On the south-eastern tip of Mexico, is the city of Cancun, bordered by land as well as the Caribbean Sea. A prominent tourist spot, the place is far widely known for its turquoise watered shoreline and rich history that descends from the Mayan Civilization. With bio-diversity ranging from beaches, to lagoons and mangroves, and numerous archaeological sites spread across the terrain, Cancun is the ideal vacation option. As a result, it was developed a ‘Resort Coty’ in the 1960s to boost tourism, that owns the majority of the economy of the place.
1. Chichen Itza
One of the New Seven Wonders of the World, Chichen Itza is actually an ancient Mayan City. The archaeological site is identified by it’s stepped- pyramid temple, El Castillo, that has references to the Mayan beliefs. The site also houses the Temple of Warriors with its 1000 columns, a sacred cenote and a ball field- all having carvings depicting the Mayan religion.
2. San Miguelito Ruins
This site originally acted as a major trade and residential center with buildings linked together via a network of pathways. Four main zones- north and south groups, the Dragon Complex and the Chaak Palace today house the ruins of a temple, palace, residential sites and burial ground.
3. El Rey Archaeological Site
About 1000 years ago, this site was a network zone for Mayan trade and business. Containing within itself, stone ruins of temples, residences and burial grounds, El Rey is a part of many famous archaeological sites of Cancun. El Rey, literally means ‘The King’ and is named so after a sculpture of a Monarch found on the site.
4. El Meco Archaeological Zone
These ruins along the Eastern Coast are the most well-preserved zones of the area. Stone structures such as pyramids, platforms, columns, are all carved with depictions and have Serpent symbolism that binds them with the Mayan rituals. Internally divided into three plazas, this site was also a trade port and later a burial site during it’s use.
5. Tulum Ruins
This UNESCO World Heritage Site sits along the cliff, facing the coastline of Mexico. The ruins were the last of the places inhabited by the Mayans during the 1400s. Boasting of strong fortifying walls protecting the inner ruins of a Palace, Temple and other rural sites, Tulum is widely proffered by those wanting to study history along the sea-shore.
6. Ek Balam Village
This historic site was excavated out of forests by archaeologists only in 1997. Being undiscovered since 840C.E., the region’s major structures are in excellent condition even today. This archaeological zone encompasses a 32M high acropolis, the Oval Castle, a chapel, a burial chamber along with other stone buildings, all enclosed within thick-defensive walls on the city.
7. Archaeological Sites Of Uxmal
This World Heritage site depicts Puuc architectural style (like rounded corners and small arches) mixed with Mayan culture. Uxmal houses similar structures like other historic sites of the region, but portrays them with a different architectural touch. Pyramid with an elliptical base, ‘House of Pigeons’- a block-like structures raised over pillars, the governor’s Palace are among it’s unique structures.
8. Museo Maya De Cancún
Bringing in a modernist touch is the white-colored Museum Building, designed by Architect Alberto García Lascurain. Acting as the perfect blend of old and new, the contemporary building displays archaic artifacts, and extends into the San Miguelito ruins at it’s rear-end. The museum accommodates multiple exhibition halls and a cafeteria along with gardens and display columns depicting the Mayan references.
9. Museo Subacuatico De Arte
The unique concept of this museum enhances user experience by mixing sightseeing with scuba diving. Started as a project to promote the coral reefs in 2010, this under-water museum is a refreshing option for architects, history and water lovers alike! Display pieces vary from daily use objects, to human figures- all made out of pH-neutral material to secure preservation.
10. Coba Ruins
Situated deep within the jungles, and surrounded on all sides by natural lakes, the ruins of Coba are still being excavated and studies by researchers today. Due to it’s remote location and unexplored popularity, Coba receives less visitors than the other Cancun sites, which also makes it’s a place of leisure and relaxed camping experience!
11. San Gervasio Ruins
Presently in rubbles, this unassuming land was once where women worshipped Goddess IxChel, the deity of childbirth, fertility and weaving. This pilgrimage site, inhabited during 200A.D., has building that are much smaller than the typical Mayan sites. Several small and big huts, temples, gateways etc. have been discovered here by the archaeologists.
12. Scorpion’s Temple
‘Perfectly hidden in plain sight’, the Scorpion Temple sits right in the heart of Cancun’s hotel zone. Shaded by tall-high rise and modernized hotels in the vicinity, this ancient ruin shifts the view’s attention from the stylized buildings. Even though most of the relic has been damaged due to negligence, The Scorpion Colossus at the entrance is well preserved and marks the focal point of this site.
13. Xel-Ha Archaeological Site
With a cenote located on it’s western end, the site has now been extended and converted into a water-themed adventure park. The Xel-Ha ruins feasts the eyes with stone ruins, damaged columns and colored walls painted with elegant murals, while simultaneously leading the visitor into the fun-fill amusement zone.
14. Xcaret Archaeological Ruins
This port and trading center from the 1500s features a chapel, cemetery, a ball-game court among other village buildings, all enclosed within thick boundary walls, that acted as a defense while the site was used by the Mayans. Numerous rivers and lagoons flow out from Xcaret and lead to the newly built eco-logical park.
15. Smart Forest City
Mexico’s first self-sustaining, energy efficient green city has been envisioned in Cancun by Italian Architect Stefano Boeri. With an aim to reduce the carbon footprint and improving the urban framework, the design proposes skyscrapers with green facades and roofs, high-tech water and solar harvesting systems.