Playa del Carmen, Mexico's virtual guidebook written by locals

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Mundo Maya Menu

Start with the overview to best appreciate this ancient culture. To help you best plan your time exploring ruins, we've over viewed the major Mayan sites close to Playa. For more in-depth descriptions, follow the links. Thanks to archaeologist David Gowman for sharing your wisdom and advice.

Mayan World Background

Detail from the murals in Bonampak, Chiapas

This background overview gives a good basis of the history, development and geographical whereabouts of the Mayan people. We also touch upon social structure and how it changed after the Spanish conquest.

Mayan Culture and Traditions

In this article we present some of the Maya's more gruesome rituals as well as how the Maya looked on their world. We also talk about some of their scientific accomplishments, for example the complex calendar and their mathematical skills.

Mayan World after the Conquest

The meeting with the Europeans changed the Mayan World forever. You'll learn about the impact of the Conquistadors, the struggle for independence and the contemporary Mayan World, of which Playa del Carmen is a part.

Chichen Itza

The famous 'El Castillo' pyramid

This is a big and impressive site. Reconstructed buildings will give you a good feeling for what it looked like in the old days. You'll see prime examples of Mayan and Mayan-Toltec architecture. You need some time to do Chichén Itzá justice. It's a full day trip, preferably combined with a stop in Valladolid.

Tulum

View of Tulum on the sea

This walled ruin complex pays off in spades with a fantastic view. The site is perched on a cliff, surrounded by white beaches and the blue Caribbean Sea. A nice introduction to Mayan ruins. Tulum can be visited as a half day trip, or even better in combination with a visit to one of the many beautiful cenotes in the area. It lies only an hour from Playa.

Coba

Nohoch Mul (Giant Mound) Pyramid

Cobá was a huge city and the site has about 6,500 structures. Only a fraction of these has been reclaimed from the jungle - many of the ruins are still in ruins, so to speak. It's a beautiful place for its wilderness and stunning view from the tallest pyramid in the Yucatán, which is not very difficult to climb.

Muyil

The Pink Palace in Muyil

The small site of Muyil or Chanyaxche is located just south of Tulum. It was an important trading post and connection point to other cities inland. The inhabitants of Muyil built a canal through what today is the biosphere Sian Ka'an, connecting Muyil to the coast. The canal is still in use.

Ek Balam

A fearsome looking mask on the unique stucco wall of Ek Balam.

Ek Balam is a fantastic treat for anyone with a real interest of Mayan art and architecture. Small and rarely visited, it boasts some of Yucatan's most magnificent buildings and a highly unique stucco wall with full figure statues and hieroglyphs. This wall was discovered only a few years ago and not many people know about its grandeur!