3 Sacred Sites You Must Visit While in Cancun

WRITTEN BY: Erin Bender

Just because you decided on Cancun for your vacation doesn't mean you are locked into beaches, waterparks and all-inclusive resorts. As much as you adore spending time in your hotel, such as the JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa, for relaxation, convenience and a refreshing swim before each meal, you may want your kids to also gain a cultural perspective from their vacation.

And Mexico is perfect for that. The Yucatan Peninsula is scattered with sacred ancient Mayan sites, all within easy reach from Cancun.

Considered by many as one of the world's ten most sacred sites, the first icon on our list is guaranteed to take your breath away.
Chichen Itza
About 2.5 hours east of Cancun is the famous Chichen Itza, the largest of the ancient Mayan cities. Recent archaeological evidence suggests it dates back as far as 1 - 250 AD, and it was from this site that the Itza Mayans became the rulers of the Yucatan peninsula.

Chichen Itza received its sacredness from an enormous natural well (cenote) that sits beside it. The Mayans revered water for its life-sustaining power, and worshiped Chac, the god of rain, and thus certain cenotes were used for worship. The Cenote Sagrado was specifically used for ceremonies and occasionally for sacrifices.

Beside this nearby sacred cenote, Chichen Itza also became a center for worship of the Mesoamerican Feathered Serpent god (known as Quetzalcoatl). The stone temple towering 90 feet is the largest and most important ceremonial structure at Chichen Itza and decodes precise details about the intricate Mayan calendar.

If the rich history isn't attractive enough, then the sheer size of the site will leave you amazed. Plan to spend a good few hours exploring the grounds.
Tulum
Located 80 miles south of Cancun,Tulum is an easy day trip. You will find this Mayan settlement spectacularly located on a cliff overlooking the stunning clear Caribbean Sea.

Recent research has shown that Tulum was also a pilgrimage site for Mayan women on their way to the holy island of Cozumel to worship the goddess IxChel. Hence IxChel features prominently throughout Tulum.

The Temple of Kukulkan dominates the ruins and local Mayans continued to visit the temples to burn incense and pray right up to late 20th century.

The Temple of the Frescoes, was used as an observatory for tracking the movements of the sun.

On top of this beautiful Mayan sacred site is a small town that attracts thousands of visitors each month. You will be intoxicated by the sea views as much as the actual site. Remember to save some time for lunch within the city.


Coba
Located on the southeastern region of the Yucatan Peninsula, about 2 hour drive from Cancun, is the Coba Archaeological Park. Much of this site is still unexcavated but is worth including in your holiday itinerary because of its extensive system of ceremonial roads, remote jungle landscape and, of course, Mayan pyramids.

Little is known about Coba, however it is referenced in late Mayan legends being associated with the sun god.

It also is home to the tallest pyramid on the Yucatan Peninsula, which can still be climbed by visitors, unlike Chichen Itza. Nohoc Mul stands at over 130 feet in height.

Climbing to the top takes skill and determination as you ascend the steep steps with the help of a large thick rope. However, the panoramic view at the peak is indescribable. Endless miles of green jungle dotted with ancient Mayan ruins. This is one challenge kids as young as 4 can conquer.


The Bottom Line
If you are looking for a little history, education and culture on your next relaxing vacation to Cancun, you don't have to look far. Mexico is steeped in enchanting sacred sites, and your hotel will be happy to organize a tour bus. Don't worry, that swimming pool will be waiting for you when you get back.

Erin Bender
Erin's an experienced travel blogger and gifted communicator who explored the world for the last five years non-stop with her two kids. Mia & Caius may be some of the world's most well travelled kids with over 64 countries tucked under their belts before 6 and 7 years old. But what happens when you stop nomadic travel? How does an abnormal family fit into a normal world? Erin shares her travel stories, drooling food pictures and lifestyle tips on her blog, Explore With Erin, reaching thousands of avid readers each month. Her passion and expertise in social media, coupled with a Marketing and Public Relations degree, positioned her perfectly as a teacher, mentor and social media strategist. Erin's love of blogging has rocketed her into the spotlight with features on primetime TV, national newspapers and more. She won the BlogHer award in 2015 and 2016, wrote about family travel for Lonely Planet and is a brand ambassador for Travelocity, Samsung and Wotif.

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