Ancient Mayan Cities

Mayan cities were not all of the same style and size but changed and developed over centuries. The earliest human inhabitants of the Mayan region were primitive hunter and gatherers who moved across from Asia through north America during the Ice Age. They spread to every part of the Americas by about 14000 BC.

Places like Chichen Itza, Palenque, Merida, Tulum, Tikal and Uxmal are just some of the great ruins of ancient Mayan cities in the Southern Mexico, Belize, Guatemala areas. At the beginnings of the Maya culture, the highlands raised the first edifices. In the apogee of the Classical Period, between 250 and 900 A.D., the lowlands witnessed the flourishing of great cities such as Tikal, located in the heart of the Guatemalan PetÚn.

Each Maya city exhibits a unique style, although regions and epochs lent them certain common features. When you visit the ruins of the cities that seem to suddenly appear from the dense jungle, you cannot help but admire the engineering workmanship which guaranteed the supply of provisions and water to the inhabitants; the fine stucco decorations.


Palenque sits proudly in Palenque National Park in the state of Chiapas. The region around Palenque has the highest average rainfall in Mexico, watering a chokingly dense rainforest. The site covers 15 square miles. Set against a hill, the city was built in such a way that it could be seen for days as one ventured through the rain forest from the coast.

Palenque city

Other spectacular sites are Tulum, Copan and Uxmal,just some of the hundreds of ruins.


Tikal is a city of many estelas. To this day, more than 80 have been found, a fourth of them carved with bas reliefs representing personalities, figures, glyphs and "long count" dates.

Tikal city

About 20,000 Mayan live in Belize in the tiny country of 200,000 people. Home of the Altun Ha, a ceremonial center in Belize.


Calakmul, an important Maya site set deep in the tropical forest of the Tierras Bajas of southern Mexico, played a key role in the history of this region for more than twelve centuries. The archaeological site is located within the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, which was created in 1989 and is the largest in Mexico.

Calakmul city

The portion of what is recognized to have been a very extensive ancient settlement that has so far been explored consists of three large groups of structures.

Honduras was on the very outskirts of the Mayan world, but it has a superior Mayan archeological site in Copan.

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