Mayan Ruins and Maya Sites

Whether you call them Mayan ruins or Maya sites (apparently Mayan means the language, Maya refers to the civilisation), the ruins left behind by the Maya people are some of the most spectacular around. From ball courts to stepped pyramids, temples to stelae, Mayan sites have plenty to offer both the history fan and the sightseer.

So if you’re looking to explore Maya archaeological sites and Mayan ruins and want to find the best places to view Maya history then you can explore our interactive map above or navigate further by using the links below.

There’s a great selection of Maya sites and Mayan ruins and you can plan some fantastic things to see on your trips. Once you’ve explored the list and selected those places you wish to visit you can use our itinerary planner tool to plan your trip and then print off a free pocket guidebook. This indispensible holiday guide will help you make the most of your time exploring Mayan sites.

Our database of Mayan historic places is growing all the time, but we may not cover them all. Remember, if you know of other Maya sites, remains or ruins, you can always add them to Trip Historic now by visiting our upload page.

Maya: Editor's Picks

Photo by Historvius

1. Chichen Itza

With its incredible pyramids and well preserved buildings, this is amongst the most famous Mayan sites in the world. In fact, Chichen Itza is a World Heritage site. Begun by the Maya possibly as early as the 6th century AD, it was captured by the Toltecs in the 10th century and incorporates influences from both peoples.

Stunningly well-preserved and imposingly beautiful, Chichen Itza is one of Mexico’s most impressive historical sites. A UNESCO World Heritage site based in the forests of the Yucatan Peninsula, Chichen Itza is actually made up of two cities built by two peoples, the Mayas and the Toltecs. The site is made up of... Read More

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2. Palenque

One of the most impressive of Mayan ruins, Palenque is full of architectural marvels such as its palace, the Temple of the Inscriptions, the Temple of the Sun and its carefully engineering central plaza. It also has some of the best-preserved of Maya inscriptions.

Palenque in Mexico is an important Maya archaeological site located just outside the modern city by the same name. It is thought that Palenque was first inhabited in around 100BC and excavations have uncovered writings about a king who ruled there in the fifth century AD, however the city was... Read More

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3. Tikal

A great religious, political and social centre of its time, Tikal is now one of the best preserved Mayan archaeological sites around the globe, with approximately 3,000 structures dating mostly from 600 BC to 900 AD. These include some fantastic pyramids - watch out for the great acoustics from the top to the bottom of these magnificent structures.

Tikal National Park near Flores in Guatemala houses one of the world’s most famous and impressive Maya sites, known as Tikal. In fact, Tikal was a major ceremonial site in the Maya culture, with many temples and pyramids built there between 300 BC and 100BC and then further expansion taking... Read More

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4. Uxmal

When it comes to Mayan sites or Mayan ruins, it doesn't get much better than Uxmal. Populated by around 25,000 people at its peak and with great significance as a religious centre, Uxmal is an incredible site which demonstrates the sophistication of the Maya. Not only are its vast pyramids beautifully engineered, it is also carefully laid out to confirm with principles of astronomy and is full of stunning decorative carvings. Like other Mayan sites of this calibre, Uxmal is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Uxmal is an archaeological site in Mexico which houses the ruins of a Maya town thought to have been inhabited as early as 800BC. Having said this, most of the buildings and structures seen at Uxmal today were constructed in between around 700AD to 1000AD. A thriving city and a religious... Read More

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5. Yaxha

Probably underrated in the world of Maya ruins, Yaxha in in Guatemala’s Peten region has quite a few pyramids and other Maya archaeological sites to see.

Yaxha in Guatemala’s Peten region is an ancient Maya site containing several incredible pyramids as well as other structures such as ball courts and also carved stelae. From its vast size – it’s not much smaller than Tikal – and its many monuments, it appears that Yaxha was an important settlement... Read More

Maya: Site Index

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Aguateca

Once one of two thriving Maya capitals, Aguateca is now one of Guatemala’s most famous Mayan sites. It would have been a political and social hub before it was wiped out in approximately 800AD, although there are still some stepped plazas and ruins to see here.

Aguateca is an important and well-excavated ancient Maya ceremonial site in Guatemala’s Peten Region. Thought to have been one of the two capitals of the Maya Dynasty in the region – together with Dos Pilas – from around 700 AD, Aguateca was a vital stronghold, especially given its elevated position.... Read More

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Ceibal

Also known as “El Seibal”, Ceibal is believed to have been inhabited from the preclassic to the late classic period and then possibly once again at a later date. While not one of the richer Maya sites in terms of its quantity of Mayan ruins, it is quite a large site and does boast a circular temple, some stelae, other buildings and even a ball court.

