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Should you have time for one archaeological site only, Uxmal should be your pick, with no hesitation!
Yes I know, if you have never been to Chichen-Itza, that should be your priority no doubt, although, between Uxmal and Chichen-itza, my favorite will remain Uxmal.
However, Uxmal for me is indeed one the best Mayan ruins in Yucatan, although I don’t like to call them ruins, but, more properly, archeological sites.
Besides being amazingly beautiful consider that from Merida to Uxmal is only 1-hour drive on a beautiful road and once you are in the area, there are many other beautiful sites and cenotes to check out. You are in fact right on the way to the Ruta Puuc of which I will talk about in another article.
I went to visit the pre-hispanic town for the 3rd time and, as always, I was in awe before its beauty and grandeur, that overwhelming feeling that you have when you stand before an amazing work of art.
In 1996 it has been made a UNESCO world heritage site, so I guess I am not the only one to be fascinated by Uxmal.
MEANING OF THE NAME
Historians weren’t sure about the meaning of the Mayan name UXMAL, which could be “built for 3 times” or also it could have come from the Mayan word “UX” which means “to harvest” from the agricultural potential of the region.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE ANCIENT CITY
According to the UNESCO website, the Mayan town of Uxmal, was founded in c 700 ad and had about 25000 inhabitants. The layout of the buildings reveals their mastery in astronomy.
The ceremonial center was dominated by the Pyramid of the Soothsayer (the name given by the Spaniards), a huge beautiful building decorated with a significant amount of symbolic motifs and sculptures like figureheads depicting Chaac, the God of rain. The serpents are also an interesting element of this pyramid, as the waving movement of the figureheads probably represents to the apparent movement of the Sun.
The Pyramid of the Magician (the other given name) is the first thing you see when you enter the site, a majestic 35-meter tower with 60 degrees of inclination. Its construction began in the 6th Century and it took over 400 years to complete and it is made of the superimposition of five temples. Unfortunately, it is closed to the public at the time I am writing this post. I have actually never been able to climb it in the 3 times I was there. But it is just an amazing temple to look at, a symbol of the grandeur of the Mayan civilization.
The other most representative buildings are el Cuadrangulo de las Monjas (Nunnery Quadrangle) and la Casa de Las Palomas, although I found beauty in all of the buildings, and in the complexity of the whole settlement, which holds a special energy in its own.
In fact, as Mundo Maya website mentioned. “Unlike most pre-Hispanic cities, the layout of Uxmal’s structures does not seem to follow a geometric order; its spaces are organized in a more subtle way, based on two principles. Firstly, buildings are oriented according to astronomical phenomena, such as the ascension and descent of Venus. Secondly, they adapt to the topography of the land, consisting of a series of hills.”
I am sure the most popular building is the Great Pyramid similar to the House of the Magician, due to its magnitude, with nine bases, but with the plus that you will be able to climb this one and it will be much easier than the others like Coba for example, as the steps are restructured and made as regular steps. When you reach the top, you will have a view of an unimaginable beauty. The entire city lays before your eyes and beyond it a green carpet on the horizon. Besides the beautiful view, please take some time to check out Temple of the Macaws right there on top and, leaning on your right facing the temple, a beautifully decorated wall is raising from the jungle.
On the way back to the Great Pyramid, keep your right and before getting to the bottom, make a right and follow the path around the big building on the right.
That would be the Governor house and the path will lead you to the magnificent front, well looked after by a colony of cute iguanas, very friendly and fearless of the human presence.
You can go up the building and admire the beautiful frieze made with stone mosaic, which is one of the most complex examples of Mayan geometric art.
The site of Uxmal together with the nearby sites of Labna, Sayl, and Kabah of the Puuc region, (the Ruta Puuc) is considered the more representative of the Mayan Art and architecture.
TIP: On the way back to the entrance/way out have another look at the beautiful Pyramid of the Magician and so when you reach the top of the great pyramid, just sit on the top steps, breath and enjoy the view, the breeze and be grateful, immerse yourself in the energy of the sacred building. This is something I do all the time and it makes me feel good. 🙂
How to get to Uxmal
Driving, which I always recommend, you can take route 261 from Merida.
If you come from Cancun, you can either get to Merida on the Route 180 (free road) or 180D (highway) and then turn into the 126 or you can cut through the small towns, which I love the most, but keep in mind that it will take you to double the time. Google map or any GPS will help you to get there.
Driving around the area is really easy and worry-free and Uxmal residents and people leaving in the surroundings are really pleasant people and helpful in case you get lost. Remember that if you are running out of gas and you don’t see a gas station, just stop at a local grocery store and most probably they will have fuel to sell.
If you wish to have more information and tips on driving in Yucatan you can check out this post which I wrote with all my experience and funny anecdotes.
BY BUS – ADO busses would take you there directly either from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum or Merida. You can check here the schedule
BUS FROM MERIDA TO UXMAL – Uxmal from Merida is about 2-hour bus by ADO as well.
As weird as it seems you will need to get 2 tickets, one for INAH and the other for AAFI, a total of 223 pesos, about 13 usd. It’s a bit expensive compared to many others but it is totally worth it. Besides they did an amazing job to keep it and preserve it clean and tidy.
WHAT TO BRING
Light dress, comfortable shoes, better if gym shoes, mosquito repellent, water ( you can buy water inside in the entrance area but it is way too expensive compared.
WHERE TO STAY
If you are on a journey through Yucatan and you decide to stay in the surrounding of Uxmal, you can find a good choice of accommodations. Here you can check out my suggestions
WHAT TO DO AROUND UXMAL
- Uxmal is the heart of the Puuc Region which is now called “Ruta Puuc” where you can also visit the archeological sites of Sayil, Labna, Kabah (see Uxmal map on top). I loved them all and I will talk about them soon in another post.
- Also, there is a cenote near Uxmal, actually more than one. In the town of Abala’ at a few miles from Uxmal on the way back to Merida, there are a couple of cenotes. More detailed info soon, as well. In the meantime, if you need to know urgently, please shoot me an email or leave me a comment here below and I will be happy to reply.
- Right in front of the entrance of Uxmal, on the opposite side of the road, you will see a chocolate factory. I didn’t go there so I am not sure what is like. But I am mentioning it anyway… just so you know.
As usual thanks so much for reading my blog. It means a lot to me. I wish you a safe travel and if you can take 2 minutes and write in the comment below any question, suggestion or just thoughts I would really appreciate it. Thanks a million, thanks.