Yaxchilán, Chiapas, Mexico

This obscure fourth-century site, along the Usumacinta River at the Guatemala border, draped in thick strangler vines and echoing with shrieking howler monkeys, is a tourist-free standout among Mexico’s many ruins. Visitors approach by boat, then enter through El Laberinto (The Labyrinth), a limestone building with painted stucco panels and topped with decorative cresteríasdedicated to ruler kings like Moon Skull.

Mystery: Yaxchilán was mysteriously deserted in the ninth century, but pilings along each side of the river suggest that it was the site of a sophisticated suspension bridge, previously thought invented in the Western world.

Visit: Travel like Mayans, by water, on Mountain Travel Sobek’s Chiapas Wildlife Adventure, which includes whitewater-rafting runs along the Rio Santo Domingo and stops at Yaxchillán and other ancient ruins.

Unusual Buildings