When people think of historic ruins in Latin America, it’s a good bet that most of the popular attractions come to mind: Machu Picchu in Peru, and Tulum and Chichen Itza in Mexico, for starters.

The truth is that Latin America is dotted with ruins that are smaller and not as well-known, and regardless of their stature or size, these sites still provide a fascinating window into the daily life and history of people and cultures that disappeared many centuries ago. 

Traveling the Mayan Riviera

The Mayans, of course, left behind so many artifacts and archaeological sites that were once bustling, well-populated communities throughout Central America and Mexico, that thousands of graduate students, historians, and authors around the world are able to build entire careers from ongoing research.

But in addition to the Mayans and Incas, there are many other tribes and native people that have also left their marks throughout the region. In fact, one of the newer ruins in the area is actually less than a century old, and was constructed by an American automotive icon in the jungles of Brazil.

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No matter which ruin you choose, here’s my advice. When you first arrive, take a guided tour of the site, and then spend some time wandering around on your own. Then, at some point, just stop. Stand in the middle of the pyramids, collapsed rock piles and walls, or long-abandoned caves, and just close your eyes. Try to imagine it as a bustling, vibrant community.

It may just take you some time to open them again.

Lisa Rogak is a freelance writer and New York Times Bestselling author. Her latest book is "And Nothing But The Truthiness: The Rise (and Further Rise) of Stephen Colbert.

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