere reserve fee of $65 MXN (around US$3) per head.

Calakmul opening hours

  • Opening hours: 8 AM to 5 PM daily.

Calakmul suggested itinerary

The Calakmul Ruins site is huge and one of the largest Maya sites ever uncovered, so there are definitely a lot of things you should see here to make the most of your visit.

Also, there is so much to see and explore here that you will need a local to tell you all about the ancient city and the jungle to make your trip memorable.

Only a small portion of the ancient city has been excavated so far, so you can explore the tall pyramids and mysterious altars of Calakmul.

Many pyramids that are still covered with vegetation are also quite fascinating to visit.

Climbing these structures is a great way to get a breathtaking view of the region, but just be careful because excavation work is still in progress and climbing the tall structures can be a bit difficult because of slippery steps.

Calakmul Pyramid
Photo © Canva

The jungle is also amazing to explore on its own. There is such an abundance of wildlife in it that you will get to see lots of species of birds, monkeys, and other animals in it.

Bird watching is another popular activity in this biosphere reserve, so if you’re interested, you can hire a guide to get you to the best spots for it.

Lastly, if you can visit the biosphere reserve after sunset, there are night shows with bats just outside the ruins site. You will need a local guide to take you to the cave, but it’s definitely worth seeing.

To get a local guide, you could check with the tourist office in Xpuha and ask them to connect you with one of the guides.

This is how I did it and we went early morning to do some bird watching before visiting the archeological site. It was amazing.

Calakmul road
Calakmul road – Photo © Canva

How to get to Calakmul

Although there are busses either from Campeche or Chetmal that take you to Xpujil, the nearest town, then it would be difficult to move around.

To visit this area and everything there is to explore you will really need your own car rental. You can get it either from Tulum, Cancun or Chetumal or anywhere in the Yucatan Peninsula if you are organizing an itinerary, which is the best way.

Driving to Calakmul takes a while from Campeche city, 3hrs 30 minutes but it’s definitely the best way to visit this site.

If you are in Bacalar, instead, it would be about 3 hours. Either way, the road is in good condition, and there is nothing to worry about even if you have very little experience driving in Mexico.

I wouldn’t do it in one day though. I would spend at least one night, better if two or three in the small town of Xpujil which is also surrounded by other amazing ruins, caves, and local communities to explore.

I spent an entire week there and I felt like it wasn’t even enough.

If you want to visit the Calakmul Ruins by bus, you can find an ADO bus from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Bacalar, and Escarcega.

Making the trip to Calakmul on a bus means you will need a taxi to get to the archeological zone, which makes the whole thing a little complicated but still worth it.

23. Chicanna Ruins

Photo © Canva

The elevated settlement of Chicanna was discovered at the base of the Yucatan Peninsula and named after the House of the Serpent structure found on the site.

There are many sites in this region, but what makes Chicanna special is its significance in the Maya spiritual ceremonies and rituals.

The detailed Rio Bec architecture of Chicanna suggests it was possibly a place for the rulers and elites of the time.

Archeologists also found materials from Honduras and Guatemala, leading them to believe Chicanna was an important commercial settlement of the area as well.

Photo © Canva

Entrance fees

  • Entrance fee: $50 MXN (US$2.5) per person.

Opening hours

  • Opening hours: 8AM to 3PM daily.

Suggested Itineraries (what to see)

A trip to Chicanna Ruins is best when you combine it with the other famous sites of the region like Hormiguero, Becan, and Xpuhil (more info on those coming up shortly).

You can easily see the whole site and move on to a few others in a single day-trip.

Pay close attention to Structure II (also known as The House of the Serpent) at Chicanna.

Its elaborate design resembling the open mouth of a serpent with teeth and eyes carved in its doorway is what inspired the name of this site.

Chichanna serpent temple
Photo © Canva

How to get there

Going to Chicanna Ruins from Merida or Campeche requires getting to Escarcega first. You can take Federal Highway 180 towards Cahampoton and then move to highway 186 to get to the ruins which are only a few kilometers off the main road.

