Cancun marks the entrance point to a historic region known as the Mundo Maya, or the Mayan World. Archeological research shows that the Mayan people have inhabited the area that covers parts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador since as early as 1800 bc. The area around Cancun was once an area of highly populated settlements. Today, evidence of these settlements can be experienced right in the heart of Cancun, at the El Rey Ruins.
The El Rey Ruins are all that remains of an ancient Mayan city, abandoned following the arrival of the Spanish settlers. As you explore the 47 stone structures and let your imagination fill in the details and color of ancient Mayan life. Climb to the top of the highest structure to find a Mayan temple and the burial site of an important Mayan figure.
Some of the stone walls are still adorned with ancient paintings. While the murals have deteriorated with time, it is still possible to make out images resembling kings and other significant members of the community. While not as grand as other Mayan cities, El Rey is still highly atmospheric and offers an accessible introduction to the original inhabitants of Cancun.
The ruins have another, less expected attraction. Today, El Rey is inhabited by a huge colony of iguanas. The iguanas have become accustomed to human interaction, and are confident around people. Bring some fruit or bread to feed these fascinating creatures as they crawl between the ancient ruins.
El Rey Ruins are located in the center of Cancun’s hotel district, on the edge of the lagoon. They are best reached by bus or taxi, and paid parking is available in the hotel district. Entrance to the ruins is available daily for a very small fee, although this is waived on Sundays. The ruins offer little shade, so pack an umbrella, hat or sunblock.