25 Best Mayan Ruins in the Yucatan: Chichen Itza, Tulum Ruins, Coba

May 29, 2021 | 6 comments

Planning to see some of the best Mayan ruins in Mexico on your trip?

All the best Mayan ruins Mexico has are located in the Yucatan Peninsula, in southeastern Mexico. As they are popular with visitors, the Mayan ruins in Yucatan Mexico are accessible on a group tour and by rental car or bus transportation.

In total, there are about 200 public Mayan sites; though most don’t make it to them all! So just which are the best Mayan ruins in Yucatan? 

For most, no Mexico vacation in Yucatan is complete without visiting Chichen Itza. This is the most popular, as it’s one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, though there are other Mayan ruins Yucatan has with the UNESCO distinction as well.

Some sites, like the Mayan Ruins in Coba near Tulum, are large and many will rent a bike to explore it all. There are also smaller, off the beaten path sites like Dzibilchaltun Mayan Ruins, located just 30 minutes from Merida, Mexico — known as the Cultural Capital of Yucatan.

No matter where you’re staying, there are a few Mexican Mayan ruins sites near all the major tourism destinations. Ready to discover them all? Let’s look at the 25 best Mayan ruins in Yucatan, and everything you need to know about visiting these ancient pyramids.

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Mexico Mayan Ruins Map

Want to know exactly where the best Mayan ruins in Mexico are located? Every place mentioned in this article has been pinned to this Mexico pyramids map, so you can easily locate all the amazing Mayan ruins in Yucatan Peninsula.

Wondering where the Mayan Yucatan ruins are located? Use this Mayan ruins in Mexico map to find them all!

best mayan ruins in the yucatan

1. Chichén Itzá Ruins

As one of the Seven Wonders of the World, does Chichen Itza even need an introduction?! It is centrally-located in the Yucatan, so no matter if you’re staying in Cancun, Tulum, Merida, Playa del Carmen or Riviera Maya — there will be plenty of Chichen Itza tours available.

Of all Mexico Yucatan destinations, Chichen Itza is closest to the pueblo magico Valladolid, one of the 135 or Mexico magic towns. Staying overnight at a Valladolid hotel, or combining your Chichen Itza trip with a stop at nearby Cenote Ik Kil, are both great options.

chichen itza, a mayan pyramid and wonder of the world - day trips from Merida
Perhaps the most famous Mayan ruin of them allEl Castillo (AKA Temple of Kukulcan) at Chichen Itza.

The most popular way to see the Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza is with a guided tour. As such an important Mayan site, it warrants paying a guide to really learn why it’s so important and all the things to see at Chichen Itza — otherwise, you’re essentially just looking at rocks!

If you’re not going with a group tour, you can hire a guide on-site. When arriving at the Chichen Itza entrance gate, you’ll see accredited guides selling day tours for about $1,000 pesos ($50USD). If you’re planning to hire one, remember to bring enough pesos to pay them.

At Chichen Itza, there are several Mayan pyramids and unique sites to explore. It is a very large site, so plan for at least three hours to see it all.

Upon entering the site, the first structure you’ll see is El Castillo (or Temple of Kukulcan); this is the Chichen Itza pyramid you’ve likely seen in photos. Other notable sites include the Temple of the Warriors, Group of a Thousand Columns, Wall of the Skulls and Sacred Cenote.

As you’d imagine, the Mayan Ruins at Chichen Itza get very crowded, so arrive as easily as you can. There’s very little shade at the site, so don’t forget your LifeStraw Water Bottle (which also filters your water so you don’t get sick in Mexico), eco-friendly sunscreen and a sun hat.  

  • Chichen Itza means at the mouth of the well of the Itza in Maya, in reference to the Itza family
  • Can you climb Chichen Itza pyramids? No
  • Chichen Itza Hours: Open daily, 8am-5pm
  • Chichen Itza Admission: $481 pesos ($24USD)
  • Chichen Itza Parking: $80 pesos ($4USD) in their on-site lot

Mayan Ruins Tours to Chichen Itza

best mayan ruins in the yucatan

Mayan Ruins Near Tulum

Tulum, Mexico, is one of the must see Yucatan beach towns. It is located 1.5 hours south of Cancun, and known as one of the most Instagram worthy Mexico destinations with its bohemian vibes, colorful cafes, posh beach resorts, beautiful Tulum cenotes, and of course, Mayan ruins.

RELATED ARTICLE 🏝 The Ultimate Tulum Travel Planning Guide for First Time Visitors

2. Tulum Mayan Ruins

The Archeological Zone of Tulum, or Tulum Ruins, is located just 5-10 minutes from Downtown Tulum on the northern end of Tulum Beach. Since it’s actually located in Tulum, this is the easiest way to see Mayan ruins in Tulum, Mexico.

