The Maya are one of the best known ancient civilizations. They inhabited the states of Tabasco, Chiapas, Yucatan, Campeche and Quintana Roo in the south of the Mexican Republic, as well as Belize, Honduras and Guatemala. The Mayas were great astronomers and they developed the Mayan Calendar, probably one of the most exact calendars ever written. They built impressive Ceremonial Sites with huge pyramids, elaborate temples and ballgame courts to worship their Gods. Around these Ceremonial Sites you could find the cities of the working class that were devoted to the agriculture. Around 900 AD, many of the Mayan cities were abandoned. Most of the cities were empty and the people had disappeared. Until today, nobody really knows why they left their cities, probable reasons could have been environmental disasters, epidemic diseases, climate changes or the collapse of their trade routes. Another hypothesis is that they lost their faith in the upper class and left them alone.
Many of the remains of these ceremonial cities can be seen in Riviera Maya. The site of Tulum is among the most visited sites of the country. This archaeological zone is stunning as it is built on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Another mystical site is Coba, hidden in the dense jungle surrounded by various lakes. In Coba, only 5% has been excavated. The most important structure here is the Nohoch Mul Pyramid that with a height of 126 ft. offers breathtaking views of the site and the surrounding jungle.
2012 is a very important year for the Mayans as their calendar that was written thousands of years ago comes to an end on December 21. This fact has caused many speculations and has even been the script for disaster movies; however for the Mayas it is a time for rebirth and renewal as a new cycle is about to begin.
The 120 km of beautiful beaches that decorate the coastline of Riviera Maya are fabulous to relax and to enjoy the many different types of water sports that one can practice while vacationing in this unique destination. Parasailing, paddle boards, kite surfing, snorkeling and scuba diving with sea turtles are just some of the many exciting options Riviera Maya offers. For thrill seekers there is an almost endless list of fun and adventurous activities that you can enjoy with the whole family. Many tours offers zip lines and rappel into cenotes, jungle walks and kayak tours in the lagoons that are hidden in the jungle. Another fun and unique adventure is the Sky Cycle, a bicycle typo of construction that is hanging on a cable and where you paddle your way over the treetops overlooking the jungle underneath you. This fun activity was invented in Riviera Maya, as well as the Avatar, a fast roller coaster Zipline that will make you scream all the way until the end where you splash into the refreshing waters of a cenote. The theme park Xel-Ha is wonderful for snorkeling and Xcaret offers you a fabulous insight in the rich flora, fauna and cultural heritage Mexico offers as a country. The main cities Tulum and Playa del Carmen are a haven for foodies. Restaurants offer delicious food from many different countries, as well as tasty traditional Mexican dishes that make you completely understand why the Mexican Gastronomy is on the Unesco’s World Heritage List. After a nice dinner you can stroll Playa’s famous 5th Avenue where you will find many different shops, boutiques and handcraft stores as well as a vibrant night life that attracts people from the entire region.
Some of the most unique natural treasures of Riviera Maya are the Cenotes. The word cenote comes from the mayan Word “Dzonot” which translates to freshwater filled holes.
Millions of years ago the Yucatan Peninsula was covered by the ocean. The last Ice age that happened about 15,000 years ago caused the sea level to descend aproximately 250 ft, and a porous platter made out of fossilized coral formations and limestone which is nowadays called the Yucatan Peninsula, emerged.
The cenotes played an important role in the Maya Culture. They were the primary source for fresh water and many of the major cities and ceremonial sites were constructed close to these natural water wells. The Mayas also believed that the rain god Chaac lived in the cenote, so many objects were sacrificed in the cenotes to worship the Gods and ask them for bountiful harvests, abundant rain and good fortune.
Today, around 6,000 cenotes have been discovered in the Yucatan Peninsula, from which a small number are open to the public. In Riviera Maya you can explore this mystical underwater world as most of the scuba dive centers of the area offer Cenote Diving, a unique adventure that you really should experience at least once in your life.