When you think about history and Mexico there are a few locales that come to mind. The one that really stands out is the area of the Yucatan peninsula that encompasses the area once dominated by the Mayan people and where you can still find incredible evidence of their advanced civilization. Just a short drive from the high-octane resort towns of Cancun and Cozumel are examples to be found of the height of Mayan architecture and civilization.
Many travel providers can set you up with tours that will let you enjoy and explore several archeological sites and still put aside time to lounge on a beach to soak in the sun. This gives you the opportunity to have an educational experience as well as a relaxing vacation. Spend a few days traveling to several of the most well known ruins and then kick back with some typical water activities.
The most famous Mayan ruins are at Chichen Itza, which is close to Merida, the capital of Yucatan. It is estimated Chichen Itza was established in 432 AD and is one of the finest examples of Mayan architecture ever excavated. You can climb the pyramid known as “El Castillo” and learn how it is set up to have significance in how the Mayans viewed astronomy. There is also the largest ball court in Mesoamerica located here, which hosted games where the losers may have been ritually sacrificed. The blend of science, religion, and architecture in the city can be very impressive.
Another more recently found site is at Palenque, in which in 1952 the mummified remains of Lord Pakal, a ruler during the sixth century, were found in a large sarcophagus. There are many exquisite examples of Mayan architecture located here, such as comb-like decorations on the roofs of the temples and intricately carved wall panels. There are over 200 buildings at this site, which are probably more than enough to keep you exploring most of the day.
A visit to Tulum can provide some seaside ruins to explore for a half a day or so, but it also gives you the opportunity to snorkel and check out some of the underwater caves that are near there. After that it is a short trip to either Cancun or Isla de Mujeres for some rest and relaxation so you can reflect on all the history you absorbed. And the margaritas are good there, too.
Just south of Tulum you will find Sian Ka’an, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This ecological reserve has a lion’s share of natural beauty, but it also highlights 23 archeological sites of Mayan civilization and contains an ancient trade route that serviced the cities of Tulum and Muyil during the Mayan era.
The entire Yucatan peninsula is chock full of the history and architecture of the Mayan civilization and it gives us a glimpse of what life was like in the prehistory of European colonization of the Americas. If your idea of a great vacation to Mexico is to learn about its history and heritage, then this is the number one place to go.