Playa del Carmen and its surroundings are a paradise for nature lovers. There are miles and miles of coastline, with many stunning natural attractions to visit that go far beyond the beautiful tropical beaches. Here are Playa Palms Beach Hotel’s top picks.Read More >>
The Yucatan Peninsula is home to countless archaeological sites. Many of them close to Playa del Carmen, from modest settings to large and spectacular ancient Mayan cities. And every site has its own captivating history.
The Maya were a unique and advanced ancient culture that flourished from 2000 B.C. until 900 A.D. in southeastern Mexico and northern Central America. They had the only known written language of the pre-Columbian America, invented the mathematical concept of zero, developed a calendar system and were also extremely advanced in astronomy. Around the 8th and 9th century, something unknown happened and shook the entire Mayan civilizations to its foundations. Thus far, no explanation has been determined for why they abandoned their cities. Nowadays, about 7 million Mayas live in the Americas and throughout the world. They still speak a Mayan language and keep the culture alive. Hundreds of restored ancient cities with palaces, temples, ball courts and grand plazas are testimonials to the culture’s past glory. Here are the top 5 to visit and to let you captivate by their mystic air!Around the 8th and 9th century, something unknown happened and shook the entire Mayan civilizations to its foundations. Thus far, no explanation has been determined for why they abandoned their cities.
Nowadays, about 7 million Mayas live in the Americas and throughout the world. They still speak a Mayan language and keep the culture alive. Hundreds of restored ancient cities with palaces, temples, ball courts and grand plazas are testimonials to the culture’s past glory. Here are the top 5 to visit and to let you captivate by their mystic air!
If you are looking for something off the beaten track, Muyil, also called Chunyaxche, is the perfect ruin to visit. Only a few visitors end up at this small, magical ruin just south of Tulum in Sian Ka’an biosphere. It’s settled in the middle of the jungle at a freshwater lagoon, with only a some of the buildings excavated. Muyil a beautiful place to explore, with an observation tower to look over the gorgeous Lagoon Muyil.
This is another off the beaten track site, close to Valladolid, about 2 hours from Playa del Carmen. It has several large structures and is mostly known for its beautifully preserved carvings. Just as Cobá, it’s in the middle of the dense jungle, that you can overlook when climbing the buildings.
The ancient city of Cobá with its 3 settlements and many shaded walkways is built around 2 lagoons. Cobá is home to the highest Mayan pyramid in the Yucatan, Nohoch Mul, which you can climb to enjoy a gorgeous view over the jungle! The best way to explore the large area is by bike, they are rented at the entrance. Because of its proximity to Tulum, many tour operators offer a combined tour, to visit both Tulum and Cobá.
Tulum sure has the most spectacular scenery, with its postcard perfect location on a cliff upon the turquoise Caribbean Sea and one of the world’s most unique beaches at its feet. What used to be a seaport that controlled maritime commerce fro Honduras to the Yucatan, is now the 3rd most visited archaeological site in Mexico, after Teotihuacan and Chichen Itza.
1 Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza is one of the most popular archaeological sites, not only on the Yucatan Peninsula but probably worldwide, since its main building El Castillo is one of the New 7 World Wonders. During spring and fall equinox, light and shadow of the sun create the illusion of a serpent crouching down the pyramid’s steps. Another impressive building is the sophisticated observatory structure, testimonial to the Maya’s astronomical skills. No doubt, you will find yourself among a crowd of tourists, but it’s definitely worth a visit.
Playa del Carmen is mostly known for its beautiful beaches, vibrant nightlife, the cosmopolitan 5th Avenue, and the many Mayan ruins along the Riviera and the Peninsula. The word ruins may wrongly imply that the Maya people don’t exist anymore. But fact is, one of the largest groups of modern Maya call this region in Mexico their home. Throughout the changes that came with modernization and tourism, they held on to their unique way of life. Don’t miss the opportunity to learn about the incredible Mayan culture!
Besides many other attractions, the eco-archaeological park has a Mayan cemetery and village. The spectacular cemetery is located on a shell-shaped hill, called the “bridge to paradise”. Shell-shaped to remind of the shells Mayans used to communicate with their gods. A narrow path spirals up the hill, leading you through seven levels, representing the seven week days, passing by 365 beautifully adorned graves. If you speak some Spanish you will enjoy it even more, for the lovely and sometimes very humorous inscription they remember their ancestors by.
Next to the cemetery is an ancient Mayan village, where you can learn about their daily life, taste delicious Mayan food, watch Mayan artisans produce traditional costumes and let Mayan rhythms carry you away while you watch the rituals and dances.
And of course, don’t miss the show, where you’ll learn in the most entertaining way about Mayan history and costums, like their famous ball game.
We already wrote about this ancient Mayan capital with its beautiful pyramid here. But in Cobá, besides from the archaeological site, you can also visit a secluded Mayan village. Learn about Mayan customs, enjoy a traditional meal and take part in a Mayan Blessing Ceremony. An unforgettable experience!
In spite of the heat, the Mayas were big fans of the Sauna. The steamy stone saunas called temazcal, are used for health and spiritual reasons. Through the use of steam and healing herbs, ceremonies purify your body, mind and spirit. There is an authentic Mayan temazcal, called “Temazcal Natura”, close to downtown Playa del Carmen, where you can experience the fire ceremony and the vapor purification ceremony, performed by a shaman.
For more information or to book one of the experiences, ask our Concierge or our staff at the front desk of Playa Palms Beach Hotel.