Why cultural tourism is growing in popularity in the Mexican Caribbean this year

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Not so long ago, the main reason so many people flocked to the Mexican Caribbean was one thing: its unparalleled beach locations that look like something out of a perfect postcard.

While the Mexican Caribbean has no shortage of fabulous beaches for tourists to enjoy, its cultural offerings seem to be putting it on the map like never before and exploding in popularity this year.

Chichen Itza

The region is dotted with cultural, environmental and historical sites, some of which are considered part of the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The cultural tourism sector brings in record amounts of money, generating 19,489 million pesos for the economy in 2022, and is fast becoming one of the most valued sectors by international visitors.

The new Maya train is perfect for your next cultural adventure

Soon to open in the coming days, the new Maya Train, a multi-billion dollar infrastructure project years in the making, will unlock the Yucatan Peninsula to all tourists and locals, making cultural tourism even more accessible than ever.

Local authorities are investing money to finance the Program for the Improvement of the Archaeological Zone (Promeza), which aims to uncover, expand and open more historical sites and take advantage of this sudden boom in the popularity of the sector.

@ecolibriumgloballiving Get ready to ride the rails of history on the #MayaTrain, exploring ancient ruins and living cultures along the way! 🚈✨ #RivieraMaya #TrenMaya #ExploreMexico #EcolibriumGlobalLiving #Tulum #Yucatan #Cancun ♬ sonido original – Ecolibrium Global Living

Now, thanks to the Maya Train and the New Tulum International Airport, tourists will be able to reach some incredible archaeological sites that would once have been more difficult to reach, such as Meko, the King, St. Michael, Paamul II, Tulum, Koba, the Pyramid of Nohuch Mul, Muil, Chachoben, Ichkabal, Okstanka and Kinichna.

With affordable tickets linked here, there’s no longer a reason to spend your entire vacation sitting on the beach, instead enjoying some of the breathtaking cultural attractions the region has to offer.

@roamfreerebecca Captain Jack Sparrow requires a walk, yes 🏴‍☠️ #mexicotravel #tulummexico #tulumruins #travelideas #femalesolotravel #gapyeartravel ♬ Pirates of the Caribbean – Syaiful Alam

Where do I start

Newer to the growing trend that is cultural tourism? We’ve got you covered.

Here are some places you can check out that exist on the new Maya Train route and are perfect for a first visit, although some won’t be accessible until the full launch in February 2024, such as Tulum.

Tulum Archaeological Zone

The third most visited archaeological site in all of Mexico, the ruins of Tulum are iconic with their ruined ancient temples that sit above the clear waters of the Gulf of Mexico on top of a cliff and have become a landmark image synonymous with the region.

Built by the ancient Mayans, these incredible structures still stand today and are rich in history dating back as far as 564 AD.

Beneath the ruins are some beautiful beaches that tourists can access, making it a day trip destination if you wish.

ruins in Tulum

Koba

Less famous than the ruins of Tulum and a bit more robust in its execution, Coba is another archaeological site that will pique your interest.

Complete with a 138-foot-tall pyramid and a ball court that would have been used by the ancient Mayan civilization over 1,000 years ago, this site is a must-see and perfect for all wildlife lovers who can witness monkeys that inhabit the area, as well as (on rare occasions) jaguars and panthers in the surrounding jungles.

Cobá was once a major center of Mayan civilization and will capture your imagination once you visit, transporting you to a seminal period in history.

Tourists from Coba Mexico looking at the pyramid

Muil

Surrounded by lush jungles and a little more secluded than the more popular archaeological sites in the region, Muyil will make you feel at one with nature, away from the hustle and bustle of hotel zones and shopping malls.

The 55-foot pyramid known as El Castillo is a remarkable structure unlike any other historical site in the Mexican Caribbean, along with other ancient pyramids and ruins that are covered by the lush jungle mangroves as its backdrop.

Among them is a trail from El Castillo that leads to the site’s biggest attraction; Muil Lagoon.

After exploring the ancient ruins, you can escape the hot Mexican sun and find some peace and quiet here, with boat tours available if you wish.

The Mayan Ruins of Muil

Chichen Itza

Saving the best for last, Chichen Itza is the undisputed, most popular archaeological site in the Mexican Caribbean.

Now considered one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, this breathtaking site will give you an insight into the technologically advanced architecture built by the ancient Mayan civilizations to create amazing pyramids, temples and structures that have stood the test of time.

The Pyramid of Kulkulkan is the main attraction of the place, towering above the jungle and must be seen during the spring and autumn equinoxes, when the setting sun creates the image of a snake slithering across the steps of the pyramid!

chichen itza aerial view at dusk

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