How do I Climb Mayan Ruins?

How do I Climb Mayan Ruins?
Hike, climb and stair-hop your way to the top of many different Mayan temples, pyramids and ruins in southern Mexico, Guatemala and Belize in Central America. Many of the temples and sites have been equipped with tourist handrails and ropes to assist your ascent to the top.


Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Getting There

Things You’ll Need:
  • Walking or low-cut hiking shoes
  • Water bottle or hydration backpack
  • Sunscreen
  • Sun hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Camera
  • Transportation to and from temples or ruins
  • Guide books
Step 1
Rent a car or hire a bus, taxi or private guide service in Playa del Carmen, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta or other Mexican or Belizean tourist communities. If you choose a rental car and drive yourself and party to a Mayan ruins site, you'll have to pay tolls on the Mexican freeways. Pay approximately 18 US dollars for tolls. Park at the designated lots at the ruins at sites such as Chitzen Itza.
Step 2
Begin your climb early in the morning to avoid the heat of the midday sun. Look for posted signs directing you to the proper place to begin your ascent of pyramid or temple ruins. Stay close to the ropes and cable assists if you have issues with heights and exposure to steep slopes. Set a slow but deliberate pace going up the stairs. Remember, it is easier to go up than to descend. Go slowly to conserve energy for the walk down.
Step 3
Take breaks on the stair ascent if needed. Keep your hand on the fixed ropes or cables if present. Be aware of your surroundings when resting and taking a break. Yield the stairs or pathway to those still in motion. Stop and focus on the stairs in front of you if you feel vertigo or dizziness from the height or exposure. Begin a slow descent of the stairs or pathway if the height affects your ability to continue.
Step 4
Sip water routinely during the trip up and down to stave off dehydration, a real concern in the hot tropical sun. Sip water from your water bottle or hydration backpack during rests. Remember to drink at least 1 liter of water per hour in the sun or walking the ruins.
Step 5
Get your camera out at the top to photograph the scenery and views from the pinnacles of the temple or pyramid ruins. Walk slowly and deliberately during the down step trip. Lean backward into the stairs as you descend. Do not lean forward. If you're leaning forward and you slip, your potential for knocking out teeth or breaking bones is great. Lean back into the stairs to allow gravity to work with you. Slipping with a backward lean may result in a bruised bottom, but no broken teeth.

Tips & Warnings

Wear sunscreen, sun hats and sunglasses in the hot sun.
The ropes and cables are not present at all sites. Do not ascend if afraid of heights or prone to vertigo when no cables or ropes are present.

Article Written By Eric Cedric

A former Alaskan of 20 years, Eric Cedric now resides in California. He's published in "Outside" and "Backpacker" and has written a book on life in small-town Alaska, "North by Southeast." Cedric was a professional mountain guide and backcountry expedition leader for 18 years. He worked in Russia, Iceland, Greece, Turkey and Belize. Cedric attended Syracuse University and is a private pilot.

Keep Me Informed

Weekly newsletters, announcements and offers from to your inbox.

Sign me up!

We HATE spam and promise to keep your email addresses safe and secure.