Sometimes it seems like Egypt gets all the attention when in fact some of the world’s most incredible monoliths are the pyramids in Mexico. Whether you’re visiting Cancun or Mexico City, or if you’re staying somewhere further out of the way, you’ll find Mesoamerican pyramids waiting to be discovered nearby.
Temple of Kukulkan at Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza was once the capital of the Mayan empire. Today, it’s one of the new seven wonders of the world. It is home to one of the most famous pyramids in Mexico, the temple of Kukulkan. Also known as the Castillo pyramid or simply as Kukulkan, this Mesoamerican step pyramid features seven terraces and four stairways that lead to the temple at its peak. If you visit in late afternoon during the weeks surrounding the spring or autumn equinox, you may see the triangular shadows that create the illusion of a feathered serpent traveling down the pyramid’s northwest balustrade.
Chichen Itza is also home to another pyramid called the Temple of the Warriors. This temple was constructed over an earlier structure called the Temple of the Chac Mool. Chichen Itza is not to be missed as it is one of the best places to visit in Mexico.
Chichen Itza isn’t far from Cancun, and it’s fairly close to Playa del Carmen as well so it’s easy to work into any itinerary where Mayan pyramids & Mexico beaches are priorities. Affordable accommodations are nearby, and tour packages to the Cancun pyramids often include nice extras such as visits to nearby cenotes.
Located in the jungle of Chiapas, Palenque offers a look at some of the most elaborate pyramids in Mexico. There are several pyramids at Palenque. The largest is the Temple of Inscriptions, which is the funerary monument to Hanab-Pakal, and home to the second-longest known Mayan glyphic text. Three smaller pyramids make up the Temple of the Cross Complex. These are the Temple of the Sun, the Temple of the Cross, and the Temple of the Foliated Cross. There are a number of other tombs, palaces, and temples to explore when you visit this site.
Since this is an extensive site with many of the most intriguing pyramids in Mexico, it’s best to stay in Palenque and spend the entire day exploring.
Also known as the City of Gods, Teotihuacan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to two of the most famous pyramids in Mexico: The Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon. Just 25 miles from Mexico City, these are some of the most accessible Mayan pyramids Mexico has to offer and they’re among the most incredible pyramids in North America as well. The ancient metropolis was a multi-ethnic melting pot, with evidence of Otomi, Mixtec, Nahua, and Zapotec peoples. It is possible that Totonacs and Aztecs contributed to its rise. Fascinating details are everywhere here, so be sure to look closely as you explore!
It’s easy to experience the ancient Mexico City pyramids over the course of an afternoon or perhaps a day or two if you feel like visiting nearby museums and related archaeological sites. There are fantastic accommodations in Mexico City, as well as all-inclusive packages that include a variety of experiences to complement your trip to one of the most famous places in Mexico.
The Great Pyramid of La Venta
One of the earliest pyramids in Mexico, La Venta’s Great Pyramid was constructed by Pre-Columbian Olmec people. Made of compacted clay rather than stone, the site was once a stepped, four-sided pyramid. Today, it has taken on an almost conical shape that archaeologists attribute to 2,500 years of erosion. The Great Pyramid site is far different from other Mayan pyramids. Mexico is proud of this ancient treasure, which offers several other intriguing features including colossal heads and basalt altars.
To experience one of the oldest pyramids in North America, it’s best to stay in nearby Villahermosa. While you’re there, be sure to visit the museum Parque-Museo de la Venta, which houses many artifacts from the Great Pyramid site.
Calakmul: City of Two Adjacent Pyramids
Two of the largest Mayan pyramids Mexico has to offer are located side by side at Calakmul. This is a massive UNESCO World Heritage site surrounded by tropical forest, similar in size to Guatemala’s Tikal site and believed to have been even more densely populated during its heyday. There are 975 mapped structures here, along with eight causeways, an impressive network of canals, and thirteen reservoirs.
Since the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve is located off the beaten path, it receives less than 100 visitors on most days. It has only been partially restored, and the closest accommodations are in Xpujil. The site’s Natural History and Archaeology Museum is located 40 kilometers from Calakmul, and it’s the last place to purchase supplies such as water and snacks before making your way into the Biosphere Reserve itself. If you’re interested in seeing pyramids in Mexico minus big crowds, this adventure is certain to please!
The Pyramids of Uxmal
At Uxmal, you’ll discover the Pyramid of the Magician, which is also known as the Pyramid of the Soothsayer. La Gran Piramide is also located at Uxmal, along with many terraces, facades, and plazas. Other famous Uxmal features include the Nun’s Quadrangle, the House of the Turtles, the Ball Court, and the Place of the Governor.
Because Uxmal is among the best places to visit in Mexico, it is very easy to travel to the site by bus. Most visitors stay in Merida, which is located just about 50 miles away. If you’re willing to spend a little more, you can reserve accommodations at Uxmal itself. The Kaba Mayan ruins and Labna Mayan ruins are nearby so consider a side trip if you have time.
The Mayan Pyramids of Coba
The ruins of Coba are not only home to one of the tallest pyramids in Mexico, they’re also one of the most significant Mayan sites. The Coba archaeological area includes the largest network of stone causeways discovered to date, plus a group of Mayan pyramids including Nohoch Mul, Ixmoja, La Iglesia, The Ancient Pyramid, and the Pyramid of the Painted Lintel.
There are three hotels at Coba, along with campsites, restaurants, and small shops. Additionally, the Coba Mayan ruins are easy to access from Playa del Carmen or Tulum.
Pyramid of the Niches at El Tajin
The area surrounding El Tajin has been occupied since approximately 5,600 BCE, making this one of the oldest UNESCO World Heritage Sites. There are 17 ballcourts here, along with four primitive pyramids, the Tajin Chico complex, the Blue Temple, and the incredible Pyramid of the Niches, which is very well preserved. Near the Pyramid of the Niches is a second tall pyramid which is simply known as El Tajin Building 5.
Thanks to its unique engineering, elaborate carved reliefs, the Pyramid of the Niches is easily one of the most famous pyramids in Mexico. It has quite a few nicknames including Pyramid of Papantla, El Tajin, and Pyramid of the Seven Stories. If you’re into history, you’ll probably agree that this is one of the best places to visit in Mexico.
More to Explore
Planning a trip and ready to experience the best of Mexico? There’s so much more to see! Explore Mexico packages help you take it all in with trips to mysterious Mayan and Aztec pyramids, incredible cenotes, jaunts through lush jungles, and of course, sunny afternoons on gorgeous beaches where you can surf or simply relax. Where will your travels take you?
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