Ceibal or “El Seibal” in El Peten in Guatemala was an ancient Maya settlement probably mostly constructed and inhabited in the Preclassic Period and which is now represented by a set of ruins. Most archaeologists think it was abandoned in the late classic period and then inhabited again at a... Read More

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Chacchoben

Within reach of the tourist hotspot of the Costa Maya, Chacchoben is one of Mexico’s more popular Mayan sites and features several pyramid temples.

Chacchoben is a Maya site in Mexico housing some impressive pyramid temples. The exact history of Chacchoben is unclear. Most sources date its pyramids to around 700AD (some say 300AD), although the Mayas are said to have been present at Chacchoben long before this, perhaps as early as 200BC. ... Read More

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Cobá

One of the Mayan sites near Cancun, Coba has a range of Maya ruins including a ball court and several pyramid temples, one of which is an impressive 138 metres tall, making it the second tallest in the region and is known as the “Great Pyramid”.

Cobá in Quintana Roo in Mexico houses the remains of a once vast city that developed in around 632 AD and peaked between 800 and 1100 AD. Whilst it is thought that Cobá originally spanned a massive 60 square kilometres, the current archaeological site has yet to uncover all its... Read More

Photo by Adalberto.H.Vega (cc)

Copan

Once an important ancient Maya city of great ceremonial significance, today Copan is UNESCO-listed and is brimming with Mayan places including homes, terraces and, of course, pyramids. Many of these Mayan ruins are ornately decorated with carvings.

Copan (spelt Copán), near the town of Copan Ruinas in Honduras is an archaeological site housing the ruins of a major Maya settlement which was probably the most influential city in the south eastern area occupied by this civilisation. Copan is thought to have been inhabited as early as 2000 BC,... Read More

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Dos Pilas

This former Maya capital sheltered the people of Aguateca when they fled their city to escape enemy attack. While some Mayan ruins can still be seen here, notably some temples, a central plaza and a well-preserved staircase, this is not one of the more famous Mayan sites.

Dos Pilas in northern Guatemala was an ancient capital city of the Maya civilisation. Twinned with nearby Aguateca, its powerful dynasty is thought to have derived from that of Tikal and to have thrived in the seventh and eighth centuries AD. However, it was famously abandoned in the late eighth... Read More

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Dzibilchaltun

One of the Mayan cities along the Puuc route, Dzibilchaltun was once a vast, thriving settlement. Whilst it is now a shadow of its former self, this site does have some interesting sites to see. Its star attraction is the Temple of the Seven Dolls, a building which is perfectly aligned for the equinox.

Dzibilchaltun in Yucatan, Mexico is one of the earliest of the series of Maya settlements along the Puuc Route - a trail of the Maya sites in the Puuc region in Yucatan. Thought to have been inhabited from around 500 BC, Dzibilchaltun – which is translated as “the site of stone... Read More

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Ek Balam

Ek Balam is a Maya archaeological site on the Yucatan Peninsula with some impressive ruins.

Ek Balam or Ek’ Balam is a Maya site on the Yucatan Peninsula with some impressive ruins. Translated either as Black Jaguar or Star Jaguar, Ek Balam is surrounded by a low, stone wall, an unusual feature in Mayan cities. Within this area are several restored pyramids and large temples... Read More

Guatemala National Archaeology and Etymology Museum

The Guatemala National Archaeology and Etymology Museum has a comprehensive Maya exhibit and an extensive collection of Maya artefacts from a variety of Mayan archaeological sites.

The Guatemala National Archaeology and Etymology Museum or “Museo Nacional de Etnología y Arqueología” in Guatemala City is dedicated to exploring the country’s history, particularly that of the Maya civilisation. The National Archaeology and Etymology Museum has an impressive Maya collection ranging from dioramas of ancient cities to pottery, masks and... Read More

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Kabah

Located in Mexico’s Yucatan State, Kabah is one of the smaller of Mayan sites, but has links with one of the biggest - Uxmal.

Kabah was a Maya settlement and is now an archaeological site in Mexico’s Yucatan state. Inhabited from the third century BC and, like nearby Uxmal, abandoned in circa 1200 AD, Kabah was mostly constructed from the seventh century and added to in the ninth century. It is thought that Kabah was... Read More

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Labna

Labna is a Maya archeological site in Yucatan State in Mexico containing a small set of Mayan ruins, Labna’s remains are modest but ornately carved.

