logo, Mayan Ruins of Quintana Roo and Yucatan, Mexico

Mayan Ruins of the Yucatan Peninsula

Coba, Tulum, Muyil, Uxmal, Dzibilchaltun, Chichen Itza, Izamal, and Xel-Ha.

More Mayan Ruins to Come.

Click on Images for larger view.

Link to National Geographic's
"The Secret of the Maya Glyphs"
an interactive children's guide, but don't think it is not interesting to Adults!


Coba is my most favorite ruins to visit when in Akumal. It is a very peaceful site. The site is so interesting in the fact that it has many mounds that have not been excavated. The Nohoch Mul Pyramid is the tallest pyramid on the Yucatan Peninsula at 42 meters. Climb the 120 steps, observing that the Maya carved shell-like forms where you put your feet. There is also a round pyramid. The trails through the jungle are very well maintained and are very accessible to children as well as adults. Do bring water, a hat, and bug repellent as this site is in the jungle. Arrive early as the jungle goes very hot during the day. Also be aware that when tour buses arrive you will not experience the jungle quietness. This site is about 43 Km. from Tulum Pueblo.

Nohoch Mul at Coba Ruins in Quintana Roo, Mexico

"Nohoch Mul"

Link to Trip Report

Tulum Ruins Beach n Quintana Roo, Mexico
"El Castillo"
"The Castle"

Photo by Carol Glab (Casa Tropical)


"Maya for Walled City"

This site is very interesting from a stand point that the Ruins is the only major site that was built on the Caribbean (Caribe). It also is one of the only sites that is a walled city. The beach here is one of the most beautiful around. Please don't go to any of the ruins wearing only swim suits. These sites are very Spiritual to the Maya people. It is however quite acceptable to take a swim to cool off prior to leaving. Arrive early because when the tour buses arrive the site becomes quite busy. There is a tourist market at the entrance. This site is about 24 Km. south of Akumal


This site is located on the left about 25 Km. south of Tulum Pueblo on Highway 307. It is a very small site as far as the restored building go. It was one of the largest cities on the Yucatan peninsula built on a Lagoon with canals to the Caribbean for trade purposes. You will almost always be the only one there as it is not visited by very many people. Do take bug repellent as this site is in the jungle.

Some important information Thanks to Pablo!

By way of background. Cortes and Grijalva both set foot in the Yucatan in 1519. Earlier Spanish incursions lead to devestating losses and rejection of Yucatan as suitable area for "colonization" Yucatan should be devided by the reader into several regions- (from Landa) Tazees (Tah-Itzaes- the Itza's), the Culpils (around Valladolid), the Canul (Jaina) , the Xiu (Uxmal) and Exab from modern day Cancun south to Salamanca (Chetumal). Cortes after a brief sojurn on the Isla de Cuzmil, and thankfully picking up the Madrid Codex, sails towards Campeche, and more importantly for Spain; Tenochtilan.

Flash forward a few years. The "Mayan Riv" has been outside the Spanish mind, since the sack of the Aztec empire seems so rewarding. In 1527, Francisco de Montejo sets sail from Cuba bent on subjegating the area on the mainland off Cuzmil. His force invades the mainland, and places a garrison at Xel-ha. His own troops mutiny when they learn there is no gold and the natives are VERY hostile. Montejo burns his ships. He tells his troops off a city to the south called Samal. He says it is a City of Gold. It was, according to Alonso d'Avila, "a city unlike any we had seen". That city, in the Spanish chronicles, becomes identified with Ponce de Leon's quest for the "fountain of youth".
The subsequent history of the eastern Yucatan is one of the Montejo's rule over the capital of Tiho (Merida), and the battle for the area that we know now as Quintana Roo, carried out by Mayan tribesman from the Xiu clan. Due to disease, warfare, and invasive European ideas, the Maya of Ekab go back into the woods, and formulate a cultural defense that continues to this day in places such as the Chan Santa Cruz. It was not until the 1950's that Gringos were permitted into the ruins of Tulum on a regular basis. Back in the 1930's or 40's, you would have been killed.
Samal (near Muyil), is a city of major magnitude. It was a "feeder" city for Coba during the Late Classic period of the Maya. During the Post-Classic period it probably grew in importance as a major artery for coastal trade, as the traditional Yucatecan Mayan trade-routes where taken over by the increasingly Mexica'anized Chontal Maya traders from Tabasco. Samal was either local Maya or Chontal. It is hard to say since the vast majority of the once thriving city has been reclaimed by mangrove. While the site of Muyil may seem "quaint" to gringos, it is a site of MAJOR importance.

