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Mayan History Alive And Well In Cancun

Jun 25, 2008
Steeped in Mayan history, Mexico has always taken pride in being the homeland of one of the Western Hemispheres earliest highly evolved civilizations. The great Mayan city states of the Yucatan reached their zenith from 600 to 900 A.D., excelling in areas such as astrology and architecture while Europe was slumbering through the Dark Ages.

While some Mayan temples and relics can be found in Cancun, major sites are outside out town, including Chichen Itza, Coba, and Tulum, but make for excellent day trips.

Mayan ruins in Cancun include Ruinas Del Rey which is located on the Hotel Zones lagoon side. These ruins are now part of the Hilton Resort complex but open to the public for a small fee. Skeletons excavated at the site suggest it may have been a royal Mayan burial ground.

El Meco, located just north of Cancun, is an ancient coastal city that is home to many Mayan pyramids, from the top of which you can take in stunning views of Chacmochuc Lagoon. Recently opened to the public, you wwill not have to worry about throngs of tourists. To get there, your best bet is to take a taxi from downtown El Centro.
Mayan Ruins Outside Cancun

Chichen Itza is about 120 miles from Cancun, this enormous, magnificent capital of the Itzaes is accessible by four lane toll freeway. Recently proclaimed a Heritage of Humanity, you will learn a great deal about Mayan history here. Of particular note: The Cenote of Sacrifices, where unfortunate victims of Mayan sacrifices were disposed.

The fascinating Mayan astronomic observatory known as The Snail. The immense Ball Game area, the largest in Mesoamerica. A cracked great pyramid revealing different stages of its construction
The Majestic Castle (also known as the Pyramid of Kukulcan), a huge stone calendar. The sound and light spectacular every evening at dusk.

Spring equinox, when people from around the world gather to behold a one of a kind archeo astronomical phenomenon the snake like body of Kukulcan descending from the top of a pyramid in the form of triangular light and shadow to, as legend has it, fertilize the Earth

Tulum isone of the most popular Mayan ruins in Mexico, the walled city of Tulum is about 80 miles from Cancun and one of the only known cliff side structures overlooking the Caribbean. In fact, it was once called Zama, meaning sunrise in the Mayan language. Tulums castle and temple are decorated with figures of the God descending, an omnipresent deity in the city associated with the God of the Bees and the planet Venus guardian of commerce and the coast.

Coba: Roughly 100 miles from Cancun, this ancient Mayan city lies in the heart of a tropical jungle, rising up among five lagoons. More than 50,000 people once lived in this important city, which economically controlled the entire region with the help of a complex network of roads called sacbeob.

In fact, the longest sacbeob in the Mayan world connected Coba with Yaxuna at a distance of 62 miles. Coba was once comprised of several communities, including Chumuc Mul, Nohoch Mul, Las Pinturas, Macanxoc, and Kukulcan. Do not miss the incredible view from the top of Nohoch Muls tallest pyramid, overlooking the seemingly endless surrounding rainforest.

Ek Balam is 90 miles from Cancun, it is the most recent Mayan city opened to the public, the secrets of which are just starting to surface. The citys most important buildings, temples, and palaces are housed within a huge walled area, used to protect this sacred center and seat of power where governors and priests once lived.

Kohunlich is more than 200 miles from Cancun, Kohunlichs construction took hundreds of years to complete. The Temple of the Masks, a stone pyramid under a thatched roof (to prevent deterioration) dedicated to the Mayan Sun God, is flanked by giant stucco masks standing as high as nine feet.

In addition to these ancient Mayan cities, Xcaret Eco Theme Park in the Riviera Maya, 45 minutes from Cancun along the coast, features Mayan culture and archeological tours, as well as scuba diving, snorkeling, and a chance to swim with dolphins.
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