Myan Ruins near Cancun

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7+1 Mayan Ruins and Pyramids in the Yucatan Close to Cancun

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Mayan Ruins in the Yucatan Close to Cancun

Are you planning a trip to Cancun and looking for an amazing Mayan cultural experience? Well, you’re in luck! Our comprehensive guide has got you covered with all the information you need to explore the best Mayan ruins in the area!

The Mayans were an advanced civilization that built over 40 cities across Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Belize. They were experts in architecture, mathematics, and astronomy, which is evident from the remarkable pyramids and temples still standing at these sites.

Thus, if you’re looking to add some culture to your vacation itinerary, exploring the Mayan ruins is a must-do activity


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Ruins in the Yucatan Near Cancun

Mayan Ruins near Cancun : Equinox Chichen itza
Mayan Ruins near Cancun : Equinox Chichen itza

1. Chichen Itza (Mayan meaning: At the mouth of Itza’s well)

  • How far is it from Cancun: 123 miles (2hrs 45mins drive)
  • Opening hours: 8 am – 4 pm daily
  • Admission Fee: 533 pesos (foreigners)/ 237 pesos (Mexican citizens)

If you’re planning a trip to Cancun or Riviera Maya, then visiting Chichen Itza is an absolute must. This incredible UNESCO World Heritage site was a thriving city for over a millennium and is now an open-air museum that visitors from all over the world can come and explore!

Chichen Itza Castilo
Chichen Itza Castilo

The Kukulkan Pyramid, also known as El Castillo, is one of the standout features of Chichen Itza. It’s even been named one of the “New 7 Wonders of the World.” The pyramid used to have 365 steep steps that visitors could climb, but unfortunately, that’s no longer allowed.

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Other impressive sights include an enormous ball court (the largest in all of the Americas), an Observatory, and a Temple of Warriors. And while you’re there, make sure to check out the stunning Cenote Ik Kil.

Tulum Mayan Ruins Yucatan
Tulum Mayan Ruins Yucatan

2. Tulum Mayan Ruin

  • How far is it from Cancun: 82 miles (1hr 45mins drive)
  • Opening hours: 9 am – 5 pm daily
  • Admission Fee: 80 pesos

This walled city of Tulum was historically important for trading jade and turquoise through its seaport. But today, it’s simply remarkable for its stunning view. Despite being relatively compact, Tulum has many awe-inspiring buildings that make it worth your time and attention.

Tulum Mayan Ruins
Tulum Mayan Ruins

The most iconic building in Tulum is El Castillo. You can’t miss it! It’s often the feature image of every promotional material for Tulum. In front of El Castillo, you’ll find The Temple of Frescoes, where you can admire colored murals inside and ancient stone carvings outside.

Oh, and don’t forget to bring your swimsuit! You can take a dip beneath El Castillo for an incredible experience you won’t soon forget.

3. El Rey (Mayan meaning: The King)

  • How far is it from Cancun: 16 miles (30 mins drive)
  • Opening hours: 8 am – 5 pm daily
  • Admission Fee: 55 pesos

Looking for a way to experience Cancun’s rich history without sacrificing your precious beach time? Look no further than the El Rey archaeological site!

Located at the southern end of the hotel zone, this small but impressive site can be explored in under an hour, leaving you plenty of time to soak up the sun and sand.

Dating back over 1,000 years, El Rey offers a glimpse into the ancient history of the region. You’ll find a few well-preserved structures to explore, all while enjoying a break from the hustle and bustle of Cancun’s busy tourist area

Coba Ruins Mexico

4. Coba (Mayan meaning: Water stirred by wind)

  • How far is it from Cancun: 83 miles (2hrs 10mins drive)

The Coba ruins offer a different experience compared to the grand structures of Chichen Itza. They are the remnants of an ancient Mayan city, built around two lagoons and still surrounded by jungle.

One of the highlights of the Coba ruins is the 130-foot-tall Nohoch Mul. Climbing to the top will reward you with a stunning panorama of the Yucatan Peninsula’s lush jungle, the ruins, and the sacbe, which is a Mayan road network made from bright white rock that was said to glow in the moonlight for night traders.

Coba Mayan Ruins
Coba Mayan Ruins

To fully explore the vast Coba ruins, renting onsite bikes is highly recommended. This way, you can make use of both the ancient pathways and modern roads

If you prefer a less touristy but equally amazing Mayan site then head over to Muyil near Tulum.

5. Ek Balam (Mayan meaning: Black jaguar)

  • How far is it from Cancun: 107 miles (2hrs 20mins)
  • Opening hours: 8 am – 5 pm daily
  • Admission Fee: 456 pesos (foreigners) /180 pesos (Mexican nationals)

Ek Balam means “black jaguar” in the Maya language. This name was inspired by the jaguar, a revered animal for the Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas. This site is a relatively new addition to the Yucatan ruins map, having been discovered during the 1800s but only excavated in the 1980s.

