The top 3 Mayan sites in Yucatán found in this article are based on both popularity and importance. There are several other sites in the state, but if you had to choose 3 to visit, these would be the best options.
This Mayan City was first built by pure Mayans but reached its highest point of importance and influence after the Toltecs arrived. Just like many other world civilizations, the mixing of two cultures pushes the limits of was already established in order of architecture, culture, and way of thinking.
Chichén Itzá is located between 2 major cities, around one hour and a half east of Mérida and 3 hours west of Cancún. So, if you plan to visit any of these two cities, visiting Chichén Itzá is a must.
Interesting facts about Chichén Itzá
- The Kukulkán Pyramid is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
- Chichén Itzá is the 2nd most visited Archeological Site in México.
- The meaning of Chichén Itzá comes from the Maya Yucateco uchi’ch’e’enitza’, the “City of the Itáes”.
- The Kukulkán Pyramid was built on top of another Pyramid that itself was built on top of an even older one.
- There’s a Cenote under the Pyramid of Kukulkán.
What to see in Chichén Itzá
There are lots of buildings to see in this amazing Mayan Archaeological site, but if you only had to choose 3 things to see, you shouldn’t miss the following ones.
The Kukulkán Pyramid
The Kukulkán Pyramid, also known as El Castillo, is the most important building in all of Chichén Itzá because if its architecture and dedication to one of the main Mayan gods, Kukulkán.
The Great Ball Court
The Great Ball Court found in Chichén Itzá is the largest one ever found in all of the ancient cities measuring 168 m long by 70 m wide. Unlike most of the ball courts, this one has tall and straight walls with its rings way up high.
The Sacred Cenote
The Sacred Cenote along with the Kukulkán Pyramid are the main things people want to see whenever they visit Chichén Itzá. This cenote is 50 m in diameter in the north-south direction and 60.50 in the east-west direction.
Uxmal is surrounded by legends, myths, and anecdotes; poetic in its name and its history. The occupation of Uxmal dates back to 500 BCE., but it was a political and economic power in the Mayan Peninsula Puuc region during the IX and XII centuries.
Uxmal is located in the valley of Santa Elena, 62 kilometers from Mérida in the region known as Puuc. You can get there in around one hour from Mérida.
Interesting facts about Uxmal
- There’s a legend that says that the main building in Uxmal called the Pyramid of the Magician was built in a single night by a dwarf that was born in an egg.
- The name Uxmal comes from the Mayan Óoxmáal and means “three times built” or “three harvests”.
- There’s a Sacbé that goes from the Platform of the Jaguars in the Governor’s Palace’s main platform to the city of Kabáh.
- The Pyramid of the Magician was built by several governors along 400 years, so what you see now is the outer layer of 4 substructures.
- The mosaic façade on the Governor’s Palace is one of the longest in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, with more than 100 stone masks of the rain god Chac.
What to see in Uxmal
Uxmal is not as big as Chichén Itzá, but it has several amazing buildings, here are the top 3 recommended ones for your next visit.
The Pyramid of the Magician
The Pyramid of the Magician is the first building you see when you first enter Uxmal, a 35 m tall pyramid that the legend says it was built in a single night by a magician.
The Nunnery Quadrangle
The Nunnery Quadrangle is a set of buildings on all 4 sides that resembles a convent. The quadrangle consists of four palaces placed on different levels that surround a courtyard.
The Governor’s Palace
The Governor’s Palace in Uxmal is one of the most beautiful examples of Mayan sculpture and architecture. It’s placed on top of a hill on a large platform that makes up three terraces.
This Mayan site is practically in Mérida and was one of the most influential cities north of the peninsula.
The settlement covered a circular area of about 19 km2, in which about 8,400 structures have been found. The central part is made up of numerous monumental constructions that cover about 25 hectares.
An interesting thing about Dzibilchaltún is that it has a Cenote inside where you can swim and cool off.
Interesting facts about Dzibilchaltún
- Just like in Chichén Itzá, you can enjoy a phenomenon presented by the sun on the Equinox. In Dzibilchaltún you can see from its long Sacbe how the sun appears in the middle of the doorway.
- The light and shadow phenomenon presented on the Equinox in Dzibilchaltún wasn’t noticed for 26 years after beginning the first studies of this site back in 1956.
- The Cenote Xlakah found in Dzibilchaltún is the largest found to date in Yucatan measuring 100 m from north to south and 200 m from east to west with 44 m deep where investigators found an opening to another cave where its size is unknown.
- Dzibilchaltún is one of the oldest Mayan Cities in the Peninsula.
What to see in Dzibilchaltún
Temple of the Seven Dolls
The Temple of the Seven Dolls was found buried under a pile of rubble and was uncovered by archaeologists. Aside from the beautiful architecture, this temple is known for the astronomical event that happens every equinox.
This is the only Mayan Archaeological site with a cenote you can swim in. The Xlakah Cenote has a legend that says that a god caused a thunderbolt to fall on a house to punish an ungrateful son and the ground sank forming the cenote.
This is the best museum you’ll find in a Mayan Archaeological site, it has nearly 700 archaeological and historical pieces which summarize three thousand years of development of the Mayan culture.