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Mayan Archaeological Sites on Yucatan Peninsula

Here is an overview of the archaeological sites described on this website. Of course, this is only a small part of the sites on the Yucatan Peninsula or in Mexico in general, but these are the particularly well known - or less well known, but still highly recommended. 

  • Acanceh is a small town slightly south of Mérida with Mayan archaeological sites.

  • Chichén Itzá is one of the Seven New Wonders of the World and the most visited attraction.

  • Dzibilchaltún is the oldest Mayan archaelogical site and only 30km away from Mérida.

  • Grutas de Lol-Tún is the most important cave system in Yucatán (used since the Ice Age).

  • Kabah is one of the smaller and less touristy Maya archaeological site on Ruta Puuc.

  • Mayapán is an amazing archaeological Mayan site which is reminiscent of Chichén Itzá. 

  • Ruta Puuc includes many places of interest (a Maya region as well as an architectural style).

  • Tulum is one the most famous and most visited excavation site of the ancient Mayan culture.

  • Uxmal - a 9th century Maya site - is similarly large and impressive as Chichén Itzá.

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The best guided Archeology Tours

We have picked out the four best guided archeology tours for you from our partner, the market leader Viator. You save time and nerves, get everything you need to know and insider tips from an expert guide and can join up with others if you like. And it's also safer to travel in a group.

Disclosure: This article contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase, we get a small provision at no additional cost to you (#Disclosure Policy)

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The World of Archaeology

Some interesting figures about Mayan archaeological sites on the Yucatan Peninsula:

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Deep Dive Tips

The Maya Ruins Website

If you want to delve further into the history of the archaeological sites, "The Maya Ruins Website" by Steven Mellard is a great resource.


You will find detailed background information, site maps and pictures for all the important Maya sites, as well as for the lesser known ones. This is not limited to Mexico, but also includes other countries. Try for example the page about Chichén Itzá.


The INAH ("Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia") is the National Institute of Anthropology and History in Mexico. It was founded in 1939 and is a Mexican federal government bureau. It is responsible for the historical heritage of Mexico.


Here you will also find valuable information on all archaeological sites. The page "Zonas Arqueológicas" lists all sites in Mexico, grouped by state (the Yucatan Peninsula has three states: Yucatán, Campeche and Quintana Roo).

Mayan Archaeological Sites
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Best self-guided Audio Tours

Generally, I always recommend a guided tour at the archaeological sites. Without the historical background, you will otherwise only see a bunch of stones, but you will miss the context. 

However, if you want to explore the sites on your own, don't want fixed times of a guided tour or traveling with younger kids, maybe a
self-guided archeology audio tour for your iPhone or Android phone is perfect for you.

Disclosure: This article contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase, we get a small provision at no additional cost to you (#Disclosure Policy)

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Tips for visiting Archaeological Sites

What are the best visiting times?

For the larger open-air archaeological sites in Yucatán, it is a good idea to come right in the morning when they open (or better right before they open). This has two advantages:


First, the sun isn't that strong in the morning hours, and second, the obligatory tourist buses usually arrive a little later (mostly from about 10:00 am or a little earlier), so the sites are not yet too crowded.

It is also important to know that Mexicans have free entry to all archaeological sites on Sundays. Therefore, you should avoid Sundays because the sites are also more crowded.

What should you take along?


You should be prepared to walk. These ruins are often spread out. Therefore, it's recommend taking light clothing, sturdy shoes, sunscreen (maybe mosquito repellent), a baseball cap or similar, and something to drink.


By the way, not all sites allow you to bring a bag or, for example, a camera tripod. And it's important to know that it is often not possible to pay by card, so be sure to take enough cash with you to be on the safe side.

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Special Occurrences during the Equinox

If you are on the Yucatan Peninsula during the equinox, a visit to a Mayan ruin can be a special experience. An equinox is an astronomical event that occurs twice a year, once in spring (on March 20 or 21) and once in fall (September 22 or 23).


The Earth's axis is then tilted neither towards nor away from the sun and so day and night are almost the same length (12 hours). The equinox had significant astronomical and cultural importance for the early Mayan culture.

Equinox at Chichén Itzá

In the late afternoon, thousands of visitors from around the world wait in front of the Kukulkan pyramid in Chichén Itzá to see how the illusion of a snake creeping slowly down the northern staircase is created by the sunlight and the shadow of the pyramid's shape.


At the end of the "snake" is a stone snake's head at the foot of the pyramid. This is by no means a coincidence, but was planned by the builders. The snake's head is also spectacularly illuminated by the sun.


The phenomenon of light and shadow occurs from 4:00 pm and concludes around 6:00 pm. If the time does not suit you: During the Light and Sounds Show in Chichén Itzá, the shadows are artificially created with floodlights.

Chichen Itza during Equinox

Equinox at Dzibilchaltún

The ruins of Dzibilchaltún are also known for a special event at the Temple of the Seven Dolls, which attracts around 2,000 visitors. The building has a central hall surrounded by a corridor with four entrances facing each of the cardinal points. At sunrise on the equinox, the light falls exactly through two opposite entrances.


The sunrise at this time is at 6:00 am, so you should be there at around 5:30 am in order not to miss the event. Visiting hours are generally from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, but on this day, the ticket office will open at 4:30 am to give access.

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