Mexico’s history and culture owe everything to civilizations like the Mayas, Aztecs, Toltecs, and many more. Chichen Itza is one of the most famous Mayan ruins in the Yucatan Peninsula. But the country has other emblematic sites regarding ancient civilizations. From famous archaeological sites to more under-the-radar cities… Keep reading about the 12 Mayan Ruins in Mexico you need to know about.
As the home to one of the tallest Mayan temples in Mexico, it’s one of the least crowded Archaeological sites you can visit. The site has around 6,750 ancient structures, not to mention that there’s still some exploration to be done. Many adventure junkies take the challenge of climbing the 45-meter pyramid. Only 35 kilometers from the border of Guatemala and in the jungles of the greater Petén Basin region, Calakmul is quite remote but definitely worth the effort.
While its origins are uncertain, Teotihuacan was once one of the most powerful cities in Mesoamerica. The sprawling site is best known for its two huge pyramids: the Pirámide del Sol (Pyramid of the Sun) and the Pirámide de la Luna (Pyramid of the Moon).
Yaxchilan was one of the most important and most powerful ancient Mayan cities; it even had a rivalry with Tikal, the largest Mayan city located in Guatemala. Its location on the bank of the Usumacinta River means it had river commerce control and many alliances. The archeology of Yaxchilan draws many visitors because of its embellished roof combs, facades, and carved stone lintels.
Edzna is another Mayan site everyone should visit. It’s best-known for its five-level structure that perfectly combines a pyramid with a palace. Edzna is located in Campeche The Great Plaza and the ball court are also significant sites within the ruins that you don’t want to miss out on.
Based on the grand quality of decoration, it is thought that Chicanna was home to the elites in the region. Its detailed buildings also mix architectural styles, so visitors get to admire features of the Río Bec, Chenes, and Puuc styles. On the east side is Chicanná’s famous Structure II, which has a gigantic Chenes-style monster-mouth doorway.
Chacchoben’s ruins are one of the most visited in Costa Maya. Still, only part of Chacchoben is open to the public. If you ever visit Chacchoben, you’ll be amazed by how the architecture. Staircases and walls decorate the circular path, as well as three excavated and restored pyramids, with the largest one containing a Mayan hieroglyphic inscription. Because it’s surrounded by jungle, you might see everything from armadillos to spider monkeys.
El Tajín is one of the best-preserved, largest, and most important cities of the Classic era of Mesoamerica. It’s most known for the Pyramid of the Niches as well as its reminder of Classic Veracruz civilization. If possible, try to visit late in the day because the reddening sky and sunset are absolutely unbelievable.
Xochicalco was a cultural, religious, and commercial center for a variety of cultures, including the Mixtec, Aztec, and Toltec. With temples, palaces, sweat-baths, ball courts, stelae, and even a cave, it’s definitely a trip that’s worthwhile. And because it sits on a desolate plateau, the views stretch on for miles.
Tula was a very significant regional center of the Toltec Empire. Today, it’s known for the Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl, which is topped by four four-meter high basalt columns carved in the shape of Toltec warriors. Along with the pyramid, the site also contains palace complexes and courts for Central America’s ritual ball game. If you have visited Chichen Itza, you might notice the artistic, architectural, and religious influences and similarities at the Tula site.
The Aztecs believed that Templo Mayor was the center of the universe. If you happen to be visiting Mexico City you can go to the on-site museum which gives great insight into their civilization. This Archaeological Site should definitely be on the top of your list of things to see there. After all, it is one of the most important and biggest Aztec ruins in Mexico. The excavated temple has been through seven phases of enlarging or rebuildings, and excavations are still going on throughout the site.
The following are not Mayan Ruins but are both of the Zapotec Civilization. We agreed they deserved to be mentioned and people should hear about these sites and visit them!
After Monte Alban was abandoned, Mitla, in the state of Oaxaca, became the major political and religious center of the Zapotec Civilization. Today, only five groups of structures remain, but they are some of the finest ancient ruins in Mexico, if not the world. There are many complexities within the impressive building designs, but Mitla is most known for the intricate geometric stepped-fret designs throughout the buildings.
Monte Albán, also found in Oaxaca, is one of the most culturally rich ruins of the Zapotec civilization, and it doubles as a fortification. Even though this one isn't Mayan, it still deserves our recognition. The site holds palaces, temples, a ball court, and an observatory. Monte Albán is such a unique site; as a result of being 400 meters above the valley floor, you’ll also get stunning 360-degree views of the city, mountains, and valleys.