The Mayan Riviera is a paradise of beaches with white sand and waters of turquoise hues, next to an exuberant forest filled with limestone cenotes and imposing Mayan ruins. These enigmatic archaeological deposits in the Mayan Riviera are some of the greatest treasures brought down from Mayan culture.
· Tulum is the site of the only Mayan remains right next to the sea, right by one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Tulum means walled city in the Mayan language, but in earlier times it was called Zamá, which means ‘dawn’. Every morning Tulum offers one of the most beautiful sunrises in the Caribbean.
It was a fortress that thrived in the post-classic period of Mayan civilization, between the years 1200 and 1450 A.D. Tulum was an essential city for trade in Ancient Mexico, serving as a junction for sea and land transportation.
A basic visit includes El Castillo (The Castle), the most prominent temple among these ruins, right on the edge of a cliff; the Templo del Dios Descendente (Temple of the Descending God) features a sculpture of a descending deity; and the Templo de los Frescos, a temple with frescoes depicting Mayan cosmogony.
· Archaeologists believe Cobá was one of the most powerful Mayan cities. It was first inhabited around 100 B.C. and reached a population of 50,000. It features the largest network of stone paths in the ancient Mayan world, known as sachés (white roads), with many monuments of carved stone called estelas that represent women.
The largest pyramid in Cobá is called Ixmoja and it is part of the Nohoch Mul group of constructions. The pyramid rises up 42 meters and, unlike other Mayan sites, it can still be climbed up if you’re willing to give it a try. The view of the jungle from above resembles that of a huge, green carpet.
· The sacred city of Chichén Itzá was included on the Unesco World Heritage List in 1988. It is one of the major Mayan architectural sites and its monuments are clearly of Toltec influence. Founded around 525 A.D., it has withstood the test of time and remains as one of the most impressive cultural achievements of Mesoamerica.
The pyramid of Kukulcán, known as El Castillo, presides over the monumental constructions of the esplanade of Chichén Itzá. This spectacular pyramid-shaped temple measures 55.5 meters across and rises up 24 meters, being one of the seven wonders of the modern world.
Each side of the pyramid consists of a large stone staircase with 91 steps on each side, plus an extra step leading to the upper temple. Altogether there are 365 steps, one for each day of the year. The lights and shadows that are projected resemble a serpent, Kukulcán, the Mayan equivalent of Quetzalcóatl (the winged serpent). If you see this shadow, make sure to clap your hands once when leaving the ruins!
The Mayan Riviera is much more than a paradise with beaches. Come by to get to know these three great jewels of the history of Mesoamerica!
“IBEROSTAR Hotels & Resorts has 7 hotels on the Mayan Riviera, distributed between Playa del Carmen and Playa Paraíso, two of the most beautiful places in the area.”