The Mayans
Chichen Itza, about 3 hours from Playa del Carmen is a great place to visit when you're not diving.

The area around Playa del Carmen is full of Mayan ruins, small and big. They are truly fascinating and anyone visiting the area should explore at least one of them. Some of the most famous archaeological sites, like Tulum and Coba are only a short drive from Playa del Carmen.

A little further from Playa, about 3 hours, lies the magnificent ruin of Chichen Itza, which was the most important capital of the Mayan world around 900 AD. The monumental Kukulkan pyramid (photo) can be climbed both on the inside and the outside.

 
Even in downtown Playa you can see some old ruins of small temples and from your dive boat you'll see some coastal outposts, protecting the sea for over a thousand years now. The Mayan civilization was highly evolved and they showed proof of great knowledge in engineering and architecture. Monumental pyramids, a complicated calendar, an intricate system of roads crossing the country - the feats of the Mayans never cease to amaze modern man. Maybe you'll see this Mayan ruin in Playa del Carmen  from your dive boat.
This ancient Mayan tradition is not something you'll see in Playa del Carmen of today.


Each city-state was harshly ruled by a few members of the royal family and the priesthood, leaving the vast majority of the population without power over their own lives. This area of the Mayan world had its height in the post-classic period (900-1500 AD) just before the total downfall of the Mayan society. This was a violent time in Mayan history and warfare was an important part of their lives. By the time of the arrival of the Spaniards almost all the big sites had already been abandoned, and the ruler class had lost its grip on the masses.

This stone carving shows the tradition of blood letting, one way of human sacrifice for the Maya, practiced by the ruling classes - the emperors and the priests. The full human sacrifice was primarily employed on slaves and captured warriors from other tribes.

 

Many theories have been presented during the years to explain what went wrong, but most probably it was a combination several things - a social uproar, hunger and wars. The society collapsed, but the Mayans themselves are still very much alive and kicking. The Mayan culture has survived, its fate is still to be determined.

 

 
Only about 2 hours fromj Playa del Carmen lies Coba, a huge Mayan site.