Travelers often plan their Cancun trip around all-inclusive resorts, Spring Break, and the beautiful weather, but there’s much more to enjoy here than the Hotel Zone’s tempting swimming pools and easy beach access.
Famous archaeological wonders such as Chichén Itzá and the Tulum ruins reveal ancient monuments and surprising clues about the lost Mayan civilization. Elsewhere, more recently discovered sites at Coba and Ek Balam prove there much more history to learn. Here are the best ways to experience these ancient treasures, and be back in time for happy hour by the pool.
How to get there
Both Chichen Itza and Tulum are roughly a two-hour drive from Cancun’s Hotel Zone. While rental cars are an option, many visitors choose guided tours that include comfortable, air-conditioned transportation with pickup and drop-off at their hotels. At Olmar Travel, our private and small-group experiences include round-trip service in vehicles that are wheelchair accessible and spacious enough for the whole group.
How to explore with kids
History can be fun for all ages, even on a summer vacation. On our guided trips, certified archaeologists keep everyone engaged with expert storytelling about the history of the Yucatán Peninsula. Our tours also offer free time to explore the landmarks on your own, which could mean visits to open-air markets, private beaches, or stops at cenotes (natural swimming holes) for a dip.
What to bring
Bring sunscreen, comfortable shoes (flip flops are not recommended), and any other form of sun protection that you want. GoPros, professional cameras, selfie sticks, and drones are allowed at both sites, but you will have to pay an additional fee. Our tours include bottled water, boxed lunches, and admission fees.
While both are popular destinations with exceptional scenery and Mayan history, the experiences are different. Here is more information about these Mayan ruins for you to decide what is best for you.
Head into the jungle to visit Chichen Itza, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for the 79-foot (24-meter) step Kukulcan Pyramid—more commonly known as El Castillo—as well as the Temple of Warriors and the Great Ball Court. Chichen Itza is most famous for myths about figures such as Kukulkan, a feathered serpent god, who is believed to make an appearance as a long, slithering shadow cast upon El Castillo’s north-facing steps at sunrise and sunset during spring and fall equinoxes.
On a visit to the Tulum, expect smaller ruins overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Tulum, once a walled city that served as the port of Coba, is known as one of the best preserved Mayan cities along coastal Yucatán. The Temple of the Frescoes is one of the major draws to Tulum, where you can see remains of once colorful murals and impressive faces and figures etched into the exterior of the two-story building. Most visitors descend a long, narrow staircase at the end of the guided portion to dip their toes in the warm waters of the Caribbean.