The Mayapan Ruins near Merida offers visitors a glimpse into the past, and a closer look at ancient Mayan life without the huge crowds that the other sites near Cancun attract.
This Pre-Colombian site is every bit as impressive as the other ruins we’ve seen, but it’s relative remoteness prevents most tourists from ever getting a chance to see it.
If you are planning a visit to Merida or Puerto Progresso, the short drive to Mayapan is a must! This guide will tell you how to prepare for your trip to the ruins including; directions to site, items to pack, when to visit, and what to wear.
Quick Article Guide:
1. Why Visit the Mayapan Ruins Near Merida?
2. Driving from Merida to the Ruins at Mayapan
3. The Pyramid of Kukulkan at the Mayapan Ruins
4. The Observatory at the Mayan Ruins of Mayapan
5. The Mayan Murals and Reliefs at Mayapan
6. Can You Climb the Pyramid and Ruins at Mayapan?
7. When Is the Best Time of Year to Visit Mayapan?
8. What to Wear to the Mayapan Ruins Near Merida
9. What to Pack for Your Trip to the Mayapan Ruins
Mayapan served as the capital city of the Yucatan Peninsula during the Late Post-Classic Maya Period. Construction on this ancient community began around 1220 AD, about the same time period the that former Mayan city capital of Chichen Itza was mostly abandoned.
Like some other Mayan communities including Tulum, Mayapan was surrounded by stone walls for protection. Once home to as many as 17,000 residents, the site still contains the ruins of more than 4,000 Pre-Colombian buildings. It also has a layout and structures that are similar to Chichen Itza.
On the day we visited, we were the ONLY people at the entire site. We didn’t have to wait in any lines and there were no vendors to distract us, it was absolute paradise! In addition to the ancient structures and history the Mayapan offers, there are also some murals at site that are very well-preserved.
The Mayapan Ruins are less than a 45 minute drive from Merida. There are also public buses that run to the site every hour for only 25 pesos (about $1.25 USD). We were warned that the bus makes a lot of stops, so the trip to the ruins usually takes more than an hour and a half each way.
To further complicate matters, there are two bus-stops named Mayapan; one for the village, and one for the ruins. So, if your Spanish isn’t the best, you might want to hire a taxi or book with a tour guide. To save time and avoid confusion, we decided to hire a guide to take us for a private tour.
Hiring a tour guide also allowed us a little extra time to see some additional sites while driving to and from the Mayapan Ruins near Merida. The Cenote Grottos weren’t the greatest experience, but the Catholic Cathedrals of Tecoh and Mani were definitely worth the visit.
The Temple of Kukulkan is a nine step Mayan pyramid that was modeled after the world-reknowned El Castillo Pyramid at former Mayan capital of Chichen Itza. The major difference between these two structures is the absence of an enclosed structure which only present on El Castillo.
Humidity, rain, earthquakes, erosion, and people have taken their toll on Chichen Itza. This World Heritage site has had to adapt to the influx of visitors and as a result, they have been forced to limited access to the site and its buildings. Mayapan is a completely different story.
These ruins receive only a fraction of the visitors that the more popular Mayan sites like Chichen Itza, Tulum, and Coba see each year. In addition, most of the major construction at the Mayapan Ruins near Merida began centuries after most of the other Mayan sites in the region.
The Observatory at Mayapan is almost identical to the Observatory building at site of Chichen Itza. Both structures are also known El Caracol or “snail” because of their winding interior staircases. Each tower also provides lines of site to numerous astrological events including eclipses, Summer Solstices, and Winter Equinoxes.
The Observatory at Chichen Itza was believed to have been constructed around 975 AD, while Mayapan’s observatory wasn’t built until at least 300 years later. Unfortunately, the top of the Observatory at Chichen Itza has collapsed, but Mayapan’s Observatory is in much better shape.