If you’re coming from the Riviera Maya, you can take highway 307 to get to highway 186.

Photo © Canva

24. Xpuhil

Located right next to the town of Xpujil, just a little distance away from the Calakmul town, the Xpuhil Archeological Zone is a site covering 5 square miles of land and offering well-preserved Mayan structures to explore.

What sets Xpuhil apart from the other ruins of the region are its three towers instead of the usual two found at the rest of the Campeche ruins.

The ruins are one of the off-the-beaten-path sites that you can visit and enjoy with pretty much no crowds. It’s really beautiful and unique, which makes Xpuhil perfect for a fun trip.


Entrance fees

  • Entrance fee: $55 MXN (less than US$3).

Opening hours

  • Opening hours: 9AM to 5PM daily.

Suggested Itineraries (what to see)

As I mentioned earlier, the Rio Bec region in Campeche is filled with curious Maya ruins sites. If you’re planning to visit Xpuhil, make sure to add a couple more nearby ruins on your list to make the most of it.

The three towers of Xpuhil definitely top the list of noteworthy things to see at the site, but there are plenty of other things you are bound to like here.

This includes the gorgeous landscape of the ruins and the perfect setting for amazing photos.

Xpuhil surroundings

How to get there

Finding the Xpuhil ruins site is extremely easy. Since it’s within the vicinity of the town by the same name, all you need to do is to get to Xpujil town and cover the small distance out of town to get to the ruins. You can also take a bus from Campeche to get to the town and then go to the ruins by taxi or shuttle.

ladies in a community near Xpuhil
ladies in a community near Xpuhil

25. Becan

Becan Archeological Site is located approximately halfway between Chicanna Ruins and the Xpuhil Archeological Site.

The splendidness of the structures found here led archeologists to believe Becan was once the capital of the region.

There are plenty of unique features that make Becan stand out, including the ditch around the important structures of the city—making them accessible only via the 7 bridges—and the unique mascarons from the various periods of the ancient Mayan city.


Becan entrance fees

  • Entrance fee: $55 MXN (less than US$3).

Becan opening hours

  • Opening hours: 8 AM to 5 PM daily.

Becan suggested itineraries

The Becan ruins site has a total of 20 structures that you can explore by walking. Since it won’t take you more than a few hours to see them, I recommend making the trip with a couple of nearby ruins on your itinerary.

If you’re coming here from Xpujil town, begin with the Xpuhil ruins site, then visit Becan ruins, and move on to Chicanna ruins to make it a complete day-trip.

The three of these sites are really unique, so you will have a different experience at each one.

How to get there

Just like Xpuhil, the Becan Archeological Site is very easily reachable from the town of Xpujil. It’s located 10 kilometers or so on route 186 from Xpujil to Calakmul.

The best way to visit it would be driving there, but you can also take a shuttle to get there.

Becan Pyramid

26. Balamku

Another one of the many Maya ruins of the region, Balanku is a small site close to Calakmul.

It’s famous for its exquisite artistry and the largest stucco frieze ever found on any Mayan site.

This is definitely among the Mayan ruins you wouldn’t want to miss in Campeche.

The site is located in a very beautiful area. There is greenery all around it and the ruins are nicely preserved.

Then there is the Four Kings frieze of Balanku, which alone makes a trip to this site worth it. What’s more, the drive to this site is also scenic and enjoyable.

Balamku stucco

Entrance fees

  • Entrance fee: $65 MXN (US$3.5) per person.

Opening hours

  • Opening hours: 8 AM to 5 PM daily.

Suggested Itineraries (what to see)

You can make Balanku your first stop when you’re exploring Campeche ruins. The site is close to Calakmul, right off of Hwy 186 from Chetumal to Escarcega, and the drive to its entrance from the main road isn’t very long so it’s fairly easy to get to.

► The site is divided into three groups—Central, Northern, and Southern. The Central Group is where you should spend most of your time at Balanku.

