If we were to say to you, “name a great civilization from the past who used to live in Mexico,” the chances are that your first answer would be the Aztecs. If we asked you to guess again, we suspect that your next answer would be the Inca. For some reason, even though the Mayans were a famous ancient civilization, people often appear to forget where they lived – or even, in some cases, that they ever lived before.
Perhaps the confusion is because there’s a lack of readily available information about them. The Mayans reached their peak more than one thousand years ago – and then they suddenly disappeared. We don’t believe that they were victims of the Spanish conquistadors – they simply vanish from the annals of history, leaving behind only their hard-to-decipher written language and the ruins of their ancient buildings. Sadly, most people don’t even know them for that. Mention the Mayans, and all most people will be able to tell you is that they had a doomsday prophecy that said the world would end in 2012 – even though that supposed prophecy was based on an enormous misunderstanding.
Even though the average member of the public knows so little about them, there’s still a great fascination with this secretive and advanced culture. Aside from the ‘doomsday’ coverage that they got in the run-up to New Year 2012, the entire ancient Mayan culture and its iconography has become the unwitting star of a series of online slots. As hard as that might be to believe, one quick glance at most leading online slots websites like CloverCasino.com will tell you it’s true. “Mayan Gods” is one such example, as is “Yucatan’s Mystery.” We’re not experts in the field, but from what we’re told, they’re fun to play. If you ask us, though, the best way to explore Yucatan’s mysteries isn’t to play online slots. It’s to head out to Mexico and explore the real place yourself – and while you’re there, check out these incredible Mayan ruins.
These incredible ruins make a mockery of the idea that the Mayans didn’t accurately record their own history. If you want to find a detailed record, head straight to the Temple of Inscriptions at Palenque. You’ll find more than 180 years’ worth of historical records there carved into the walls, and if you have a translator or a suitable guide with you, it makes for interesting reading. That isn’t even the most amazing sight to behold at Palenque, though. That honor goes to King Pakal’s Tomb, buried so deep underground that the humidity is intense enough to make the walls sweat. Only the hardiest of souls dare enter it. If you’d like to become one of them, you’ll need to apply for a special permit before your visit. Once you’re back outside, bask in the beautiful scenery that surrounds the ruins and cool off.
Not all of the great Mayan ruins are hiding away in the depths of the jungle. Some, like Tulum, are in much more unlikely locations. Tulum is, in fact, right on the edge of the ocean! If you’re a strong swimmer and the mood takes you, you’re even allowed to dive straight into the Caribbean Sea from the base of the ancient temples. Tulum was built as a port town to support the city of Coba, a little further inland. Its function was probably similar to that of a lighthouse, albeit without the light at the top. Archaeologists believe that the windows of the temples were deliberately positioned in alignment with the barrier reef as a way of helping sailors navigate safely around it on the way into the port. Tulum feels a little less authentic than the other Mayan ruins you might check out as it’s surrounded by so many modern amenities, but it’s no less significant because of that.
The contrast between Tulum and Calakmul couldn’t be greater. While the modern world has encroached upon Tulum and built itself up around it, Calakmul remains remote and unspoiled. The sense of isolation and emptiness you’ll find at the site is surprising, given the fact that it was once home to around fifty thousand people. The ruins include two large pyramids and a series of reservoirs, all of which must have been extremely complex construction projects for their time. The Calakmul ruins are so expansive that you could spend five or six hours walking around them, and you still wouldn’t have chance to see everything they have to offer. Reaching the very top is worth the effort it takes to get here, though – the view of the surrounding biosphere reserve is spectacular.
The obvious answer is sometimes the best one. Chichen Itza is the most famous ancient building in all of Mexico, and it thoroughly deserves that title. Nobody seems to know for sure when it was built. There are some rumors that it wasn’t even built by the Mayans and that they might have found it and claimed it after it was built and then abandoned by an even earlier culture. What we can say for sure is that by the 6th century, it was the heart of the entire Mayan empire. The city was occupied for centuries, expanding in size until it covered six square miles (that would have been considered enormous back then) and remaining in use during the Maya-Toltec era. Crowds gather in huge numbers here almost all year round, and so your best bet is to grab a ticket for the time just after sunrise when admission is limited, and the views are at their best. Standing in front of the Kukulkan pyramid, you’ll be left in no doubt of the reasons why this special place has been named as one of the New Wonders of the World.
Mexico isn’t the limit of your horizons if you want to head out in search of Mayan ruins. You’ll also find them in Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras. If you have the time and money, you could book a two-week tour of this entire region of South America and try to take it all in at once! Why do that, though, when you can do the Mexican leg now and come back another time to see the rest? South America isn’t going anywhere, and it sorts out your vacation plans for the next few years!
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