Muyil Ruins n Quintana Roo, Mexico

"El Castillo"

"The Castle"

Link to Trip Report, scroll down to read about Muyil

Uxmal Ruins in Yucatan, Mexico

"Piramide del Adivino"

"Pyramid of the Magican"

Trip Report to come


"Maya for Thrice Built"

This is the Piramide del Adivino (Pyramid of the Magican). This site is south of Merida about 80 Km. Uxmal doesn't have any other influence other than Maya. Uxmal is worth the visit if you have the time. I recommend staying overnight some place on this trip from Akumal. The night light and story show is fantastic. Don't forget to rent translation device as the story is in Spanish. This site promotes a very peaceful feeling for visitors. This is probably the most magnificent site that I have visited!


"Maya for Place of Inscribed Flat Stones"

This is the Temple of the Seven Dolls and is about 15 Km. north of Merida. It is just off the highway that takes you to Progreso. There is a cenote (sink hole) called Xlacah Cenote that you can swim in to refresh yourself after you visit the site. The cenote is beautiful and the water is crystal clear. I loved this aspect as it was so hot and humid the days that I was there. Yes, I visited this site two times while I was in Merida.

Dzibilchaltun Ruins in Yucatan, Mexico

"Templo de las Siete Munecas"

"Temple of the Seven Dolls"

Trip Report to come

El Castillo or Pyramid of Kukulcan at Chichen Itza in Yucatan, Mexico

"Piramide del Kukulcan"

"El Castillo"

Link to Trip Report, scroll down to Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza

This is El Castillo or Pyramid of Kukulcan. This site is a very popular tourist attaction. Many tour buses arrive from Cancun as well as Merida. Do go very early or very late to see that light show and spend the night. Then return in the early morning to visit the ruins. This is one of the best restored Maya ruins in the Yucatan. It shows the influence of the Toltec and the Olmec. This site feels very angry to me. It is worth the time to visit as it is very fascinating. It is located about 145 Km. from Tulum via the road past Coba to Chemax then highway 180 to Chichen Itza via Valladolid. The road was very good when I traveled it in September 2000!


"Known as the City of Three Cultures"

I did not go to the ruins this trip. I did however take this photo, from the Franciscan monastery in the middle of town. This pyramid is called Kinich-Kakmo. The pyramid is part of Izamal Pueblo which is about 50 Km. from Merida. The pueblo is painted yellow, yes everything is yellow. The pueblo is known as Ciudad Amarilla (Yellow City) through out the peninsula. The Pope chose this city as his place of residence while in the Yucatan in August 1993.

Izamal Ruins in the Izamal Pueblo in Yucatan, Mexico


Trip Report to come

Xel-Ha Ruins in Quintana Roo, Mexico


I have not visited this minor site between Akumal and Tulum. It is near the Xel-Ha water park. This photo is of the Red Hand Prints of a Maya Priest taken at the Xel-Ha ruins. I will visit this site one day.
Bill in Tulsa

Despite the small size of the Xel-ha ruins they are important for several reasons:

1). Xel-ha is very old. Most of the ruins you will encounter date from the Middle Classic period to Late PostClassic. Approx. 750 A.D. to Cortez. Xel-ha shows habitation going back to the Late PreClassic with an almost unbroken chain of habitation. Xel-ha was probably a local Yucatecan centre when Tulum was inhabited by Chenes/Mexica seaborne traders. It raises interesting questions about local dynamics. The evidence is the paintings at Tulum vs. Tankah.

2). The ruins at Xel-ha are , despite their size, an amazing compendium of the Mayan "weltgeist". Imagine for $2.00. A cenote, murals, a sacbe, a temple with serpent heads at the foot of the steps (only one in Yucatan outside of Chichen), and not unimportantly-almost nobody there. When I was staying at Bahia Principe I would take a thermos of coffee in the very early morning, drive the five minutes to the ruins and share my morning coffee with the groundskeeper and the ticket attendant before spending a hour or two with what I consider the closest thing to walking in the Mayan world like it was just before Cortez or Montejo. Turn right at Xel-ha before you go to the lagoon. It is well worth it!!!
Thank you to Paul Fewster!

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updated 2/14/2001