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The folklore, rituals and science of the ancient Mayan civilization are intriguing. Indigenous to parts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras, the ancient Mayans had prolific beliefs regarding life cycles, the cosmos and higher powers. And what’s left of their culture can now be explored at a variety of different sites throughout the region. You may already know Chichen Itza, but there are plenty more must-visit Mayan ruins near Cancún. Here are the best.
Less accessible than Chichén Itzá, the Cobá ruins, which really merit a day trip, feel more like an Indiana Jones-style jungle adventure; lush greenery creating an atmospheric setting for this ancient city. Cobá is most notable for having the largest amount of sacbes (white-stone roads) of any ancient Mayan site. You can follow these pathways from the main pyramid to small villages where ancient Mayans used to rest at night. The opportunity to stroll, cycle or be driven around these protected sites makes it the perfect outing from Cancún.
Opened to the public in 2012, San Miguelito is the northern extension of the partially unearthed Mayan city of El Rey – its ruins are located around (and under) Cancún’s hotels. The site gives a taste of what you can expect at the bigger specimens, with a main pyramid jutting over the bird-filled tropical forest. There’s also an excellent little museum crammed with artifacts.
Alex Robinson contributed additional reporting to this article.