When most people are planning a trip to Cancun, Mexico, they look for exciting nightlife and sunny beaches. However, Cancun has a lot more to offer than that. Cancun actually has a very rich history, and you can supplement your beach time with tours of some breath-taking historical sites. The following list is your guide to the top historical sites that you should consider seeing the next time you plan a trip to Cancun:
The most famous of the historic sites in the Cancun area of Mexico, Chichen Itza is a restored Mayan city, and contains a huge, spectacular temple among other attractions. This site is also home to the largest known Mayan ball court, and tours are given daily throughout the site or you can explore on your own. It is a day-long trip, as it is about 200 km from Cancun, but it is well worth the drive. You can either rent a car or take a bus. In fact, many hotels in the Cancun area offer guided bus tours to Chichen Itza. If you’re going to tour the site on your own, get there early to avoid the tour bus crowds.
Also a famous ancient Mayan city, the Coba Ruins is the oldest of the Mayan sites in this area. This area is extremely remote, and only a few of the structures were uncovered and restored, leaving almost all of the six thousand buildings still covered by jungle. Here, you can see Mayan stone roads, as well as the tallest pyramid in the vicinity of Cancun. The Coba Ruins are also a bit of a drive from Cancun, but again, many Cancun hotels run tours to this destination via free or low-cost buses.
If you want to see some Mayan ruins without sacrificing an entire day to a tour, check out the Tulum Ruins, which are closer to Cancun. This location is unique because it is built along the coast, making the structures there almost lighthouse-like. A large wall surrounds the city, and the only way to explore inside is through one of the original tunnels. Be forewarned, however, that this historical spot is extremely popular for tourists and often quite crowded.
One of the most traditional activities in Mexico is the making of tequila. La Destileria isn’t exactly a historic site like the ancient ruins listed above, but at this museum and restaurant you can explore the history of this liquor. Guided tours will teach you how tequila is made, and at the end you get to try samples of the tequila that they make right there at the restaurant.
If you are traveling with people who are not as interested in seeing historical sites, you can consider a trip to Xcaret. This water park and activity center was once a place of Mayan ceremonies, and they have built a replica of a Mayan city to showcase the ancient culture. You will also be able to snorkel in the waterfalls, swim with the dolphins, and explore the environmental center in Xcaret. Don’t forget to stick around to watch descendants of the Mayans perform customary dances and musical shows.
Mercado Coral Negro
Before you leave Cancun, you should also make plans to stop at one of the traditional Mexican markets. Mercado Coral Negro is a great choice. Like the tequila museum, this site in and of itself isn’t a place of ancient history, but here you can see (and buy) traditional craft items like embroidered clothing, hats, and decorative pieces. You can also find traditional Mayan food at these markets. Of course, there are the run-of-the-mill “Cancun” T-shirts for tourists as well, but this shopping opportunity is great for those wanting some historically significant items to take home without spending a fortune.
If you are interested in more great historical Cancun sites, your best bet is to ask the customer service representatives at your hotel for their opinions on local sites. You can also speak with taxi cab drivers and tour guides – providing they speak English or you speak Spanish! The best way to find historical spots off the beaten path is to talk to those who live and work in Cancun all year-round.
Cancun, and all of Mexico, is full of history. It is a wonderful place to experience modern beaches, water sports, and nightlife. While that part of Cancun can be great fun, make sure that you spend a bit of time exploring Cancun’s ancient ruins and other historical activities. You won’t be sorry!