The Best Mayan Ruins to Visit on the Riviera Maya

Get to know all the archaeological sites that the Mayan culture left in Mexico and that have reached our days.

Mayan temples and ruins to visit on the Yucatan Peninsula

The Riviera Maya, located on the coast of the Caribbean Sea, is one of the destinations par excellence for discovering idyllic enclaves and celebrating dream-like weddings and honeymoons. It’s also an ideal place for doing water sports, thanks to its abundant marine life. As if that wasn’t enough, it is also a destination for discovering and learning about the archeological remains that the Mayan culture left in Mexico, which have survived to modern times. Here is a list of the best Mayan ruins to visit in the Riviera Maya.  

Chichén Itzá

Chichén Itzá archeological area 

About 125 miles from Cancun you can find a monument that was declared in 2007 to be one of the 7 wonders of the modern world: the Temple of Kukulkán. It can be found in the Chichén Itzá archeological area, located on the Yucatan Peninsula. Of the nearly 200 archeological sites related to the Mayan culture in Mexico, it is the most well-known and most visited of all of them. Here, among other things, you can find the Sagrado sinkhole, a circular pool that is approximately 200 feet in diameter and about 50 feet deep where they say that the Mayans performed sacrifices, offerings, and sacred rituals. It is undoubtedly one of the best sinkholes in Cancun and the Riviera Maya. 

Tulum Archeological Area

Ruins of Tulum

The Mayan ruins of Tulum are nestled in an idyllic setting on a cliff facing the Caribbean Sea. The city, whose name means “wall,” served as a lighthouse for ships thanks to its strategic location. In addition, it had a role in maritime and land commerce in the region. This archeological site and place of worship is one of the most important and best conserved on the Riviera Maya. Best of all is that this is just one of the many things to see in Tulum. 


Commercial city of Coba

Halfway between Chichén Itzá and Tulum are the Mayan ruins of Cobá. This commercial city, the biggest that the Mayans built in the Yucatan area, was home to up to 50,000 people. Of its numerous temples, one that particularly stands out is the Nohoch Mul Pyramid, measuring 138 feet high, almost twice as tall as the Temple of Kukulkán. One curiosity is that its name can be translated as “mossy water” or “abundant water,” referring to the large lakes that surround this city.

Ruins of Xaman-Há

Ruins of Xaman-Há

The Mayan ruins of Xaman-Há were one of the first sites where the Spanish set foot on Mexican land. Its name means “water from the North,” because it is on the seashore and also for the fishing that its inhabitants did. Legend has it that the Mayans set off from these ruins towards Cozumel on their pilgrimage to worship the Mayan goddess of love, Ixchel.


Xcaret river

The archeological area of Xcaret is less than six miles from the Playa del Carmen and about 45 miles from Cancun. These Mayan ruins were known by the name Polé, which may mean “market,” as it was an important port and commercial center whose archeological remains can still be seen. Since 1990, it has been an ecological theme park with the aim of conserving and reproducing the typical flora and fauna of Southeastern Mexico.


Uxmal city

The small city of Uxmal, declared a World Heritage Site in 1996, is one of the most important Mayan sites in Mexico, along with Chichén Itzá. Uxmal may mean “built three times,” in reference to the effort made during its construction, which thousands of people participated in, as well as the number of times it had to be rebuilt. The crown jewel is without a doubt the pirámide del Adivino, or Pyramid of the Magician, where you can take in incredible panoramic views from the


Archeological Area of Palenque

Very close to the border with Guatemala is the Archeological Area of Palenque. Precisely due to its remoteness, it is one of the least visited Mayan ruins, which means you can enjoy a more relaxed visit. It has been a World Heritage Site since 1987. It is believed that at the ancient city of Lakam Ha, which was founded in 2,500 B.C., existed here. It currently extends over 1.5 square miles, but it is believed that this is only ten percent of its size when it was in its heyday, as much of it is now covered by jungle.



The archeological area of Kohunlich extends over 21 square acres and is surrounded by forest. New vestiges are continuously being discovered by the archeological teams that continue to work in the area. Among these Mayan ruins, you can find one of the biggest jewels of Mayan civilization: the templo de los Mascarones, or Temple of the Masks, built between 500 and 600 A.D. Its name refers to the five (originally eight) faces made out of stucco. Today, this image is frequently used to promote Mayan culture.

Ruins of San Miguelito and the Mayan Museum of Cancun

Mayan Museum of Cancun

 The Mayan Museum of Cancun, located in Quintana Roo, houses one of the most important archeological collections of the Mayan culture in Mexico. It has a very valuable selection of pieces from Mayan ruins such as Palenque and Chichén Itzá, among others. Tickets to the museum also include entry to the San Miguelito archeological area, which dates from between 1250 and 1550 A.D. Together, they extend over a little more than 20 acres and are full of the history of the Mayan culture.

El Tajín Archeological Area

El Tajín

This pre-Colombian city is a World Heritage Site because in addition to the beauty of its architecture, it is considered to be exceptional evidence of the grandeur of pre-Colombian cultures in Mexico. It also has various fields for playing pelota, a Mesoamerican ball game, and architectural structures as the Pyramid of the Niches. Approximately 365 niches decorate its facade. One fun fact is that 5 of the 365 niches represent the five impure days that the Mayans believed there were.


Want to get to know these Mayan temples and ruins? Then it’s time to pick where you’re going to stay. We recommend the Senator Riviera Cancun Spa Resort. It is just 17 miles from Cancun, very close to Puerto Morelos, and is in the heart of the Riviera Maya. This luxury resort will open its doors in the summer of 2020. Take advantage and book the vacation of your dreams in this paradise!

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