Must-Visit Ancient Ruins in Mexico

Mexico's ancient sites enhance the country's rich offerings for those in search of adventures beyond the beach.

Mexico is internationally lauded for its beautiful beaches, tropical cocktails with a kick (arriba fiesta!) and fantastic resorts. But the country’s rich archaeological history is as much a draw as those promises of sun-drenched days by the sea. Mexico’s ruins sites invite visitors to time travel to the reigning ancient empires and their mind-boggling pre-Columbian science and architecture, tradition and rituals. At these three sites, you can immerse yourself in history and release your inner Lara Croft and Indiana Jones. Discover romance among the ruins.

mexico beach
Photo courtesy of Mezzanine Property

Chichen Itza

Arguably the Big Daddy of Mexico’s ancient sites, Chichen Itza, which is tucked deep in the Yucatan rainforest about two hours from Cancun, was recently voted one of the new “seven wonders of the world.” Most people visit as a day trip from the popular Maya Riviera, but the sprawling site is at its best when the crowds have departed and the ancient city and surrounding jungle are virtually empty.

chichen itza
Photo Credit: ©CPTM: Foto / Ricardo Espinosa-Reo

In its day, Chichen Itza was the most powerful of all the Mayan city-states and its variety of architecture leads historians to speculate it was populated by a melting pot of migrants from around Mexico and Central America. The city’s decline remains shrouded in mystery: The Spanish found it essentially abandoned in the early 16th century with the great pyramids and palaces covered in jungle foliage. The city was lost and forgotten until the 1840s when American explorer John Lloyd Stephens — one of the inspirations for the fictional Indiana Jones — rediscovered the incredible ruins.

Book into a bungalow at The Lodge at Chichen Itza for best access to the site. The intimate hotel sits on 100 acres of lush private gardens right next to the archaeological park. There’s no need to rush the ruins — spend your first afternoon relaxing around the pool, savoring Mayan dishes at the resort restaurant or chilling out in your thatched-roof cottage. Nights at the lodge are magical with the chorus of cicadas and tree frogs and thunderstorms that light up the horizon. The team can also arrange spa treatments, horseback riding and jungle mountain biking (room rates start at $175 a night;

the lodge at chichen itza
Photo courtesy of The Lodge at Chichen Itza

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