Lost civilisations in North America
In the 7th-century Palenque was a prosperous Mayan city within the rivaling Maya civilization. Its strong rulers build rich temples with unique hieroglyphic inscriptions. In AD 711, the neighboring kingdom of Tonina invaded the city, and in AD 740 Palenque's glorious days were over. When it eventually became abandoned, the fine stone structures were quickly swallowed by the jungle. Today the magnificent ruins are still standing proud, rising above the lush carpet of jungle. Climbing the steep steps and taking in the impressive view from one of the tall temples (like Templo de las Inscripcions or Templo de la Cruz) sure is magical â€“ no matter how many other tourists you have to share it with.
Los Piramides, as the Mexican call them, is the ancient leftovers of the Teotihuacan civilization. They were build around AD 100 to AD 600 in what was once the greatest city in pre-Columbian Americas with an estimated population of 200.000. The two main pyramids rise over the massive complex of smaller platforms, plazas and the Avenue of the Dead with a backdrop of mountains. The biggest pyramid is the Pyramid of the Sun (70m high), while the minor one is the Pyramid of the Moon. In these majestic settings the Teotihuacans could practice their ancient rituals which, of course, involved some human sacrificing. To this day some still believe that the pyramids contain strong energy, which explain the occasional groups of New Ages in dolphin-pattern shirts sitting in circles and holding hands.
These small unremarkable ruins would have been rather unimpressive if it wasn't for the absolutely amazing settings. Located on shear cliffs above the turquoise Caribbean sea and overlooking a narrow beach surely make them one of the most exotic archaeological site in the world. Sunburned tourists on tours from the resorts further north can swarm the place, so come early in the morning or in the late afternoon. The stretch of white beaches south of the ruins was once a backpacker Mecca, but the simple cabanas now come at high prices. The location though is still fabulous with white sand, swaying palms and cool Coronas.
The Yucatan peninsula is sprinkled with amazing Maya ruins, some bigger than others. The big attention drawers are Chichen Itza, Tulum and Palenque while minor ones, which can be equally impressive though smaller, goes free from the hordes of tourists. Aim for sites like Yaxchilan, Calakmul, and Xpujil but keep in mind that they can be difficult to get to without your own transport.