Recognised worldwide for its precise mathematical calculations and for knowledge that transcends time, ancient Mayan civilisation is one that can still be seen through its structures created with almost flawless engineering and its highly sophisticated calendar system. This ancient world has stood up to the test of time and can be best discovered in Mexico's southeast, where the states witnessed the birth of this millenia-old culture, still proudly showing its roots for all to visit today. Secrets, surprises and adventure await those who seek it at the Mundo Maya - the pride of Mexico.
The southernmost state of Chiapas resonates its history through preserved treasures that still flourish there, from the pre-Hispanic heritage communicated by its indigenous peoples, to the Colonial-era influences apparent in its towns and cities. Mayans occupied this region from 600 AD and left their mark on the state, most notably in the form of the city of Palenque which is undoubtedly one of the most aesthetically pleasing Mayan cities.
Nestled amidst dense jungle, Palenque's most prominent constructions, like the sizeable aqueduct and the ball court, date back to the Classic period (circa 250-900 AD). Elsewhere, the temples and palaces within the city grounds are in remarkably good condition and this is also true of the largest of these: The Templo de las Inscripciones - which is widely considered to be the most significant by archaeologists. Featuring hieroglyphics which are indicative of the time and which narrate the history of the city, it is of little surprise how significant the temple is to the region.
The lasting influence isn't just notable from the structures of Palenque though, they can be found in everything from the Chiapas cuisine, such as pork with chirmol (salsa), to the pre-Hispanic culture of the colonial town of San Cristobal where the diversity of the inhabitants still share Mayan textiles as a unifying factor.
Moving north, Yucatán state was the scene of the Mayans most impressive and important cities constructed during the post-Classic period. With this in mind, it's wholly understandable why the people of Yucatán take enormous pride in the history that emanates from every part of the state.
The stunning Chichen Itza is the most famous of the region's Mayan cities and is widely considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. Founded in 525 AD, the Templo de Kulkulcán is easily the city's most recognisable structure and a stark reminder of how fascinating the civilization truly was. The pyramid presents a breathtaking spectacle during the spring and autumn equinoxes, as the fabled serpent emerges into view, seemingly descending the structure amidst the shadows.
Only nearby Uxmal rivals Chichen Itza in terms of importance, carrying with it political and religious significance through its antiquity, including through the Pyramid of the Magician which notably was worked upon by multiple generations. Yucatecans, as heirs of Mayan culture, hold hospitality in high regard which becomes apparent when you sample some of the local specialities. Be sure to try panuchos (refried tortilla), papadzules (similar to enchiladas) and the finest cochinita pibil (slow-roasted pork) to be found anywhere in Mexico.
Right on the eastern tip of Mexico lies Quintana Roo, where pure jungle was the sole inhabitant of the state that meets the Caribbean Sea. Today, some of that jungle has made way for some hugely impressive resorts, to which thousands flock every year to discover the purest waters of the planet for themselves. Obviously, this is a far cry from what it once was.
At the height of the Mayans, Quintana Roo was among the most heavily populated regions, which is what the state can attribute its several reminders of the civilization which are dotted around. The walled city of Tulum is an ancient port which had a huge significance placed upon it as an astrological centre and, to this day, it is widely respected as one of the greatest settings for observing equinoxes and stargazing too. Tulum is also renowned for its natural beauty, combining the purest of white sands, diverse plant and animal life and fabulous nearby coral reefs which add an idyllic backdrop to the Mayan remains. The Temple of the Descending God is a wondrous structure that provides unbeatable views of this surrounding beauty.
If you come to Mexico's east coast for the natural beauty, don't skip El Cederal by any means. A small community, set up on Cozumel island, it is home to awe-inspiring cenotes which are famous for their impossibly clear waters. Sometimes hidden within limestone grottoes, or out in the open air, cenotes are unlike anything most visitors have ever seen before. Occasionally featuring waterfalls and drapes of hanging plants, they can also be found in Yucatán where the most beautiful cenote, Xlacah, can be found.
You'll find all the Mayan culture you need and more with the Great Mexico Tour!