Compared to other sites, the Mayan Ruins of Tulum Mexico is a smaller site. However, it is one of the most beautiful as it’s located on a cliffside overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Inside, you’ll see the Templo del Viento (Wind Temple), the most photographed of Tulum Ruins buildings.

Don’t miss these Mayan ruins at Tulum Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in Yucatan.

From there, continue onto the other buildings along the designated path. These include the Templo del Dios Descendente (Temple of the Descending God), El Castillo (The Castle), Templo de Los Frescos (Temple of Frescoes) and more.

After touring the Mayan Ruins Tulum, head down the staircase and onto the beautiful beach cove beneath the site. Tulum Ruins Beach (or Playita Tortugas) is a great place to cool off after visiting, so don’t forget your quick dry towel, bathing suit and eco-friendly sunscreen.

  • The Maya word for Tulum is zama, which means dawn because it is located in the east, so you can see the sunrise from the coast
  • Can you climb the pyramids at Tulum Ruins? No
  • Tulum Ruins Hours: Open daily, 9am-3pm
  • Tulum Ruins Admission: $75 pesos ($4USD)
  • Tulum Ruins Parking: $160 pesos ($8USD) in their on-site lot

Tulum Mayan Ruins Tour

best mayan ruins in the yucatan

3. Cobá Ruins

Located deep in the jungle (so don’t forget your bug spray 🦟), the Mayan Ruins of Coba offers a different experience entirely from the Tulum Ruins. 

More of a complete Mayan city than a pyramid site, many will rent a bike to see the whole place, or hire a tricycle-taxi to get around. Coba has several distinct areas or building groups. In each, you’ll see pyramids, other buildings and steles (large, carved stone tablets).

The largest pyramid at Coba, Nohoch Mul (AKA Ixmoja), is actually the tallest pyramid in Yucatan at 137-feet-tall and 120 steps to the top. There’s a rope to hold on to, but this is a bit of a steep climb. However, the views of the entire jungle from the top are totally with it.

The Ixmoja pyramid is part of the Nohoch Mul Group, but there are other notable areas at Coba. These include the Chumuc Mul Group, Coba Group and Macanxoc Group. It is a very large site, so hiring a guide is advisable to really explain everything that makes the Mayan Coba Ruins so unique.

Chichen Itza vs Coba

Of course, the two sites are both impressive. However, Chichen Itza is quite touristy and crowded, while the Mayan Ruins Coba is the exact opposite. Also, if you want to climb some Mayan pyramids in Yucatan, you’ll have to head to Coba, as you can’t climb the pyramids or structures at Chichen Itza.

  • Coba means waters stirred by the wind in Mayan, as Coba is surrounded by two lakes
  • Can you climb Coba Ruins? Yes
  • Coba Ruins Hours: Open daily, 8am-5pm
  • Coba Ruins Admission: $75 pesos ($4USD)
  • Coba Ruins Parking: $50 pesos ($2.50USD) in their on-site lot


best mayan ruins in the yucatan

4. Ek Balam Ruins

Ek Balam Mayan ruins is located about two hours from both Cancun and Tulum, and just 30 minutes from Valladolid. As one of the more off the beaten path Mayan ruins in Mexico, it’s not uncommon to have the place all to yourself.

It is a visually interesting site, with thatched roofs covering many of the pyramids; a gorgeous contrast with the stone pyramids. Towards the interior of the buildings, don’t miss the elaborate carved stone statues tucked away beneath the thatched overhangs.  

You can climb the main pyramid at Ek Balam, the Great Acropolis, for some spectacular jungle views of the surrounding area. Overall, it’s a gorgeous Mayan ruins site, so make sure your phone is charged when you visit because you’ll want tons of photos.

  • Ek Balam means black jaguar in Maya
  • Can you climb the pyramids at Ek Balam? Yes
  • Ek Balam Hours: Open daily, 8am-5pm
  • Ek Balam Admission: $413 pesos ($21USD)
  • Ek Balam Parking: Free in their on-site lot

best mayan ruins in the yucatan

5. Muyil Ruins

The actual name of these Mayan ruins is Chunyaxché, though you’ll mostly see it referred to as Muyil. It is located just south of Tulum in Felipe Carrillo Puerto, near the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a recognized UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

tall stone structure at Muyil Mayan Ruins in the Yucatan, Tulum
Muyil has a similar look to the Mayan ruins Guatemala has, and it bears a strong resemblance to the famous Mayan ruins of Tikal.

The Muyil Ruins, though not too far from Tulum Ruins, look totally different. At Muyil, you’ll see what is known as Peten architecture, with steep walled pyramids similar to those at the famous Tikal Mayan Ruins in Guatemala.

As Muyil is a smaller site, many will combine their visit with a boat tour or float tour (where you float down the river with a guide) of Sian Ka’an — Like this one, the Sian Ka’an and Muyil Half Day Tour.

