One of the most spectacular sights in the Yucatan area are the Mayan ruins that
populate this region. From small ruins on the side of the road or glimpsed through the jungle, to palatial structures that dominated ancient cities, there is much to see.
A basic guide book for the area, such as a Fodor’s or Frommer’s will give you a lot of information to digest and is a good start. Read these or something similar before you
go for a quick orientation. The best way to really enjoy the ruins, however, is to hire a guide near the admissions gate. These are educated and authorized people who speak
the language you require and are worth every penny of their charge. (Approx $40 for
a tour of a large ruin site such as Chichen Itza.)
When you hire a guide, you are able to follow along and really enjoy the sights. They
can bring history alive and conjure visions of mighty empires stretching for a thousand miles through the jungles, royal hierarchies battling for supremacy, and common people
laboring for the beauty still standing before you.
There are many Mayan ruins all reachable in a day trip from the Yucatan coast, the largest and most impressive being Chichen Itza. The last time we visited, about five years ago, you were still permitted to climb the great Castillo or pyramid, and also to
climb the inner staircase to the beautiful Jaguar altar. Alas, these are now closed to the
public, but there is still much to marvel over in this gorgeous city of stone.
Many Mayan ruins are lesser known and still under excavation. The ruins of Coba, just west of Tulum is one of these, and features another great pyramid that is still able to be climbed. This is a great site to explore, as it retains much of it’s jungle setting which creates a cooler (temperature-wise) and more atmospheric environment.
There are dozens of ruins scattered throughout the area, check your guide book and go explore these mystic marvels!
Some hints for seeing the ruins:
-Go early! Tour buses often arrive about 10am. Get there when the site opens, often 8am and you will have the place to yourself for awhile.
-Bring water and a hat. The sun is fierce inland and you will need hydration.
-Wear sturdy shoes. The ruins often cover vast areas, and good shoes will allow you to
explore and climb at will, if permitted.
-Which brings me to the last point: PLEASE obey posted signs regarding climbing or touching the ruins! You are a guest at a heritage site and manners are required!