Tuesday, 3 July 2012 7:05 AM
Many people book Cancun holidays for the warm sunshine and spectacular beaches. However, you can also learn a lot about the Mayan civilisation by visiting some key sites in and around the city. Read on to find out where to go to do just that.
Mayan ruins in Cancun
There are a couple of minor Mayan sites in Cancun itself that are well worth heading to, and are easy to squeeze into your holiday itinerary thanks to their central location. The first of these is rather unusual - a temple located in the middle of a golf course.
Visit the Cancun Golf Club and sign up for a few hours on the green. You'll eventually come to a series of rolling lawns, which is where you'll find the Mayan temple. Not much is known about the Pok-Ta-Pok ruins, but they do provide a rather surprising diversion in the middle of a normal game of golf!
The other Mayan structures in the centre of Cancun are also situated in a slightly awkward place - behind two hotels. Yamil Lu'um can be found near the Park Royal Cancun hotel and the Westin Lagunamar, and you can request access via either of these - although there's no guarantee the staff will let you through! Luckily, you should be able to get there via the beach.
Yamil Lu'um consists of the remains of two buildings believed to be a lighthouse and a temple (as well as a few iguanas that have made the site their home). Again, not much is known about them, but they were found in 1842 and are thought to date back to around the 13th or 14th centuries.
Sites outside Cancun
There are a few bigger Mayan sites to see outside of Cancun. The most well-known of these is Tulum, which is located south along the shoreline from Cancun and was once a large walled city that played a key role as a trading post in its heyday.
Visit the area today and you'll find some buildings that have stood the test of time rather well, all things considered. These include the Temple of the Frescoes, in which you'll see some fascinating Mayan paintings, and El Castillo, which is a castle.
If you head north instead of south from Cancun, you'll eventually come to El Meco. This is another Mayan settlement that is thought to have played a vital role in local trade due to its coastal position. There are quite a few temples to see here, but the most noticeable structure is the huge El Castillo stepped pyramid. Climb up to the top to see the ruins of a small temple and to enjoy views of the surrounding area.
The last Mayan site on our list is El Rey, which doesn't feature as many interesting structures as either El Meco or Tulum, but is still a fascinating place to visit. Located some 11 miles from Cancun city centre, El Rey was a thriving city in the 14th and 15th centuries, but is now home to no more than a large group of iguanas that might be of interest to little ones, if you're on a family holiday.
You can still see the remnants of around 16 buildings and monuments scattered around the area, as well as the ruins of two plazas and two causeways.