15 must-visit pyramids in Mexico

By Camila Perez on Mar 14, 2019

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.

In this guide, we'll take a look at:

  • 1. Temple of Kukulkan at Chichen Itza
  • 2. Palenque Pyramids
  • 3. Teotihuacan Pyramids
  • 4. The Great Pyramid of La Venta
  • 5. Calakmul: City of Two Adjacent Pyramids
  • 6. The Pyramids of Uxmal
  • 7. The Mayan Pyramids of Coba
  • 8. Pyramid of the Niches at El Tajin
  • 9. FAQ:
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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 the 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.

Open hours and the best time to visit

Chichen Itza is open from 8 AM to 5 PM every day. Most tour groups start trooping in at around 10 AM, and the site gets crowded until 2 PM. So be sure to among the early birds if you want to take Instagram-worthy photos of the temple.

Alternatively, you can plan to arrive at around 3 PM when most of the tour groups have left. However, you may not have ample time to explore everything because the site closes at 5 PM.

The site is overcrowded on Sundays as Mexican nationals, and foreign residents have free admission. As such, we highly recommend visiting during weekdays.

How to get to Chichen Itza

Organized Tour

The most convenient way to get to Chichen Itza from your hotel near downtown Cancun is to join a tour group. Once you’ve booked your tour online with a company, you’ll be picked up at your hotel before driving to Chichen with the other group for a guided tour.

In most of these tours, the cost includes virtually everything from roundtrip transportation to a panoramic tour of Valladolid city. The entire trip takes around 10 hours, and you’ll be taken back to your hotel.

> View Our Chichen Itza Organized Tour Package

By Bus

If you are traveling on a budget, your best bet will be taking the bus. ADO has a first-class bus that leaves Cancun every day at 8:45 AM and departs from the site at 4:30 PM. The journey to and from takes a little over 3 hours.

Alternatively, and a much better option if you want to get there earlier, you can take the 5:15 AM ADO bus to Valladolid. Tickets start at 190 pesos (~ 9.99 USD), and the journey takes a little over 2 hours. From Valladolid, hop on a collective (shared minibus) for a 45 minutes’ drive to Chichen Itza.

By Car

If you are adventurous, you can skip the tours, rent a car and drive to Chichen Itza yourself. The trip to Chichen is reasonably straightforward and takes around 2 hours on the direct toll 180 route. So, you’ll want to leave hotel zone at about 6 AM if you wish to be at the gates as they open at 8 AM. Keep in mind that in addition to the quoted price of car rental, you’ll also need to factor in insurance, parking fees (22 pesos / ~1.16 USD), fuel, and toll cost (300 pesos / ~ 15.5 USD each way).

Palenque Pyramids

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.

Open hours and the best time to visit

The Palenque archaeological site is open every day from 8 am to 5:00 pm, but the latest admission is 4:30 pm. It tends to ramp up with visitors at around 11 am when the tour groups and visitors arrive.

Palenque is one of the most visited pyramids in Mexico. To avoid the crowds and drenching heat, we advise staying for a night at one of the hotels nearby and then arrive at the park’s gates as they open at 8 am the following morning.

How to get to Palenque Pyramids

By Bus

The easiest and most economical way to get to the site is by bus. Several buses ply from most of the towns around Palenque. From Cancun, you can travel with ADO, Turismo Diamante, or Turistab buses. The journey takes around 13 hours, and tickets cost 35-60 pesos (~ 1.8 USD – ~ 3.15 USD).

From Mexico City, ADO has a bus that travels to Palenque daily for 700-1200 pesos (~ 37 USD – ~ 63 USD), and the journey lasts around 14 hours.

By Plane

You can also fly from Mexico City to Villahermosa International airport with Interjet, VivaAerobus, or Aeromexico. The flight takes 1 hour 30 minutes, and tickets cost 65-750 pesos (~ 3.5 USD – ~ 40 USD). From Villahermosa, take an ADO bus to Palenque pyramids for around 224 pesos (~ 12 USD) (2.5 hours).

Teotihuacan Pyramids

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.

Open hours and the best time to visit

Teotihuacan archaeological site is open seven days a week from 9 am to 5 pm. Most tour buses show up at around 10 am, at noon, and after lunch. So, individual tourists who want to beat the crowds arrive at the opening time.

How to get to Teotihuacan

By Bus

Hopping on a bus is going to be the best option for economical travelers, and it’s easy. At Mexico City, take a metro at the Autobuses del Notre Metro station to Autobuses del Notre bus terminal for around 5 pesos (~ 0.3 USD). The bus station will be right in front of you once you exit the metro station.

Once inside, turn left and head towards gate 8. It’s around here where you’ll find the Autobuses Teotihuacan bus company office. Buy a one-way ticket (50 pesos/ ~ 3 USD) or a return ticket (100 pesos/ ~ 6 USD). Note that the buses leave every 20 minutes, and your departure time is printed on the card.

