A SMART WAY TO TRAVEL
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The Yucatan Peninsula is home to archaeological sites that are some of the "must-sees" and "must-dos" during your vacation in Cancun, Playa del Carmen or the Riviera Maya, especially when you take into account the 2012 "end of the world" predictions. Since the Mayans actually only noted that December 21, 2012 would be the end of their long count calendar (5,125 years) we probably don't have anything to worry about. Think of it more like the end of an era or a new beginning, much like our New Year's Eve. Either way, it's the perfect time to immerse yourself in the ancient Mayan civilization.
Chichen Itzá, named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, is an archaeological site with exceptionally well preserved pre-Hispanic Mayan ruins. Tour its sacred grounds, and see the astounding Kukulkan Pyramid. If you visit during the spring or fall equinox, you'll be awed by the shadowy image of a Kukulkan (snake) slithering down the pyramid's stairs. Don't miss the Sacred Cenote (a cave-like water-filled sinkhole) where evidence of human sacrifice has been found.
Another Mayan ruins site close to Cancun is Tulum, which sits perched on a cliff overlooking the azure Caribbean Sea. Tulum was one of the last cities built and inhabited by the Mayans and between 1,000 and 1,600 people once lived there. This city was an important trade hub and artifacts found in or near the site show that Tulum had contact with areas all over Central Mexico and America.
If you'd like to climb a Mayan pyramid, visit Cobá and view the tropical jungle, cenotes, unexcavated temple mounds and native flora and fauna from above. This site doesn't have nearly the amount of visitors that Chichen Itzá and Tulum do. Cobá is thought to have had some 50,000 inhabitants at one time and contains up to 6,500 structures, most of which have not been excavated and/or restored.
Discover these ancient treasures yourself, and image what it would have been like to live in these grand Mayan cities.
Thanks to willia4, Grand Velas Riviera Maya, Adam Baker and joyosity for the great Flickr photos.
Have you visited any Mayan ruins?