Maya ruins are spread throughout the modern day countries of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras. The ancient Maya were a sophisticated culture that at its height consisted of more than 40 cities spread throughout this area. Many of the Mayan pyramids have been designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and they are all popular tourist attractions. Mayan temples were places of ceremony and religious worship, and through these structures, historians have been able to theorize about how the Mayans lived. Visiting these ruins today will show just how advanced the Mayans were in the fields of art, architecture, astronomy, and math.
Perhaps the most famous temple is a Mayan temple in Mexico. Chichen Itza is the largest of the ancient Mayan ruins on the Yucatan Peninsula. For more than 1,000 years many pilgrimages brought Mayans to this location. Today, it is one of the most frequently visited Maya ruins in Mexico, and there are multiple pyramids and temples of the archaeological site.
While Chichen Itza might be the most famous example of Maya architecture, there are many other examples in the Yucatan as well. Tulum is located on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea, while Coba is located in a remote jungle landscape. Many visitors consider Palenque to be the most atmospheric of all Mayan pyramids, and the grounds are home to numerous beautiful temples. Impressive architecture will portray just how advanced the Mayans were.
Visitors could easily spend an entire trip to Mexico exploring Mayan temples. Another popular choice is Uxmal, built before the tenth century. The complex architecture of this site proves the math and engineering that went into construction during the Mayan era. Another site of Maya ruins in Mexico is Calakmul, one of the largest Mayan cities ever discovered. Located deep in the jungle, this site has the tallest of all the Mayan pyramids, at about 180 feet.. Other Mexican sites include Comalcalco, Ek Balam, Kohunlich, San Gervasio, and Yaxchilan.
There are many Mayan temples worth visiting outside of Mexico as well. Guatemala is home to one of the largest Mayan archaeological sites, Tikal. This city was one of the most powerful of Ancient Maya, and it had a significant amount of political control, with the height of its power occurring between about 200 and 900 AD. Many tombs were discovered at this archaeological site, and a long list of dynastic rulers was found. It is one of the best understood of all the ancient Mayan cities. Beyond Tikal, another archaeological site in Guatemala is Quirigua. Located on a river, this site was placed on an important trade route. While the architecture here isn’t as impressive as in other parts of Maya, stone monuments are some of the most intricate ever found.
In Honduras, Copan is an archaeological site with many step-pyramids, palaces, and plaza, while nearby Belize is home to Xunantunich, which translates as “Stone Woman.” The ancient names of many of these sites are unknown, and a name was given when they were discovered; the name of Stone Woman comes from the legend that a ghost woman inhabits the site. In El Salvador, Tazumal contains tombs, pyramids, palaces, and ritual objects that have been excavated. Located only 60 miles from San Salvador, it is possible to plan a side trip to explore the Mayan ruins of Tazumal, even if you’re only planning to stay in the capital city during your vacation.