Central America’s amazing ancient cultures, cities and heritage made a tremendous impact on this region’s people’s lives and even looks. Moreover, there are still some people who maintain their ancient ingenious religions and actually kind of look familiar to their ancestors. But which are the must-see ruins in Central America?
Below are our top 5 ancient sites–which you can still stop by to learn more about Maya, Aztecs or other indigenous Latin American cultures. Some of the best-preserved!
Top 5 Must-See Ruins in Central America: Amazing Ancient Cities
This ancient city should probably be on top of your Central American ruins list, even though it’s technically in North America 😛 Not only because they are some of the best known, but also because they can teach us about Ancient American history like no other.
Teotihuacán is a collection of the ruins of not one, but a couple of different civilizations, all who lived here. First were the Maya and Zapotecs–ending with the Aztecs or Toltecs.
It is then safe to say that this city was a great multicultural center–making a huge influence on other cities surrounding it.
If you pay it a visit (pretty simple from Mexico City), make sure you don’t miss its most famous sites: the Avenue of the Dead and the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon.
Another important Maya city is located in Honduras: Copan. The city has a few temples and even a Royal Acropolis with a special court for traditional Maya games.
It is also fun to know that Copan was the primary residence for most rulers and even have a monument called Altar Q — the most famous site of this particular Central American site.
However, the city‘s population radically decreased during 8th and 9th centuries — slowly being forgotten. Nowadays though, it is one of the top Central America Mayan sites and was also named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It is hard to find a person who has never heard about Tikal! Situated in the Peten rainforest in Guatemala, this city is yet another impressive UNESCO World Heritage Site
The whole complex is full of temples, altars, palaces and pyramids. Therefore, this was not only one of the larger Maya cities, but must have also been an important religious and political center.
Gaze your eyes upon the famous Temple of the Great Jaguar, the Great Plaza, the Central Acropolis, the North and South Acropolises, and the Plaza of the Seven Temples.
A lesser-known Maya city is Caracol, located in modern-day Belize.
Did you know, by the way, that it used to be one of the most important cities to the Ancient Maya? And it’s outside of Mexico!
Caracol was one of the most important local political centers as well. In fact, the entire town was bigger than Belize’s current capital and twice its population. So you can imagine how big this city was.
While these Central America ruins were rediscovered in 1937, it wasn’t until 1985 that archaeologists started to work on the site. They found out that the town was abandoned in 1050 — meaning Caracol had already been unoccupied for 500 years by the time the Spanish conquistadors found it.
If you ever visit Caracol, take some time to appreciate the Sky Palace’s ruins — which happens to be the tallest building in all of Belize!
Joya de Ceren, El Salvador
Other must-see ruins in Central America include the Maya city of Joya de Ceren. It is beautifully well-preserved — and also known as the “Pompeii of the Americas”.
As you probably now, Pompeii was an ancient Italian city that was buried by volcanic ashes; sadly, Joya de Ceren had the same destiny.
The nearby volcano Loma Caldera erupted and dumped about 8 feet of ash on the city, perfectly preserving everything that was in there – ceramics, furniture, and even half-eaten food.
Even farm fields here were preserved, so if you stop by Joya, you will get a rare chance to see how the Mayans really used to live (at least in El Salvador).
Deservedly, Joya de Ceren was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.
Want to see more of my favorite ruins? Click here for Ek Balam!
So, are you inspired now!? If yes, plan your trip to Central America and stop by these five ruins!
“5 Must-See Ruins in Central America” was a guest post. Learn more here
Central America has there own beauty doesn’t need to be called Mexico, all the Latino countries have beautiful places ???? not only mexico.
Mexico is not Central America… Teotihacan
I know – and if you would have read the post you would have seen I still said it is still technically North America – but for anyone on the Central American circuit or backpacking in the area, it is worth adding to itineraries as they could be reached from neighboring countries easily
it’s Teotihuacan by the way — not Teotihacan 😉
Central America is beautiful too, not only mexico, bottom line all Latino countries are beautiful not only mexico.
I know Nitza. In no way did I say these are the only countries people should visit. These are must-see attractions in my opinion and the opinion of many others, yet this article was never meant to be all-inclusive 😉
I’ve visited several Mayan ruins and always find them fascinating. This is a great list of new sites I need to check out. Thanks!
yes! Which ones have you already visited by the way Elaine?
I visited Copan, Tikal and Caracol about 8 years ago now. I love Mayan ruins and these photos bring back memories.
Excelentes fotos María! Saludos de Río Piedras! <3