Top 5 Ruins in Mexico That Families Should Visit
Mexico with kids By James Holland
Uxmal is one of Mexico's must visit ruins. (Flickr: Dennis Jarvis)
In 2007, the New7Wonders of the World initiative announced, after 6 years of research and polling, the new Seven Wonders of the World. On that list included a site on the North American continent, the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza.
The Mexican archeological site is spectacular, but it’s not the only ruin of its kind. Mexico, with its rich history of pre-Colombian cultures, is peppered with family-friendly ruins and pyramids. And these sites are the perfect destination for any family looking to inject some culture and education into their travels.
As one of the new Wonders of the World, Chichen Itza must not be missed. (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
The ruins of Chichen Itza are a spectacle. The site, revolving around the Mayan pyramid known as El Castillo, hosts one of the most diverse collection or ruins. You and your family of adventurers will need to take a tour guide who will regale with tales of how townships from all over the Yucatan peninsula and the Mayan world sent their best to compete at the thirteen ball courts at Chichen Itza (check out the Great Ball Court, larger than a football field). Don’t forget to explore the striking Temple of the Warriors and, if you’re one for souvenirs, remember to haggle with the myriad of souvenir peddlers on the path to and from the site.
Tulum is not only a beautiful city on a cliff, it also offers amazing swimming opportunities. (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
If the Mayans had a town similar to Martha’s Vineyard or Carmel, that town would be Tulum. Sitting on almost 40-foot cliffs, the ruins afford a breathtaking view of the ocean. Some highlights include the main pyramid overlooking the site and the God of Winds Temple, which overlooks the ocean and protects the entrance bay. What makes Tulum particularly family-friendly is the beach nestled underneath the cliffs. A path leads down from near the God of Winds Temple to the beach where you can stay as long as the site is open.
If you’re taking a trip to the Northern Mexican city of Merida, make sure to plan for a trip to Uxmal. About 50 miles away, the site at Uxmal offers a different look at Mayan sites with a different architecture. Check out, in particular, the unique Adivino pyramid also known as the Pyramid of the Magician. It is the only pyramid to be elliptical instead of rectangular and lives up to its namesake. Uxmal is also one of the best maintained sites in the country.
What most people see is just a very large hill with a church on top in the town of Cholula. Don’t be misled. This hill hides the largest pyramid in the world. The Great pyramid of Cholula is even larger than the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt by volume though Giza is a bit taller. Now only a small portion of the pyramid is visible so make sure to visit the archaeological sites and tunnels to see inside the pyramid. The Spanish built a church at its apex that’s worth a stop.
Teotihuacan near Mexico City is also a great addition to the list. (Photo by Gorgo)
It may precede Mayan culture (and sit a bit more North of the Yucatan peninsula, near Mexico City) but Teotihuacan is a must for young archaeologists. This site was once the 6th largest city in the world and was, in many ways, a major influence on the Mayan and Aztec cultures that followed. You cannot miss the Avenue of the Dead and the Temple of the Sun, which is the third largest pyramid in the world. Be sure to also check out the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, a massive construction that is slowly deteriorating due to the use of limestone. Nearby is the town of San Juan Teotihuacan where hot air balloon rentals are available if you and your family want to see a different view of the ruins.