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Archaeological Sites, Cancún

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Mexico's insider take:

Long before modern pyramids rose beside the sea, the Maya built temples and homes beside the Caribbean, using the region as a stopover for traders and pilgrims traveling between ancient cities and trading posts. In Cancún, restored Mayan temples rise beside golf fairways at El Rey (Blvd. Kukulcán, Km 18). Located smack in the middle of the Zona Hotelera, El Rey serves as a reminder of Cancún's roots as a trading post at the edge of the peninsula. Tour guides await visitors at the entryway and describe the site's various plazas and pyramids, which feel remote and secluded despite the proximity to high-rise hotels and golf fairways. About 20 minutes north of Cancún, perfectly restored Mayan temples and pyramids can be seen at El Meco. The recently opened site, on the road between Puerto Juárez and Punta Sam, faces Mujeres Bay and was the way station for pilgrims sailing to Isla Mujeres. Lizards are more common than humans around the 14 structures, some showing bits of paintings from the post-Classic period. Cancún seems a million miles away. Neither El Meco nor El Rey offer formal tours, so you'll have to show up on your own and hire the guides that gather onsite. Expect to pay about $10.

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