Map

Map of Mesoamerica

The Maya civilization was spread throughout Southern Mexico and Central America. What was once ancient Mesoamerica, is now modern day Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and parts of El Salvador. In this article we will discuss the locations of the most famous Mayan pyramids.

Yucatan Peninsula (the Mayan Riviera)

Pyramids

Tulum

The area in Mexico known as the Yucatan Peninsula was once a major center for the Mayan civilization. The first Maya were here long before the Spanish came, beginning along side the Olmec, and Toltec civilization.

Overlooking the ocean cliffs, Tulum flourished in the post-classic period between the 13th and 15th century,  Tulum in Mayan means "wall", and was a major trading port for the Maya in this area.

 

How Old Mayan Pyramids Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza

This is one of the most famous pyramids in the Yucatán Peninsula, Chichén Itzá. The name of the pyramid is technically Temple of Kukulkan, but has been popularly named "El Castillo".

Why is the pyramid so important?

The position of the pyramid is so precise that every equinox, the light from the sun creates a lighting effect on the pyramid. This effect creates the illusion of a serpent descending from the sky along the edge of the pyramid. The pyramid was literally a giant physical calendar for the Maya.

During the late Classic period, Chichen Itza was a key focal point in the Northern Maya Lowlands. The site features a variety of structures, pyramids to ball courts. Thirteen ball courts have been discovered by archaeologists.

 

 

Chiapas, Mexico

Palenque

Palenque

The Palenque ruins lie on the edge of the jungle of Guatemala in the state of Chiapas in the south-west of Mexico. These immense pyramids are some of the most important Mayan monuments in Mexico.

Palenque is the home to some of the most important discoveries in Mayan archaeology. King Pakal, who's tomb was found inside the great Temple of the Inscriptions, ruled Palenque in the 6th century. During his reign he commissioned a massive building campaign, which has been preserved so well compared to other sites. His son Kan Balam, continued the building frenzy with the famous cross group of temples.

Tonina - Chiapas, Mexico

West of Palenque resides the site of Tonina, who were famous enemies of Palenque. Famous for it's massive terraces, stucco sculptures, and war like reputation.

Tonina is a far trek from any major city in Chiapas, sitting close to 3000 ft. above sea level in the Chiapas highlands.

Tikal - Northern Lowlands of Guatemala

Tikal

Temple of the Jaguar at Tikal

In the northern lowlands of Guatemala is the great site of Tikal.

How to Get to the Pyramids

The best way to explore Mayan sites in Mexico, is to base yourself out of one city for a few days while you explore the neighboring sites.

In Chiapas, Palenque is a great base camp to visit many sites. The city itself has the famous Palenque site, just down the road about ten minutes. From Palenque, you can book day trips to Yax Chilan, Bonampak, Tonina, and also many waterfalls like Agua Azul and Misol Ha.

In the Yucatan, you can either stay on the coast in Cancun or Inland in Merida. In-between these two major cities is Chichen Itza, which is a good day trip. There are many busses and van type tour companies you can book.

South of Merida is Uxmal, which is a very amazing Mayan site famous for the "magicians pyramid".

South of Cancun is Tulum, the Mayan pyramids overlooking the ocean.

Flores, Guatemala is another great base camp for exploring Mayan sites. The city of Flores is on Lake Peten, and has a very European vibe with its cobblestone streets and restaurants.

North of Flores is Tikal, which you can do in a day, but the bus ride is long so it is recommended to stay a night at the site in one of the hotels.

El Mirador, El Zotz, Yaxha  are some more adventures you can do out of Flores.

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