  • Chunyaxche means wide ceiba trunk in Maya, referring to the ceiba tree
  • Can you climb the pyramids at Muyil? No
  • Muyil Hours: Open daily, 8am-5pm
  • Muyil Admission: $45 pesos ($2.50USD)
  • Muyil Parking: Free in their on-site lot

MAYAN RUINS TOURS TO Muyil Ruins & Sian Ka’an

best mayan ruins in the yucatan

6. Xel-Há Ruins

An off the beaten path Mayan ruins site that’s often overlooked as it shares a name with the popular Xel-Ha Water Park. The Xel-Ha Ruins (pronounced shell-ha) are actually located right next to the park, and many combine the two for a nice day trip.

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As far as the Xel-Ha Ruins themselves, there are several here like El Palacio (The Palace) and the House of Birds. Inside the House of Birds, there are a few rooms where you can see ancient paintings on the walls made in red and blue paint, two sacred colors for the Maya.

There are also two cenotes at Xel-Ha. If you’re wondering, What is a cenote?, they are sinkholes containing freshwater from the river that flows under the entire Yucatan Peninsula. There are about 6,000 cenotes in Yucatan, many you can swim in, but these you can not.

If you do want to swim in some cenotes, consider visiting the Xel-Ha Ruins first, then heading only a few minutes away to Xel-Ha Park. Called “the largest aquarium in the world,” it has plenty of cenotes to snorkel and swim in, and adventure activities like zip lining, cliff jumping and swimming in caves.

  • Xel-Ha means mixing of the waters in Maya, referring to the Caribbean Sea mixing with a freshwater river inlet
  • Can you climb the pyramids at Xel-Ha? No, there aren’t any large structures
  • Xel-Ha Hours: Open daily, 8am-5pm
  • Xel-Ha Admission: $65 pesos ($3.50USD)
  • Xel-Ha Parking: Free in their on-site lot

Xel-Ha Tickets

best mayan ruins in the yucatan

Mayan Ruins In Cancun

Truth be told, the Mayan ruins of Cancun may not wow you the same as some of the Mayan ruins near Cancun located a few hours away will. However, that’s not to say you should skip them, only that they are smaller sites you can explore in about an hour — so they are quick stops while in Cancun, Mexico.

7. El Rey Ruins

Located right in the Zona Hotelera (Cancun Hotel Zone), you’ll find the Mayan ruins of Kin Ich Ahau Bonil, known in Spanish as El Rey. Meaning “The King,” many archeologists and historians believe the remains of a Mayan king are buried at this Mayan Ruins Cancun site.

stone temple at El Rey, Cancun, Best Mayan Ruins in the Yucatan
El Rey Mayan Ruins Cancun Mexico.

This is a smaller site, though it has about 45 structures on it. The most important is Structure 2 — where the original pyramid’s base once sat. In total, plan to spend about 30-45 minutes at the Mayan Ruins El Rey, but it’s one of the best things to do in Cancun without leaving the city. 

  • Kin Ich Ahau Bonil means king of the solar countenance in Maya, referring to the king believe to be buried there
  • Can you climb the pyramids at El Rey? No, there aren’t any large structures
  • El Rey Hours: Open daily, 8am-4:30pm
  • El Rey Admission: $50 pesos ($2.50USD)
  • El Rey Parking: Free in a small lot in front of the site, though spaces are limited

best mayan ruins in the yucatan

8. Yamil Lu’um Ruins

Yamil Lu’um, AKA Templo del Alacran (Temple of the Scorpion), is located right on Cancun Beach. It is just a single structure that sits in a grassy area between The Westin Lagunamar Ocean Resort Villas & Spa and Grand Park Royal Cancun hotels.

The Yamil Lu’um Mayan ruins make for great photos, with world-famous Cancun Beach in the background of an ancient Mayan temple! As it’s not technically a public site, you access Yamil Lu’um by walking on the beach or by passing through one of the two hotels on either side of it.

stone structures at Yamil Luum Mayan Ruins in the Yucatan, Cancun
Yamil Luum Mayan Ruins in Cancun, Mexico. (Photo: David Stanley via Flickr)
  • Yamil Lu’um means hilly land in Maya, as it sits on Cancun’s highest point
  • Can you climb the pyramids at Yamil Lu’um? No
  • Yamil Lu’um Hours: Always open
  • Yamil Lu’um Admission: Free
  • Yamil Lu’um Parking: Since it’s not an actual site, there is no designated parking

best mayan ruins in the yucatan

9. San Miguelito Ruins

Located just minutes from El Rey, you’ll find the San Miguelito Mayan Ruins. Opened to the public in 2012, these ruins are located at the same site as the Museo Maya de Cancun (Cancun Maya Museum).

