The wonders of Chichén Itzá can often be lost in the teeming crowds visiting the site. For a more intimate look into ancient Mayan civilization, head to these great alternatives – each one promising to reward visitors with fewer crowds, less stress, and more time to explore the marvels and mysteries of the ancient Mayan Empire.
An overview of Ek Balam is pictured above (photo by Carlos Delgado). Recently excavated (and lightly visited), this neighbor to Chichén Itzá is a well-preserved site featuring many different structures, meticulously crafted sculptures, wall paintings, temples, and even a recreational ball court. A seat of the Mayan Kingdom, Ek Balam boasts an impressive main temple spanning more than 500 feet long by 200 feet wide, as well as a visually striking temple with a large, ornate “monster mouth,” thought to represent a portal to the “other world.” Well worth the trip, the site’s many amazing buildings and structures will definitely impress.
JUNGLE PATHS OF COBÁ
Older than most of Chichén Itzá, Cobá was one of the area’s dominant cities (estimated to have more than 50,000 inhabitants at its peak of civilization). Located around two lagoons, and surrounded by lush tree canopy, the site is the nexus of the largest group of stone causeways (sacbes) in the Mayan world. Typically made from brilliant white limestone, most transportation along these paths was done in the cool of the night, with the limestone clearly marking the way under the moonlight.
Beyond these signature roadways, a visit to Cobá is filled with highlights including the impressive views from the 137-feet high Nohoch Mul Pyramid among others, as well as a church, ball courts, altars, and monuments.
RÍO BEC RUINS
This unique historic site features stunning temple-pyramids that are characterized by a unique, ornate Mayan architectural style. Multiple towers loom over this peaceful, mysterious destination.
Another thing that makes Río Bec truly unique is that it’s still largely underrated and undiscovered. On a visit there, you might find you have the site all to yourself, creating a truly magical experience.
Of course, if you don’t mind crowds, one of the more popular sites for Mayan Ruins can be found in Tulum, where the backdrop of the Caribbean Sea makes for amazing photos. Our in-depth review of the Tulum Ruins can be found HERE.