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The Maya

mayan ruins at chichen itzaCancun South has written a brief Mayan history

The five Maya nations [Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico] have created an ambitious regional tourism plan called the Mundo Maya which promotes environmentally sensitive tourism and sustainable development, creating employment opportunities, particularly in rural areas, and stimulating regional development. In Mexico, the plan covers five states : Tabasco, Campeche, Chiapas, Yucatan and Quintana Roo. The Mundo Maya project is sort of commercial, but does put out good maps and is a clearing house for information on the Maya.

Don't forget, the Maya are a modern people as well as an ancient one. When you are in the area you are surrounded by Maya. They own and work in the shops where you buy handicrafts or groceries, the restaurants where you eat Poc Chuc and drink margaritas, everywhere. If you are friendly, maybe they will teach you a few words in their language. You can visit with people in a Maya village with Alltournative Tour's Pac Chen tour or eat Mayan cuisine all over the Riviera Maya.

Punta Laguna is a small Mayan community of about 50 farmers who have left the door open for visitors to stop in and learn firsthand about traditional Mayan agricultural methods and life.

mayan girl mexicoMayan Ruins in Quintana Roo

There are hundreds of Mayan ruins around Quintana Roo, but these are the major sites.

Coba ruins are hidden away in the jungle. Coba was a large ancient Mayan city and much of it is unrestored. The ruins that are restored include the ball court and a large pyramid. Unspoiled, easy to get to, and uncrowded.

Tulum ruins are small but easy to get to from Cancun or Playa del Carmen. They are unique in being the only coastal Mayan ruin.

Chichen Itza ruins are the most famous of the Mexican Mayan ruins and definitely the most touristy and crowded. However, Chichen Itza is an impressive, mystical, inspiring place. Hundreds throng here every Spring and Fall equinox to watch the shadow snake ascend or descend the steps of the largest pyramid. Major structures are Kukulcan pyramid, site of the Equinox solar phenomena, Temple of the Warriors, Temple of the Jaguars, El Mercado, Caracol, also known as the Observatory and the Ball Court (the largest in Mesoamerica). They are actually in the state of Yucatan, but why get technical? You can do the trip in a half day with Aerosaab.

mayan ruins maya ruinsMayan Ruins near Quintana Roo

Palenque ruins in Chiapas (also good to see Agua Azul while you are there) are on a forested plateau. Major ruins there are the Temple of the Inscriptions and the Palace, which towers four levels. The ruins are surrounded by a magnificent rain forest, noisy with birds, including the toucan.

Uxmal ruins are in Yucatan south of Merida on the coast opposite Cancun. They are large and impressively carved. You can also see flamingos at the Celestun Reserve while you are there, as well as several important ruin sites nearby. You can do the trip in a day with Aerosaab, and it is also from to take a 3+ day trip and see colonial Merida on the way.

Knopf Guide the Route of the Mayas

Maya for Travelers and Students : A Guide to Language and Culture in Yucatan
Basic language instruction and vocabulary

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