Admission to the museum includes access to the ruins, though don’t skip the museum itself to see many of the interesting Mayan artifacts found at this and other sites. As far as the ruins themselves, there are four distinct areas and a large central structure to see.

stone structures at San Miguelito Mayan Ruins in the Yucatan, Cancun
Maya Yucatan Peninsula Ruins: San Miguelito is located at the Cancun Mayan Museum.
  • San Miguelito’s original Maya name is unknown
  • Can you climb the pyramids at San Miguelito? No
  • San Miguelito Hours: Open daily, 9am-4:30pm
  • San Miguelito Admission: $80 pesos ($4USD), which includes entrance to the Cancun Maya Museum
  • San Miguelito Parking: Free in a small lot at the museum

best mayan ruins in the yucatan

10. El Meco Ruins

El Meco (AKA La Naranja) is a smaller site with 14 structures, including the main temple, El Castillo. Meaning “The Castle,” this is an impressive five-level pyramid that stands 55-feet-tall (17m), and was believed to have been used for religious rituals and worship.

From the top of this pyramid, you can see directly to the Caribbean Sea and Isla Mujeres island. Meaning “Island of Women” this is a popular travel destination and one the best Cancun day trips, though many stay overnight in one of these amazing yet affordable Isla Mujeres hotels.

stone temple at El Meco, Cancun, Best Mayan Ruins in the Yucatan

Given its geographic location directly in front of Isla Mujeres, historians assume El Meco once served as a point of connection with the island. 

El Meco is a great stop before jumping on the ferry to Isla Mujeres, Mexico, where you’ll also find the next Mayan ruins site on this list. You can catch the Cancun to Isla Mujeres ferry at the Punta Sam ferry terminal. 

  • El Meco’s original Maya name is unknown
  • Can you climb the pyramids at El Meco? No
  • El Meco Hours: Open daily, 8am-4pm
  • El Meco Admission: $55 pesos ($2.50USD)
  • El Meco Parking: Free in a small lot on-site, though spaces are limited

best mayan ruins in the yucatan

11. Temple of Ixchel Ruins (Isla Mujeres)

Isla Mujeres, the Island of Women, got its name from the large number of statues of the goddess Ixchel found all over the island by Spanish conquistadors. Ixchel (pronounced ik-shell) is a jaguar goddess, associated with the moon, childbirth, medicine, fertility and midwifery. 

While not in Cancun itself, these are some of the best Mayan ruins by Cancun. To get to the island, take the 20-minute Cancun to Isla Mujeres ferry over for a nice day trip from Cancun, or even an overnight trip.

🏩 Looking to stay overnight? Check out all the best hotels in Isla Mujeres.

Temple of Ixchel stone structures at Xel Ha Mayan Ruins in the Yucatan along the Caribbean Sea in Isla Mujeres
It is easy to get to the Ix Chel Mayan ruins from Cancun — Just take the ferry from Cancun to Isla Mujeres.

Overlooking the Caribbean Sea at Punta Sur, the southern tip of Isla Mujeres, you’ll find the Ruins of Ixchel Temple. Given that it sits on the highest elevation point in the entire Yucatan Peninsula, and at the edge of the sea, historians say this structure functioned as a lighthouse.

Nowadays, it’s one of the best things to do in Isla Mujeres. Besides the ruins themselves, there’s a rock and sculpture garden. You’ll also see plenty of iguanas who live in the rocks of these ancient Mayan ruins of Mexico.

  • Ixchel is the name of a prominent Mayan goddess
  • Can you climb the pyramids at Ruins of Ixchel? No, there aren’t any large structures
  • Ruins of Ixchel Hours: Open daily, 9am-5:30pm
  • Ruins of Ixchel Admission: $30 pesos ($1.50USD)
  • Ruins of Ixchel Parking: Free in their on-site lot

Isla Mujeres Tours

best mayan ruins in the yucatan

Mayan Ruins Near Merida

Merida, Mexico, is one of the most up-and-coming Yucatan travel destinations. Considered one of the safest cities in Mexico, this colorful colonial town is quickly popping up on more and more travel radars. It also happens to be where I live!

12. Uxmal Ruins

One of the most popular Merida day trips, and the best Mayan ruins near Merida, is Uxmal (pronounced oosh-mall). This UNESCO World Heritage Site is considered the second most important archaeological site in the Yucatan, behind Chichen Itza.

Though lacking the name recognition of Chichen Itza, the Mayan Ruins Uxmal site is equally impressive — and some say even moreso. As it’s less crowded and less touristy, seeing only about one-tenth the yearly visitors as Chichen Itza, many argue Uxmal feels more authentic.

Besides the smaller crowds at Uxmal, you’ll also enjoy all the other perks of an off the beaten path Mexico ruins, like not being approached by hordes of souvenir vendors. Uxmal also provides for a more peaceful visit overall, where you can relax while admiring the site.

tall stone mayan pyramid - day trips from Merida

RELATED ARTICLE 🇲🇽 The Ultimate Merida, Mexico Travel Guide [Written by a Local]

Chichen Itza or Uxmal?

While this is a matter of personal preference, as they are both quite impressive, there is one definitive reason you’d want to pick Uxmal. You can climb the pyramids and buildings at Uxmal! Chichen Itza does not allow for climbing on any structures.

