Tulúm shoreline

Looking north along the shoreline at the ancient Maya ruins of Tulúm in Quintana Roo, Mexico:

Tulum shoreline

Tulúm may not have the best architecture compared to other Maya sites, but you’ve got to admit that its location can’t be beat for photography! And if you’re lucky enough to show up at low tide, the beach in this picture is open to swimmers and sunbathers.

Nohoch Mul

Derived from the Mayan for “large hill,” Nohoch Mul is by far the largest (and to judge from pictures online, the most-photographed) structure at the Maya ruins of Cobá:

Nohoch Mul

As you can see, parts of it (on the sides of the stairway) are in rough shape — but it’s got the advantage of being one of the largest Maya pyramids that visitors are still allowed to climb. And for those with issues with heights, a rope is provided to help you get up and down.

The view from the top is pretty impressive, too!

At the serpent’s mouth

At the foot of the stairs on the north face of El Castillo, in the Maya ruins of Chichén Itzá, Mexico:

At the serpent's mouth

Should you make it to Chichén Itzá, just remember — you can walk right up to the steps, but don’t even think about climbing them. Not that many years ago (until 2006), you could climb these to check out the temple at the top (and take in a fantastic view). But sadly, somebody slipped and fell down the stairs (to their death) — the structure’s been off-limits ever since.

Pyramid of the Magician

The first thing you see once you’re in the gate at the Maya ruins of Uxmal, Mexico:

Pyramid of the Magician, Uxmal

It’s an impressive structure — although a bit odd for photography. You get a better overall vista from the east side, but the architectural details are better on the west side.

Some years back, you could climb the stairs and either go all the way to the top, or pass through the tunnel partway up (giving you access to older temples now buried in the body of the pyramid). But sadly you can’t climb this structure any more — at least you can get good shots of most of it from the ground. This is actually stitched from two wide-angle shots, with colors tuned up a bit in Topaz Adjust.

Temple of the Descending God

A piece of fast construction at the ancient Maya ruins of Tulúm in Quintana Roo, Mexico:

Temple of the Descending God

The structure’s named for an odd little head-down figure above the door. Given the lack of cracks in the structure’s wall, it was apparently built leaning the way it currently does — so it’s thought to have been built for immediate use, not as something “for the ages” (much like modern shopping malls).

BTW, this little building is far beyond the ropes at the sight, so you need a longish lens to get any decent shots of it. Bonus points to readers who can spot the iguana in the picture…

The Great Ball Court

In the Maya ruins of Chichén Itzá, Yucatán, Mexico:

The Great Ball Court

And by Great, they do mean Great — this is the largest ball court in the Maya realm. It’s so large, in fact, that archaeologists think it may not have been useable for the ball game — instead being used for ceremonies associated with the game. Meanwhile, Chichén Itzá has plenty of other (smaller) ball courts that could have been used for the regular game.

Dzibanché’s Eastern Complex

Well, OK — I have a confession to make. I don’t really know what this section of Dzibanché has actually been named. I do know that it’s way out on the eastern end of the site, and has recently been restored.

Eastern complex

Unfortunately, this part of Dzibanché has been restored so recently that it doesn’t yet have interpretive signs, or even show up on maps at the site itself. But it was fun to wander aimlessly through — lots of courtyards and buildings, some still preserving scraps of their original plaster. And few have heard of the place, so should you visit, you’ll likely have it to yourself.

The Great Pyramid, Uxmal

Definitely one of the steeper pyramids we saw on our 2011 trip, in the Terminal Classic Puuc site of Uxmal:

The Great Pyramid, Uxmal

As you might be able to tell, kids had no problems with these steps — the bigger ones were racing each other to the top! Regular adults have to do the usual angle-walk up the steps.

You might also notice that this is the only one of the pyramid’s four faces that has been restored. Aside from saving money up front (restoration isn’t cheap), this saves money over the long run too — since once you restore something, you have to maintain it. Restoration also (in a way) destroys — since you can never be 100% sure you’re restoring something exactly the way it once was. So 3/4 of this structure is being saved for future generations of researchers to study and (maybe) restore at a later date.

On the beach

At the ruins of Tulúm in Quintana Roo, Mexico:

On the beach

You can’t actually walk on this beach (it’s reserved for nesting sea turtles), but a trail through the site runs right past it — and it makes a great foreground for shots like this! The only real problem is that trash tends to wash up after storms, so you need to clone it out of your shot (since, obviously, you can’t walk out and get it off the beach).