► Go past the Northern and Southern Groups to get to the Central Group and see the best of Balanku.

► The Four Kings stucco frieze is located inside the Temple of the Jaguar and guarded at all times. They lock up the temple an hour or so before the closing time, so make sure to get there earlier and see it first.

► You will have lots of things other than the friezes to explore in the Central Group, but if you get done with it, then make your way to the Southern Group for a delightful stroll there.

► The Northern Group is only mapped so far and is yet to be excavated, so there’s not much to see there. You can take a quick glimpse at the Northern Group on your way out.

Balamku site

How to get to Balamku

Balamku is located just a few kilometers from the Calakmul Ruins, so it’s an easy drive from Campeche city. Take Hwy 180 from Campeche to Escarcega and then keep driving on Hwy 186 towards Chetumal to get to the Balanku Archeological Zone.

27. Hormiguero

With 84 identified structures, Hormiguero is a significant Mayan city from the Late Classic Period. Though only a few of these structures have been excavated so far, the unique zoomorphic figures and intricate facades highlight the magnificence of its temples.

Hormiguero structure

Hormiguero Entrance fees

  • Entrance fee: free.

Hormiguero Opening hours

  • Opening hours: 8 AM to 5 PM daily.
Hormiguero Mayan Ruins in Mexico

Hormiguero suggested itineraries (what to see)

Hormiguero is another great option to pair with a trip to Xpuhil, Becan, and Chicanna Ruins for a day-trip. When you’re here, don’t miss out on Structure II.

With a Chenes-style doorway resembling a huge open mouth, it’s one of the most incredible structures of the site so far excavated.

To its north are the two complexes, and you will find Structure V—another pyramid worth seeing—in the west complex. Other notable structures of the site include:

  • Structure III
  • Structure VI
  • Structure VII
  • Structure IX

How to get to the Hormiguero ruins

You can get to Hormiguero from Xpujil town. Head south from Xpujil on Hwy 269 and keep driving for about 14 kilometers. A right turn will take you down on a road west. Keep going for 8 kilometers more and you will get to the ruins.

Just keep in mind that getting to the Hormiguero Ruins is not very easy.  The road gets a bit rough the last couple of kilometers from the ruins, so drive carefully.

28. Xtampak Mayan Ruins

Photo © INAH

Located in the north of Campeche, Xtampak is the ancient city of the Chenes region. Its name means “In front of the wall” and it’s considered one of the largest and most important cities of this region.

It hasn’t been excavated as much as the other popular sites of Campeche like Calakmul and Edzna, but visiting it is still a remarkable experience.

Xtampak entrance fees

  • Entrance fee: $65 MXN (US$3.5).

Mexican nationals and foreign residents of Mexico get free admittance on Sundays.

Xtampak opening hours

  • Opening hours: 9 AM to 5 PM daily.

Xtampak Suggested Itineraries (what to see)

A lesser known and yet spectacular archeological site, make sure you check out Xtampak if you are in the area. Here are a few things to notice.

► The central part of these structures is formed by interconnected plazas around a large pyramid, and the Palace Plaza is where you will find the most interesting features of Xtampak.

► The Palace is a huge three-story structure with 44 rooms in it. 27 of these are on the first level with most forming suites of 2-4 rooms.

► The second level is believed to be the residence of the royal family, and the third reserved for rituals. The various stairways leading to these levels are just as impressive as the chambers themselves, and you can explore the 3 levels through them.

► The Building with the Serpent Mouth to the north of the Plaza is also worth seeing. It represents the Earth Monster in a crouched position.

► You should also check out the South Plaza, The South-East Quadrangle, The Cuartel, The Itzamna House, and the courtyard behind the Palace.

How to get to Xtampak

Just like Hormiguero, Xtampak is a less-visited ruins site in Campeche, so making a trip to it is not exactly a breeze.

The road is a bit rough at places, and finding tours for Xtampak is also hard. You don’t have the option of taking a bus as well, so you can either drive to the site yourself from one of the nearby places like Campeche and Uxmal.

