Our top 8 ancient ruins to visit in Mexico

When you visit Mexico, a must thing do is to explore an ancient ruin or pyramid. However, there are many ruins to see that it is almost imposible to visit them all in one short visit. For this reason, we have made a list of our favourite ruins and the ones that we recommend to visit in Yucatan Peninsula and beyond. With a small description of each one, you can have an idea of the ones you would like to visit and perhaps prioritise the ones may fit best in your travel itinerary.

This the list of the best archaeological ruins in Mexico:

Uxmal

Between all the ruins in Yucatán, Uxmal was our favourite. It has less tourists that Chichen Itza but the impressive Pyramid of the Magician is very unique to see. It has a elliptic shape in its structure is very different from the usual rectangular form like other pyramids in Mexico.

If you visit Uxmal, do not miss the Nunnery quadrangle, a courtyard surrounded by four large buildings with unique and refine decorations all over the facade. The buildings have several designs including geometric patterns and animals and archaeologists believe all those symbols are telling the story of the creation of humankind from a Maya mythology point of view.

  • Location: The Maya ruin of Uxmal is located 62km south of Merida, Yucatan.
  • Entry fee:  111 Pesos Mexicanos (~5.78USD) .

Read More: The ruins of Uxmal in Mexico.

Chichen Itza

It is the largest and one of the most famous Maya sites in Mexico. Although, many tourists arrive at this shrine to see and take a picture with the iconic Kukulkan pyramid, Chichen Itza has many other temples and palaces to visit.

Walk within the complex and do not forget to visit the Sacred cenote and the magnificent building known as The Nunnery. This building is going to catch your attention with its beautiful detailed bas relief which has geometric figures as well as depictions of the rain God Chaac.

  • Location: Chiche Itza is located in the Yucatan Peninsula.
  • Entry fee: $172 Mexican pesos (9USD) plus $50 Mexican Pesos (2.70 UDS) for the INAH. In total: 220 Mexican pesos (~11.47 USD).

Read More: Our Top recommendations when visiting Chichen Itza

Palenque

The ancient ruins of Palenque are one of the most spectacular and mysterious site in Mexico. The site has a beautiful landscape as it it hidden in the jungle, the temples are surrounded by forest creating a magical atmosphere.

One the most fascinating sights is the Temple of the Inscriptions (picture below). Named this way because of the hieroglyphic texts in Maya script found in the inner wall of the temple. Also, we do recommend to visit the local museum where you can see a replica of the tomb found inside the pyramid of the King Pakal with its many funerary offerings including jewellery, a refine jade mask to cover its face and 5 other people to accompanying him in the after life.

  • Location: the archaeological site of Palenque is in the state of Chiapas Mexico.
  • Entry fee: 76 Mexican Pesos (~3.96USD).

Read More: Discover the mysteries of The Maya culture.

Ek Balam

The complex of Ek Balam in comparison with other ruins in Yucatan, this one is relatively small. However, the site comprises 12 square Kilometres but only 1 square has been excavated.

The 31 meters high pyramid named The Acropolis houses the tomb of the KingUkit Kan Lek Tok, founder of this city. You can see the entrance if you are willing to climb the steep stairs to almost the top of the structure. The entrance has sculptures depicting several personages in great detail.

Ek balam king tomb

  • Location: 25 km north of Valladolid. 1 hour and half drive from Playa del Carmen.
  • Entry fee: 197 Mexican Pesos (~10.28USD).

Bonampak

One of the hidden treasure of Mexico is the ruins of Bonampak. Located in the border of Mexico with Guatemala, this ruins houses three rooms with a unique and very well preserved Maya murals. If you have the time to visit this ruins, you will get not be disappointed. Very colorful and depicting several personages with different costumes, these murals gives you an insight into the life, traditions and believes of the ancient Maya people.

Bonampak mural

Beside the murals, the complex has other rooms with small carving on the facade and from the top you can get an amazing view of the jungle.

Bonampak ruins

  • Location: 30 km south of the city of Yaxchilán. In the Lacandon jungle on Usumacinta River in Chiapas Mexico, the Bonampak site abuts the Reserva de la Biosfera Montes Azules. It is 30 KMs south of Yaxchilán or 148KMs from Palenque.
  • Entry fee: 70 Mexican Pesos (~3.65USD) plus a preservation fee :30 MNX Pesos if you arrive by yourself.

Read more: The astonishing ruins of Yaxchilan and Bonampak

Tulum

Tulum was one of the last cities to be built in ancient Maya. The beauty of this site relies on its location, the ruins were built near the Caribbean sea, one of the most iconic ruin,The Castle (picture below) was built on a cliff. The turquoise colour of the water gives visitors a perfect spot to take pictures and selfies.

tulum ruins

Its believed that Maya people used as a port to trade jade and turquoise. A good recommendation is to get as early as possible to the site. A not to be missed is the temple of the frescoes (picture below). It has murals in its interior, although it is not open to the public its exterior is decorated with a Maya god known as “descending god”.

Temple of the frescoes

  • Location: The ancient ruins of Tulum are located on the Caribbean Coast, Quintana Roo, Mexico
  • Entry fee: 52 Mexican Pesos (~2.71USD).

Mitla

It was built by the Zapotec culture, an ancient civilisation that used to dominated the souther highlands and traded with other old civilisations like Maya people. This ruins were built to serve one purpose: as a religious centre run by high priests who undertook human sacrifices.

Mitla ruins

The beauty of this temple is on the external facade and its geometric patterns as well as some murals in the internal rooms.

Mitla

  • Location: 46 km southwest of Oaxaca city.
  • Entry fee: 60 Mexican Pesos (~3.13USD).

Monte Alban

It was built by a pre-columbian culture called the Zapotecs. This large complex is considered to be the second largest ceremonial site in Mesoamerica area.

Monte Alban

Something very interesting to observe in this place are the carvings known as “dancers”. This place exhibits 300 bas-relieves approximately of human figures in strange positions. Our guide says that it is believed that the personages are dancing for a celebration or they might be human sacrifices.

Monte Alban dancers

  • Location: The ancient ruins of Monte Alban are located 10km from Oaxaca City, Oaxaca.
  • Entry fee: 70 Mexican pesos (~3.65USD).

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Have you been in any of these sites? How was your experience? which other ruin would you recommend visiting in Mexico? 

We would love to hear your comments

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About Carmen Morales

Carmen is an IT consultant that loves photography, enjoys travelling and knowing other cultures and traditions. She is a storyteller, sharing her stories through her pictures and posts during her travels. As an adventure lover and world explorer, she has travelled to over 23 countries around the globe and lived in Peru and Australia.

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