32 Best Mayan Ruins in Mexico: Your Locals 2022 Guide

When you think of the best Mayan ruins in Mexico, the first place that is likely to spring to the forefront of your mind is probably Chichen Itza. While Chichen Itza is very worthy of your time and is absolutely as breathtaking as the guidebooks would have you believe (it is one of the 7 world wonders after all!), it is not the only important Mayan ruin. 

There are actually more than 200 Mayan ruins scattered throughout Mexico alone. When you include the entirety of Latin America, there are more than 4,400! That is a lot of Mayan ruins! 

Best Mayan Ruins in Mexico 

Mayapan 

Best Mayan ruins in Mexico: Mayapan
Best Mayan ruins in Mexico: Mayapan

Few international travelers have heard of the Mayan city of Mayapan. However, this is one of the most important Mayan sites in Mexico.  

Mayapan means flag/banner of the Mayans in the Mayan language. The settlement here is considered as being the last great Mayan city.

Mayapan became of significant importance after the downfall of Chichen Itza and its rise to power essentially marked the beginning of the end of their civilization. The Mayapan ruins are located just a few miles south of the town of Telchaquillo. They are about 40km south of Mérida and 100km west of Chichen Itza, respectively.

The precise date that the city was built is the subject of debate among a lot of archaeologists and historians. However, it is widely believed to have been around 1000AD. 

Following the downfall of Chichen Itza, King Kukulkan II of Chichen Itza and his people moved to Mayapan. There are several interesting structures, temples, and shrines to see here. 

Arguably the most notable of all is the Pyramid of Kukulcan. If the Mayapan pyramid looks almost exactly like the pyramid of Chichen Itza, it is because the Mayans created it to be a replica of the Chichen Itza site. 

Sadly, many of the structures at the Mayapan site (including the Pyramid of Kukulcan) are considered inferior to those found in other Mayan cities. Mayapan marked the beginning of the end of the demise of the Mayans.

Admission to the Mayapan ruins is 65 pesos ($3) for foreign visitors. Entrance is free for Mexicans.

The site is open from 8 am to 4 pm daily. Yes, you can climb on the ruins. 

Edzna 

Best Mayan ruins in Mexico: Edzna
Best Mayan ruins in Mexico: Edzna

The Mayan city of Edzna is an expansive, spectacular Mayan city in the state of Campeche. It is very frequently overlooked – perhaps because it takes a bit of effort to get to.

Campeche is the least visited part of the Yucatan peninsula and although the Edzna ruins are among the best Mayan ruins in Mexico, they are also among the least visited. Indeed, you can often stop by here and find that you have the site entirely to yourself! 

Edzna is Mayan for ¨House of the Itzas¨. The site was occupied as early as 700BC and quickly developed into a major commercial and political hub for the Mayans. 

Edzna was eventually abandoned in 1500AD for reasons unknown and it was not discovered again until 1907. The site is vast and is just as interesting as the better-known ruins at Chichen Itza or Uxmal.

More than 25,000 people called Edzna home during the city’s heyday. There are several structures here that are more impressive than the last. 

In particular, look out for the Great Pyramid and the Grand Acropolis. The ¨Temple of the Masks¨ is also fascinating and contains two extremely well-preserved stucco masks of the god Kinich Ahau. 

These were not discovered until 1988. Considering how old they are, the condition that they are in is amazing! 

Ek Balam 

Ek Balam is one of the best Mayan ruins in the Yucatan. The name Ek Balam translates to meaning black jaguar or dark jaguar in Ancient Maya.

This site is located conveniently close to Chichen Itza. There is a distance of just 71km between the two sites making it easy to conquer them both in one day. Then, you can stop for a spot of lunch and some traditional Yucatecan food in nearby Valladolid. 

Ek Balam was a major political hub for the Ancient Maya and thrived between 770 and 840 AD. After it was abandoned, it was reclaimed by the jungle and became massively overgrown.

Fascinatingly, it was not discovered until as recently as the 1980s! It is also only partially excavated so who knows how this site will change and develop in the years to come. 

El Torre is the name of the grand pyramid at Ek Balam. It boasts a height of 95 feet and offers unparalleled views over the jungle canopy. 

On a clear day, you can see the pointed pyramid roofs of Chichen Itza and Coba from up here! Partway up, you will also notice an incredibly ornate, carved structure. This is the tomb of Ukil-Kan-Lek-Tok, a former ruler of Ek Balam. 

Ek Balam is well worth visiting for the opportunity to climb its pyramid and enjoy the jungle views it offers. However, the site has increased in popularity and price in recent years and is certainly not the off-the-beaten-path destination that it once was.

Recommended Ek Balam Tours 

Admission to Ek Balam is now a whopping 498 (£19.50/$25) pesos for foreign travelers and 198 pesos (£8/$10) for Mexicans. This makes it substantially more expensive than other sites. 

Whether you want to spend that and visit is up to you and arguably depends on how many other Mayan cities you will be visiting during your trip. 

Uxmal 

Uxmal is, without hesitation, one of the best Mayan ruins in the Yucatan. It is located 83.4km south of Merida and makes a great day trip from the Yucatan capital. 

Uxmal (pronounced ¨Uss-mal¨) means thrice built in Ancient Mayan. It was actually constructed five times!

