Traveling through Mexico’s Riviera Maya in the state of Quintana Roo provides visitors and locals alike with an unparalleled look at this region’s storied past,scenic natural beauty and cultural treasures. Much more than just a popular beach destination – although it is certainly that as well – the Riviera Maya contains its own blend of biodiversity and archaeological treasures that can’t be found anywhere else on the planet.
Although many people still initially become aware of this region due to the ever-increasing popularity of Cancun and Riviera Maya real estate,which is also home to the chic resort towns of Playa del Carmen,Tulum and Puerto Aventuras,there are many gems waiting to be discovered here. From eco-parks to amazing ancient Mayan ruins,there is more to this vacation destination than first meets the eye.
Xcaret is an eco-archaeological park located in the Riviera Maya that is dedicated to social responsibility,such as educating visitors and preserving Mexico’s natural resources,as well as its people,culture and history. The park is home to underground rivers,a coral reef aquarium,Mayan archaeological sites and a traditional Mexican village and cemetery. It also hosts a variety of special cultural exhibits and other regularly scheduled programs,such as the Xcaret Night Show,which interprets the region’s rich history through dance,drama and music.
The Yucatán Peninsula is actually home to more than 100 archaeological sites,but two of the most significant can be found in the Riviera Maya. The growing town of Tulum is home to a beautifully preserved walled city that dates from 1200 CE and houses a number of impressive structures,including El Castillo (the Castle) and the Temple of the Descending God,which boasts a figure of the god that is lit for a few seconds each day by the rays of the sun as it rises. Also of note,the second largest coral reef in the world lies just offshore here,while a bathing beach is always popular among visitors.
Finally,the ancient city of Cobá lies nearby and encompasses more than 30 square miles,although only about five percent of that has been uncovered. Still,the visible area is so large that visitors often hire a carriage or rent a bicycle in order to travel around the ruins with ease. Cobá is home to the Great Ball Court and the Nohoch Mul pyramid,which at 140 feet high is the tallest known Mayan structure that can be found on the entire Yucatán Peninsula.