Must-See Ruins in Latin America

Traveling to places that provide a fascinating window into the daily life and history of people and cultures that disappeared many centuries ago.



    Machu Picchu You have two choices when it comes to getting to the Incan lost city, and given the altitude – almost 8,000 feet above sea level – the choice may be an easy one: You can take a bus or train, which requires several hours of travel time, or you can hoof it, which requires four days and camping, not an easy feat if you're not already acclimatized to the altitude.


    Tulum, Mexico Of all the Mayan ruins in Latin America, Tulum in Mexico is one of the most breathtaking due to its cliffside location overlooking the Caribbean Sea.
    Riviera Maya Destination Marketing Office


    Merida, Spain Not all ruins are Latin or Mayan. In Merida, Spain, an ancient Roman amphitheater is one of several Roman sites on the itinerary of a 14-day “Spain and Portugal” Tauck tour.  As you can tell from the photo, the amphitheater is actually still used today.

    Mayan Expedition 5

    Chichen Itza The grand-daddy of Mayan ruins, Chichen Itza can easily overwhelm the senses, not only with its sheer size – 200 acres – but also with the crowds, which number about 1.2 million each year. The three must-see attractions are El Castillo, the Great Ball Court, and the Temple of the Warriors. 


    Brazil Fordlandia Back in the 1920s, car manufacturing icon Henry Ford began to look farther afield for cheaper rubber sources but also to fulfill his dream of establishing a utopian community – which just happened to be in the middle of the Brazilian Amazon jungle. Fordlandia failed after only a couple of years of operation. 
    Wikimedia Commons/Méduse


    Casco Viejo, Panama City In the Casco Viejo area of Panama City, you'll see ruins almost everywhere you look. Some are slowly being renovated and restored while others are left to stand sentry.
    Lisa Rogak


    Lake Titicaca, Bolivia Most tourists who flock to Lake Titicaca in Bolivia bypass the nearby Tiwanaku ruins – indeed, many don't even know about this pre-Incan archaeological site – and that's a shame. Today it's a UNESCO historic site, its pyramids and temples paying homage to its heights of power between the 6th and 10th centuries A.D.
    Wikimedia Commons


    Ek Balam, Mexico Chichen Itza gets all the glory, but fans of Mayan ruins favor Ek Balam as a smaller, but still stunning example of architectural ruins. The excavation and restoration of Ek Balam only began in the mid-1990s, which adds to its pristine and undiscovered nature. Source: Xcaret Eco-Park


    Muyil, Mexico Muyil is a small architectural site in Quintana Roo, Mexico. It's a bit south from its more famous cousin Tulum, and about six miles from the coast, which means you'll probably have the place to yourself.  
    List Rogak


    Tucume, Peru Located in northern Peru, historians believe Tucume served as a vital center for three different native groups over time: first, the Sican from 1000-1350 A.D., followed by the Chimu, and finally the Inca from 1450-1532 A.D. Tucume consists of over 540 acres and 26 pyramids and platforms, and nearby attractions include Kuelap, a huge mountaintop temple and fortress and the Leimebamba museum with a collection of 200 mummies. Source: Adventure-Life 


    Pukara de Quitor Ruins, Chile Despite being just 3km from the popular destination San Pedro de Atacama in northern Chile, the Pukara de Quitor ruins, which date back seven centuries, are often overlooked. Source:


    Tikal, Guatemala Tikal is a sprawling ancient Mayan site located in the tropical rainforests of northern Guatemala. Covering more than six square miles in its heyday, historians say the city had 3,000 buildings and close to 90,000 residents. The earliest structures dates from 400 B.C. 
    Wikimedia Commons
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