While visitors can not climb the tallest pyramid in Uxmal, called El Adivino (AKA The Pyramid of the Magician), you can climb the Great Pyramid right next to it. From the top, you’ll get the most amazing views of Uxmal and the surrounding Yucatan jungle.

You can also climb the other buildings — House of the Birds, House of the Turtles, Nunnery Quadrangle and more — to see Uxmal’s intricate carved stone designs. Uxmal is one of five sites on the Ruta Puuc, all with buildings in the same beautiful “Puuc” carved stone esthetic.

Where is Uxmal Mayan Ruins?

Uxmal is a bit remote, and the closest city is Merida at about 52 miles (84km) away. From other areas of the Yucatan, like Cancun, Playa del Carmen or Tulum, know this is a 4-5 hour drive, so you’ll want to book at least one night at any one of these best hotels in Uxmal, Mexico.

  • Uxmal means thrice built in Maya
  • Can you climb the pyramids at Uxmal? Yes, except El Adivino
  • Uxmal Hours: Open daily, 8am-5pm
  • Uxmal Admission: $428 pesos ($22USD)
  • Uxmal Parking: $80 pesos ($4USD)


best mayan ruins in the yucatan

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

Though Uxmal has the most name recognition, there are actually four other Puuc Ruins sites. The complete list of Puuc Route sites are Sayil, Labna, Kabah, Xlapak and Uxmal — and they all fall under the UNESCO World Heritage Site designation, not just Uxmal.

What is the Puuc Route (Ruta Puuc)?

The Ruta Puuc is a 36-mile-long (58km) drive that goes along Highway 261/Hopelchen-Uman Highway. Coming from Merida, Uxmal is the first site at 52 miles (84km) away. If you follow the road heading southeast, you’ll pass Kabah, Sayil, Xlapak and Labna; in that order.

The word puuc means hills in Maya, and though the Yucatan is mostly flat, these five sites are on elevated land areas. Puuc has also come to signify the intricate style of carved stone you’ll see on structures at these five sites, as well as carved masks of the Mayan rain god, Chaac.

The easiest way to see all the Puuc Route sites is in a rental car, as there’s not always public transport. On Sundays only, the Ruta Puuc Bus has one trip, from 8am-5pm, with the Oriente bus company. This will take you to all the sites, and you can buy tickets at the main bus station on Calle 69 in Downtown Merida.

13. Kabah Ruins

This ancient city is about 1,300-years-old and has a series of Mexican Mayan temples and structures to climb and explore.

Along the walls of the central and most impressive structure, the Palace of Masks, you’ll see a display of more than 300 masks of Chaac, the Mayan rain god.

  • Kabah means the powerful hand in Maya
  • Can you climb the pyramids at Kabah? Yes
  • Kabah Hours: Open daily, 8am-5pm
  • Kabah Admission: $55 pesos ($2.50USD)
  • Kabah Parking: Free in their on-site lot

14. Sayil Ruins

Archeologists estimate this town had about 10,000 inhabitants during its heyday in 900 AD.

The main structure at Sayil is a long, three-tier palace, and you can walk along the scabe (pathway) to the Mirador (Lookout), a structure in near-ruin but with a very cool esthetic.

  • Sayil means place of the ants in Maya
  • Can you climb the pyramids at Sayil? No
  • Sayil Hours: Open daily, 8am-5pm
  • Sayil Admission: $55 pesos ($2.50USD)
  • Sayil Parking: Free in their on-site lot

15. Xlapak Ruins

Though the smallest of the Puuc Route sites, it’s free to enter, so don’t pass up the chance to explore it.

At Xlapak, you’ll find three palaces within separate complexes. Of the three, the main nine-room palace stands with several decorative masks depicting the Mayan god of rain, Chaac.

  • Xlapak means old walls in Maya
  • Can you climb the pyramids at Xlapak? No, there aren’t any large structures
  • Xlapak Hours: Open daily, 8am-5pm
  • Xlapak Admission: Free
  • Xlapak Parking: Free in their on-site lot

16. Labná Ruins

Labna is estimated to be about 1,400-years-old, though it’s incredibly well-preserved — especially the intricate Labna Arch, seen in the photo above ⤴

There’s also El Palacio (The Palace), a long structure decorated with Chaac masks in honor of the Mayan rain god, and El Mirador (The Lookout), a pyramid topped with a temple.

  • Labna means old houses in Maya
  • Can you climb the pyramids at Labna? No
  • Labna Hours: Open daily, 8am-5pm
  • Labna Admission: $55 pesos ($2.50USD)
  • Labna Parking: Free in their on-site lot

best mayan ruins in the yucatan

17. Dzibilchaltún Ruins

Dzibilchaltun (pronounced zee-bee-shall-tune) is the closest Mayan ruins to Merida. Though small, there’s also an onsite museum with large-scale Mayan artifacts, a mini sculpture garden to walk through, and a lagoon-like cenote to swim in, Cenote Xlach.