To drive there, take route 261 until you see the sign for Xtampak.

The road is in good condition starting on, but you will encounter lots of potholes when you go farther on it. If you don’t want to drive there on your own, you can also hire someone to drive you there.

29. Edzna Ruins

Edzna Mayan site

The last one of the Campeche ruins on this list is one of the most popular in the region, and definitely one of the most spectacular to see.

The city was huge during its prime period and had a population of around 25,000. Its name is derived from House of the Itzas, which might mean they built this city way before building Chichen Itza.

Entrance fees

  • Entrance fee: $60 MXN (US$3).

Opening hours

  • Opening hours: 8 AM to 5 PM daily.

Suggested Itineraries (what to see)

As I mentioned earlier, Edzna is a huge site with monumental structures. These features make it a fascinating place to explore, but it will take more than 2 hours of walking just to cover the notable structures.

Below are just a few of the places you must see.

► The Gran Acropolis. The central platform on the eastern side of the ruins facing the horizon. Its Cinco Pisos Castillo is the most impressive aspect of the Gran Acropolis.

► The Small Acropolis. Right beside the Gran Acropolis is a small, high base with three buildings on top. It overlooks The Palace and offers stunning city views.

► The Palace. Facing the Gran Acropolis, the Palace is another impressive structure of Edzna Ruins. It’s a residential building with four huge rooms at the top.

► The Temple of the Masks. This temple gets its name from the two stucco masks on the base of its west and east ends honoring the sunrise and sunset gods. If you look closely, you can still notice traces of the red and blue color they were once painted with.

How to get there

The Edzna Ruins site is only an hour’s drive from Campeche, so it makes for the perfect drive if you’re staying in town.

The road going to Edzna is newly-paved, so it’s in great condition and will take you directly to the ruins where there’s free parking right outside.

Alternatively, you can take a colectivo from the Calle Chihuahua and ask to be dropped off at the ruins.


Chiapas Mayan Ruins of Mexico

30. Palenque Ruins

Palenque archeological site in a tropical forest

The Palenque Ruins are one of the most famous Maya sites in Chiapas. Many researchers have been curious because of the architectural ingeniousness of the structures found in Palenque.

The epigraphic records found here are also some of the most detailed.

Only 10% of this Late Classic Period city has been excavated, but it’s quite unique. The nature around this site is also brimming with streams and waterfalls in the dense rainforest, making the naturalistic structures of Palenque Ruins even more impressive.

I remember visiting Palenque in 2000 or so and it was spectacular, the jungle was overwhelming and there were like 5 people inside, a guy, a girl an old Indian couple and myself, it was one of the most mystical experiences I had in Mexico.

Now you will see crowds of people and vendors all over the place but Palenque can still be magical, regardless.

Entrance fees

  • Entrance fee: $80 MXN (US$4).

Entrance is free for Mexican citizens and foreigners with residence in Mexico on Sundays.

Opening hours

  • Opening hours: 8:30AM to 5PM every day of the week.

Admittance is allowed until 4 pm, but you should get there as close to the opening time as possible if you don’t want lots of crowds around.


Palenque suggested itineraries (what to see)

► Exploring the Palenque Ruins includes a lot of fun activities like hiking, touring the town, and seeing the nature around the site. Let’s start with the ruins first.

You have two options when taking a colectivo from the town to the ruins.

► Their first stop is at the main gate to the ruins called El Panchan. You can get off here and walk uphill to go through the shimmering streams and waterfalls of the rainforest before reaching the ruins.

► The second stop is near the entrance to the pyramids. If you want to explore the ruins first and then see the gorgeous nature around them, stay in the Colectivo until the second stop.

► The temples and pyramids you shouldn’t miss at Palenque include the Temple of the Red Queen, The Palace, Temple of the Cross, the Hidden Palenque Ruins, Temple of the Inscriptions, and the Temple of the Count.

► The waterfalls in the surrounding area of the ruins are also particularly famous. So much so that you will find plenty of tours to some of these waterfalls, like Misol-Ha waterfall and Agua Azul series of waterfalls.

