The Best Ancient Ruins In Mexico

Tulum, Mexico
Traveler1116 / Getty Images

There are many ancient ruins located throughout Latin America, many of which can be found in Mexico. These remarkable sites will give you a peek into the ancient Mayan and Aztec cultures. Here you will be able to witness well-preserved structures such as pyramids, ball courts, astronomical observatories and so much more. Not to mention, the ruins are also surrounded by beautiful landscapes. But before you book your trip check out our list of the best ancient ruins in Mexico that are definitely worth the visit. 

Coba

Coba is an ancient Mayan city located on the Yucatan Peninsula in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. The city inhabited as many as 50,000 residents and peaked between 200AD and 600AD. This site is renowned for the largest network of stone causeways. Not only will you be able to view Coba’s ancient pyramid but you’re allowed to climb the steps up the pyramid too. Though keep in mind, this isn’t an easy feat, there are 130 steps! While this is definitely one of the best ruins in Mexico, it is not overrun by tourists which will make your visit even more enjoyable. 

Teotihuacan

Many consider Teotihuacan to be some of the best Aztec ruins in Mexico. This massive Mexican archaeological site is located just northeast of Mexico City. The name means City of the Gods and it is a complex of roughly 600 pyramids, the largest of which is the Pyramid of the Sun (Pirámide del Sol). This site is also known for the Pyramid of the Moon (Pirámide de la Luna). Another important monument here is the Temple of Quetzalcoatl which was built somewhere between 1AD and 7AD making it one of the oldest ruins in Mexico.

El Tajin

The origins of this beautiful city are still unknown to archaeologists but what they do know is that it was founded somewhere around 600 AD and reached its peak at around 1200 AD. El Tajin is one of the largest and most important cities of the Classic era of Mesoamerica. It is located north of Veracruz and is most known for the Pyramid of the Niches. The city is thought to have been an administrative center and features multiple palaces along with ball courts and temples. 

Tulum

Don’t miss your chance to see the breathtaking Tulum city ruins located on the Caribbean coastline of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. The walled city is best known for its beaches and the well-preserved ruins. Tulum was known as a popular trading and religious center for the Maya from the 11th to 16th centuries. The biggest highlight at this site is the large stone structured called El Castillo (castle) which is nestled along the cliffside and overlooks the sea. Enjoy touring the ruins and then spend the rest of the day swimming and relaxing on the beach! 

Xochicalco

Xochicalco was an agricultural village that was linked to both Aztec and Mayan cultures. It’s located on the top of a large hill near Cuernavaca, in Morelos state, Mexico. The site features a museum, as well as many amazing and well-preserved ruins of pyramids, ball courts, and an observatory. There are also several restaurants located just outside the village where you can indulge in regional cuisines. You may also want to visit El Rodeo, a popular lake for boating and fishing.

Uxmal

Uxmal is located on the west side of the Yucatan Peninsula near the city of Merida. It is considered one of the most important Mayan archaeological sites so expect to see a crowd of tourists when you visit. In fact, the site has also been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. That said, don’t be discouraged by the crowds because these impressive ruins are absolutely remarkable and worth seeing.  In addition to the ruins, you can also check out Choco-Story which is a museum where you can learn about the history of chocolate. 

Monte Alban

Monte Alba is located to the west of Oaxaca and was once the capital city of the ancient Zapotecs. The name means “White Mountain” and it features an irrigation system and evidence of ancient trade. The city is thought to have been established at around 500BC and remained inhabited for 13 centuries. Monte Alban has also been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its historical influence. Among the ruins, you will see temples, tombs, palaces, astronomical observatory, and ball courts. 

Chacchoben

Even though only part of the Chacchoben ruins is open to the public, it is still one of the best sites to visit in Mexico. The site features three magnificent pyramids built by the Mayans around 200BC. There is also a beautiful Mayan hieroglyphic inscription which is found inside the largest of the three. Chaccchoben is also surrounded by a beautiful landscape of the jungle and you may even get the chance to see some wildlife too!

Palenque

Palenque is one of the best ruins in Mexico because of its historical significance. It has also been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is located in the state of Chiapas and close to the modern town of Palenque. There are many intricately carved inscriptions and hieroglyphics on display and the city is thought to have been a center of trade and knowledge at its peak between 500AD and 700AD. The location itself is a part of the ruins’ appeal as the site has both rivers and wildlife to captivate visitors. One of the site’s popular attractions is the Temple of Inscriptions. It was built by King Pakal’s first son and features over 180 years worth of records of the city’s history.

Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza was a massive pre-Columbian city built by the Maya people. It is one of the largest Maya cities and is located in the Tinum Municipality of Yucatan State, Mexico. The Mayan civilization flourished from roughly 250AD to somewhere around 900AD. They created a sophisticated written language and left behind many magnificent works of architecture. The Mayan people made a number of notable achievements in Astronomy and built monuments that commemorated celestial happenings. Examples of these monuments can be found right in the Chichen Itza ruins. Chichen Itza is the most popular and most visited ruins in Mexico and covers almost two square miles. Here you can see temples, ball courts, and the impressive 75-foot tall Kukulkan Pyramid.

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