The famous Mayan pyramids of Chichen-Itza are over 1500 years old and are located only 75 miles from Merida. The name Chichen-Itza is a Mayan word: CHI (mouth) CHEN (well) and ITZA (of the Itza tribe).
The main attraction is the central pyramid, El Castillo del Serpiente Emplumado, which means “Castle of the Plumed Serpent,” and is pictured at the top. The plumed serpent is a popular deity in various Mesoamerican cultures.
Dzibilchaltun (tzee-BEEL-chahl-toon) is the “place where there is writing on the stones,” a great Mayan city that is only nine miles from Merida. Here you will find the Museum of the Maya People, one of the best and most comprehensive museums in the Yucatan.
Uxmal (OOSH-mahl) means “‘built three times” in the Mayan language, and though its name is a mystery, its beauty is not. As a World Heritage site, it is one of the best restored and maintained ruins in the Yucatan, and certainly one of the most magnificent. Its architecture, some of the most majestic of the Yucatan ruins, is characterized by low horizontal palaces set around courtyards, decorated with rich sculptural elements and details.
To really enjoy Izamal, plan to be there on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and/or Saturday so that you can take in the magical Light and Sound Show – Light of the Mayas.
An interesting tour that gives you an overview of the Mayan civilization awaits you just 50 miles south of Merida. Known as the Puuc (hilly) Route, the sites include Uxmal, Kabah, Sayil, X-Lapak, Labna and the caves of Loltun. Each of the sites has restored Mayan pyramids and other structures, covered with brush, tree and jungle, much the way early explorers and archaeologists found them.