One of the many reasons why the Mexican Caribbean is so popular among American tourists, other than beautiful beaches and a riotous nightlife, is the fact it houses some of the best-preserved ruins of the bygone Mayan civilization.
Ruined sites like Chichen Itza and the fort in Tulum attract millions of visitors every year, but they are merely a tip of a much larger iceberg, as a majority of Mayan settlements still lie beneath modern Mexican cities, undiscovered.
Every year, archaeologists stumble upon new exciting discoveries, and soon enough, for the first time ever, not only one, but four Mayan ruins that have recently been revitalized will be opening to the public – and the best part is: they can be visited from Cancun.
Two More Segments Of Tulum
The first two ruins on the list are in fact located in Tulum, already a hugely popular spot among Mayan enthusiasts. While the landmark ‘Castillo’ perched on a clifftop overlooking the turquoise Caribbean Sea had always been accessible, other structures in the vicinity were off-limits.
Either as a result of ongoing conservation efforts, or safety risks, some of the most impressive Mayan civic buildings in the archaeological zone could not be seen up close, nor explored by visitors, most notably Nauyacas and Cresterías, as baptized by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO).
Similarly to Castillo, they are Mayan sites sitting on Tulum’s hilly coastline. Though they are just as beautiful and mystical as the landmark Castillo, they remained sealed off while archaeological explorations and development were underway.
If you’ve walked the walled city extensively in the past, you will have noticed structures 55, 56, 57, and 59, encompassing both monuments and a vast collection of ancient artifacts, could not be accessed by visitors. This will change in the coming months.
Although an exact opening date hasn’t yet been offered, it could coincide with the launch of the Maya Train in December. Archaeologists and other environmental experts have been working together to clear the area of invasive plants and build supportive structures ahead of the first influx of tourists.
Further down the coast, the third Mayan attraction with a launch date set for the near future is Ichkabal, near the Quintana Roo capital of Chetumal, a lesser-known coastal gem in the state’s deep South, most American tourists tend to overlook in favor of Cancun.
The opening of Ichkabal will help diversify Chetumal’s tourist offer, however, as it is deemed by Historians one of the most impressive Mayan cities, mainly because it has not undergone severe destruction upon the arrival of the Spaniards.
Instead, it was effectively abandoned in the early 16th century, and slowly reclaimed by nature without suffering much interference or desecration from European settlers. It was settled as early as 400 B.C. and includes a host of sacrificial chambers, minor step pyramids, and gorgeous religious temples.
Ichkabal is the furthest one out from Cancun, at a six-hour drive, but the Maya Train’s inauguration will certainly improve connectivity around the Yucatan Peninsula less and bridge the existing gap between Cancun, in the North of Quintana Roo, and Chetumal and other cities in the South.
It will host its first visitors once the Maya Train is already in full operation, in summer 2024.
A historical ruin adjacent to Chichen Itza, one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, Chichen ‘Viejo’ is an extensive compound that once belonged to the Mayan elites, one of the largest to be discovered in Mexico so far.
It is made up of several villas and inner patios once shared by more affluent Mayans, and it was one of the latest to be discovered by archaeologists. Since it was found, it came under administration of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (NIAH).
They carried out extensive restoration work and research in the area in order to establish its origins and which importance they held to the Ancient Mayans. Numerous structures have since been unearthed, including a 650 AD ‘Temple of Stuccoes’.
Chichen ‘Viejo’ is attached to the main city of Chichen Itza, where the iconic Kukulcan Castle can be appreciated, and it will be accessible to tourists as early as September 2, according to AMLO himself.
The Maya Train Will Boost Connectivity Across The Mayan World
As you can see, History buffs and Mayan culture enthusiasts have a lot to forward to visiting the Mexican Caribbean this year.
The opening of the historical sites is not the only thing they should be thrilled about: the launch of the Maya Train will make traveling across the territory a lot less complicated, as all tourist hotspots, including every major town located to ruined Mayan cities, will be included in the railway map.
As we have stated numerous times before, this is Mexico’s Tourism Renaissance, and the revitalization of the Mayan heritage and kickstarting of infrastructure projects as ambitious as the Maya Train are only the beginning.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com