Mayapan, Maya ruins, Yucatan, Mexico

Mayapan: a day trip from Merida

Mayapan near Merida in Yucatan used to be a powerful Maya city. Today, you can wander around its ruins, imagining what life could have looked like when Mayas were inhabiting the city. A visit to Mayapan from Merida is a must-do, don’t miss this incredible archaeological site.

Mayapan, Mexico

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Mayapan’s History

The fortified city of Mayapan was known as the Maya’s Banner. It’s the last significant Maya capital, and around 4000 structures have been found there.

Mentions of the city first appeared in the first century AD, and it reached its pinnacle during the Post Classic era between 1200 and 1450 AD were 12,000 people lived there. Mayapan was founded by the Cocoms and was part of the Maya-Toltec culture. Together with Uxmal and Chichen Itza, Mayapan was part of the Mayapan League.

Columns, Mayapan

The League gained importance after the defeat of the Itzaes who were ruling the area at the end of the 13th century. Internal fight for control led to the league dissolution in 1440 when the Cocons abandoned the city to go to Sotuta.

Mayapan used to be an important cultural center. The city was richly decorated with spectacular sculptures and frescoes representing war scenes, and religious ceremonies. Some of it can still be admired today. It’s one of the rare Maya sites where you can see traces of paintings and murals.

Mayapan, Yucatan

The city’s architecture is a blend of Itzae, central Mexico and ancient architectural styles. After the fall of Chichen Itza, Mayapan developed its own architectural style. The pyramid there is built around the sun, and during the winter solstice, a strange light and shadow phenomenon is created (like in Chichen Itza).

Read more about Yucatan’s history and the Mayas.

Mayapan today

In Mayapan, you’ll see civic, administrative, religious structures, and the houses of the higher classes. You can climb on top of every building. The area where the ruins are is pretty small, which makes it better to picture how people lived there centuries ago. Everything is pretty well preserved, especially the pyramid.

Mayapan, Maya ruins

Mayapan is also known for its conical observation tower, which is typical of their architectural style. Behind the observation tower, you’ll find sculpted stone masks really well preserved.

The good thing about Mayapan is that it’s off most tourists’ radar, so you get to see ruins just as marvelous as in Chichen Itza but without the crowd. When I visited, there were only 10 other people there.

How to get to Mayapan from Merida

You can take any buses or van heading to Tikit or Mayapan, Be careful, the archaeological site is not located near Mayapan city, the closest town is Telchaquillo. Buses leave every day at 8:30 am, 9:30 am, 11 am and 4 pm from the bus terminal on Calle 67 between Calle 50 and 52. By bus, it takes around 2 hours. To get back you can just wait on the main road for a bus or collectivo to pass, you can also hitchhike.

View from the top of the pyramid, Mayapan

If you rent a car, it takes around 30 minutes once you’re out of Merida. You can visit one of the nearby cenotes on your way back.

You can also join a tour to Mayapan from Merida.

Pyramid, Mayapan

Useful information for planning your trip to Mayapan from Merida:

  • Mayapan entrance fee is 45 pesos
  • Opening time: 8 am to 4 pm
  • Bring plenty of snacks and water, back on the main road there’s a small shop selling drinks, it might not be open all the time.
  • Count around one hour and a half for your visit.
  • Don’t forget to bring sunscreen and mosquito repellent.

 

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2 Comments

  • I really wish I’d visited this place instead of Chichen Itza! I’ll keep it in mind if I return to the Yucatán.

    Reply
    • Yes, it’s far less crowded than Chichen, you should visit Uxmal and the Ruta Puuc too, they’re close to Mayapan.

      Reply

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