Palenque low relief

How to get to Palenque

If you’re in Mexico, the most common option to get to Palenque town would be by bus. The journey is around 5 hours from Campeche, 8 hours from Merida, and 13 hours from Cancun.

Another option could be flying to Villahermosa or Ciudad del Carmen and taking the short trip to Palenque from there.

You will have plenty of options to get to ruins once you’re in Palenque town which isn’t appealing in itself but it’s a good base from where to explore the surroundings.

They’re only 15 minutes away from each other and you will easily find colectivos from the main street in town to take you there. Or there are hotels nearby the archeological sites as well.

Palenque overview

31. Yaxchilan Ruins

Another one of the famous ruins in Chiapas, Yaxchilan Ruins is not far from Palenque and Bonampak. In fact, both Yaxchilan and Bonampak are offered as a day trip by many companies in Palenque.

This archeological site is located near the Guatemalan border, right by the bank of the Usumacinta River in Chiapas.

Visiting the Yaxchilan Ruins is quite an adventure, and the incredible artworks and sculptures you get to see there are definitely worth it.

If you are feeling adventurous you can cross the border to Guatemala right there and go to Flores to explore Tikal ruins. Mind it’s a long journey but doable.

I did it and I had a blast!

Yaxchilan archeological site
Yaxchilan building

Yaxchilan ruins entrance fees

  • Entrance fee: $90 MXN (less than US$4.5) per person.

The town you cross to get here also has an entrance fee of around $30 MXN (US$1.5). The boat ride to Yaxchilan costs around $1300 MXN (almost US$63) but that’s for a group. So the best way to visit Yaxchilan is on a tour.

If you don’t want to pay the entire sum, you can wait for the boat to fill with other passengers and share the cost with you.

Yaxchilan ruins opening hours

  • Opening hours: 8 AM to 5 PM daily.

Yaxchilan ruins suggested Itineraries

The best way to visit Yaxchilan Ruins is with a tour. Since it’s a relatively less-known Maya site in Mexico, and getting to it is a bit harder, a tour will eliminate all that hassle and make your visit pleasantly charming.


How to get to Yaxchilan

Getting to Yaxchilan Ruins is a small adventure on its own. It involves getting on a boat and going along the scenic Usumacinta River! But first, you need to get to Palenque town. From there, you can visit Yaxchilan as a day-trip.

The most convenient way to visit Yaxchilan is with a tour from Palenque. But you can also use public transport if you want to explore it on your own.

To do that, take a bus or shuttle going to Frontera Corozal and take a cab to the riverside where you will find a boat to take you directly to the ruins.

Keep in mind that tours that you book from Palenque seem very cheap but that’s because they include only the transportation. Then you need to pay for the entrance and the guide ( if you want to)

Make sure you ask what is included in the fee you are paying. It is anyway the most convenient way to visit.

32. Bonampak ruins

Bonampak overview
Bonampak Overview

Bonampak was once a dependency of the larger Yaxchilan, but nowadays it has immense historic significance despite its small size.

The most notable feature of this site is the murals found here. They’re unique and unlike any other murals found at the rest of the Mayan archeological sites in Mexico.

If you’re visiting Yaxchilan, missing out on Bonampak would be a huge mistake.

The ruins are located just a little distance ahead once you make the boat trip to Yaxchilan, so I highly recommend seeing Bonampak once you’re there.

Bonampak Murals close up
Photo from Canva

Bonampak ruins entrance fees

  • Entrance fee: $55 MXN (about US$2.5).

Bonampak ruins opening hours

  • Opening hours: 8AM to 5PM all week.

Bonampak ruins suggested itineraries

Going to Bonampak and Yaxchilan is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so visiting both of them in a single trip is recommended.

You can book a tour for both if you want to do it the most convenient way. But if you prefer going on your own, make it to Palenque first.

From there, you can visit Yaxchilan and then move on to Bonampak in a single day-trip.

