Exploring ancient ruins is one of the most amazing things you can do as a traveler. But what if you have toddlers who run wild, have the attention span of goldfish and demand snacks every five minutes?
Ruins are in a constant state of change. Some crumble while others are re-created like jigsaw puzzles.
Visiting Chichen Itza during the off-season is a chance to see this amazing ruin without the crowds. Our tour includes roundtrip A/C transport from various hotels along the Riviera Maya, and allows you to explore the ruins with a guide for 2.5 hours before most visitors arrive.
The city rose to prominence in the Early Classic period (roughly 600AD), and it became a regional capital by the Late Classic and Terminal Classic periods. However, its hegemony slowly declined and was eventually replaced by another city.
The temples, plazas, and pyramids at Chichen Itza are all impressive. Be sure to check out the 7th-century CE Red House with its bloodletting frieze and the Nunnery with its carvings of rain gods. The 13-century CE Great Ball Court is also a highlight, although legend has it that the game was played as part of a ritual and that losers were sacrificed. You can even try your hand at the mystical sport yourself!
One of Mexico’s most interesting and mysterious archaeological sites is Coba. The ancient city is huge and still largely unexcavated. This allows visitors to explore it on foot with little interruption. This gives it a feeling of mystery and adventure that is matched by its pristine jungle setting.
The main pyramid at Coba, known as Nohoch Mul is the second tallest in Mexico. It can be climbed on foot or by renting a traditional Mayan tuk-tuk.
Many of the ruins at Coba are connected by sacbeob, or raised pathways. The ancients used these to move around the city without disturbing the ground beneath them.
One of the perks about visiting Coba is that it’s close to several cenotes. Some of these are within walking distance – making Coba an ideal day trip from Playa del Carmen. Taking a tour to Coba allows you to take in these gorgeous cenotes while enjoying the convenience of round-trip hotel transport and an expert guide.
This ancient ruin site is located in the state of Campeche. Its name means “House of the Itzaes”, a reference to a dominant governing clan of Chontal Maya origin. It was discovered in 1907. Its layout is similar, albeit on a smaller scale, to that of its older, larger inspiration, Teotihuacan near Mexico City.
Its architects created an interesting mix of styles, combining the architectural motifs from other Maya cities. Many temples and pyramids can be found here. One of them is called the Southern Temple, which dates back to 600 to 900 A.D. Its astronomer-priests used this structure as the ancient equivalent of Greenwich, England.
In its heyday, Edzna was an important regional capital. It was not abandoned at the end of the classic period like other Mayan cities, but continued to be inhabited until the post-classical era. It was a center of religion and trade. Its rulers recorded significant events on numerous stelae, a few of which are now on display in a small hut near the ruins entrance.
Palenque is one of the largest and most spectacular archaeological sites in Mesoamerica. The ruins were built without metal tools and are an amazing testament to human ingenuity. They also sit amidst thick jungle, home to a variety of wildlife, including howling monkeys and colorful toucans.
To fully appreciate the ruins, it’s best to book a small-group guided tour that includes round-trip transportation, a river cruise and breakfast/lunch. The guide can explain the history of the ruins and help you spot the various creatures in the Lacandon Jungle.
A visit to the ruins is not complete without a trip up Temple XIII, known as The Temple of Skulls (in Spanish, “El Templo de las Cuernas”). From here, you can get that quintessential photo of the archeological site and the jungle in the background. It’s also worth taking a moment to read the inscriptions, which will help you understand the Maya culture and religion. Entry to the Alberto Ruz L’Huillier Palenque Site Museum is included with your ticket to enter the ruins.