Shore Excursions Uncover the Mystical Mayan Civilization on Mexico Cruises
When it comes to ancient ruins, there’s more to explore than just Europe and South America. Mexico boasts some of the most incredible and significant ruins in the world. The Mayan civilization spanned more than 2500 years, and hundreds of ruins in Mexico have been documented. In fact, there are so many sites that it’s believed that more than 4,000 undocumented sites exist.
On western Caribbean cruises that call at Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico, guests have the opportunity to take a shore excursion that steps back in time and walks the footsteps of those who lived in the Mayan era. If you’re taking a western Caribbean cruise that visits Mexico, the shore excursions can be pre-booked so you get the tour of your choice.
Some of the most famous ruins can be visited from Cozumel. Probably the most well-known, guests can explore one of the new Seven Wonders of the World — the Mayan ruins of Chichen-Itza. Chichen-Itza is one of the most important and exciting archeological sites on the American continent — the home of one of the great Mayan empires — and it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. These awe-inspiring monuments were left as a reminder of the incredible Mayan culture. The guide will escort guests through this legendary city, which extends over six square miles and contains hundreds of structures throughout the area. You will visit the Pyramid of Kulkulcan, the largest and best preserved Mayan ball court, the mystical Cenote where human sacrifices were performed, the Temple of the Warriors and the Observatory, where Mayan priests accurately calculated celestial events from over a million year span. This is the premier site for Mayan culture and certainly is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Admittedly this is very long excursion but it is well worth it. Everything was very well organized overall and I would highly recommend this trip … Once we arrived we were each given a bottle of ice water as well as a choice of which guide to go with. We went with Carlos for a slower paced tour of the site. He was superb and I feel I learned so much more from him than we did on our first trip there. After he was finished we were left to wander about Chicen Itza for an hour. This site is very large and you may not have time to see it all but you can always take another cruise to see what you have missed! — Guest Nancy1006
From Cozumel, guests also can visit the Coba Mayan Ruins. Coba is one of the Yucatan Peninsula’s most picturesque and popular archeological ruins. The site is around 30 square miles in size and is swathed in jungle. A tender ride to Playa del Carmen is followed by a motor coach ride to the ruins. The guide will share the secrets of this mystical place and you’ll explore newly restored structures that have only recently been opened to the public. Make your way on foot along a pathway flanked by jungle to the first excavated ruins, which consist of a large pyramid, Grupo Coba and a ball court. See the second-tallest temple in the Mayan world, Nohoc Mul, which is around 136 feet tall with 120 steps to the top. Stop along the way to admire La Iglesia — the small but lovely ruin of church that resembles a beehive.
The city of Tulum is a popular site to visit from Cozumel. The walled city of Tulum is the only Mayan city built right on the coast, overlooking the Caribbean Sea. The adventure begins with a 45-minute ferry transfer to Playa del Carmen. The guide will lead you on a scenic and informative one-hour drive to Tulum. Once there, your guide will escort you through the ruins, offering a complete narration along the way. See more than 60 restored temples and some of the mysterious hieroglyphic writings still visible today. Visit the Temple of the Frescos, famous for the detailed carved figures and original paints. And perched on the edge of the Caribbean and rising high above all of the other ruins is El Castillo, with its breathtaking view of the aqua-colored water below.
Well run tour, professional driver and tour guide. Chance to view/buy local artifacts is possible. Tulum is a post card perfect site for pictures of Mayan ruins, the Caribbean surf & beach, and a good historical review of Mayan culture and the Tulum site. — Guest FlyOverCountry
For a shore excursion that combines history, nature discovery and beachside relaxation, the San Gervasio Archaeological Site & Beach tour is ideal. Head into Cozumel’s jungle interior where you’ll explore the site of an ancient Mayan settlement. Immerse yourself in the mystical feeling that pervades the San Gervasio archaeological site as you walk limestone roads through the vestiges of Mayan construction with native trees and plants all around you. Keep your eyes open for butterflies, birds, iguanas, and other local residents. Once the island’s center of culture and religion, this is the only protected Mayan site on Cozumel and the natural setting offers a real sense of the Mayan life. Your guide will share fascinating stories about the incredible civilization that thrived here 1200 years ago, when Cozumel was a trade stop and center of worship for the goddess of fertility. Next, travel to a beautiful beach club where you’ll have free time to relax on the white-sand beach, swim in the sea, and enjoy the tropical surroundings.
At Costa Maya, the Chacchoben Mayan Ruins tour visits Chacchoben — the Place of Red Corn. In the company of experts in Mayan history, guests explore the ancient ruins and learn about the temples and other structures only recently partly uncovered in the rain forest. Guests have time to climb the Gran Basamento taking them above tree level. Here archaeologists found ceremonial offerings dating to around 1000 BC. The guide will explain about the wildlife and medicinal plants that are used by the modern-day descendants of the ancient Mayan people.
We did this tour on our recent Nieuw Amsterdam cruise. We really enjoyed it. The tour is very well organized and our tour guide, Mimi, did an extraordinary job explaining the background and details of the Mayan ruins. After the stop at the ruins, the goes to a nice little beach with a restaurant – where you can get a full meal or you can simply relax and have a cold Mexican beer. — Guest Richard1s
Our guide Daniel (a full-blooded Mayan; he proudly told us so) was superb. Unlike some guides, he gave interesting information on the way back to port — not just going to and on the tour. We viewed numerous fascinating ruins and gained an understanding of the marvelously accurate Mayan calendar — more accurate than the one we use routinely! — Guest ew2103
Guests at Costa Maya also can visit the Kohunlich Mayan Ruins. Situated in a secluded jungle setting near the border of Belize, guests view detailed Mayan temples combined with the lush green manicured gardens. See the Temple of the Large Masks, the Plaza of the Acropolis, the Plaza of the Estelas, Plaza Hundida and Plaza Merwin. Kohunlich may have been one of the most important sites in the lower Peten region. In today’s world, Kohunlich’s broad range of architecture, natural beauty and expansive, uncrowded seclusion sets it apart from the more widely visited sites.
This day-long excursion to a Mayan archeological site was enhanced by our wonderful tour guide Manuel. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that he was a retired history teacher with a wealth of knowledge on Meso American history. As we strolled along the site his colorful detail made the tour come alive for us. We returned by bus to a wonderful local restaurant where the entire group enjoyed fajitas and cool beverages on an inland lake. A very beautiful setting indeed. We would highly recommend this excursion to any interested in ancient Mayan culture. — Guest ddhodnik
To write a review on a shore excursion, visit the shore excursion page on the Holland America Line website and click on the “review” tab. To read more reviews, visit the individual tours to see what your fellow travelers think about the experience.
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