We round up the must-see Mayan temples in Central America including places perfect for catching sight of native wildlife and temples dedicated to gods.
From Mexico and Guatemala, to El Salvador and Belize, here are our picks of Mayan temples to see when you're touring around Central America.
Yaxha, Peten, Guatemala
Only “discovered” by Europeans in 1904, this is a jungle park with many unexcavated ruins; great for spotting howler and spider monkeys, toucans, parakeets, coati and grey foxes.
Joya de Ceren, La Libertad, El Salvador
Buried under an eruption of the Laguna Caldera volcano circa AD 600 – for which it is nicknamed 'the Pompeii of the Maya' – this site was once populated by farmers.
Tikal, Peten, Guatemala
The lofty pyramids, rainforest setting and teeming bird life make this imposing cluster of temples one of Central America’s star attractions. Ongoing excavations suggest the site was once far bigger.
Uxmal, Yucatan, Mexico
Founded in the eighth century and once home to 25,000 Mayans, Uxmal was a key astronomical and religious hub. The Pyramid of the Soothsayer is the centrepiece, surrounded by sculptures dedicated to Chaac, the Mayan rain god.
Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico
Get to the back‑door entrance early and this large site cannot fail to inspire awe. The Great Ball Court is immense and El Castillo is one of the most impressive pyramids in Mexico.
Prefer underwater sights? Sea Of Cortez: The World’s Aquarium
What else is in Mexico? Secret Mexico: Go Beyond The Beaches
Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico
In the lowlands of southern Mexico, this grand Unesco‑listed complex is enlivened by the sound of freshwater streams, flocks of parrots and feeding toucans.
A once powerful city ruling a large territory, with an impressive Acropolis, the so-called Rosalila-phase Temple 16 (with a replica of the same in an adjoining museum to show how it would have looked in the 6th century) and a stairway containing 2,200 glyphs – the longest known Maya hieroglyphic text. The recently opened adjoining El Rastrojon site is worth a visit too.
Caracol, Maya Mountains, Belize
The remote setting adds to the impact of this site, which was first a vassal and then a rival to Tikal, supporting a population twice that of modern-day Belize City.
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