4 Big things that are about to happen in the Riviera Maya
For those of you that visit the Riviera Maya often, you know how things are always changing. There are new restaurants, construction all over the place and new hotels opening all the time. In fact, the last 10 years in Playa Del Carmen have seen the population more than double, just showing how much change is a constant feature. Now, we have four big projects that will have a big impact on the area. Here are the four things starting with the most familiar and going to the lesser known.
The Tren Maya will start operating this year
The Mayan Train or Tren Maya as it is called in Spanish, will start opening segments as early as December 2023. What is the purpose of this project? This is mainly a tourist transportation plan to connect five states of southeastern Mexico. This has been one of the largest infrastructure projects taken on by Mexico in recent years. It will give tourists a whole other option for getting around and visiting other areas of the peninsula and beyond.
The first section will mostly likely be Cancun to Chichen Itza. Work continues on all sections of the Tren Maya.
Most of the stations and areas of where the train will pass have been resolved. The section from Cancun to Tulum was originally going to follow the 307 Highway. It appears now to be taking a back loop around Playa Del Carmen, signaling a more inland route for the train.
Below you can see the Valladolid train station under construction. To see what some of the stations will look like, see our article with photos here.
Tulum to open an airport
If you have lived in the area of have been visiting for a while, you probably have heard about the Tulum airport. It was the butt of many jokes because it never seemed to come to fruition. There was even a section of jungle on the north end of Tulum that was cleared for the project, only to sit there empty. The project is underway now. It is not the same location as before but will be on the south end of Tulum about 20 minutes away.
The official name will be the Felipe Carrillo Puerto Interntaional Airport, but we are sure it will be called the Tulum Airport.
The new airport is projected to serve 4.5 million passengers a year when opening and it has a capacity of 5.5 million passengers a year.
It is projected to open late this year, but the first scheduled flights are for early 2024. This new airport is being built to support tourism to southern Quintana Roo and give an alternative airport to the Cancun International Airport.
Chichen Itza will open a new part of the ruins
If you thought Chichen Itza ruins were large, wait until they open a whole other part of the ruins. The new part is known as Chichen Itza viejo or “old Chichen Itza”. The older section of Chichen Itza has been sitting in plain sight, you can even see it on google maps satellite image. The older part is located about 800 meters south of the southernmost part of the ruins that are open now. Chichen Itza viejo dates back to the 4th century AD.
What is there in the old part of Chichen Itza?
There are about 20 structures to be seen here. With names like Palace of the Phalluses, the House of the Snails or the Gallery of the Monkeys, you know there will be some juicer stories there. There also have been tombs excavated in the old part that evidently belonged to high-ranking members of society. The extent to what the public will see of these tombs is still to be seen.
Resurgence of tourism to the area
Currently there are thousands that visit Chichen Itza daily. Many of these come on bus tours from the Riviera Maya. With the opening of the Tren Maya, you can expect the whole tour industry to change when it comes to Chichen Itza. Not only will be there be a train station for Chichen Itza, but it will also change how tours and transportation functions for the area.
Over the past few years there have been more attractions opening around Chichen Itza. See our guide here on the best things to do near Chichen Itza.
Chichen Itza also added a light show at night. Here is a video and article about it.
If you like exploring ruins, be sure to check out the huge, abandoned city of Yaxunah close by to Chichen Itza. These ruins are just besides the road and get overshadowed by Chichen Itza.
Ichkabal Mayan ruins will open
Ickabal is a new set of ruins you probably have not heard anything about. It is surprising since the size and importance of these ruins is on the same level as other famous ruins found locally. One of the reasons you have not heard about these ruins is the fact they were rediscovered in 1995 and have had a very slow process of restoration. They are also located in the south of the state in an area that is not that populated.
What are these ruins like?
One of the most noteworthy things about these ruins is the size. The overall dimensions of Ichkabal are 30 square kilometers. Some of the temples being as tall as 46 meters, which is about as tall as the tallest in the area. The ruins of Ichkabal are older than Chichen Itza and Uxmal and are considered to be one of the most important sites in the south of the state.
Ichkabal ruins is down toward Bacalar and inland. With the Tren Maya coming to the area and these new ruins opening, it will go hand in hand to promote the area. There is no official date of opening, but it is thought to be ready to open late 2023.