RELATED ARTICLE 🇲🇽 12 Stunning Airbnbs in Merida Mexico [Picked by a Local]

Many visit on the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes, to see the sunrise at the Mayan Ruins Dzibilchaltun. On these two days, the sun passes directly through the center of the square opening in the Temple of the Seven Dolls (AKA Temple of the Sun), the site’s main building.

  • Dzibilchaltun means writing on flat stones in Maya
  • Can you climb the pyramids at Dzibilchaltun? Yes
  • Dzibilchaltun Hours: Open daily, 8am-5pm
  • Dzibilchaltun Admission: $227 pesos ($11USD)
  • Dzibilchaltun Parking: $20 pesos ($1USD)

best mayan ruins in the yucatan

18. Mayapan Ruins

As an off the beaten path Mayan ruins site, you may have the whole place to yourself! There are several structures here, including a large, central pyramid resembling the Temple of Kukulcan (El Castillo) at Chichen Itza. It is called the Castle of Kukulcan and stands 50-feet-tall (15m).

There is also a large round structure, The Observatory, which you won’t find at other Yucatan Mayan ruins sites. This structure more closely resembles the round Tollan/Toltec Ruins, seen in the city of Tula near Mexico City, and historians say Mayapan has a Mayan-Toltec connection.

RELATED ARTICLE 🇲🇽 4 Day Mexico City Itinerary: The Ultimate CDMX Travel Guide.

old mayan archeological site with stone pyramid building - day trips from Merida
Mayapan Mayan Ruins Yucatan Peninsula.

Mayapan is said to be the last Mayan city ever built and inhabited, before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors. It was one of the most important pre-Colombian cities in Yucatan, along with Uxmal and Chichen Itza — though it sees far less visitors than both.

The Mayapan Yucatan Ruins are located in the city of Tecoh, just 28 miles (45km) southwest of Merida. When visiting, combine it with a swim in any of the 25 or so cenotes near Mayapan, like Cenote Telchaquillo, Cenote Nah Yah, Cenote Noh-Mozon and Cenote Suem.

  • Mayapan means flag/banner of the Mayan people in Maya
  • Can you climb the pyramids at Mayapan? Yes
  • Mayapan Hours: Open daily, 8am-5pm
  • Mayapan Admission: $40 pesos ($2USD)
  • Mayapan Parking: $20 pesos ($1USD)

best mayan ruins in the yucatan

Mayan Ruins in Playa del Carmen

19. Xcaret Mayan Ruins (Polé Ruins)

Located inside of the Xcaret Park, the Pole Mayan ruins (which is pronounced pole-lay), are the best Mayan ruins Playa del Carmen has. Seeing them is really only worth it if you’re spending the day at Xcaret, which is one of the best things to do in Playa del Carmen.

Located 15 minutes away, Xcaret is a Mexican amusement park meets water park. It has more than 50 attractions including cenotes to swim in, Voladores de Papantla Flyers, the beloved Xcaret Nighttime Show, an elaborate series of dance and cultural performances, and of course, Mayan ruins to visit.

RELATED ARTICLE 🏝 Traveling to Playa del Carmen: The Ultimate First-Timer’s Guide

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As far as the Pole ruins themselves, they date back to about 1400 AD. They were the once-home to a Mayan community dedicated entirely to maritime trade, and their position right on the Caribbean Sea made this possible.

Aside from the Xaman-Há Ruins on Playacar Beach, Pole is the closest Mayan Ruins to Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Xaman-Há, though small, is one of the few Mayan ruins in Riviera Maya still remaining.

🏩 For a truly unique experience, stay at one of the amazing Hotel Xcaret resorts.

stone structures at Xcaret Mayan Ruins in the Yucatan
The Polé, or Xcaret Mayan Ruins near Playa del Carmen, Mexico. (Photo: Daniel Slaughter via Flickr).
  • Polé means merchandise/goods in Maya
  • Can you climb the pyramids at Xcaret Ruins? Yes
  • Xcaret Ruins Hours: Open daily, 8am-5pm
  • Xcaret Ruins Admission: $40 pesos ($2USD); this is paid separate from the Xcaret Park entrance
  • Xcaret Ruins Parking: Free in their on-site lot

Xcaret Tickets

best mayan ruins in the yucatan

20. San Gervasio Ruins (Cozumel)

As these aren’t in Playa del Carmen, they are just across the Caribbean Sea — so they are the best ruins near Playa del Carmen for sure!

To get to the San Gervasio Mayan Ruins, take the Playa del Carmen to Cozumel ferry for a nice day trip on the beautiful island of Cozumel, Mexico. Known for having the best snorkeling in Mexico, back on land, you’ll want to visit the Mayan Ruins of San Gervasio, or Tantun Cuzamil in the Maya language.

stone structures at San Gervasio Mayan Ruins in the Yucatan, Cozumel Island
Mayan ruins Cozumel: Don’t skip San Gervasio while visiting Cozumel Island.