How to get to Bonampak

Bonampak is located about 30 kilometers south of Yaxchilan. After you have followed the steps mentioned above to get to Yaxchilan, all you need to do is take a colectivo or bus to Crucero San Javier.

From there, a Lacandon van will take you to the Bonampak ruins for 150-200 pesos ($7.5-10 USD).

33. Tonina Mayan Ruins of Mexico

Tonina' ruins
Photo from Canva

Located near Ocosingo, the small site of Tonina is one of the most breathtaking Maya ruins you will find in Chiapas. Despite its small area, the site features a monumental complex of the Classic Mayan period.

The site isn’t as famous as Palenque nowadays but it was equally powerful in the pre-Columbian era and perpetually at war with Palenque.

Despite being less-known, Tonina is really worth the visit for a variety of reasons, and its massive structures overlooking the pastoral lands of Ocosingo are definitely the top reason.

Tonina' Overview
Photo from Canva

Entrance fees

  • Entrance fee: $70 MXN (US$3.5) per person and includes access to the on-site museum.

Opening hours

  • Opening hours: 8AM to 5PM daily (except for holidays).

What to see in Tonina

► First things first, the view from the top of the gigantic pyramid is the one thing you don’t want to miss. It’s absolutely spectacular because of the views it offers of the Acropolis and the jungle and hills of the surrounding region.

► The pyramid at Tonina is a spectacle on its own, but there are plenty of things to see throughout it as well. These include murals and carvings.

Most of them are replicas because the originals needed to be preserved in controlled conditions, but they’re still impressive and worth seeing.

► The Palace of the Underworld is an eerie maze that highlights the marvel of Maya engineering with its windows illuminating the corridors.

Take a walk through it to see fascinating aspects of the ancient Maya culture and religion.

► The museum at the Tonina Archeological Site is also an important part of a trip to the ruins. Most of the original artifacts found there have been preserved in the museum, so you can’t miss out on seeing them!

Tonina low relief
Photo from Canva

How to get to Tonina

Tonina is just a short detour from Ocosingo. If you’re driving, make your way to San Cristobal de las Casas and take the Federal Highway 199 to Ocosingo from there. Once in Ocosingo, head towards the Technological University of La Selva.

You will find the sign indicating the 13-kilometer drive to Tonina there. Take the road and follow the indication signs to guide you down the road until you get to the ruins.

You can also use public transport options to follow those directions if you’re in Tuxtla.

Take a bus to San Cristobal de las Casas and walk to Juan Sabines Boulevard to find a van for Ocosingo.

Once you get to Ocosingo, get on a van to the ruins from the Dr. Belizario Dominguez market there.

Insider tip – although I usually recommend driving I need to let you know that Chiapas is not that simple as the Yucatan Peninsula and you will be much better off with organized tours that are usually basically shuttle busses.

Driving in Chiapas can be complicated not only for the narrow winding roads but also for the many road blocks that can keep you on the road waiting forever.

Local travel agencies know when that can be an issue and what alternative routes they can take.


Veracruz Mayan Ruins of Mexico

34. El Tajin Ruins

Remnants of one of the largest Mesoamerican cities in southern Mexico, El Tajin archeological site is pristine and awe-inspiring for many reasons.

These well-kept grounds are home to one of the most fascinating pyramids and temples, and being surrounded by a lush green jungle is a cherry on top.

The ruins of El Tajin are famous for how well-preserved they are, then there are the unique and incredible pyramids of the site, and the spectacular touch of flying “voladores” right outside the entrance is another great thing about it.

Tajin Mayan Ruin Veracruz
Photo from Canva

Tajin Mayan Ruin Veracruz Entrance fees

Entrance fee: $80 MXN (US$4) each.

Tajin Mayan ruin Veracruz opening hours

Opening hours: 9 AM to 5 PM daily.

El Tajin Detail
Photo from Canva

Tajin Mayan Ruin Veracruz suggested Itineray (what to see)

Most people visit both the El Tajin Ruins and the 13th-century city of Papantla as a day-trip from Veracruz, and I recommend doing the same as well.

