Best Mayan Ruins in El Salvador. Get to know them!

By Eddie Galdamez
Friday, January 8th, 2021
Mayan Ruins in 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. El Salvador ruins might not be as impressive as those in Belize or Guatemala; nevertheless, they are exceptional and worth visiting.

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

El Salvador Mayan pyramids are located in what was the southernmost boundary of the Maya territory. The Maya territory covered the southeast region of Mexico, which corresponds to the states of Yucatan, Campeche, Tabasco, Quintana Roo, and parts of Chiapas; also, it includes Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Belize

El Salvador Mayan pyramids and archaeological sites

  • Tazumal. These ruins were a trading center for the Maya; it features tombs and several pyramids and an on-site museum displaying ancient artifacts.
  • Joya de Ceren. This Maya site, known as the Pompeii of the Americas, was buried in ash and debris following a volcanic eruption.
  • Cihuatan. The ruins were once a spacious urban area alongside the Guazapa river and one of the largest pre-Columbian settlement in the area.
  • San Andres. This settlement, at one point, served as a regional capital for the Maya.
  • Casa Blanca. This site highlights Mayan ruins from 200 BC and AD 250.
El Salvador Mayan ruins
Tazumal Mayan Ruins

Tazumal Mayan Ruins in El Salvador.

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 indicates that it was populated from the Classic period through to the Postclassic. Artifacts discovered at the site trackback 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.

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 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.

Joya de Cren ruins
Joya de Ceren

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

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 archeological site.

Mayan Ruins in El Salvador
San Andres archaeological site

Casa Blanca 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.
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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
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!

Archaeological Sites