Hundreds of ruined archaeological Maya sites lay shattered over the former Maya World. Remnants of what once was one of the World’s greatest civilizations – el Mundo Maya – and one by one worth a visit.
The Maya’s lived – and still live! – in the southern part of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, parts of Honduras & El Salvador.
Most of the Maya sites are small, hidden, or … still not found. Others are world famous. Visited by thousands of visitors every year, if not millions.
So far I have visited more then twenty Maya sites. And hoping to visit many more in the future.
Index of this post
The “Old World” civilizations
Over the years, I have visited ruined cities in many different countries. Like for example the Greek & Roman remains you’ll find in most countries of Europe. The continent I was born on (To know a little more about me, click….. About Me!).
Together with a few others we can call these the “Old World” civilizations. Known to men before the so called Discovery of the Americas, or the “New World”.
The “New World” civilizations
In the Americas – the continent I’m living on for almost 30 years now – there are also many old excavations. However, there are two areas on the continent that stand out.
First of all, there’s the former Inca territory. That is, the Western Andes region of South America, mainly Peru.
- Besides many former Inca cities, you’ll find a lot of Pre-Inca sites in this region. Peru even houses the oldest civilization found on the continent so far
- The civilization is named Caral and knew its heyday approximately from 3000 – 1800 B.C. A time period that corresponds with a blooming time for the Egyptians, but long before the Greeks & Romans.
Another region were you’ll find old remains of many different civilizations is Mesoamerica. An area that which covers today’s Mexico & large parts of Central America.
In the northern & central part of Mexico I visited famous sites like Teotihuacán, Tenochtitlán, Cholula, La Quemada, El Tajín and Monte Alban.
A unique civilization – the Mundo Maya
For me though, nothing compares to the Maya civilization. The beauty of the former Maya cities. Mostly the Classic sites in the central part of the former Maya area. To name a few: Palenque, Copán, Tikal, Yaxchilán, Chichén Itzá, and Tulum.
It’s really an honor every time I visit the Mundo Maya. It was even a greater honor to have lived & worked there for a couple of years (In Guatemala, between 2000 and 2003)
It’s an absolute pleasure to visit the former Maya cities. Although you’ll discover many similarities, there are as many differences between them as well. Every city obviously had & has its own vibe.
What unites them though is their mysterious character. The amazement you’ll feel looking up at the sky-high temples, studying the artful monuments or trying to understand the thousands of hieroglyphs that hide old histories.
Fortunately we know a lot about the Maya civilization by now. Enough to get a good idea of the Maya culture, their ideology, science, politics, economics and religion or worldview (Cosmovisión).
An amazing world really, that in many ways still survives. Although mainly kept secret in the lives of the indigenous people of the region. Hidden in their culture because of the conquest, years of marginalization, discrimination, if not pure racism.
The Maya civilization is one of the richest the earth has ever known. And although we’ve learned a lot by now – through the past and the present – we are still discovering more about the Mundo Maya on a daily basis.
Rediscovery of the Mundo Maya – John L. Stephens & Frederick Catherwood
Less than two hundred years ago we knew almost nothing of the American civilizations. Mainly because we weren’t told too much about them, but also because we couldn’t imagine the “New World” knew its own civilized past.
A past disconnected from the “Old World”. A world described in books, among others, like the Bible? No way!
Of course the people who were living around the lost cities knew better. Although for most of them these places were as big a mystery as they were for the first Westerners who came over to visit them.
There are several adventurous pioneers I can mention here, but the most important ones were two men. The New York lawyer & diplomat John Lloyd Stephens & the British architect/painter & draftsman Frederick Catherwood.
Stephens & Catherwood made two trips through the Maya region between 1839 and 1842. Visiting more than forty lost Maya sites.
The world famous books of Stephens & Catherwood
They were amazed, but besides “greatness” they had no real idea of what they had found. They left us two beautiful 2 volumes book sets describing their journeys through Central America and the South of Mexico. Foremost their visits to & findings of the ruined Maya cities.
Stephens’ books and Catherwood’s drawings were so popular that they sold worldwide. With them came the first real attention for the Maya civilization outside the Maya region itself – mainly the Western world.
It was clear to them, from the moment they visited their first Maya city – Copán, Honduras – that America had it’s own civilized past. Using only their common sense – Archeology wasn’t a profession yet – they knew they had rediscovered something unique.
Just to show how popular Stephens’ travel books were, they are still available (published by Dover). Wonderful reads really. Preferably before you visit the fascinating Mundo Maya.
My own Book project on the Mundo Maya
After having written several books on Latin America (Mexico, Ecuador), I’m preparing a book on this subject – the Rediscovery of the Maya civilization.
An amazingly beautiful adventurous story. To be honest, I am jealous of these two guys. Their stories made me wish – more than ever before – that I had lived my life in the 19th century. The century of discovery.
For now and for you, I have currently published 1 post, and am preparing 2 more in this blog segment.
- A Top #12 of best Mundo Maya ruins to visit.
- Incidents of Travel #1. Description of a trip I made with wife & daughter through Guatemala in 2017.
- Incidents of Travel #2. Description of a trip I made in the same company through Yucatán & parts of Chiapas in 2018.
Both journeys through the Mundo Maya were partially made in the footsteps of Stephens & Catherwood. While some of the My Top #12 Maya sites were visited by them almost two centuries ago as well, others were not.
I hope to finish these posts a.s.a.p. And more so that you’ll enjoy them and find them useful for your own plans. Being it for an actual visit to the Mundo Maya. Or because you’re just gathering knowledge Armchair traveling through the mysterious Maya past.
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