Mayan Ruins Near Cancun


The great stone pyramid reaches some hundred feet into the sky. It’s been here for around a thousand years, the weathered temple on top once the site of mysterious sacred rituals. 


You walk closer, examining the massive sculpture of a feathered serpent that stretches down the side of the great pyramid. Your mind fills with visions of this place in its prime, at the heart of a busy and bustling city. You imagine the people going about their daily lives, walking among these same structures you’re looking at now. You feel a certain sense of connection, one that stays with you long after you leave this place.


A Once Mighty Civilization


The Mayans thrived in what is now the Yucatan Peninsula, building an advanced society that eventually fell to the Spanish conquistadors, who made contact in the 16th Century. The Mayan ruins near Cancun are a lasting tribute to the incredible accomplishments of this ancient society, with complicated architecture and beautiful sculptures. 


Exploring the Ruins


The remnants of Mayan civilization are all around Cancun, giving you plenty of options for exploration. Here are some of the most popular destinations for visiting the Mayan ruins near Cancun, and what makes each place unique.


ancient ruins in cancun




One of the most popular archaeological sites near Cancun, the ancient seaport of Tulum provides picturesque vistas of ancient ruins set against sparkling blue seas. It’s a tropical paradise and an historic wonder, all in one.


Tulum is also a modern city, with its own share of luxury hotels, nightclubs, and activities. You can spend the morning wandering the ancient ruins of the Mayan Empire, and the afternoon sipping frozen drinks on a shining white beach. You’ll also be in short reach of cenotes and ocean reefs for excellent swimming and snorkeling. Not many places in the world offer an experience quite like Tulum.

ancient ruins tulum


Chichen Itza


One of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, Chichen Itza is the remnants of one of the largest cities of the Mayan world. The city stood for hundreds of years, and displays a mix of architectural styles as a result. Chichen Itza is best known for its towering step-pyramid, standing nearly 100 feet tall, and its massive Great Ball Court, the largest and best preserved of its kind.


Chichen Itza is a few hours ride from Cancun, but well worth the trip. If you’re at all interested in the history of ancient civilizations in the Yucatan, few places will offer as rich an experience as this wonderful and mysterious city.


ancient ruins chichen itza


El Rey


Surrounded by the resorts of Cancun’s Hotel Zone, the remains of a Mayan port city serve as a reminder of the area’s history. El Rey is not nearly as well preserved as some of the more remote archaeological sites, but its location makes it a can’t miss destination nonetheless.


El Rey is also a great way to take in a little nature while visiting Cancun. Iguanas roam freely, and there are plenty of beautiful green plants to take in. Even if you just stop by El Rey for a quick visit while on your way to one of Cancun’s many other attractions, it may just whet your appetite for exploring more of the ancient wonders near Cancun. 


ancient ruins el rey in cancun


Planning Your Trip


There are many other surviving Mayan structures worth visiting during your time in and around Cancun. To plan your expedition, check out some of the following suggestions:


Before You Go


Mayan ruins tours are a popular attraction in Cancun, so be sure to reserve your tour well ahead of time. Each archaeological site has its own unique secrets to explore, so if ancient cities are your thing, there’s plenty of reason to visit a few places on these lists!


You Should Also Know…

  • Don’t forget your eco-friendly sunscreen! Many of these Mayan ruins double as protected places for the Yucatan’s native species, so it’s important to help protect their environment.

  • Be respectful of these sites. These buildings have been around for a thousand years or more, but you’ll see how generations of visitors have left their marks. Help preserve these archaeological wonders for future generations, and don’t try to leave your mark on the sites.

  • To get the most out of your visit, spend a little time before your trip researching the history of the Mayan civilization. It’s a fascinating story, and will make exploring these ancient cities an even more powerful experience.


Ancient Ruins Tours