The Mayapan Ruins near Merida are also home to some amazing stucco reliefs and painted murals. Ropes and boundaries have been installed to prevent visitors from touching or damaging the ancient reliefs, but you can still view the Mayan artwork from the surrounding walkways.
Pre-Colombian Mayan murals can also be viewed at the ancient ruins of Mayapan. Archaeologists believe these colorful paintings depict images of daily living in the region and the afterlife. A handful of these well-preserved murals are still being studied by historians today.
You can climb all of the major buildings and temples at Mayapan, including the Pyramid of Kukulkan. This ancient structure shares it’s name and design with the most iconic pyramid in Mexico, El Castillo, which is the main attraction at the nearby site of Chichen Itza.
We spent over an hour climbing the pyramid and nearby buildings, but we never saw another person while we were at the site. This is another reason that the ruins at Mayapan well-preserved. In addition to minimal foot traffic, it’s also the last great city of the Maya, and it’s much younger than sites like Coba.
If you decide to climb the ruins, take your time, walk diagonally, and wear athletic shoes. Unlike Ek Balam, Coba, and Uxmal, the large structures at this site do not have any handrails to hold onto. We prefer trail shoes with non-slip soles so you don’t have to worry about falling it rains.
Mayapan doesn’t draw large crowds like other Mayan ruins closer to Cancun. The site is rarely busy, so you don’t need to worry about scheduling your trip around the peak season. We recommend visiting the Mayapan Ruins near Merida when the weather is warm and dry.
From November through March, rain is minimal, and daytime temperatures are ideal. You can expect a high in the mid-70s to low 80s which is perfect for climbing the ruins. Merida is very inexpensive, so visiting during the best time of year shouldn’t impact the cost of your stay very much.
April, May, and June is the worst time of year because of the humidity. From July to October, the weather is much nicer, but it’s also hurricane season. If you plan to stay in Cancun before your visit, traveling during these months will save you about 40%, but make sure you buy travel insurance.
The weather in Mayapan is usually warm and sunny, but in the wet season, large rain storms are common. Even during the dry season, a light sprinkle isn’t rare, but the temperature usually stays above 70 degrees Fahrenheit. With this in mind, we recommending dressing like you are going to the gym.
Jenn usually wears a tank top and yoga pants, and I prefer dry-fit shirts and gym shorts or zip-off pants. You’ll also want to wear a comfortable pair of shoes with a good grip if you intend to climb the ruins. And don’t forget to bring a light raincoat, especially if you are visiting during the wet season.
You’ll want to bring a few supplies for your visit to the Mayapan Ruins near Merida, even if you decide hire a tour guide. We always bring a small backpack or a fanny-pack on our trips to the ancient sites we visit. And don’t forget to bring a light jacket. As we mentioned earlier, rain is common year-round.
These are the items we recommend packing for your excursion to Mayapan:
– Sunscreen (Buy biodegradeable sunscreen of you intend to swim in a cenote)
– Mosquito Repellent (There are mosquitoes at this site)
– A wide-brimmed hat (To protect your face and head from direct sun)
– Hiking shoes or trail shoes (Nonslip shoes are the best for climbing the ruins)
–Bottled Water (Bring extra water, even if your tour might offers it)
– Money for Souvenirs (There are only a handful of vendors here and bring change!)
– Passports or ID (This site didn’t require them but some of the other attractions do)
– A Camera (We took these pictures with an iPhone 7+)
– Sunglasses (The sun was extremely bright during our visit)
– First-Aid Kit (In case you cut or scrape yourself while climbing the ruins)
– Selfie-Sticks (Very few people visit site, so it will be hard to get good photos without one)
Items to Leave at Home or at Your Hotel:
– Pets (Most of the ruins throughout Mexico are home to harmless stray dogs)
– Music (Stereos are not allowed at any of the ancient Mayan sites)
– Drones (Mayapan does not allow drones at the ruins)
Do you have questions about you trip to the Mayapan Ruins near Merida, or would you like to share your experience of the site? Please leave us a comment below!