Best Mayan Ruins in El Salvador. Get to Know Them!

Mayan Ruins El Salvador
Tazumal Ruins El Salvador.

The most prevailing Mayan Ruins in El Salvador are El Tazumal, Joya de Ceren, Cihuatan, San Andres, and Casa Blanca. At these sites, you will get a glimpse into the Mayan world that lived and controlled the area until the Spanish arrival in the 16th century.

El Salvador Mayan ruins describe a captivating Mayan civilization that flourished in the area that included parts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. They might not be as impressive as those in Belize or Guatemala; nevertheless, they are exceptional and worth visiting.

El Salvador Mayan Ruins are in the southernmost boundary of the old Mayan territory. It included the southeast region of Mexico, Yucatan, Campeche, Tabasco, Quintana Roo, and parts of Chiapas. It also included Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Belize.

Mayan Ruins in El Salvador
San Andres Mayan Ruins. Photo by Simon Burchell

Tazumal Mayan Ruins

Tazumal is the best-preserved pre-Columbian Mayan ruin in the country. It is the first archaeological park created in El Salvador and is among the oldest in the Central American region.

Investigations into Tazumal’s history indicate that it was populated from the Classic period through to the Postclassic. Artifacts discovered at the site track back to the 8th century AD, which is among the earliest artifacts from Mesoamerica.

The ruins were excavated and restored by archaeologist Stanly Boggs; it was achieved during many excavations during the 1940s and 1950s. Boggs’s restorations have been criticized for the use of cement. However, his work generated interest in Tazumal and avoided what would otherwise have been the progressive destruction of the ruins.

There have been many artifacts found at Tazumal; among the most important finds is the Virgin of Tazumal, discovered in 1892 by historian Santiago Barberena.

The Tazumal area is about six square miles; it includes pyramids, tombs, workshops, and a museum. It is located approximately 55 kilometers from the capital city of San Salvador and about 18 kilometers from the town of Santa Ana.

El Salvador Mayan ruins
Tazumal Mayan Ruins in El Salvador.

Joya de Ceren

Joya de Ceren is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that features a farming community. This area was preserved for centuries beneath layers of volcanic ash from the Loma Caldera volcano’s eruption.

The pre-Columbian Maya farming village is also referred to as the Pompeii of the Americas; it is compared to the famed Ancient Roman ruins destroyed by a volcanic eruption.

Joya de Ceren Mayan ruins
Joya de Ceren Mayan ruins.

Joya de Ceren has been particularly significant in studying the everyday life of ancient Maya agricultural communities; it gives insight into the daily life of the rural Maya.

No human bodies have been found at this archeological site, so experts assume that the inhabitants managed to flee to another place before the village was buried by ash. Visit Joya de Ceren and see firsthand the buildings that housed this Mayan rural community.

Cihuatan Archaeological Site

Cihuatan is one of the most spectacular and most important archaeological treasures in El Salvador. The site was officially inaugurated as an archeological park in November 2007; it has an estimated extension of about three square kilometers.

According to historians, the ancient city of Cihuatan began after the so-called Mayan collapse. It became a regional capital between 900 and 1200 AD.

The site’s central area has urban characteristics and is divided into two sections; the eastern ceremonial center or Acropolis and the western ceremonial center.

At this site, you will find pyramids, two ball courts, temples, and a building that has been speculated that served as a palace. Cihuatan has a large square that would have been the place for markets and festivals.

Cihuatan is located about 37 kilometers north of San Salvador, on the Troncal del Norte road that leads from San Salvador to La Palma. You will find the entrance of the park about four kilometers after passing the town of Aguilares.

El Salvador Mayan Pyramids
Cihuatan archaeological site in El Salvador.

San Andres Archaeological Site

San Andres is a pre-Columbian site whose occupation began around the year 900 BC. It was an agricultural town in the valley of Zapotitan in the department of La Libertad.

The San Andres archaeological site is one of the most important remains of pre-Hispanic civilization in the region. It is located about 32 kilometers from the capital city of San Salvador.

Investigations suggest that, due to the richness of the soil, this city’s inhabitants were farmers.

These settlers lived in small huts and harvested products, such as corn, beans, and Pipian. Additionally, San Andres’ excavations also revealed that this was a ceremonial, political and commercial center.

The archaeological findings at this site have revealed that this settlement had strong relations with the cities of Copan in Honduras and Teotihuacan in Mexico.

Visitors can tour the pyramids, the indigo processing plant, and the museum. Visit San Andres and explore this fantastic archaeological site.

Mayan Ruins in El Salvador
San Andres archaeological site.

Casa Blanca Mayan Ruins

Casa Blanca is a pre-Columbian Maya archeological site located near the city of Chalchuapa in the department of Santa Ana. The site possesses several pyramids dating back to the Late Preclassic period and the Classic period.

Casa Blanca has ​​about six hectares, which represents a small fragment of a much larger site, now mostly destroyed due to the growth of the city of Chalchuapa.

Casa Blanca is an archaeological Park and a Museum; the site has six structures, some of which are not fully excavated.

In addition to the Mayan archeological wealth, Casa Blanca has a museum that displays valuable historical objects of the Spanish occupation.

It’s important to point out that the pyramids at Casa Blanca are very similar to Tazumal and San Andres. These two popular Mayan sites are a short distance away.

Casa Blanca El Salvador
Casa Blanca Mayan Ruins.

Mayan Ruins in El Salvador

As I previously mentioned, the El Salvador Mayan ruins are not as majestic as those in other countries in the region; nevertheless, they are worth visiting.

A good thing about these archeological sites is that they are not that far apart, so you could see most of them in a day.

Now, if you are not familiar with El Salvador’s roads, I highly recommend you visit these sites with a guide. They will take the stress of driving away from you and give you plenty of information about the places.

Travel to El Salvador and explore the best of the El Salvador Mayan pyramids. I am sure you will love them!