We’ve explored the Mayapan Archaeological Site several times since moving to Merida and once or twice before that time.
Somehow, Mayapan is considered to be one of the lesser-known Mayan ruins. But we think it’s NOT to be missed. It’s only about 40 kilometers southeast of Merida and an easy drive.
Banner of the Mayan People
Translated from Mayan, Mayapan means flag or banner of the Mayan people.
We will say that Wikipedia had a surprisingly large amount of information on the history and school significance of Mayapan.
Mayapan was the political and cultural capital of the Maya in the Yucatán Peninsula during the Late Post-Classic period from the 1220s until the 1440s. Estimates of the total city population are 15,000–17,000 people, and the site has more than 4,000 structures within the city walls and additional dwellings outside.
The site has been professionally surveyed and excavated by archeological teams, beginning in 1939; five years of work was done by a team in the 1950s, and additional studies were done in the 1990s. Since 2000, a collaborative Mexican-United States team has been conducting excavations and recovery at the site, which continue.
On our latest visit, we saw a path just to the right of the main entrance, a partially mowed path that led to two palapas surrounded by fencing. Inside these secured buildings, we were able to grab a glimpse of what appeared to be some fantastic finds at the site.
What Makes Mayapan Unique
At the center of the Mayapan site is a large central pyramid, very similar in style to the Temple of Kukulcan (El Castillo) at Chichen Itza.
As you are permitted to climb to the top (currently), something no longer allowed at Chichen Itza, we’re surprised more people are not making the journey here.
Chuck in front of the pyramid.
The site also includes a large round, domed structure called The Observatory, sometime you won’t find at other Mayan ruins.
The views from the tops of the structures are incredible. The property is well maintained, and at the center of the site, just behind the largest pyramid, you’ll find a cenote (sorry, no swimming) and several carvings and murals.
- Mayapan’s Hours: Open Daily, 8 am – 5 pm
- Entrance Fee: 65 pesos or about $3.50 US. Sundays are free for residents. However, we’re unsure how crowded it might get as we’ve avoided weekends.
- Parking: There are two small grass parking areas, and parking has been free every time we have gone. But, we have seen some other posts talking about 20 peso parking.
- Information: At the entrance and at several of the buildings, we saw signage with historical information in English, Spanish, and Maya. We have not seen any guides selling tours, and most groups exploring the site came with their own guide.
- Accessibility: The gravel walkway entering the site is the only’ paved area.’ The majority of the ground is wide open and relatively level. On one occasion, we saw a gentleman using a wheelchair who seemed to be navigating the terrain reasonably well. But keep in mind accessing any of the ruins or remaining buildings requires navigation of stone steps.
Know Before You Go
- Facilities: There are clean, stocked bathrooms at the entrance, just beyond the cashier. On several occasions, we saw a few people selling bottled drinks. On our last visit – the only day we encountered tour buses (cruise ship tour) – there were two tables with people selling snacks and souvenirs just outside the gate.
- Sun: It’s the Yucatan, and even in the ‘winter,’ the sun is very strong. Go early to make the day more enjoyable. Sunscreen is a must! Absolutely consider a hat and possibly an umbrella.
- Insect Repellant: While the grass has always been mowed when we are there, the main site is surrounded by tall grass. So some kind of repellant might be a good idea.
- Shoes: Good walking shoes or sturdy sandals ( probably not flip flops) are suggested as there is a lot to explore; you are currently permitted to climb on all the ruins.
Absolute Must See
Mayapan is one of our favorite sites for its proximity to Merida, ease of access, and how quiet it is. Surprisingly, we’ve rarely seen more than a handful of people there.
We almost don’t want to share this hidden gem!