Though a smaller site, San Gervasio are the best Mayan ruins in Cozumel, Mexico. They are located in the center of the island, and built to honor the Mayan moon goddess, Ix Chel, just like the ruins on Isla Mujeres. In centuries past, Mayan women made pilgrimages here to worship her.

There are plenty of things to see, including the Templo Nohoch Nah, Templo Ka’na Nah de Ixchel and more, all connected to one another by a series of roads called scabes. As it’s not huge, you can explore the Mayan Ruins San Gervasio on Cozumel Island in about one hour.

  • Tantun Cuzamil means flat rock in the place of the swallows in Maya
  • Can you climb the pyramids at San Gervasio? No, there aren’t any large structures
  • San Gervasio Hours: Open daily, 9am-5pm
  • San Gervasio Admission: $90 pesos ($5USD)
  • San Gervasio Parking: Free in their on-site lot

Cozumel Tours

best mayan ruins in the yucatan

Mayan Ruins Near Bacalar

21. Kohunlich Ruins

Located about an hour southwest of the popular travel destination of Bacalar, Mexico, you’ll find the Kohunlich (pronounced ko-hoon-leach). It is a popular day trip from Bacalar, and also the Mahahual, one of the best beaches in Yucatan, located just two hours away.

RELATED ARTICLE 🇲🇽 How to Visit Bacalar Lagoon Mexico: The ULTIMATE Travel Guide.

stone temple at Kohunlich Best Mayan Ruins in the Yucatan

The Mayan Ruins Kohunlich site is quite large, at about 20 acres. It is located in the jungle surrounded by trees and lush vegetation, and you’ll often hear the howler monkeys that call this jungle home making noise off in the distance.

There are a few buildings to explore at Kohunlich, including the Temple of the Masks. This pyramid was built in about 500 AD and has a central staircase adorned with five different 8-foot-tall (2.5m) masks. There’s also the Residential Buildings, where you can see the ancient Mayan beds they slept on.

  • Kohunlich means hill full of corzos in Maya, in reference to the corozo palm trees at the site
  • Can you climb the pyramids at Kohunlich? Yes
  • Kohunlich Hours: Open daily, 8am-4:30pm
  • Kohunlich Admission: $75 pesos ($4USD)
  • Kohunlich Parking: Free in their on-site lot

best mayan ruins in the yucatan

22. Chacchoben Ruins

Chacchoben (pronounced cha-cho-ben) is among the most visited of all Mayan ruins Costa Maya has. The “Mayan Coast” is located near the popular cruise destination of Mahahual, Mexico, and many cruise ships take visitors here for a day trip to see the ruins.

There are two groups of structures to see here, including three excavated and restored pyramids — with the largest one containing Mayan hieroglyphic writing. As Chacchoben is surrounded by jungle, you can see everything from roaming iguanas to spider monkeys.

tall stone temple at Chacchoben, Best Mayan Ruins in the Yucatan
  • Chacchoben’s original Maya name is unknown
  • Can you climb the pyramids at Chacchoben? No
  • Chacchoben Hours: Open daily, 8am-5pm
  • Chacchoben Admission: $60 pesos ($3USD)
  • Chacchoben Parking: Free in their on-site lot

best mayan ruins in the yucatan

Mayan Ruins in Campeche

Campeche, Mexico, is one of the three states that make up the Yucatan Peninsula — along with Quintana Roo and Yucatan State. It is the least visited of the three states, but has some amazing Mayan ruins, as well as a colorful capital city, Campeche City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

23. Calakmul Ruins

The Calakmul Mayan Ruins (pronounced cah-lack-mool) is one of the best off the beaten track Mexico destinations, and worth a visit — though it’s not easy to get to.

Given Calakmul’s remote jungle location, many travelers don’t even know it exists. It is located about five hours by rental car from the closest major city, Campeche City, including a two hour drive from the nearest main road into the jungles of the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve.

woman in a black tank top sitting on top of mayan pyramid in the jungles of mexico, Calakmul ruins, one of the most unique places to visit in mexico

🏩 Visiting Calakmul? Book at least one night in Hotel Casa Maya Calakmul, as these ruins are not advisable as a day trip.

However, the trek is definitely worth it. Calakmul is a UNESCO World Heritage Site,with two very large pyramids you can climb. The largest one, Structure 2, is more than 148-feet-tall (45m), and the tallest Mayan pyramid on Earth.

Structure 1 is a bit smaller, but still offers incredible views of the surrounding jungle from the top. After ascending these pyramids, you’ll be looking out over all the trees that surround the site; seeing it from a perspective you could never have imagined from the ground.

