Chichen Itza is an ancient Mayan site located on the Yucatán peninsula of Mexico. These famous pre-Columbian ruins signify the rich history of the ancient Mayan civilization. Chichen Itza was likely built around 600 BCE, making the ruins roughly 2600 years old today. The large ruin complex contains many stone buildings, including temples, pyramids, and platforms, as well as various statues and caves. Chichen Itza is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is the second most visited archeological site in Mexico. A visit to the site is a popular day drip from nearby Cancún.
Peru is home to one of the most visited ancient ruins today, Machu Picchu. Literally meaning “Old Mountain”, Machu Picchu is a pre-Columbian Inca site that was built around 1400 CE. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that sees around half a million visitors each year. In January 2010 Machu Piccu was in the news worldwide when heavy rains washed away access roads to the site, trapping over 2,000 tourists and 2,000 locals who then had to be evacuated. Machu Piccu reopened to the public on April 1st, 2010. Most visitors to Machu Piccu stay in the nearby town of Cusco where all manner of accommodation can be found.
The ancient Mayan city of Tikal, located in present-day Guatemala, has structures that date as far back as 400 BCE, though most of the structures were built in the Late Classic Period (600 – 900 CE). One of the largest urban centers of the pre-Colombian Mayan civilization, the city was at its peak at around 700 CE. Tikal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the ruins include five large pyramid temples, a large palace, small pyramids, tombs, and numerous other buildings with a grand total of 3,000 structures. The University of Pennsylvania and the government of Guatemala have contributed to the restorations done on the site in recent years. Travelers can find a variety of accommodations in the nearby cities of Flores and Guatemala City. Fans of the original Star Wars films may know Tikal as the “Massassi Outpost on the fourth moon of Yavin” from Episode IV: A New Hope.