We love Mexico. Of course, the white-sand beaches and turquoise waters are spectacular, and so are the ice-cold margaritas. But beyond the sun loungers and the bustling bars, the country’s rich history and culture is ready and waiting to explore. You won’t want to leave without catching a glimpse of some of the amazing Mayan temples and Mexico pyramids, so here’s a list of our favourites so you can plan your own trip of a lifetime around the temples and pyramids of Mexico.
What’s the story?
The Mayan temples and pyramids in Mexico provide an insight into the magnificent history and culture of the Mayan people. Many of them were constructed as a tribute to gods, planets and animals.
From the north to the south, and all along the cost, you’ll find a wealth of amazing temples and pyramids in Mexico. You’ll find it hard to believe that the Mayans had the tools and technology to build these structures hundreds of years ago.
1. Chichen Itza
If ‘go big or go home’ is your motto, place Chichen Itza at the top of your list; this is the biggest and most famous of all the Mayan temple cities. It’s been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988, and in 2007 it was unveiled as the Seventh Modern Wonder of the World.
Even though you are no longer allowed to climb to the summit of the Temple of Kukulkan (this is one of the finest pyramids in Mexico), this doesn’t take anything away from the experience. The architecture is so precise and you can only imagine how much hard work went into creating such a masterpiece.
2. The Temple at Tulum
Around a two-hour drive from Chichen Itza, you’ll discover the ruins of Tulum. This Mayan temple isn’t quite as big, but what it lacks in size it makes up with a spectacular backdrop; the turquoise Caribbean Sea and untouched white, sandy beach.
Once you’ve explored the ancient buildings, you can make a beeline for the shorelines; it’s only a short walk from the temple itself. You’re also likely to see large colonies of iguanas sunbathing here. They look a little scary, but they’re actually pretty friendly.
3. Teotihuacan (City of the Gods)
Just 25 miles south of Mexico City, you’ll find Teotihuacan; it’s otherwise known as ‘The City of the Gods’. It’s believed to have been one of the first metropolitan areas in Mesoamerica, and at its peak, around 125,000 people are believed to have lived here.
The Temple of the Sun is the dominant feature here; it overlooks the network of 600 pyramids. One of the most interesting sights to see is the Pyramid of the Moon (the second biggest in the city); it’s actually made up of several layers or pyramids, with a burial chamber. Its intricate design also follows the contours of Cerro Gordo, a nearby mountain.
4. Coba ruins
Deep in the jungle, you’ll discover the Coba ruins. Get there and you’ll find yourself surrounded by four natural lakes and amazing lush greenery, which only adds to its other-worldly feel.
This entire settlement once supported a population of 50,000, and today it’s one of the most important Mayan sites in the area. It’s also home to the biggest temple pyramid on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula; Nohoch Mul measures a whopping 42m high. You can no longer climb to the top, but it’s still a great photo opportunity and definitely on our list of must-see temples and pyramids in Mexico.
It’s always hard to imagine what the temples might have looked like when they were first built, or even a few hundred years afterwards. Luckily, if you visit Uxmal, you’ll see plenty of detail in its structure as it’s one of the best preserved Mayan temples in the whole of Central America.
It’s easily recognised by its tallest pyramid: the Pyramid of the Magician. Its name means that it was ‘built three times’, and if you take the guided tour, you’ll be able to learn lots about the history there. There’s also a light and sound performance in the evenings which will definitely add a new dimension to your experience at the Mayan temple.
6. Bonampak Ruins
We’ve always had an interest in the architecture of this part of the world, but the Bonampak Ruins are so much more than just a building. The Bonampak archaeological zone in Chiapas is small, but perfectly preserved, showing some fantastic examples of Mayan frescoes. ‘Bonampak’ means ‘painted wall’ in the modern Mayan language, and if you visit, you’ll be able to see the artwork in all its glory. There are scenes which show the ancient medical treatment of trepanning, musicians and scenes of war; it’s a truly fascinating insight into Mexico’s past.
7. Kohunlich ruins
You’ll find the mysterious Kohunlich ruins tucked away in the heart of the jungle. The Temple of the Masks is one of the main highlights here; ranging from around six to eight feet, the stucco masks are still in fantastic condition and even show flakes of their original colour.
This is a great place to bring the kids, as they’ll be able to get involved with a bit of hands-on history. Find the pyramid and climb the steps to the top, and, when you get there, you’ll have a birds-eye view of the jungle. You’ll also be able to hear the Howler Monkeys in the nearby tree canopies; it’s such a magical experience.
True, it’s amazing to admire these Mayan temples from ground level and walk around the structures. But what if you could climb up one? You’ll need to cross the border to Guatemala to visit Takal, where you’ll find a choice of temples and pyramids that you can go up, rather than just looking at from the base.
Just be sure to pack a pair of comfy trainers. If you’re feeling brave, make your way up Temple IV; measuring 230 feet, it’s the biggest of them all. There are four smaller ones which will be a bit easier to scramble up if you’re feeling less energetic.