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Mayan Sites

The Mayan civilization was one of the most advance and sophisticated cultures in the Western Hemisphere before the arrival of European explorers. It flourished between 300 and 900 AD and once consisted of over 40 cities spread across southern Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and northern Belize. This category lists some of the most impressive ruins of these ancient cities that can be visited today. Many of these Mayan ruins have been designated World Heritage Sites. The Mayan cities, full of magnificent stone temples and pyramids, were primarily ceremonial centers. Most of the Maya lived in rural areas and were farmers who looked to the priests of the cities for direction on the best days to plant, harvest, and marry. The Maya are famed for their impressive knowledge of mathematics and astronomy, which were integral to their religious rituals. They are also known for the practice of human sacrifice, which was a means of appeasing and nourishing the gods.

Below is an illustrated index of the 8 Mayan sites profiled on Sacred Destinations so far. For photo credits, please see corresponding articles.

  • Caracol
    This important Mayan city flourished in the 6th century and now lies in ruins in western Belize near Guatemala. Hidden in the jungle until 1938, it contains pyramids, tombs and Mayan art.
  • Chichén Itzá
    Yucatan, Mexico
    Chichén Itzá is the largest of the ancient Mayan ruins on the Yucatan Peninsula. A center of Mayan pilgrimage for over 1,000 years, it is now one of Mexico's most-visited tourist destinations.
  • Coba
    Yucatan, Mexico
    Much of Coba still remains to be excavated, but it is notable for its extensive system of ceremonial roads, remote jungle landscape and multiple pyramids, including the tallest in the Yucatan.
  • Kabah
    Yucatan, Mexico
    Located 18 km from Uxmal, Kabah was at its peak from 800 to 900 AD. The ruins feature elaborate carvings of the rain god Chac and fine examples of the Maya vault.
  • Palenque
    Chiapas, Mexico
    Widely considered the most atmospheric and magical of the Mayan sites, Palenque was at its peak from 600 to 700 AD. It is famed for its unique and impressive architecture and royal history.
  • Tikal
    A Mayan city that flourished around 700 AD in modern-day Guatemala, Tikal is best known for its towering Temple of the Two-Headed Snake.
  • Tulum
    Yucatan, Mexico
    Spectacularly located on a cliff overlooking the turquoise Caribbean Sea, Tulum is a late-Maya site that was active from around 1200 AD until the arrival of the Spanish.
  • Uxmal
    Uxmal, Mexico
    The late-Classic Maya site of Uxmal was built before the 10th century AD and is one of the most complex and harmonious expressions of Puuc architecture.