The Maya civilisation stretched from Mexico to Honduras and was the most dominant indigenous society in Mesoamerica. And while this ancient civilisation declined and eventually collapsed, the Maya people live on, largely in southern Mexico and Guatemala. Today, the physical remnants of these great cities can be found dotted across Central America. We invite you to explore our top 10 Mayan experiences; from impressive ruins to modern Maya communities! Contact us to organise a tailor-made holiday to this fascinating region.
Tulum is one of the last inhabited cities built by the Maya. Its main temple overlooks the Caribbean on a clifftop with a backdrop to a white sandy beach. Did you know, Tulum is one of the most-visited Maya ruins thanks to its proximity to the popular Riviera Maya? So we recommend rising early to beat both the crowds and the heat.
Uxmal and The Puuc Sites
Pronounced ‘oosh-mahl’, this is one of our favourite ruins in Mexico due to the highly detailed art and decoration of the pyramids. But this area has much more to offer with a wealth of lesser known Maya ruins. In fact, the Yucatan Peninsula is a wonderful area to organise a self-drive itinerary and explore at your own pace. So, why not get in touch and we can help design the perfect four-wheeled adventure!
Palenque and Bonampak.
Lost in the jungles surrounding the Usumacinta River, both Palenque and Bonampak are known for their beautiful friezes and well-preserved Mayan paintings. You’ll feel like Indiana Jones as you explore these beautifully crafted temple cities. Even better, at the remote site of Bonampak, chances are you will have the place all to yourself!
Caracol and Cahal Pech, Belize.
The Maya ruins of Belize are often overlooked in favour of the more famous sites in Mexico and Guatemala. But, Caracol is one of the most impressive sites in Central America, with a greater density of structures than Tikal! And Cahal Pech, the palatial home of an elite family, is one of the oldest Maya sites, dating back to 1200 C.E. Even today, on special occasions, traditional Mayan celebrations are held. So, why not explore both iconic and off the beaten track Mayan ruins in Guatemala and Belize.
Nestled on the banks of a lagoon, Lamanai has three large pyramids, a ball court, and open plaza. To reach this Maya Ruin, you will have to travel up-river on a boat ride through the lush jungle. While the ruins are fascinating, even better is the wildlife! Exotic birds, crocodiles, and howler monkeys are all visible on the boat journey. And did you know this area of Belize also boasts the highest population density of jaguars in Central America? So, if you love history and wildlife, then this is the spot for you!
Tikal is a mammoth complex surrounded by rainforest. In fact, the site contains more than 3,000 structures. As you explore the extensive site, howler monkeys and macaws provide a beautiful soundtrack. We recommend staying overnight in one of the rustic lodges near the entrance of the ruins. In this way, you can be up and exploring nice and early, before the stifling heat of midday. And if you’re up for a little adventure, how about staying at the remote Uaxactun tented camp? Talk to our Travel Specialists for more details.
Copan is the most significant Maya site in Honduras. In fact, the city was home to 20,000 people at its peak. And it is here that significant achievements in mathematics, astronomy and hieroglyphic writing all took place. Visit Copan and discover the incredible cultural developments that took place in this ancient city. Because Copan is located just over the border, it is also an easy day trip from Guatemala!
San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico.
San Cristobal de las Casas is one of the best places to experience contemporary Maya life. The centre of San Cristobal is a riot of colour as people from highland villages all around descend on the central plaza to sell their wares. And you can’t miss a visit to nearby San Juan Chamula to see the fascinating syncretism of Catholic and Maya beliefs. Don’t miss this wonderful and very traditional part of Mexico.
Chichicastenango in Guatemala.
The Guatemalan tongue-twister of Chichicastenango has one of the most vibrant and colourful markets in Central America. Here you can buy everything from pottery to condiments, textiles, and masks. Check out our suggested highlands of Guatemala for a taste of what is possible in this very special part of the country.
Lake Atitlan in Guatemala
Lake Atitlan is a great place to see the continuity of the Mayan population. Many lakeside communities are only accessible by boat or roads through the mountains. As a result, they have maintained the traditions and rituals of their ancestors. And there are multiple ways to explore Lake Atitlan. One of our favourites is with the wonderful Sky Route Trek from Antigua!
The Mayan World was one of the most advanced and sophisticated civilisations that existed at the time and is not to be missed! So,why not contact one of our expert consultants? We will help you discover the highlights and hidden gems on a tailor made holiday just for you. Call us!