By Uber

You could also take Uber from anywhere in Mexico City to Teotihuacan. When keying in your destination details, be sure to put “Teotihuacan Pyramid of the sun” to avoid being taken to other streets, also known as Teotihuacan. Each journey by Uber will take around 1 hour and will set you back 400-500 pesos (~ 20 USD – ~ 26 USD).

Organized Tours to Teotihuacan

If you’d rather avoid the pain of deciphering online maps sorting things out, taking a tour to the City of Gods might be the most convenient option. When booking your trip with the tour companies available, enquire about the length of time you’ll be allowed at the site.

Some companies will allow you 1.5 hours, which is barely enough to explore the vast sceneries at Teotihuacan. A tour with Selina costs 700 pesos ( ~ 36 USD), and you’ll have well over 3 hours of exploration and detailed explanation from a bilingual guide.

View Our Organized Tour to “City of Gods”, Teotihuacan

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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.

Open hours and the best time to visit

Pyramid of La Venta opens at 9 am and closes at 5 pm from Tuesday to Sunday. Of all the pyramids in Mexico, La Venta is among the hardest to access, so it’s not surprising that it rarely gets crowded.

How to get to the Pyramid of La Venta

Your very first step to getting to the Pyramid of La Venta will be to reach Villahermosa, which could be by air or road. There are several carriers, including VivaAerobus, Interject, and AirMexico, that connect Mexico City, Cancun, Oaxaca, Monterey, and even Veracruz daily.

By Plane

The flight from Mexico City takes approximately 2 hours 48 minutes, and tickets range from 1,733 pesos (~ 91 USD) to 3,618 pesos (~ 190 USD), of course, depending on the day and time of travel.

By Bus

Villahermosa is also easily accessible by ADO and AU buses from Mexico City (12 hrs 30 mins), Cancun (12 hours 46 mins), or Playa del Carmen (13 hours). There’s also an option to rent a car and cruise on Highway 180/180D. This will be considerably pricier than the bus but 1-2 hours faster.

Moving from Villahermosa to the archaeological site will require some effort. Since there are very few people who visit the site daily, it can be quite hard to get a bus that runs directly to the site. That being said, your best option will be to hire a car and probably a local operator. Luckily, car rental in Villahermosa is pretty cheap and could cost as little as 380 pesos (~ 20 USD) a day.

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!

Open hours and the best time to visit

Calakmul ruins are open daily from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. Considering its distance from any civilization, this site never gets overcrowded.

How to get to Calakmul pyramids

Getting to the lost city of Calakmul pyramids can be quite hard, mainly because there are no direct buses. However, it’s rewarding for anyone who makes the trip. Xpujil is the closest town to this site, so it makes sense that most people make their basecamp there before heading to the Calakmul pyramids the following morning.

You have 2 options for getting to Calakmul upon arriving at Xpujil. First, you can rent a car and drive to the site. The journey takes roughly 1 hour, and the condition of the road varies from good to terrible, especially as you draw near Calakmul. Remember to take a lot of water and packed lunch with you as there are no stores or restaurants anywhere near the ruins.

The second option is to hire a private driver. This comes highly recommended if you don’t want to risk driving a rented car in a strange jungle.

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.

Open hours and the best time to visit

The Pyramids of Uxmal are open 7 days a week from 8 AM to 5 PM. The site starts getting busy at around 9:30 AM and remains crowded until 12 noon when visitors start leaving. So, it pays to arrive early.

How to get to Uxmal Pyramids

By Bus

Most people opt to travel to Merida first as it’s much closer to Uxmal. From Merida, taking a bus will be the least expensive option. The route from Merida to Uxmal is serviced by at least 5 buses daily.

If you wish to travel first class, ADO has 3 bus stations; CAME (Calle/street 70 no. 555 near Centro), Fiesta Americana (Calle/street 60), and Altabrista (on the north side of Merida on Calle 26 no. 202). The first bus leaves Merida at 6 AM, and there is a second bus at 9 AM. They charge 52-68 pesos (~ 3 USD – ~ 4 USD) one way and take around 1 hour 30 minutes.

If you plan to travel second class, ADO has another booking office called TAME just opposite CAME. These buses leave frequently, and tickets are bought at the office. To get back from the ruins to Merida, you’ll find the coaches just opposite the bus stop at the ruins. Buses start leaving as early as 9:30 AM, 12 noon, and then after every 2 hours until 8 PM.

By Car

Renting a car may be an ideal option if you want optimum flexibility. You’ll find a lot of agencies around Merida International Airport and on Calle 60. Expect to part with 1000 – 2500 pesos (~ 52 USD – ~ 131 USD) per day (inclusive of tax and insurance). The parking charges at Uxmal is 30 pesos (~ 1.5 USD).

