If you are planning a trip to Mexico, you must absolutely include a visit to at least one of the country’s pre-Columbian heritage sites. The remains of cities attributed to the mysterious Mayan civilization, which is believed to have spanned several thousands of years, are arguably the most amazing attractions Mexico has to offer. From about 2000 B.C.until the arrival of the Spanish explorers, the Mayans leftample evidence of their fascinating culture in southern Mexico, and to a lesser extent in northern parts of Central America. Although there is some indication that they descended from earlier civilizations like the Olmecs, considered the inventors of hieroglyphic writing and the first calendar, both of which were then furthered by the Mayans, archeologists are still unsure how the two are related. This leaves a gap in our knowledge of Mayan culture which may never be elucidated, since in 1562 the Spanish burned virtually all Mayan books that might have given us the answers.
Still, there is plenty left to explore and discover. In fact, there are 12 ancient archeological sites in the state of Quintana Roo alone. The four most well-known include:
– Tulum, south of Cancun, which served as a port for trade by both land and sea. It is the site of a fortress temple used for watching over ceremonial sites.(Image by Matt Champlin)
– The archeological site of Coba and its 25-meter high church, palace complex, and ball court are remnants of one of the largest, most powerful ancient cities on the peninsula.
– North of Cancun lies the smaller city of El Meco, a little port town that appears to have been abandoned in 600 A.D. The site’s remains are in good condition and it is said to have served as a major civil and ceremonial center. Along its coast lie 14 ruins, withpyramids at the top of the city that offer magnificent views of the lagoon.
– Another smaller but none-the-less significant port city is located on Isla Cancun.It is known as El Rey because a human skull wearing a royal headdress that was found there. The burial site and port city were abandoned to pirates when the Spanish landed.
Becan and Calakmulare two other significant sites in the state of Campeche, Mexico. The latter is knownas one the Mayan civilization’s largest cities. The remnants of its many pyramids, temples, and plazas can be found deep in the jungles near the Guatemalan border.(image by speedygroundhog)
Situated in the Yucatan Peninsula, Chichen Itza is another of the Maya’s largest cities. Over 1 million visitors flock to its ruins every year, providing substantial economic activity to the numerous all-inclusive Riviera Maya resorts that thrive on the surrounding archaeological and ecological parks. Chunchucmil, a large Mayan commercial center that archaeologists believe dates back to 1800 BCE, and Dzibilichaltun, a city which appears to have appears to have specialized in salt trade, are two other major sites in the state of Yucatan.
Regardless of the region you plan on visiting in Mexico, make sure you research the country’s historical parks prior to your departure, as this might very well be the highlight of your vacation – visit Mexico’s official travel bureau website for more information.
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Feature image by : Eliseo Oliveras