The southeast of Mexico is a rich hotbed of culture and history; while it’s now better known as one of the world’s greatest vacation hotspots, it was once the seat of the powerful Mayan Empire.
Luckily for the world, the Mayan Empire left behind no shortage of wonders for us and future generations to marvel at.
Ask anyone to name a Mayan archaeological site, and no doubt they will respond with Chichen Itza, and rightly so, since it is home to the Temple of Kukulcán, which is one of the new seven wonders of the world.
But the Mayan Empire was far larger and grander than just one city. Throughout Quintana Roo, the state home to Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and the many small destinations like Tulum, there are many awesome archaeological wonders for travelers to enjoy.
These are the top 4 most visited archaeological sites in the southern Mexican Caribbean right now!
The past 5-10 years have been great for the Tulum ruins; once a barely known archaeological site in the shadow of Chichen Itza, it is now one of the most recognizable Mayan sites in all of the Americas.
For travelers staying in Tulum for vacation, the ruins are super convenient as they are just a 5-minute cab ride from downtown.
One of the big highlights when visiting these ruins is the beach that is located at the base of the cliffs Tulum ruins are perched atop.
There aren’t many more magical experiences in Mexico than swimming in the clear blue waters of the Caribbean and looking up to see the ruins staring down from the clifftop.
One of the most underrated archaeological sites in this corner of the Caribbean, Chacchoben is starting to pull in travelers in their droves thanks to the skyrocketing popularity of the smaller destinations south of Cancun.
Situated around a 45-minute drive north of Bacalar and 2 hours south of Tulum, Chacchoben in the past mostly only received domestic tourists, as well as backpackers and the more adventurous travelers.
But now, thanks to fast-improving infrastructure, more and more travelers are getting to experience this magical site.
Chacchoben has a seriously impressive pyramid structure similar to those in Chichen Itza and much larger than anything found at the Tulum ruins.
The future is bright for this site; a huge portion of it is still to be rescued from the jungle that overgrew it after the Maya left, and the growth in visitor numbers and popularity will hopefully lead to further excavation.
Next up is the site of Kohunlich, a place steeped in mystery and more questions than answers. This is a truly off-the-beaten-path experience for travelers who prefer to avoid the coach tour crowds.
Located just over 1 hour from both Bacalar and Chetumal, which are serious up-and-coming destinations in the Mexican Caribbean, the site is set deep in the jungles of Quintana Roo.
Although getting here isn’t an unbeatable mission, most of the journey is made on a modern highway, with only a few miles of back road travel needed toward the end of the trek.
Very little is known about Kohunlich; in fact, its real name isn’t even known, the one it carries now being a loose translation of “Cohoon ridge” into the local Mayan dialect.
An even more obscure site than Kohunlich, travelers are starting to discover this equally impressive remnant of the great Mayan Empire.
Set just 15 -20 minutes north of Kohunlich, it can’t be recommended enough to roll these sites into a day of cultural discovery by visiting both.
Like its southern sister city of Kohunlich, the true name of Dzibanché-Kinichná is for now lost to history. The name it goes by now is a Mayan translation of the phrase “writing on wood”, which refers to the intricately carved wooden lintels that were found at the site.
What is known about the Dzibanché-Kinichná is the huge role it played in widening the borders of the Mayan Empire. The city conquered many of the surrounding tribal civilizations and, like Kohunlich, still has many secrets to be discovered.
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