Mayan ruins Central America

5 Must-See Mayan Ruins In Central America
March 28, 2017 – 04:27 am
Ancient Maya ruins in Central

Most people going to Central America want to visit the ancient Mayan ruins. Sadly, most visit only Chichen Itza in Mexico, which may be the best-known but not at all the most worthwhile site. Be sure to consider some of the alternatives…

Firstly: why Chichen Itza sucks

If you are on holiday in hyper-touristy Cancun and want to go on a day trip, then Chichen Itza is a good option that will probably leave you quite satisfied.

But if you are a backpacker on a journey through Mexico or Central America you have much better Mayan sites to choose from… and Chichen Itza may just not be to your taste. Personally, I think the place has just been commercialized to a point where it fails to retain any sense of mystique or authenticity.

A few reasons why Chichen Itza sucks:

  • 1, 5 million people visit annually. You will not be alone.
  • Vendors, vendors, vendors everywhere! And yes they do indeed have an annoying noise-making souvenir they use to attract customers. (The puma noise maker officially joins Khao San Road’s frog noise maker on my list of Most Annoying Tourist Tat.)
  • “But it’s one of the 7 new wonders of the world!”, they say. Well… that was actually a contest run by a company as a stunt to celebrate the new millennium, and it wasn’t a list chosen by merit. (Though it is also a UNESCO site.)
  • There are guys walking around in fake ‘Mayan costumes’ for your photo opportunities, much like Mickey Mouse at Disneyland.
  • It has a light show in the evening. A LIGHT SHOW!!!

The main thing to see at Chichen Itza: other tourists.

Tikal, Guatamala

Tikal is the real deal. If you could see my face right now I’d tell you to look at it because I’m being super serious here: you need to visit Tikal.

It’s a huge and impressive archaeological site, and while it is just as well preserved as Chichen Itza it is also right in the middle of the jungle with some of the ruins are partly overgrown. You will be able to hear many tropical birds and howler monkeys in the distance, giving it a wonderful Indiana Jonesy feel.

Tikal genuinely feels like a world heritage site the way Anhkor Wat does in Cambodia. The site is huge, there are dozens of temples to see and you can climb on top of most of them.

Go to Tikal in the morning and you will be sharing the site with only very few other people; essentially it will feel like you have the whole place to yourself. It gets busier after midday however as flights from Antigua with day-trippers start to arrive.

Temple IV at Tikal. (Also a location used in the original Star Wars trilogy!)

Palenque, Mexico

Palenque is perhaps Mexico’s most compelling Mayan site. It may lack the scale of the likes of Teotihuacan, but its charm lies in how its tucked in between jungle-covered hills – so rather than having an expansive open layout, its a Mayan city that was very much shaped by its environment.

There’s also a beautiful waterfall on the site, as well as a worthwhile museum showcasing many well-preserved Mayan murals and objects.

Stay in one of the jungle huts in El Panchan (near the park entrance) to wake up in the morning to the sound of howler monkeys.

Teotihuacan, Mexico

A much-visited Mayan site due to its proximity to Mexico City, but still doesn’t get quite as crowded as Chichen Itza. What Teotihuacan lacks in detail it brings instead in sheer scale: these temples feel as though they might be Egyptian pyramids. You can climb on top of them for a great view of the surrounding landscapes.

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Popular Q&A
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The Aztec people/tribe were certain ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those groups who spoke the Nahuatl language and who dominated large parts of Mesoamerica in t

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