Mayapan, Maya ruins, Yucatan, Mexico

10 must-see Mayan ruins near Cancun (Mexico)

Last Updated on October 28, 2021

A trip to Cancun wouldn’t be complete without visiting at least one or two Mayan archaeological sites.

The Riviera Maya and Yucatan are great places to see ruins, with some of the most beautiful Mayan sites in America. With tons of things to do along the Riviera Maya, make sure you add one or two archaeological sites to your itinerary.

Chichen Itza, a UNESCO world heritage site, is definitely the most famous Mayan ruins near Cancun, but there are tons of different options, some way less frequented, that you can visit easily from Cancun.

Read on to discover the best Mayan ruins near Cancun you can visit as day trips.

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1 – Chichen Itza – Most famous Mayan ruins near Cancun

Chichen Itza

When you think of Mayan ruins near Cancun, Chichen Itza automatically comes to mind. El Castillo, the most famous Mayan pyramid is a unique sight, walking through this ancient city, you’ll learn everything about the Mayas and their traditions.

The site is pretty big, many structures have been found and excavated. Chichen Itza is one of the best restored Mayan sites in Mexico and a must-see.

You can easily take a tour from Cancun or go with public transportation. On the way, you can also visit Valladolid, a cute colonial city.

The entrance fee is around 500 pesos and the site is open every day from 8 AM to 5 PM.

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2 – Ek Balam – Mayan ruins and cenote

Ek Balam, Mayan ruins, Yucatan, Mexico

Ek Balam is a great alternative if you’re looking for a less-visited Mayan site near Cancun. Also located near Valladolid, you can couple it with a visit to Chichen Itza, but it’s a lot in one day.

Ek Balam is smaller a site but feels more authentic. Surrounded by dense jungle, you can still climb two of the main pyramids and get a stunning view from above. The carvings there are spectacular and unique, some of the best you’ll see outside a museum.

Inside the archaeological park, you can go to Xcanche cenote, where you can swim and relax after having climbed so many stairs.

From Cancun, take a bus to Valladolid, and then take a shared cab to the ruins. The entrance fee is around 400 pesos and the site is open every day from 8 AM to 5 PM.

Read the complete Ek Balam and cenote Xcanch travel guide.

3 – Uxmal – UNESCO Mayan ruins near Cancun

Uxmal, Yucatan, Mexico

Uxmal is a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the most beautiful Mayan ruins near Cancun. Less visited than its neighbor Chichen Itza, Uxmal is huge and offers a lot of different edifices to explore. There are several majestic pyramids you can climb on top of, and smaller structures with beautiful carvings.

Uxmal is a bit far from Cancun (a 4-hour drive) but it’s doable as a day trip, and it’s totally worth the time. You can also plan to spend a night in Merida.

4 to 7 – Ruta Puuc – The ancient Mayan highway

Ruta Puuc, Mexico

The Ruta Puuc is an old Mayan road, along it, you’ll find Uxmal and four more sites:

  • Kabah
  • Sayil
  • Xlapak
  • Labna
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The four sites don’t receive many visitors and have a wilder vibe. Walking through the jungle, you’ll see small structures mixed with the vegetation. Some parts have been really well preserved and you’ll notice beautiful carvings and sculptures.

You can combine a visit to Uxmal and the Ruta Puuc on the same day. The best is to rent a car, the sites are all located along a well-maintained road and are easy to find. If you can’t rent a car, you’ll have to spend a night in Merida. From there, every Sunday, there’s an ADO bus doing this route. On the other days of the week, only Uxmal is served by public transportation.

8 – Mayapan – Less visited Mayan ruins near Cancun

Pyramid, Mayapan

Mayapan is a less known Mayan ruin near Cancun and Merida and that’s what makes it one of the best archaeological site in the Yucatan Peninsula. The site is definitely not as big as Chichen Itza, but there are a lot of well-preserved pyramids and carvings, and also some paintings, which is really rare, usually the pigments are all gone.

The best part is that you’ll probably have the site all to yourself, as almost no one visits it. As a day trip from Cancun, you’ll have to rent a car or hire a driver for the day. In this area, there are tons of cenotes you can go to. After having visited Mayapan, head to the municipality of Homun, home to hundreds of cenotes.

The entrance fee is 45 pesos and the site is open every day from 8 AM to 4 PM.

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Read the Mayapan full travel guide.

9 – Izamal – The perfect blend of Mayan and colonial architecture

Kinich Kakmo Pyramid, Izamal, Yucatan, Mexico

Izamal, nicknamed the Yellow City, is one of Yucatan’s cutest Pueblos Magicos (Magical Town). This village has kept its colonial architecture, with paved streets and traditional houses, all of them, painted yellow. Along the charming streets, you’ll find several Mayan ruins, sparkled here and there.

Around 6 archaeological sites have been identified and excavated within the town. The main pyramid, Kinich Kakmo, is the country’s third-largest Mayan structure.

Izamal is easier to reach from Merida, but you can easily take a day trip from Cancun if you rent a car or go through a tour.

Read the Izamal complete travel guide.

10 – Tulum – The only Mayan ruins near Cancun on the seaside

Tulum, Mayan ruins near Cancun

Tulum is getting more and more attention from international tourists looking for something different from the all-inclusive resorts in Cancun. One of the best things to do in Tulum is visit the archaeological site there, the only one in Mexico on the seaside.

You can easily visit Tulum as a day trip from Cancun, you can also spend some time at one of the beaches along the way or visit a cenote or two. There are frequent minivans leaving from the bus station in Cancun that go directly to the archaeological zone in Tulum.

The entrance fee is 100 pesos and the site is open every day from 8 AM to 5 PM.

11 – Coba – The pyramid lost in the jungle

Coba, Mexico

Located deep into the jungle not far from Cancun, Coba is home to one of the biggest Mayan pyramids. One hundred and thirty steps will take you to the top, from which you’ll get an amazing view of the village and the other structures.

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In Coba, you can also visit a cenote or two. It’s easier to rent a car for the day but you can easily access the site via public transportation or a tour.

Tips for visiting the Mayan ruins near Cancun

  • Bring sunscreen (biodegradable if you’re going to swim in the cenotes), a cap or hat, and long light clothes that’ll protect you against the sun.
  • Pack natural mosquito repellent.
  • Bring plenty of water and snacks, you’ll find shops in the most popular sites but maybe not in the smaller ones.
  • Wear comfortable shoes, you’re going to walk a lot.
  • Hire a guide at least once so you can learn more about the Maya civilization.
  • You can easily find tours from Cancun to visit most of the places listed above, otherwise renting a car can be a good option as well.
  • Make sure you know some basic travel Spanish phrases.

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