Tips for exploring Mayan ruins of Yucatan
The luxury-travel section of the Robb Report counsels that now is the chance to become an archaeologist — no digging or getting dirty required – as avid travelers with a passion for adventure can enjoy unparalleled archeology travel to Yucatán thanks to its abundance of significant Mayan sites. Following the civilization’s migration to Yucatán in 2500 BC, the ancient Mayans built some of the most spectacular cities the world has ever discovered between 300 and 900 BC. Today, these brilliant structures stand strong, offering travelers a valuable perspective on ancient Mayan culture alongside the opportunity to enjoy modern-day Yucatán and its many natural wonders that have captivated visitors’ attention since the early Spanish explorations.
There are more than a dozen important archaeological locations in Yucatán to explore, many of which are designated UNESCO World Heritage sites that bear clues to mankind’s origins and evolution, including the Mayan cities of Chichén Itzá and Uxmal, as well as two “Magical Towns“ – the former Spaniards regional capital of Valladolid and the colorful Colonial-era town of Izamal ¬– and stand as a tribute to this most fascinating civilization.
• Chichén Itzá was one of the greatest Mayan centers of the Yucatán Peninsula. The stepped pyramids and temples of Chichén Itzá were sacred to the Mayans and a sophisticated urban center of the empire from 750 to 1200 AD. Today, thousands of people travel each year to experience the brilliant ruins of this ancient city. The most recognizable structure here is the Temple of Kukulkan, also known as El Castillo. This glorious step pyramid demonstrates the accuracy and importance of Maya astronomy—and the heavy influence of the Toltecs, who invaded around 1000AD and precipitated a merger of the two cultural traditions. The temple has 365 steps—one for each day of the year, and each of the temple’s four sides has 91 steps, with the top platform representing the 365th step.
• Uxmal is an archaeological site located in the Puuc region, and one of the few climbing sites that is located a little more off the beaten path. Uxmal is home to the Pyramid of the Magician, the tallest structure standing at 100 feet, which, according to ancient legend, was built by Itzamna in one night. According to archaeologists, the statue appears to have been built in five phases and is situated so that its western stairway faces the setting sun at summer solstice. Visitors can still climb a few of the structures in Uxmal, such as Climbing is permitted on the north side of the ruin, allowing visitors to admire the sweeping forest landscape and other ancient structures such as the la Gran Pirámide (grand pyramid), the Casa de las Tortugas (house of the turtles), la Plataforma de los Jaguares (platform of the jaguars), la Casa de las Palomas (house of the doves) and el Juego de Pelota (ball game).
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