Temple of the Inscriptions Uxmal Ruins Ek Balam Ruins
If you want to experience the height of Mayan craftsmanship , head to Palenque in the Mexican state of Chiapas . Don ’ t miss the Temple of the Inscriptions , one of the largest and best-preserved Mayan structures in Mexico . It wasn ’ t until 1952 that archaeologists discovered the hidden crypt beneath it , unearthing a sarcophagus filled with precious gemstones , pearls and obsidian alongside the jade-ornamented remains of who was thought to be the site ’ s 7th-century ruler .
One of the most important cities of the Mayan empire , Uxmal was thought to house over 25,000 inhabitants during its peak . One of its more mysterious features is the Nunnery Quadrangle , named by a Spanish historian who thought its unique layout — four buildings of around 75 dormitories facing an open courtyard — was reminiscent of a convent . Although its real purpose remains unknown , some scholars argue it may have served a much different purpose : a military academy for young Mayan princes .
If you ’ re looking for great views and a reprieve from the busy tourist scene , head to Ek Balam . Piercing the jungle canopy at 95 feet tall , the main acropolis is one of the highest structures in the region — and another you can climb . On a clear day , you can even see the tops of the temples at Chichén Itzá and Coba nearly 40 miles in the distance . Best of all , since this is one of the least-visited sites in the area , you won ’ t have to battle any crowds along the way .
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