Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is steeped in ancient Mayan wonder. It is home to a variety of mysterious temple-pyramids, Mesoamerican Ballcourts and raised stone causeways that stir natural admiration for some of the greatest architectural feats man has ever been able to achieve.
Perched high in the eastern coastal cliffs of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo and overlooking the Caribbean Sea lies the city of Tulum, which is a beautiful walled city where ocean views serve as a background to impressive ancient archaeological structures. The movements of the Sun were tracked in Tulum’s observatory, The Temple of the Frescoes, which also pays homage to the Venusian deity and displays a mural that is still intact today. Tulum is believed to have served as a port for its northwestern neighbor Coba, which is known for its impressive ‘platform’ stone road systems called sacbeob that stretch as far as the Caribbean Sea. Coba boasts one of the tallest temple pyramids, at 42 meters high.
Moving further inland to the Yucatan state and perfectly centered on the Yucatan Peninsula, are the ruins of Chichen Itza. The greatest structure here by most accounts is the stunning Temple of Kukulcan (which is the Mayan word for serpent). The massive steeped pyramid was built in such a way that twice a year, during the sunrise and sunset of both the Spring and the Fall equinox, the building casts an enormous shadow of a plumed serpent onto the surrounding structures and the ground. This temple was voted worldwide to be one of the “New Seven Wonders of the World.” Chichen Itza is also home to the largest Ball Court known in Mesoamerica, with fabulous panels of sculpted team players, with one player shown as decapitated and the blood from his head flowing into serpents.
Further west but still in the Yucatan state of Mexico is Izamal, which is home to a great pyramid that is believed to pay homage to the Maya Sun God Kinich Kak Mo. The base of this pyramid covers two acres and is topped with ten layers of astonishingly steep stone.
Located just 78 km south of Yucatan’s capital, Merida, are the ruins of Uxmal, which are famous for the great pyramid, the Temple of the Magician, or the Temple of the Dwarf as it is known to some, and the folklore behind it. The story goes that an Uxmal king once challenged a dwarf to build the temple overnight in a battle for strength against the dwarf’s witch mother. The Uxmal ruins have stood the test of time, thanks in part to their excellent construction wherein the stones were so well cut that no plaster was needed to set its structures. Visitors can get a very good idea of how Maya cities really functioned thanks to Uxmal’s superb condition.
Mexico’s popular tourist resort, Cancun, provides day trips to many of the peninsula’s most popular sites. Its ideal location in the Riviera Maya provides a steady flow of national and international tourism for Mexico, thanks to its close proximity to the many ruins found throughout the area.