Although many ruins in Mexico are impressive, Uxmal is one of the most historically important – perhaps second only to Chichen Itza. The journey from Merida to Uxmal should take a little over an hour depending on your transport method. 

The site dates back to 700 AD and was once home to 25,000 people. It was eventually abandoned in 1200AD and was first excavated in 1929.

Uxmal was recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1996. Many local tour companies offer excursions to Uxmal. 

If you choose to visit the site independently, it is worth paying an additional 200 pesos to hire a guide at the entrance. They can provide you with a lot more information and context about the history of the various structures here. If you are traveling solo, they can also help you take some photos! 

Today, much of Uxmal has still not been excavated. However, the part of the site that is visible is very expansive. 

You could easily spend an entire afternoon exploring the site. Nearby, you can also visit the Choco-story museum which tells the history of chocolate and how it was invented in Mexico. 

Recommended Uxmal Tours 

Chichen Itza 

Of course, no list of the best Mayan ruins in Mexico would be complete without Chichen Itza. This is one of the ¨new¨ seven wonders of the world and one of the most popular tourist attractions in all of Mexico.

Regardless of how many times you have seen the famous site photographed in travel publications and on social media, nothing can compare to arriving here and seeing it firsthand for yourself. 

The term Chichen Itza means ‘the mouth at the well of Itza’. It is believed Itza means ‘water magicians’.

The precise construction date of Chichen Itza is unknown. However, archaeologists believe that it dates back to around 600-750 A.D.

Fun Mexico fact: The temple that always appears in photos of the site is the Temple of Kukulcán. 

Its name is not Chichen Itza. Chichen Itza is the name of city. 

Unfortunately, whatever time of day you stop by, Chichen Itza is always crowded. It is a good idea to be outside the site for 8 am when it opens but even so, you will often be met with other tourists waiting to get in! 

Still, this is one of the must-visit places in the Yucatan. Look out for the sacred Cenote Sagrado. The Ancient Maya would make human sacrifices here. 

Recommended Chichen Itza Tours 

Best Mayan ruins in Mexico
Best Mayan ruins in Mexico

Dzibilchaltun

The Dzibiltcaltun ruins are located on the northern outskirts of Merida, just 10 minutes or so from the center of town. The name Dzibiltcaltun means ¨writing on flat stones¨ in Mayan.

This is with reference to the inscribed stone tablets that were found at the site. The precise date that the settlement was built is unknown, but it is believed that the site was constructed around 300BC.

After the colonization, the Spanish continued to occupy Dzibilchaltun. This is interesting as today, there is a mishmash of Spanish and Ancient Mayan sites, including a Franciscan chapel in the center of the ruins.

Look out for the Temple of the Seven Dolls, perhaps the most interesting structure that has been excavated. This was once a place of worship and when it was found, there were seven clay structures in the shape of humans found inside.

Over 8,000 structures have been identified here but only a small portion has been excavated. An international team of archeologists continue to work on the site to uncover more of the ruins.

Although Dzibiltcaltun is significantly smaller than sites like Uxmal and Chichen Itza, it is still worth your attention. This is particularly the case if you are already spending a few days in Merida.

You can get an Uber from the city center to take you to the ruins. Carve time out of your schedule to visit the adjacent Museo del Pueblo Maya de Dzibilchaltún and the on-site Cenote Xlacah.

Stop by the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya de Mérida on your way back to the city. Then, stop for a traditional Mexican breakfast at La Casa De Los Abuelos.

Visiting Dzibilchatun

Dzibilchaltún reopened to tourists in July 2022 after a period of extended closure. This was due to an ongoing dispute between the Mexican Government and the Landowners.

Since this seems to be an ongoing issue, double-check in advance if the site is open during the period that you plan to visit. Admission is 282 pesos ($14) per person.

Mexicans can enjoy free entry on Sundays. However, you need to be prepared to show proof of nationality/identification.

Xcambo Ruins

The Xcambo ruins are located in the Telchac Puerto region of the Northern Yucatan. Xcambo was once an important port for commerce and trade.

The locals placed a lot of dependence on the harvesting and sale of salt in the area. This still remains an important aspect of local trade in this region to this day and you will find a lot of salt farmers working in the nearby pink lakes (Laguna Rosa).

Sadly, very little is known about Xcambo and this is reflected by the scarcity of information at the site here. There are no information plaques and nobody knows who ruled over the city.

It is believed that Xcambo dates back to 250-600 A.D. It was eventually abandoned 600-900 A.D.

You will note a small catholic church with a small, carved stone statue of Jesus right in the middle of the ruins. This was built by locals around 50 years ago before the ruins here were fully excavated.

Without realizing that an important Mayan city awaited beneath the surface, they used some of the stones from the temples and shrines at Xcambo to build the church. You can tie a visit here in with a trip to the nearby Yucatecan beaches of San Benito and Telchac Puerto.

Parting Words

Have you visited any of the Mayan ruins on this list? Which ones were your favorites? 

Are there any other historic sites that you would add to this list of best Mayan ruins in Mexico? Have a wonderful time traveling here! Hasta Luego! 


Melissa Douglas

Melissa Douglas is a British Travel Writer based in Merida, Mexico. She has produced written content for several high-profile publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, the Huffington Post, Rough Guides, and Matador Network.