Labna is one of a series of former Maya settlements in Mexico’s Yucatan region and part of what is known as the Puuc Trail. Like the city of Uxmal, with which it is linked, Labna’s structures, such as its palace and its archway, are beautifully ornate. However, unlike its counterpart, Labna... Read More

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Merida Cathedral

Merida Cathedral in Mexico is the oldest one on the continent and was built on the site of the former Maya city of Tiho.

Merida Cathedral, known locally as Catedral de San Ildefonso, in Mexico is a sixteenth century cathedral built by Spanish colonialists. In fact, constructed from 1556 to 1598, Merida Cathedral was the first such cathedral to be built in the inland Americas. Not only was Merida Cathedral built on the site of the... Read More

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Mexico National Museum of Anthropology

The Mexico National Museum of Anthropology is one of the world’s best renowned museums of pre-Hispanic history.

The Mexico National Museum of Anthropology is a world renowned museum with a large array of archaeological and ethnographic exhibitions, mostly relating to the pre-Hispanic era. The Museum of Anthropology takes visitors through Mexico’s historic cultures, including the Toltecs, the Maya and the Aztecs. Some of the National Museum of Anthropology’s... Read More

Museo Popol Vuh

Museo Popol Vuh in Guateala City has an extensive collection of ancient, particularly Maya, pieces.

Museo Popol Vuh is a museum of history and archaeology in Guatemala City, particularly concentrating on the Pre-Columbian era in Guatemala. It has an extensive collection of art from this era, especially Maya art such as sculptures. Museo Popol Vuh is famed for its funerary objects, particularly urns. Museo Popol Vuh... Read More

Museo Regional de Arqueología Maya

This Honduran museum specialises in Maya history and has finds from the nearby site of Copan.

Museo Regional de Arqueología Maya translated (Regional Archaeological Maya Museum) in Copan Ruinas explores the history of the Maya civilisation and particularly looks at the nearby settlement of Copan. Exhibiting finds from the archaeological excavations of Copan, such as stelae, jade, pottery and even a tomb, Museo Regional de Arqueología Maya... Read More

Quirigua Archaeological Park

Quirigua Archaeological Park is a former Maya settlement and is now a small, yet important UNESCO listed site in Guatemala. Quirigua is best known for its ornately decorated stelae.

Quirigua Archaeological Park in Izabel, Guatemala is an historic site housing the remains of a Maya settlement. Whilst thought to have been inhabited from 200 AD, most of the structures at Quirigua date back to the mid-sixth century AD and include numerous carved stone objects and structures, such as an... Read More

Sayil

Sayil in Mexico houses the ruins of a small Maya settlement built in the Puuc style. This is amongst the quieter Mayan sites, but does have a pretty palace and temple.

Sayil in Yucatan in Mexico is a small archaeological site of Maya ruins built in the traditional Puuc style. Quieter than the larger sites in the area such as Uxmal, Sayil offers a good place to see Maya structures such as its impressive palace and El Mirador temple, although there is... Read More

The Bruning Museum

The Brüning Museum has a varied set of exhibits from Peru's history, focusing primarily on the pre-Incas.

The Brüning Museum (Museo Arqueológico Nacional Brüning) in Lambayeque, is an archaeological museum with a varied set of exhibits from Peruvian history, but focusing primarily on the pre-Incas. One of the highlights is known as the Gold Room or Sala de Oro.... Read More

Tulum

Tulum is a cliff-top Maya site in Mexico’s Quintana Roo region. With its well-preserved ruins perched on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea, the once walled city of Tulum is certainly one of the more picturesque Mayan sites.

Tulum is a Maya site in Mexico’s Quintana Roo region dating back to between the 13th and 16th centuries. At its peak, Tulum was quite a thriving walled city. Whilst relatively modest in comparison to, say Chichen Itza, Tulum does feature some interesting and quite well preserved ruins, including its castle,... Read More

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Xcaret

Xcaret has a range of Mayan archaeological ruins, dating mostly to the 15th and 16th centuries when this ceremonial centre reached its peak.

Xcaret houses the ruins of a Maya city which reached its peak in the 15th and 16th centuries. Located in Mexico’s Quintana Roo region, Xcaret was then known as Ppole and is said to have been of great ceremonial importance, as evidenced by its wealth of temples, homes and monuments.... Read More

Photo by archer10 (Dennis) (cc)

Xlapak

Xlapak is a small archaeological site in Mexico’s Yucatan region, along the Puuc trail.

Xlapak is one of the smaller of the archaeological sites along the Puuc Trail in the Yucatan State in Mexico, a trail of Maya sites in the hilly part of this otherwise flat state. The main structure at Xlapak is a small palace which is adorned with carvings of the rain... Read More