The 7 Most Beautiful Mayan Monuments
One is spoilt for choice when it comes to finding beautiful Mayan monuments. This is mainly because of three factors. Firstly, the Mayan civilization was widespread throughout Central America, having cities throughout Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize and El-Salvador. Secondly, Mayan structures were built to last, which gives us so many options to choose from. Finally, Mayan architecture is simply stunning. That being said, the 7 most beautiful Mayan monuments are as follows.
1. The El-Castillo Temple, Chichen Itza – Mexico
The Chichen Itza site is one of the best-preserved, and arguably most famous, Mayan city. Its main attraction, without a doubt, is the El-Castillo Temple. This is a massive pyramid that served as the temple of worship for Kukultan, a god who took the feathered serpent physical form.
What makes the El-Castillo Temple so spectacular is its size, and how well it has been preserved. It stands tall with four sides, each with 91 steps. Another factor that adds to its beauty is the Chichen Itza site that it overlooks. The whole complex has numerous Mayan structures that come together to create a historical marvel.
2. The Tikal Temple Pyramids – Guatemala
Most Mayan experts believe that the Tikal site was the location for the Largest Mayan city in Central America. Most of its visually stunning buildings have been restored, creating beautiful scenery. While the entire area is a magnificent sight, the main attractions are the four temple-pyramids: Temple Pyramids I-IV. Temple Pyramid IV is the largest of the structures, with a height of 72 metres.
Apart from the well-preserved structures, the Tikal site is located within a dense pristine rainforest landscape. The juxtaposition between the treetops and the structures adds to the beauty. The views of the surrounding forest area from the pyramid tops are quite breathtaking.
3. The Temple of Inscriptions, Palenque – Mexico
The Temple of Inscriptions is the main attraction of the well-preserved Palenque site. It is smaller than most of the other notable Mayan pyramids, but it is unique in two aspects. First, it is the only discovered Mayan pyramid that was built specifically for burial purposes. While other pyramids feature tombs, they also served as temples and/or palaces.
The other unique feature of the Temple of Inscriptions, as its name alludes to, is the artwork that features prominently in its design. These include inscriptions, hieroglyphs and sculptures. Apart from adding to the monument’s beauty, they also chronicle Palenque’s history, its notable leaders, as well as their religious and cultural customs. There was worldwide interest in the temple of inscriptions after the discovery of a sarcophagus that resembled a modern rocket.
4. The Caana Temple, Caracol – Belize
Also known as the sky palace, the Caana Temple served the dual functions of being a temple and the ruler’s palace. It is the tallest and most significant structure in the Caracol site in Belize. The Caracol site is considered as one of the largest Mayan cities, having more than 150,000 residents during its peak. This is almost three times the current population for Belize City, the country’s capital.
Another fascinating fact about the Caana temple is that, at the height of 143 feet, it is not only Belize’s tallest pyramid; it also holds the record as the tallest man-made structure in the entire country. While the Caana temple’s height is impressive, it also spectacular in terms of its architecture and how well it has been preserved.
5. The Pyramid of the Magician, Uxmal – Mexico
Located in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, the Pyramid of the Magician (also known as the El-Adivino) is one of the most uniquely beautiful Mayan structures. Uxmal, the site where the pyramid is, translates to: ‘built three times over’. This is because the city’s construction includes three layers.
The pyramid’s name comes from a local legend that the pyramid appeared overnight as if conjured by a magician. It differs from other Mayan pyramids because its base, and subsequent layers, have an oval design. Other pyramids adopt a rectangular base in their design. This unique element makes it one of the most stunning Mayan monuments.
6. The Rosalila Temple, Copan – Honduras
The Copan site, located in Honduras near the Guatemala border, is considered to be one of the most significant Mayan sites in Central America. It features well-preserved artwork and inscriptions dating all the way back to the 9th century, BC. The site features plazas, altars and numerous well-preserved monoliths with pristine inscriptions. The highest point in the Copan site is the Temple 16 Pyramid, but its main attraction is the Rosalila Temple.
The Rosalila temple is the best-preserved Mayan structure. It was found buried under the site, which protected it from the degrading effects of the elements. What makes it unique is that it is mostly intact, and is one of the few old-age structures that still retains its original colour.
7. Joya de Ceren – El Salvador
Unlike the other entries in this list, there is no single spectacular monument at the Joya de Ceren; the entire site is the main attraction. This site has significant historical value since it is the best-preserved Mayan site that dates to pre-Hispanic times. The site was covered by volcanic ash after the eruption of the nearby Loma Caldera which led it to be abandoned.
The site includes homes, public structures (including a community bath/sauna), religious buildings, storage houses, tools and weapons. Archaeological excavations have revealed its people’s agricultural practices, social structures, religion and way of life.