While not as well-known as Chichen Itza, Ek Balam has its own unique charm as it is less crowded, allowing visitors to fully appreciate the site’s beauty. One of the highlights of Ek Balam is the Acropolis Temple, which offers a stunning view from its six levels. However, visitors should note that there are few amenities available on-site, so it’s important to bring plenty of water.

6. El Meco

  • How far is it from Cancun: 9 miles (15 mins)
  • Opening hours: 8 am – 5 pm daily
  • Admission Fee: 55 pesos

Looking for a hidden gem in Mexico? Look no further than El Meco! This Mayan site is just 20 minutes away from downtown Cancun, yet remains unknown to many due to its thick vegetation and lack of recognition. But trust us, it’s worth a visit.

El Meco dates back to the Late Classic Period (600 – 900 AD), and was heavily influenced by the nearby city of Coba during this time. However, its influence waned with the rise of Chichen Itza during the Postclassic era. You can see this in certain architectural elements of the monuments at El Meco, which were heavily influenced by those seen at Chichen Itza.

One of the highlights of El Meco is the El Castillo pyramid, which stands as a testament to the Mayan Rain God Chaac. Climb to the top of this towering structure and take in the breathtaking views of Cancun, its beaches, and the peninsula. It’s a truly awe-inspiring experience!


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Snorkeling in Xel-Ha

7. Xel Ha (Mayan meaning: Spring water)

Did you know that there’s a hidden Mayan ruin site just a short distance from Xel Ha, a famous eco-park known for its beautiful lagoon and aquatic activities? This underrated gem may not be on everyone’s radar, but it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area.

Although relatively small, the site has three distinct structures that you can explore in just one hour. But what makes this archaeological spot truly unique are the stunning frescoes that can be found around the Pyramid of the Birds and House of Jaguar. These captivating ruins are a must-see for anyone visiting Xel Ha.

Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres

8. Isla Mujeres Mayan Ruins

The story of how Isla Mujeres got its name is also quite intriguing. In 1517, the Spanish stumbled upon the island and discovered a temple solely inhabited by women, containing numerous statues of Goddess Ixchel and her female relatives. This discovery led the Spanish to name the place “Island of Women” or Isla Mujeres.

The highlight of this island is the Temple of Goddess Ixchel, which is located in the southern corner and served as a symbol of religious worship for many in the past. The temple was dedicated to the goddess responsible for fertility, medicine, and joy, making it a popular destination for her devotees.

The highlight of this island is the Temple of Goddess Ixchel, which is located in the southern corner and served as a symbol of religious worship for many in the past. The temple was dedicated to the goddess responsible for fertility, medicine, and joy, making it a popular destination for her devotees.

How to Get to the Mayan Ruins from Cancun?

There are many options available to you, depending on your preferred mode of transportation and which sites you want to visit. For example, the El Rey ruins are just a quick 20-minute bus ride from downtown Cancun, while Chichen Itza is a bit further away, about 2 1/2 hours by car.

If you’re planning a trip to the Yucatan, having your own vehicle is a great way to explore the region at your own pace. With your own car, you’ll have access to a variety of sights and destinations that may not be reachable by public transportation. 

Tulum Mayan Ruins
Tulum Mayan Ruins

But don’t worry if you don’t have your own wheels! ADO buses stop at certain locations, and there are collectivos (shared taxis) that run between Cancun and other cities like Tulum. Plus, there are plenty of tour companies that offer transportation options as well.


Are there Mayan pyramids in Cancun?

In the Cancun City Hotel Zone, there are three incredible archaeological sites: El Rey, San Miguelito, and Yamil Lu’um. Plus, for those who want to delve even deeper, the Museo Maya de Cancun is also located here.

If you’re willing to venture an hour away from downtown Cancun, you can visit two more incredible ruins: El Meco and Isla Mujeres. These sites are definitely worth checking out if you’re interested in Mayan history.

San Miguelito Ruins
San Miguelito Ruins

Which Mayan ruins are closest to Cancun?

El Rey, Yamil Lu’um, and San Miguelito are three Mayan ruins closest to Cancun.

How far is Cancun from ancient Mayan ruins?

Just a stone’s throw away from Cancun, the Mayan pyramid of El Meco lies only twenty minutes north – making it the closest to this sun-soaked Mexican paradise. The well-known pyramids of Chichen Itza and Coba however are more than two hours distant from here.

How far is Chichen Itza from Cancun?

Chichen Itza is located at a distance of 124 miles (around 200 kilometers) from Cancun.

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