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Exploring the culture and ruins of the ancient Mayans is one of the highlights of visiting the area near Cancun, Mexico. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, large group tours were a convenient way for clients to discover these attractions. Now, the idea of sitting on a bus in close proximity to strangers does not have as much appeal. Clients will likely gravitate toward private tours or renting a vehicle and exploring on their own to decrease their exposure to others.
Although restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic do not allow for travel to Mexico at this time, the Quintana Roo Tourism Promotion Council has announced the reopening of the state for travel as of June 1, which corresponds with the resumption of international flight service.
When your clients do head back to the area, there are a number of sites in Cancun that they can easily explore on their own. El Meco, El Rey and Museo Maya de Cancun are all just a taxi ride away from the city’s Hotel Zone, and major sites Chichen Itza and Ek Balam are easily accessible on a day trip.
El MecoOn a recent visit, as I explored the El Meco ruins, I felt like an archaeologist who had just discovered the remains of an ancient civilization hidden deep in the jungle.
There were only three other people at the ruins — but there were iguanas everywhere. The irony was that this archaeological site is right in Cancun, just 5 miles north of the downtown Hotel Zone.
A 55-foot-tall pyramid known as El Castillo is the highlight of these ruins. This site was first inhabited from 250 to 600 A.D., and then abandoned. It was recolonized between 1000 and 1100 A.D., when the pyramid was built.
El ReySituated on the west side of Boulevard Kukulcan, the El Rey archaeological site contains a few ceremonial platforms and a small temple. The site was in its prime from 1200 to 1500 A.D. and gets its name, which means “the king,” from a sculpture found there. The anthropomorphic sculpture resembles a monarch or a nobleman.
Museo Maya de CancunThe Museo Maya de Cancun is located right in the heart of the city’s Hotel Zone and houses one of the Yucatan’s most important collections of Maya artifacts. The 400 pieces on display came from archaeological sites around the peninsula, including Chichen Itza and Tulum. This is the place to see the sculpture that El Rey archeological site was named for. Next to the museum is an ancient archaeological site called San Miguelito, which visitors can also explore.
Visiting Chichen Itza and Ek Balam From CancunVisitors looking for sun and sand might not realize that it’s possible to visit one of the most famous Maya archeological sites in the world and one of the lesser-known hidden gems in a single day trip from Cancun.
Just over two hours outside the city, Chichen Itza is the most popular and best-restored Maya archaeological site on the Yucatan Peninsula. The awe-inspiring, 98-foot-high Temple of Kukulcan is the highlight of the massive archaeological site that served as a major center in the Maya empire from about 600 to 1100 A.D.
About 35 miles northeast of Chichen Itza are the alluring ruins of Ek Balam, which had its heyday in the eighth century. Much of this site is still covered in vegetation, and there are few crowds. The ruins are not roped off, so visitors can climb to the top of many of them. The main pyramid at the site is known as the Acropolis. The base is 525 feet wide, and it stands 105 feet tall. It’s a tough climb, but the views from the top are worth the effort.
Small-group and private guided tours include visits to both sites, or clients can rent a vehicle and visit the attractions on their own during a self-guided, single-day trip. Entrance fees at Chichen Itza can be paid by credit card, but pesos are required for entrance to Ek Balam.
The DetailsQuintana Roo Tourism Promotion Councilwww.mexicancaribbean.travel