By Taxi

Local taxis are also an option. They are relatively cheaper than a rental car, and you could agree with the driver to take you to the ruins, wait a few hours for you, and then take you back. Most of them charge between 1200 and 1500 pesos (~ 65 USD – ~ 80 USD) for such a plan.

The Mayan Pyramids of Coba

The ruins of Coba are not only home to one of the tallest pyramids in Mexico, but 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.

Open hours and the best time to visit

The site is open Monday to Sunday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. The busiest time to visit Coba ruins is between 10 am and 2 pm. Do yourself a favor and arrive early if you want to climb the pyramid when it’s cooler and less crowded.     

How to get to the Pyramids of Coba

Being one of the best pyramids in Mexico that you can climb, there are endless options when it comes to getting to Coba from Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and Valladolid. Regardless of where you are coming from, taking the bus is the most economical and easiest option. 

By Bus

From Tulum, ADO (located at Tulum Centro) has a first-class bus that leaves at 10:11 AM for Coba. A ticket costs 98 pesos (~ 5 USD) one way. There is also a second class Mayab that leaves ADO station at 7:20 am, and it’s actually cheaper at 50 pesos (~ 2.5 USD). The second class bus is the best option if you wish to arrive earlier before the site gets busy. 

Each of these buses takes roughly 1 hour to get to Coba.

By Car, Taxi, or an Organized Tour

For travelers on a higher budget, you can rent a car in most locations in Mexico City and other major surrounding cities, or take a taxi.

If you want to avoid the hassle and confusion of independent travel, there are several tour companies to your rescue. Selina, will combine a tour to Coba and Tulum ruins, a visit to Playa del Carmen, lunch, and swimming in a cenote in one exciting roundtrip.

View Our Tulum Tour Package

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.

Open hours and the best time to visit

The Pyramid of the Niches is open 7 days a week from 8 am to 5 pm. This site is pretty remote and does not get as crowded as Chichen Itza and Palenque except during the weekends.

How to get to Pyramid of the Niches

By Bus

The closest cities to the Pyramid of the Niches are Papantla (10.5 km) and Poza Rica (18.5 km). If you are coming from Mexico City, head to the Centro Norte bus station and take an ADO bus to Papantla via Poza Rica. 

ADO Bus Company has several buses that ply this route every day. The journey by bus takes roughly 6 hours, and the ticket ranges from 304 to 952 pesos (~ 16 USD – ~ 50 USD) depending on the type of bus.

By Plane & Taxi

If you’d rather fly, Aeromar, Interjet, and Aeromexico offer daily flights to Poza Rica.

From Poza Rica or Papantla, you’ll then need to grab a cab for a 10-15 minutes drive to the Pyramid of the Niches. This will cost you around 60 pesos (~ 3 USD). From the site, you’ll need to take a taxi back to Papantla.


Mexico City FAQs

  • Where are the pyramids in Mexico?

    A good number of the pyramids in Mexico are located not too far from significant towns, so they make for a relatively easy trip. Of course, due to their easy accessibility, these sites can get really crowded, especially during the weekends. Others, including the Pyramid of La Venta, are found deep in the jungle and are, therefore, quite hard to access.

  • Can you climb the pyramids in Mexico?

    The pyramids of Mexico are increasingly being roped off as tourism increases to these sites. For instance, you cannot climb Chichen Itza, Tulum, Uxmal, and Muyil. Nonetheless, there are still a lot of other breathtaking pyramids that are open to climbing in Mexico. These include Calakmul, Coba, Ek Balam, and Mayapan.

  • What is the largest pyramid in Mexico?

    The Great Pyramid of Cholula is not only the biggest in Mexico, but it’s also in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest emblematic monument ever built in the world. This temple-pyramid has a base of 450 meters by 450 meters, a height of 66 meters, and an estimated volume of over 4.45 million cubic meters. Despite being almost twice the size of Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza, the Pyramid of Cholula actually remains hidden under a mountain.

  • How tall is the Sun pyramid in Mexico City?

    Mighty and mysterious, the Sun pyramid rises 75 meters above what was once a bustling city and a home to over 200,000 people during its epoch, the Teotihuacan city.

  • How many pyramids are in Mexico?

    There are over 30 pyramids scattered in the jungles of 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. Or head over to the Pacific coast of Mexico for a chance to enjoy some of the country’s most popular surf destinations! Plus, with a Selina hotel in Sayulita, Mexico, you’ll have the perfect home base to book lessons, get work done from the road, and connect with other like-minded travelers!

    Selina Mexico City Downtown

    Enjoy beautiful accommodation, coworking spaces, and the ultimate community experience at Selina Selina Mexico City Downtown!

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