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Choosing Which Mayan Ruin to Visit - Tulum, Chitzen Itza, Coba or Uxmal

One of the "must do" activities on the Riviera Maya is to visit Mayan ruins. After all, they are one of the "New" Seven Wonders of the World. But which one? That is the question. We will assume you are somewhere near the Mayan Palace Riviera Maya when considering travel time. Our guest blogger Denise Ackerly, is writing detailed articles on each location. We will add links to her articles as they become available. AS of this writing , the Tulum article is the only one finished, but we will update this article as the other sites become available.


Tulum is what I call Mayan Ruins for beginners. It is small enough to do in a couple hours. It has the huge perk of spectacular scenery due to it's location perched on a cliff overlooking Caribbean. It still has the educational value of the Mayan cleverness with astronomy. Finally it is only about an hour south

Tulum Mayan Ruin

Tulum on the Cliff over the Caribbean

of the Mayan Resort. You can read Denise's excellent article on Tulum.


Coba is my favorite of the Mayan Ruins. From Tulum it is an additional half hour inland, so getting there is a bit more bother. Coba is the least excavated and developed of the ruins. You can see it in the "jungle" setting. It has a high pyramid that you can still climb (at least when we were there last). there is a Mayan Ball court that let's you picture it. Because it is still in the jungle, it is the only

Mayan Ruin of Coba

Climb the Pyramid in Coba

one of the four we will mention that has a fair amount of shade as you walk around. That is the clincher for me. We highly recommend hiring one of the guides hanging out at the entry gate. There are just too many things to learn by yourself.

Chitzen Itza

This is the best known Mayan Ruins and truly is fantastic. It is much larger than the Tulum or Coba and has the biggest and most spectacular pyramid. If you are a passionate Mayan fan, this is your spot. It is an hour and a half west of Cancun in the middle of the Yucatan peninsula. If you drive yourself, be

Chitzen Itza massive pyramid

Birds Eye view of the Big Pyramid in Chitzen Itza

sure to take the bypass around the south side of Cancun and take the toll road. Do not make the mistake of taking the alternate road. It will literally take twice and long and on the way back, it will dump you into the least desirable part of Cancun ! Think Chicken Pizza when you try to remember the name to tell your friends.


We have never been to Uxmal. it is the farthest away and my friend Curtis tells me that it is like more Chitzen Itza. In fact, it is even larger. This would be for the die hard student of Mayan culture. You might want to make this trip as part of a Riviera Maya Trip Extension to Merida. Unfortunately, we don't have any photos for you. You can find a complete guide at Frommer's Guide to Uxmal

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