► Get to Papantla from Veracruz and tour this Totonac city. The dance of the flyers in Papantla along with its unique historic heritage are both really fascinating.

► From there, you can visit the El Tajin Ruins site to see unbelievable Mesoamerican structures like the Pyramid of the Niches.

► The other sights that you shouldn’t miss out on while visiting El Tajin Ruins include:

▻ The Ball Court of the Paintings

▻ El Tajin Chico

▻ Plaza del Arroyo

Tajin Mayan Ruin Veracruz
El Tajin Mayan Ruin Veracruz – Photo from Canva

Finally, visit the wonderful museum at the entrance. The entrance fee for the museum is already included in your ruins ticket, so you won’t have to pay anything extra to go in.

Keeping the museum visit for last will let you explore the pyramids and temples in the cool of the morning and save you from the afternoon heat, and you will get to enjoy the tour inside it better as well.

How to get to El Tajin Mayan Ruin Veracruz

Getting to El Tajin Ruins site is fairly easy once you’re in the nearby city of Papantla. It’s only half an hour away from the site and you will find plenty of buses going to and from the city to El Tajin.

You will find these buses behind El Tajin Hotel in Papantla. You can also take a cab if you’re with a group. 


Other famous Mayan ruins that are not in Mexico

35. Tikal Mayan Ruins in Guatemala

Tikal at sunrise

Nestled in the lush rainforest in northern Guatemala, the Tikal Mayan Ruins are believed to be the remnants of one of the most powerful cities of the ancient Maya era.

The entire complex of ruins consists of more than 3,000 buildings, making it an impressive sight to see.

The city these ruins belong to dates back all the way to the 4th Century BC, and it has some of the most striking structures in it—including the famous Mundo Perdido (Lost Word) Pyramid and the Temple of the Lost Jaguar.

Tikal Entrance fees

Entrance fee: $150 GTQ (around US$20).

There is a separate fee of 50 GTQ ($6.5 USD) if you want to visit Uaxactun (a sacred place of worship from Mayan civilization 12 miles north of Tikal).

Note: Make sure to bring cash for the entrance and tour fees, because cards aren’t accepted at the site and you will have no luck trying to find an ATM around.

Tikal opening hours

Opening hours: 6 AM to 5 PM daily.

Tikal jungle
Photo from Canva

Tikal suggested itineraries

Considering the most common (and easiest) way to visit Tikal Ruins is with a tour, you can rely on the guide to show you around.

But even if you’re going there on your own, you won’t have to worry about missing out on anything.

▻ Take a picture of the map or buy a copy at the entrance. After that, you just have to navigate through the different palaces and temples of the site.

They’re connected by walkable paths so you can see them one by one and even climb most of the pyramids. Here are the places I recommend seeing.

▻ The Grand Plaza. Whether you’re with a guide or not, you will definitely see the Grand Plaza. It’s one of the most important places on this site. This is where you will get to see the wonders of Tikal at their best.

▻ Temple IV. Considered the tallest pyramid of the Mayan era, Temple IV is famous for climbing. It’s a long way up, but I recommend making this climb if you want to enjoy stunning views of the entire site.

▻ Temple V. The second-tallest temple of Tikal ruins, Temple V is nestled in a small clearing of trees, which makes finding it a pleasant surprise. You won’t notice it until you reach it, so its size is even more impressive when you reach the temple.

▻ Lost World Pyramid. Many plazas and temples in Tikal are often overlooked by visitors, which is understandable considering the size of the site.

The Lost World Pyramid is one of those places, but if you’re here, don’t miss out on seeing it.

It’s one of the oldest structures of the site, and there is a viewing platform on top of it where you can peacefully admire the surroundings.

▻ The nature and wildlife of Tikal. The Guatemalan jungle is brimming with wildlife. Walking from one temple to another will provide plenty of opportunities to see the thriving wildlife of this jungle, so don’t miss out on those.

