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Here Are The Best Archeological Sites To Visit Near Cancun In 2023

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Mexico’s archeological sites that are scattered across the country are big tourist draws, and particularly in the Yucatan peninsula. Along with all-inclusives, beaches, cenotes, and all the beauty of the Mexican Caribbean, the Mayan ruins that can be found in the region are attractions for the adventurous traveler’s bucket list. And according to recent reports, these sites are gaining even more popularity amongst international tourists in Mexico.

According to this local news agency, the INAH (Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History) reported that nearly 180,000 tourists visited 12 of the major archeological sites in the state of Quintana Roo this past November. This number reveals an uptick of 22% compared to the rest of the year. For comparison, these sites saw a total of 146,710 visitors during the month of October.

view of tourist wearing dress and hat leaning against a wall looking out at ancient Mayan ruins site in Mexico, sunny day.

Almost Three Quarters Of Visitors At QR’s Archeological Sites Are Foreigners

In addition, international tourists made up almost three quarters of the total number of visitors to these 12 publicly-accessible historic sites, with 130,425 visitors recorded in November.

And while most archeological sites in the Quintana Roo region aren’t directly located in a major city like Cancun, tourists must pass through, or even travel in, nearby towns to access these historic attractions.

Local tour promoters noted the big opportunity that this brings to the smaller cities and towns in Quintana Roo.

Mayan ruins at the archaeological site of Oxtankah, Chetumal, Mexico. Palm trees around the ancient steps.

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The report highlighted a local tour promoter working in southern Quintana Roo, Jorge Alberto Pérez Barrios. He noted that visits from international tourists “should be further encouraged” as this can benefit the local economy of the cities close by to these popular archeological sites. 

According to his observations this has been the case in Chetumal, Quintana Roo’s capital, where 4 of the main archeological sites have been a major draw and reason for international tourists to spend time in the city.

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Coba Main pyramid, Nohoch Mul, highest Maya pyramid standing 40 Meters above the Mexican jungle

Not only does this potentially benefit the traveler experience by showing them another side of the Mexican Caribbean, it will also boost the availability of products and services in the area for tourists, such as hotels, restaurants, and transportation options. 

One major example is in Tulum. When the Tulum Archeological Zone reopened after being closed to the public for almost two years due to the pandemic, international travelers flocked to the city and Tulum became more popular than ever. 

Tulum beach and ruins on a clear day, turquoise waters and clean sand.

The reopening of these sites also helped increase the tourist numbers in Cancun and the Riviera Maya, which continues to break records for international tourist arrivals almost every month.

That being said, the scenic Tulum Archeological Zone still attracts the largest tourist crowds of all 12 archeological sites in Quintana Roo, accounting for 130,005 of the total 179,839 visitors recorded in November.

El Rey Mayan site near Cancun, blue skies and clouds, grassy area around the ruins.

Archeological Sites In Quintana Roo & The Best Ones To Visit

Parts of the Mayan civilization can be discovered on a visit to one of the ancient ruins in Quintana Roo state, 12 of which are open to the public to visit during the day. Due to their location to major cities, the most-visited ruins are El Rey, Coba, and the Tulum zone. But apart from these wonders, there are more ancient Mayan ruins to discover in the state.

From Cancun down to Chetumal, here are the top archeological sites in Quintana Roo, including the best and most popular ones to visit for travelers:

Ancient Mayan Civilization Ruins in San Gervasio Archeological Site, Cozumel Mexico
  • El Rey: Closest site to Cancun by the hotel zone.
  • San Miguelto: By Kukulcan Boulevard near downtown Cancun.
  • Chacchoben: Located off the highway 110 miles south of Tulum.
  • Dzibanche: Part of a significant archeological zone in southern Quintana Roo, a lesser-known travelers favorite.
  • El Meco: Smaller site just north of Cancun.
  • Tulum Archeological Zone: Located just outside downtown Tulum, this zone includes the seaside ruins that are said to be some of the most scenic attractions in the world.
  • Coba: Mayan temples located just outside of Tulum. Currently closed.
  • Muyil: Also known as Chunyaxché, located in central Quintana Roo
  • Kohunlich: Large zone about 40 miles west of Chetumal.
  • Oxtankah: Lesser-known zone of ruins just north of Chetumal.
  • San Gervasio: Archeological ruins on the island of Cozumel.
  • Xel Ha: Ruins just off the highway by Akumal, near Tulum.
  • X Caret: Closest ruins to Playa del Carmen.
mayan ruins near cancun

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