  • Calakmul means City of the Two Adjacent Pyramids in Maya
  • Can you climb the pyramids at Calakmul? Yes
  • Calakmul Hours: Open daily, 8am-5pm
  • Calakmul Admission: $55 pesos ($3USD)
  • Calakmul Parking: Free in their on-site lot

best mayan ruins in the yucatan

24. Becán Ruins

Though not too far from Calakmul, the Becan Mayan Ruins are much easier to get to and see far more visitors since there are daily tours to Becan. While they are located in Campeche state, Becan is a popular day trip from other parts of Yucatan, like Bacalar Lagoon.

Becan is actually a very large site, with 20 or so structures. The largest pyramid stands at about 90-feet-tall (27m), and offers amazing views of the entire site from the top. There are other pyramids and plaza-style structures, with rooms you can walk into and explore.

tall stone temple at Becan, Campeche, Best Mayan Ruins in the Yucatan
Becan is one of the best ruins in Mexico, yet sadly, so few visit this amazing place.
  • Becan means canyon/ravine formed by water in Maya
  • Can you climb the pyramids at Becan? Yes
  • Becan Hours: Open daily, 8am-5pm
  • Becan Admission: $65 pesos ($3.50USD)
  • Becan Parking: Free in their on-site lot

best mayan ruins in the yucatan

25. Edzná Ruins

Located closer to Campeche City than the other two Campeche ruins listed above, there are many Edzna tour options if you don’t have a rental car. You can also find day trips from Merida to Edzna; though they are in different states, it’s only about 2.5 hours from Merida to Edzna.

Of all the ruins, Edzna is one of the most beautiful. The central structure, called the Grand Acropolis, has five levels and is 131-feet-tall (40m). Though you can’t climb this one, there are others you can, like the Small Acropolis and The Palace.

tall stone temple at Edzna, Campeche, Best Mayan Ruins in the Yucatan
Located a few hours from Merida, take a group tour to see the Mayan ruins in Campeche on the Full-Day Campeche Tour with Edzná & Becal.

The Temple of the Masks is another amazing structure, only recently excavated in 1988. This building has two distinct masks located on the base of the temple: one representing the Mayan Sunrise God, located on the east side, and the other, the Sunset God, located on the west side.

  • Edzna means House of the Itzás in Maya, in reference to the Itzá peoples (as in Chichén Itzá)
  • Can you climb the pyramids at Edzna? Yes, except the Great Acropolis pyramid
  • Edzna Hours: Open daily, 8am-5pm
  • Edzna Admission: $55 pesos ($3USD)
  • Edzna Parking: Free in their on-site lot

best mayan ruins in the yucatan

Final Thoughts: Best Mayan Ruins in the Yucatan Peninsula

With closer to 200 public Yucatan Peninsula Mayan ruins, this list just scratches the surface — though it does highlight many of the most popular Mayan ruins in Yucatan Peninsula. As you may have noticed on the Mayan Ruins Mexico Map in this article, many of the best Mayan ruins are a bit off the beaten path.

For this reason, the easiest and most convenient way to reach them is by rental car. Have questions about Mexico car rentals? Head to this article, Renting A Car in Mexico: Everything You Need to Know, for all the info you’ll need!

🚗💨 In the market for a car rental in Mexico? Discover Cars searches all the national and local companies at once, to get you the best deal on a Mexico rental car.

Now that your rental car is squared away, don’t forget to pack these items: LifeStraw Water Bottle, which keeps you hydrated and filters your water so you don’t get sick in Mexico, eco-friendly sunscreen and a sun hat. The Mayan ruins in Mexico are hot year-round, and most don’t have shade to escape under.

Which of these best Mayan ruins in the Yucatan will you visit first?

Please join the conversation and drop your questions in the comments below!

Enjoy these related Yucatan blogs!

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  1. Bianca

    I’ve been to Mexico countless times as I have family out there, but surprisingly I’ve never been to the ruins! I see so many photos of them online, but have never made my way out there. I think next time I need to make it a priority while I’m there visiting.

  2. Margarida Vasconcelos

    What a detailed guide for Mayan ruins, thank you so much for sharing it.

  3. Ildiko

    Fantastic post! I loved it. I have been to Chichen Itz only. Would love to go back and particularly visit Coba and Ux-mal. I agree that visiting with a guide is most helpful.

  4. Puloma Banerjee

    Such a beautiful post.I got so engrossed in reading about these native cultures. They take you back in time and relive moments of discovery. It’s an enriching experience.

  5. Ashlee Fechino

    What a great list! I always love landing on your blog about Mexico. We love Mexico. You have gorgeous photos. I loved visiting Tulum – I couldn’t believe the color of the water near there and the white sand beaches. I’ll save this article for next time we visit MX to check out other ruins.

  6. Magicandbliss

    Wow! I cannot imagine a place to have 200 ruins. The ones you have mentioned are so stunning and I can’t wait to see them. Extremely well written and detailed guide 🙂


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