Mayapan Mexico

Mayapan is considered the last great Maya capital, reaching its zenith in the Late Post-Classic period from around 1200 until the 15th century. The site is located about 60 miles (100 km) to the west of Chichen Itza. Though its ruins are much smaller and less impressive than Chichen and other Maya sites, Mayapán is historically significant. It name means ‘standard of the Mayas’.

History of Mayapan

There is evidence that Mayapan was occupied since the Early Classic period, but most of its ruins date from after 1200 AD, when the city rose to prominence. Although Mayapan certainly succeeded Chichen Itza as the dominant power in the Yucatan at this time, it is not clear how this transition took place. Some sources tell the story of the kidnapping of the wife of the ruler of Chichen Itza by the ruler of Izamal. In the ensuing war, Hunac Ceel, the ruler of Maypan, conquered Chichen Itza. Other sources claim that Mayapan was built as a fortified capital near the hometown of Hunac Ceel after he defeated the Maya-Toltec lords of Chichen Itza. These chronicles are now discounted however as it is clear that Chichen Itza and other cities in the region had already declined before most of Mayapan was even built.

Instead Mayapan was probably the joint capital of a loose alliance of small city states. Most of its monuments were built within the city wall. At its peak the city had a population of about 12,000 with several thousands more people living outside the protective walls. There are many cenotes in the residential areas, and settlement is the most dense in the southwestern part of the city where cenotes are more numerous.

Descendants of Hunac Ceel , the Cocom lineage, shared the leadership of Mayapan with other noble families and regional lords who send members of their families to Mayapan to play parts in the government. This shared leadership was affective for almost 200 years but in the late 14th century, the powerful family of Xiu became resentful of the Cocom rulers and organized a revolt. Most of the Cocom family were killed except for one who escaped to lead the resistance. The civil war went on for years until 1441 AD, when Mayapan was sacked, burned, and abandoned and the Cocom withdrew to their base at Sotuta. When the Spaniards arrived 80 years later the Xiu-Cocom feud was still ongoing, which proved enormously useful to them in the Conquest of Yucatan.

Mayapan's observatory. Photo credit: Richard Johnson Hurtado

Mayapan’s observatory. Photo credit: Richard Johnson Hurtado

Map of Mayapan

The map shows the location of Mayapan. The buttons on the left can be used to zoom in or out. Click and drag the map to move around.

Mayapan Highlights

The main temple in Mayapan is the Temple of Kukulcan, a cruder smaller copy of the Castillo in Chichen Itza. There are a number of other major temples in the ceremonial center including three round ones, which are unusual for the Maya. Unlike many other Mayan sites, Mayapan has no ball courts.

Visit Mayapan

Mayapan is just off Highway 18, a few miles southwest of the town of Telchaquillo. Buses from Merida will let you of near the entrance of the ruins although renting a car might be a better option.

The entrance fee is M$27.