Whenever I have friends traveling south of the border, I recommend spending at least one day visiting the Mayan ruins of Cancun. These ancient treasures provide a window into Mexico’s rich past and cultural foundations, and are a signature attraction of the area. If this sounds like something for you, there are a few different options to choose from which can fit any timeline, budget or physical abilities - making it a win-win attraction for history buffs.
Two hours south of Cancun, Chichen Itza is said to be the largest set of excavated ruins in the Yucatan Peninsula. The main attraction here is the large pyramid, El Castillo. Though revelers are no longer able to climb this giant icon, it is no less impressive to see. If you visit during the spring or fall equinox, the shadows up the sides of the pyramid form the body of a snake running up from the serpents heads at the north staircase.
Not as large as those at Chichen Itza, in my opinion, the Tulum ruins are the most spectacular in the region. Located about 50 miles south of Cancun, the temples sit high on a cliff overlooking the water, making for some seriously amazing photo ops. Plan on wearing your swimsuit here as the ruins are located nearby a pristine white-sand beach, where swimming and sunbathing are world class.
Another personal favorite are the Mexican ruins of Coba. Nowhere as busy as those at Tulum and Chichen Itza, Coba is located in a jungle another 40 minutes west of Tulum. It’s thought that only a few of its estimated 6,500 structures have been excavated and uncovered to the public; but what has been unearthed is both graceful and impressive. Another perk to this spot is that visitors can actually climb Nohoc Mul (the tallest pyramid in the Yucatan). From atop this pyramid you can see over the tops of the jungle trees and catch beautiful views of the area. It’s a bit of a tough climb, but it’s well worth the views from the top.
There are many more ruins in the area, including some that you might just happen upon. On some trips into the area, I have stumbled upon unnamed sets of ruins while on beach walks. There are even some ruins located in the Cancun Golf Club Pok-ta-Pok. Keep your eyes open and your camera ready to explore this ancient civilization located right in the middle of the city of Cancun and the surrounding areas. If you’re a history buff, its one of the most unique and exciting things about the destination!