▻ Uaxactun. If you get the time, you can visit the Uaxactun site 12 miles north of Tikal and see this mystical place of worship from ancient Maya times. It’s small compared to Tikal, but still an important part of the Maya civilization’s history.

Tikal Sunrise
Photo from Canva

How to get to Tikal

The best way to visit Tikal is from Flores, o el Remate in Guatemala, with organized tours. They will take you there with a guide and then you will be able to decide at what time you want to go back to Flores. They are very well organized.

I took the sunrise tour, which left at 3.30 am from Flores it was a bit devastating but worth it.

If you are ready to splurge you can stay in one of the hotels by the ruins (like Tikal Inn) and go there at the time you wish without stressing out for transportation.

36. Copan Mayan Ruins in Honduras

Copan archeological site
Photo from Canva

Bordering Guatemala is another amazing Mayan ruins site. Just like Tikal, Copan Ruins are a UNESCO site belonging to the Maya civilization of the region in the past.

The site is located pretty close to the Guatemalan border in the west of Honduras.

The reason this Maya archeological site is on my list is the impressive and unique heritage of its ruins. The ruins are so magnificent that they’re famously called the Paris of the Mayan world in Central America.

Copan low relief
Photo from Canva

Copan Entrance Fees

Entrance fee for the ruins site: US$15.

Entrance fee for the Museum of Mayan Sculptures: US$7.

Entrance fee for the tunnels: US$15 to explore. (You will also need a guide to go with you in the tunnels so factor in another US$30-40 to the total cost.)

Copan Opening Hours

Opening hours: 8 AM to 4 PM.

Since the Copan Ruins site is huge, and Honduras has a hotter climate, I’d recommend going to the site early to explore it comfortably.

Copan Mayan Ruins
Photo from Canva

Copan Ruins suggested Itineraries (what to see)

If you thought the Tikal Ruins were big, the Copan Ruins will surprise you even more. With more than 4,500 structures spread over a 24-kilometer radius, the site is truly a huge Maya city with lots to see and explore in it. You should allocate at least half a day to explore it.

You can already guess by the size of Copan Ruins that exploring it in even a full day would be hard, let alone half a day, so we will focus on the main attractions of the site. These include:

► The Grand Plaza. The most famous part of Copan Ruins, this plaza has a lawn with lots of amazing sculptures and stelae, including a life-size stele of the 13th ruler of Copan.

► The Acropolis. It consists of the eastern and western structures that were formerly the courts of the city.

► The tunnels. Right underneath the Acropolis are the famous tunnels of Copan. You can only see two of these with a guide, and the tour includes exploring the earlier days of the civilization as well as Galindo’s Tomb, which is one of the most important parts of this site.

► The Hieroglyphic Stairway. Another one of Copan’s most famous monuments, this stairway is famous for its 63 steps depicting the history of Copan Royal House in hieroglyphs.

► Las Sepulturas Complex. An additional kilometer of walk (or a tuk-tuk ride) will get you to Sepulturas.

This is where many archeologists got confused and thought the place was some kind of graveyard, only to later find out that people of the Copan buried their family members in the house.

The ruins entrance fee includes access to this complex, so don’t miss out on it.

On your way back, top off your visit to the Copan Ruins by seeing the wonders inside the Copan Sculptures Museum right by the entrance.

How to get to Copan Ruins

Finding your way to the Copan Ruins site is fairly easy once you’re in the small town of Copan Ruinas. So, first get to Copan Ruinas from either San Pedro Sula or Tegucigalpa.

Once there, you can either walk the 1-kilometer distance to the ruins or take a tuk-tuk that usually costs less than $1 USD.


Mayan Ruins of Mexico: final thoughts

I am glad you made it to the end and I hope this post was helpful and showed you all the most important Mayan Ruins to visit.

Now that you know what to include in your trip, hopefully, you can check out the rest of the site for more tips. Here below some more useful posts.

Mayan Ruins of Mexico and outside Map

Map of the Mayan Ruins of Mexico