The Mayans are one of the oldest and most intriguing of old world races. Centered around the Yucatan valley, the Mayans spread out across the central and South America and created some of the most beautiful architecture that world ever saw. Now before I take you on a tour of the beautiful countryside of Mexico in search of some of these Mayan ruins, I would like to clear two myths.
The first myth is about the historical aspects of the Mayan civilization. Mayans did not really have a very intricate system of noting down things unlike the Egyptians and Romans. So most of their history is based around speculation and changes periodically as new discoveries are made. The second myth is that the Mayans were an empire unto themselves. This is very far from the truth as the Mayans were basically a collection of city states. We decided to go on a trail discovering all the ruins of this magnificent civilization.
Our trip starts at Tulum. The drive along the shore of Mexico takes about 2 hours and is lined with majestic beaches. Tulum is one of the city states, the only one built on the shores of the Caribbean. About 75 miles from Cancun, the city of Tulum is dotted with the ruins. The first view that caught my eyes at the ruins is the enormous walls that surround Tulum’s ancient seaport. These thick limestone walls have a plethora of history embedded in it. while protecting this seaport from outside interference. The moment you go through the wall, the city transforms before your eyes. The gently rolling hills of rise up before descending onto a magnificently coloured beach.
There is a plethora of rocks growing out from the ground which represent the buildings of yore. But three super structures still adorn the hillside. The zenith of the hills has the palace on the edge of the cliff, El Castillo. But the insight into the Mayan culture is discovered at the Temple of the Frescoes. A multitude of murals adorn the walls depicting the Mayan world of death, living and the gods. Built on the stone walls, these murals foretell a story of a civilization that existed long ago. But beyond all that, is the blue expanse of the Caribbean Sea.
Do Not Miss: After exploring the ruins make an end to the day by visiting the beach Playa Paraíso, just north of the Tulum Ruins. you’ll find plenty of opportunities for snorkeling and scuba diving, hammocks and a few beach bars to choose from.
Best Time to Visit: Visit Tulum between November and December. This is the best time to enjoy the post – hurricane breezes by the shore of the Carribean.
A overnight stay at Tulum was followed by a trip to Coba. Although most of the Mayan ruins have been closed off to the public, there are still some that remain open. The Nohoc ul pyramid at Coba has 120 steps ad gives you an unimpeded view of the jungle. Coba was one of the most populous of the Mayan cities, much evidenced by the multitude of rocky outcroppings coming out from the land. The city was once the most powerful region in Yucatan and is awarded with the views of jungle, vegetation, trading routes, and lakes and water bodies. The best way to explore the history of Coba is on a bicycle. What makes Coba so interesting is that it isn’t as excavated, like other Mayan sites. So ride around the forest on a bicycle. Also one can climb this Mayan pyramid, unlike other Mayan sites.
Do Not Miss: Visit to Coba would be incomplete without taking a dip into the refreshing limestone cenotes. They are just a 10-minute ride away from the ruins. Cenotes are underground sink caverns filled with fresh water, thus are an integral part of the exploration of Coba.
Best Time to Visit: The site is open for tourists between 7am and 6pm. Visit the site in the early hours to avoid the scorching heat.
One of the seven Wonders of the Modern World, the Chichen Itza is the pinnacle of Mayan architecture in Mexico. A part of the mighty Mayans of the Yucatan valley, Chichen Itza has the largest Mayan structure in the world, the Temple of Kulkulan also known as El Castillo. This marvelous step pyramid showcases the importance and accuracy of Maya astronomy. The astronomy skills were so advanced in the Mayan period that they could even predict the solar eclipse by calculating the falling rays of the sun on the Pyramid. Although getting to the top is not allowed, the magnanimous construction spellbound. The Mayan Kings liked to play their sports in a magnificent arena. The Great Ball Court is the perfect area to wander around or click a few selfies.
Do not Miss : The musical light and sound show. The pyramid lights up perfectly and gives you an accurate insight into the Mayan civilization.
Best Time to Visit: Although the ruins are open daily but Spring and Autumn equinoxes in September offer the chance to see the incredible shadow serpent of El Castillo.
All the mayan ruins are dominated by a pyramid in the centre of it. The Uxmal ruins are no different here. The name Uxmal means ‘three times’ and this is the number of times the pyramid here was built. A city which lost it’s population very suddenly, there are quite a few places to check out here. The dilapidated Pyramid of the Magician is built on oval structures instead of rectangular blocks. The Nunnery Quadrange, Governer’s Palace and the peculiarly named House of Turtles are the prominent standing structures.
Do Not Miss : Drop at the Choco- Museum which is located by just half a kilometer away from the Uxmal Ruins.The plantation is the backdrop for the museum. It celebrates the history of chocolate and how it influenced the Mayan economy, culture and health. One can enjoy the chocolate cooking demonstration and tasting bar at the end.
Best Time To Visit : Explore the ruins early mornings or post afternoon to enjoy the site at its best.
The ruins of the Mayan empire offers very little in terms of history but tells you about civilization which had extremely good architectural and artisanal skills. Any trip of yours to Mexico will remain incomplete without it. If these kind of cultural excursions are up your alley, in addition to Mayan ruins there are also Aztec ruins in Mexico. Unknown to many travelers, Mexico is an incredibly historically rich country. If you decide to travel to this gorgeous country, enjoy the beaches and water of course, but also plan a day to visit some of these historic ruins, it’s an enriching experience.
Image Credits: Visit Mexico and Mexican Embassy in Delhi