October 3, 2023

Essential Tips for Exploring Ancient Mayan Ruins

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Essential Tips for Exploring Ancient Mayan Ruins

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Essential Tips for Exploring Ancient Mayan Ruins

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Essential Tips for Exploring Ancient Mayan Ruins
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Venturing into the heart of the Mayan civilization is a dream come true for adventure enthusiasts and history buffs alike. The ancient Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, Tikal, Caracol, and San Gervasio stand as testaments to the fascinating world of Mayan culture and history. In this tropical adventure travel guide, we’ll explore these remarkable sites and offer valuable tips for exploring ancient Mayan ruins, including when to go, what to bring, the best photo spots, and photography rules in each location.

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Chichen Itza

When to Go

Chichen Itza, located in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, experiences a tropical climate. The best time to visit is during the dry season, from November to April. The temperatures are milder, and you’ll avoid the heavy rains that can occur in the wet season. To avoid crowds, it is best to get there when they open.

What to Bring

  1. Sunscreen: Protect yourself from the strong sun with a high SPF sunscreen.
  2. Water: Stay hydrated, especially if you plan to explore the site for an extended period.
  3. Comfortable Clothing: Wear light, breathable clothing and comfortable walking shoes.
  4. Insect Repellent: Mayan ruins often attract mosquitoes, so pack insect repellent.
  5. Hat and Sunglasses: Shield yourself from the sun’s rays.

Best Photo Spots

  1. El Castillo (The Pyramid of Kukulkan): Capture the iconic pyramid from different angles.
  2. The Great Ball Court: Document the impressive size and acoustics of the ancient sports arena.
  3. Temple of the Warriors: Admire intricate stone carvings and columns.
  4. The Sacred Cenote: Explore the eerie beauty of the natural sinkhole.

Photography Rules

While photography is allowed at Chichen Itza, there are some rules to follow:
  1. No tripods or drones are permitted without prior permission.
  2. Climbing the ruins for photos is prohibited.
  3. Respect the barriers and ropes to protect the site’s integrity.
  4. Be mindful of other visitors and their photo opportunities.
  5. Note: When we were there, action cams were not allowed but DSLR cameras were.

Tikal

When to Go

Tikal, located deep within the Guatemalan rainforest, enjoy a warm, humid climate year-round. The dry season, from November to April, is the ideal time to visit to avoid heavy rainfall.

Our visit was in late April. It was a nice overcast day. At the end of our visit, storm clouds rolled in behind Temple IV which made for an incredible backdrop for photos. We did experience rain on the walk out but due to the heat, it was welcomed to cool off.

What to Bring

  1. Sturdy Footwear: Wear hiking boots for the forested trails.
  2. Binoculars: Spot wildlife and birds in the dense jungle.
  3. Lightweight Rain Jacket: Prepare for unexpected showers.
  4. Camera with Zoom Lens: Capture distant structures and wildlife.

Best Photo Spots

  1. Temple IV: Climb this pyramid for panoramic views of Tikal’s canopy.
  2. Plaza of the Seven Temples: Frame your shots with multiple temples in the background.
  3. The Lost World Complex: Capture the mystique of this secluded area.
  4. The Central Acropolis: Explore the intricate details of Mayan architecture.
  5. Keep an eye on the trees, you may just spot a spider monkey, howler monkey, or a toucan. We saw all 3!

Photography Rules

Photography is allowed at Tikal, but:
  1. Drone use is not permitted without special permission.
  2. Climbing on or touching the ruins is strictly prohibited.
  3. Keep noise to a minimum to respect the tranquility of the rainforest.

Caracol

When to Go

Caracol, nestled in the Chiquibul Forest Reserve of Belize, is best visited during the dry season from November to May.

What to Bring

  1. High-quality Flashlight: Explore the dark chambers of Caracol’s structures.
  2. First Aid Kit: Be prepared for minor injuries while hiking.
  3. Insect-Repellent Clothing: Protect yourself from jungle insects.
  4. Water Purification: Stay hydrated with purified water.
  5. Wide-Angle Lens: Capture the vastness of the site.

Best Photo Spots

  1. Caana (Sky Palace): Capture the grandeur of the tallest Mayan structure in Belize.
  2. Caracol’s Ball Court: Highlight the intricate carvings on the ball court walls.
  3. Waterfalls at Rio On Pools: Take shots of the refreshing natural pools nearby. Bring bug spray!
  4. Plaza A: Frame shots of multiple structures from the site’s central plaza.

Photography Rules

Caracol allows photography, but visitors must:
  1. Follow the designated paths to avoid damaging the ruins.
  2. Avoid climbing on or touching the structures. Our guide did take us to the top of Caana. It is a very steep climb up the stairs of the pyramid, but the views make it all worthwhile. Once at the top, you can view the inside of the royal housing.
  3. Respect the natural environment and wildlife.

San Gervasio

When to Go

San Gervasio, situated on Cozumel Island, Mexico, offers a pleasant climate year-round. The dry season, from November to April, is perfect for exploration. Afterward, plunge into the blue waters of the Caribbean and go snorkeling.

What to Bring

  1. Snorkeling Gear: Cozumel is renowned for its underwater beauty.
  2. Comfortable Sandals: Walk the sandy paths around the site.
  3. Hat and Sunglasses: Shield yourself from the sun.
  4. Beach Towel: Enjoy the nearby beaches after your visit.

Best Photo Spots

  1. Temple of Ixchel: Capture the serenity of the goddess’s sanctuary.
  2. Sacbe Number 1: Photograph the ancient Mayan roads that crisscross the site.
  3. The Arch: Frame shots through this natural rock formation.
  4. Cenotes: Explore the nearby cenotes for unique underwater photo opportunities.

Photography Rules

San Gervasio is more relaxed about photography, but:
  1. Be respectful of the sacred sites and avoid touching or climbing.
  2. Capture the beauty of the ruins without disturbing other visitors.

Conclusion

Visiting Mayan ruin sites like Chichen Itza, Tikal, Caracol, and San Gervasio is a mesmerizing journey into the heart of an ancient civilization. By following these tips for exploring ancient Mayan ruins, on when to go, what to bring, the best photo spots, and photography rules, you’ll ensure a memorable and respectful adventure into the world of the Maya, all while immersing yourself in the tropical beauty of these remarkable destinations. After your time exploring these incredible ruins, spend a few days on Caye Caulker.


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