Mayapán (8 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, US$2.25) is thought by some to have been one of the most important cities in the pre-Hispanic Maya world, although you’d never know from the trickle of visitors the site gets nowadays. Mayapán is not on any tour-group itinerary, and independent travelers tend to skip it going to or from the “main” Puuc sites farther south.
Mayapán is a compact, immaculately maintained site with two primary pyramids, an observatory, cenote, and excellent fresco paintings and stucco masks. It was founded around A.D. 1000 after the powerful Cocom dynasty left Chichén Itzá to establish the region’s capital here. (Chichén Itzá was subsequently abandoned except as a place for religious worship and pilgrimages.) Mayapán dominated northern Yucatán almost until the mid-15th century, when it was abruptly abandoned, perhaps because of an internal revolt.
The first indigenous people met by the Spanish newcomers still called themselves maya uinic (Maya men) in reference to their former capital, and it is from there that modern use of the word Maya emerged. Unfortunately, there are few explanatory plaques on-site.
Second-class buses from Mérida ’s Noreste terminal pass the ruins’ entrance in both directions; just be sure you get on one for Mayapán ruins, not Mayapán town, which is in an entirely different area.