Ancient Cities 🌆 Mayan Ruins

The caliber & breadth of the Mayan culture is quite indescribable. We had several opportunities over our time in Yucatán to visit a few of the many known ruins that dot this amazing landscape & give a peak into the past. 1500BC to 1500AD spans the significant rise & fall of the Maya.

Then like many a story of discovery & exploration, an entire civilization is dispersed or wiped out under the guise of conquest 😡 It seems not much has changed in a thousand years in the name of “progress” 😔 This vast, looming, once thriving civilization is now eerily empty. Looking deeper into the jungle, the Maya are still clearly present, continuing to fight for their land & way of life as the “progress” of the Mayan Train pushes through. I am not even going to pretend to give a history lesson here. The truth is there are no words only feelings of excitement, awe & wonder as you step into these ancient cities. 

Uxmal is one of the largest cities of ruins, just south of Mérida. As we walked up the path & beyond the trees, the Pirámide del Adivino (Pyramid of the Magician) appears in all its grandeur. With every turn, around every stone wall corner is another breathe taking collection of pillars & petroglyphs covering over 160 acres.

You might think it would be easy to say, once you have seen one ancient city in ruins, you have seen them all… According to the map, there are nearly three dozen options (of the ones excavated & open to the public) just in Yucatán.


The larger more visited are a bit more regulated & you can no longer climb to the top or venture in very far. Whereas other smaller sites still allow you a bird’s eye view. Like Xcambo, NE of Merida & near the northern coast of Yucatán. Xcambo also offers an interesting juxtaposition, that commingles the Mayan culture & the later introduction of Catholicism, introduced by their Spanish conquerors in its Temple of the Virgin de Xcambo.

Temple of the Virgin de Xcambo

Mayapan, considered the last great capital, was another less visited, often overlooked site to the southeast of Mérida. Scaling this one was not for the timid 😬

Each city had its place & purpose within the Mayan culture, each slightly different. They were hard to compare. We could have spent our entire time in Mexico seeking out the next one.

In the near center of Yucatán, rises the most popular & most visited, that of Chichén-Itzá. The Temple of Kukulkán rises 100ft in the center of the grounds. If you stand in just the right place, when you clap, the temple echos out what sounds like the chirping of birds. Depending on the day & angle of the sun, you just might see the great Kukulkán slither its way down the side of the temple pyramid.

Ball Court of Chichén Itzá: Teams played to the death. Like battle, it was an honor to die on the playing field.

A 1935 Dibujos (drawings) on papel entintado y pintado (inked & painted paper) from Teodoro Zapata Mexico depicts the Great Ball Court of Chichén Itzá & displays two rival teams in a repeated scene: seven ballgame players on each side parade toward the center, where the fatal end of the defeated captain is recreated. He is shown kneeling before & decapitated by the victorious captain, who holds a knife & severed head of the loser. Interpretations blend history, myth & astronomy to exalt feats in war or to suggest battles between forces of darkness & light or between political groups linked to the Sun & Venus. (info panel & art from the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya de Mérida)

If visiting the sites, touring the expansive grounds & being in the middle of history is not enough, Mérida also boasts an amazing Mayan Museum, the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya de Mérida. The museum takes a deeper dive into the language & culture of these nearly forgotten people. Inaugurated in 2012, the contemporary building was designed in the form of a ceiba, a sacred tree believed by the Maya to connect the living with the underworld & the heavens above. (

Perhaps it was Hunab Ku who watched over us through all our adventures because what came next certainly took some divine intervention & measures of faith 😬😉