The 13 must see Maya temples in Central America


Country: Honduras

In the far west of Honduras, close to the border with Guatemala is the ancient archaeological site of Copan, the capital city of the Maya region from the 5th to 9th century AD, and today one of the most important ancient sites in Central America. Known for it's sculpted stone shafts, Copan is a large complex of overlapping step pyramids, plazas and palaces. Such is the historical value of Copan, the entire area has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

13. Copan


Country: Belize

Dating back to 1200 BC in the far west of Belize, close to the border with Guatemala, is the Ancient Maya archaeological site of Caracol, at one time it had a population twice that of modern day Belize City. Of the site's fifty three stone monuments the most prominent is Caana, meaning 'Sky Palace', standing at 42 metres (141 ft) it is the tallest Maya structure in the country and one of the largest man made buildings in Belize.

12. Caracol


Country: Guatemala

In the extreme north east of Guatemala, close to the border with Belize is the Ancient Yaxha archaeological site, the third largest city in Guatemala from the pre-Colombian Maya civilization. The ruins at the site include the remains of more than 500 structures with the largest of the group of pyramids standing over 30 metres (100 ft) high.

11. Yaxha


Country: Mexico

East of the Mexican capital, Mexico City, close to the coast of the Gulf Of Mexico is the pre-Colombian archaeological site of El Tajin, dating from 600 to 1200 AD it is one of the largest and most important cities of the classic Mesoamerican era. It's architecture and pyramidal structures are unique, characterized by elaborately carved reliefs, the jewel of which is the Pyramid Of Niches, considered a masterpiece of ancient Central American design that reveals the symbolic and astronomical significance of the buildings. It has survived as an outstanding example of the grandeur and importance of the pre-Hispanic cultures and as such the entire area has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

10. El Tajin


Country: Mexico

In the east of Mexico, close to the city of Campeche is the ancient Maya archaeological site of Edzna, a city inhabited  from 600 BC to 1500 AD before it's mysterious abandonment. At it's centre is the grand plaza surrounded by pyramidal temples, the most prominent of which stands five storeys high at 40 metres (131 ft) offering a wonderful overview of this amazing site.

9. Edzna


Country: Mexico


In the east of Mexico, close to the border with Guatemala is the Ancient Maya archaeological site of Palenque, its ruins dating between 226 BC and 800 AD. After it was abandoned it was engulfed by the jungle before it's re-discovery in the 18th century, whereupon it was found to have some of the finest architecture and sculpture carvings that the Maya ever produced. It is estimated that only 10% of the ancient city has been explored leaving more than a thousand structures still contained in the jungle. The pre-Hispanic City And National Park Of Palenque is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

8. Palenque


Country: Belize


In the extreme west of Belize, one kilometre from the border with Guatemala is the Ancient Maya archaeological site of Xunantunich. The core of the Ancient city consists of 6 plazas surrounded by 26 temples and palaces, the most prominent of these temples is the 40 metre (130 ft) El Castillo, the second tallest Ancient Maya structure in the country. From the top it offers fantastic views out across the jungle tops for many miles.

7. Xunantunich


Country: Mexico

East of the Mexican capital, Mexico City, is a huge complex that incorporates the Great Pyramid Of Cholula, both the largest pyramid and monument known to exist on Earth. Construction began around the 3rd century BC and by the time the Spanish conquerors arrived in Central America it was already hidden by vegetation, the locals at the time having mistaken it for a large hill had themselves built a church at the summit. Measuring 400 by 400 metres (1,300 by 1,300 ft) at it's base the pyramid stands at 55 metres (180 ft) to the summit with the possibility of so many hidden treasures yet to be discovered at this incredible archaeological site.

6. Cholula


Country: Mexico


In the east of Mexico on the Yucatan Peninsula is the Ancient Maya city of Uxmal, considered to be one of the most important archaeological sites of Maya culture, its layout and design showing a deep knowledge and understanding of astrology. The complex is filled with buildings that date between 700 to 1000 AD, the most prominent of which is the Pyramid Of The Magician, standing at 40 metres (131 ft) high decorated with symbolic motifs and sculptures it dominates the ceremonial centre. The pre-Hispanic city of Uxmal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pictured is the Pyramid Of The Magician.

5. Uxmal


Country: Mexico


In the east of Mexico, on the Yucatan Peninsula just north of the Guatemalan border is the Ancient Maya archaeological site of Calakmul, one of the largest and most powerful cities ever uncovered, with over 6,250 structures hidden deep in the jungle, a thousand of which fall within a small area of 2 square kilometres. Standing at 45 metres (148 ft) high is Temple 1, one of the largest Maya pyramids ever constructed, from it's peak it gives visitors amazing views over the jungle canopy where other large structures poke through. The Ancient Maya City & Protected Tropical Forests Of Calakmul have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

4. Calakmul


Country: Guatemala


In the north of Guatemala are the ruins of the ancient city of Tikal, some of its monuments dating back to the 4th century BC. Found in 1853 AD in the rainforest of what is now Tikal National Park, is one of the largest archaeological sites and urban centres of the pre-Colombian Maya civilization. At it's centre lies the Great Plaza, flanked by a northern and southern Acropolis Palace Complex and the Plaza of The Seven Temples. The tallest temple on site is Temple IV, standing at 70 metres (230 ft) high it offers incredible views over the jungle canopy where other pyramidal structures poke out above the trees. One of the major sites of the Maya civilization is today one of the most impressively preserved and historically important places in Central America, as such the entire complex has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pictured is Temple 1, also known as the Temple Of The Great Jaguar with the North Acropolis in the main plaza. Temple 1 stands at 47 metres (154 ft) high and is often cited as the most iconic landmark in Tikal.

3. Tikal


Country: Mexico


North of Mexican capital, Mexico City, in the Valley Of Mexico is the ancient Mesoamerican city of Teotihuacan, a site filled with many of the most architecturally significant and important pyramidal temples built in the pre-Colombian Americas. The great Avenue Of The Dead is flanked by huge ceremonial structures that include the 3rd largest pyramid on Earth, The Pyramid Of The Sun standing 65 metres (216 ft) high between the smaller Pyramid Of The Moon and Ciudadela. Under construction from 100 BC to 250 AD the city of Teotihuacan is the largest pre-Hispanic city in the history of the Americas, one of the most significant architectural finds on the continent, one of the most visited places in Mexico and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

2. Teotihuacan


Country: Mexico

In the east of Mexico, on the Yucatan Peninsula west of Cancun is one of the most visited sites on Earth, the ancient pre-Colombian Maya city of Chichen Itza. Among it's many impressive structures; The El Caracol Observatory, The Temple of The Warriors and the Great Ball Court, most attention is paid to the temple known as El Castillo, also referred to as the Temple Of Kukulcan. Built between the 8th and 12th century AD it stands 30 metres (98 ft) high, created as a physical calendar that aligns with the sun. Designed and built with such perfection that twice a year at late afternoon during the Spring and Autumn equinoxes the sun casts its shadow and creates the plume of a serpent, thus creating the effect of a slithering body to align with the stone head at the foot of the stairs. The ball court too was built with such perfect acoustics that when visitors clap seven times it echos back seven times. The people of this ancient site had an understanding of the solar system far beyond their time and had the ability to create these enormous monuments so perfectly aligned to them. For this reason Chichen Itza has been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site with it's main temple El Castillo one of the New 7 Wonders Of The World.

1. Chichen Itza

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