El Meco Archaeological Site
The ancient Mayan city of El Meco began its existence as a fishing village around the year ad 300. When the fishermen abandoned the city in ad 600, El Meco lay dormant for almost 500 years, before it was repopulated as a thriving trade center prized for its proximity to the Caribbean coast. As is the story with many former Mayan settlements, the city was again abandoned during the 16th century with the arrival of the Spanish. Today, the El Meco Archaeological site is a popular tourist destination and remains a site of significance to the Mayan people.
El Meco’s remnants consist of 14 structures, located between the coast and an expansive lagoon. The centerpiece of the archaeological site is the 41-foot-high (12.5 meters) Mayan pyramid. Mayan pyramids can be found throughout parts of Central America; however, this is the only one in the Cancun area. Known as El Castillo, or The Castle, the pyramid features a temple at its top. Climb the pyramid’s steps to reach the summit and take in the stunning views of the nearby lagoon.
While the El Meco site is only small, it has been well looked after since excavations began in 1997. Today, its employees continue to keep the structures well kept and are happy to show you around the ancient temples and administrative buildings of the city. Shade yourself from Cancun’s relentless sun under the branches of the old fig tree that grows within a small temple on the site.
An adjoining archeological site shows signs that the city was once an extensive port and commercial district, and may have been the former gateway to Isla Mujeres. Much of this area has not yet been formally explored by archaeologists. The Mayans have since long gone, but the site is now alive with native birds and iguanas that add to the atmosphere.
El Meco is located approximately four miles (six kilometers) north of Cancun, along the coastal road. The site can be reached by bus, taxi or chartered tour from Cancun. The site is open daily for a small fee, and parking is free.