This post is part of the series Yucatán
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On our first day after arriving in Merida, we headed toward one of the most exciting historical sites of Yucatan – Uxmal and the Pyramid of the Magician. We started in the early morning at about 7:30 a.m, when the temperatures are still moderate and endurable. All in all, it took us about an hour out there and an hour back of actual driving from Merida, excluding the time for all the stops we made at some interesting places on our way back.
If you ever are lucky enough to find yourself on the Yucatan, Uxmal is one of the best preserved and most important archaeological sites you cannot miss while travelling around Merida. After all archaeological sites, we got to see during our road trip through Yucatan peninsula, I can already confirm – Uxmal is our favourite Mayan ruin!
The imposing Uxmal ruins should be a must-visit on every Yucatan travel itinerary. Why? There are many reasons about that, but the most important one is that Uxmal is off the beaten path, so you won’t be disturbed by thousands of other tourists, guides and groups here (like in Chechen Itza). The other reason – Uxmal was one of the largest cities in the Yucatan region which still has one of the best-preserved archaeological sites in Mexico and one of the most interesting circular shaped pyramid that is unlike any other pyramid.
This post is part of the series Mexico Other posts in this series: Is Cancún…
Uxmal was an important city, probably built by the Mayans between 600AD to 1000AD but unlikely many other settlements in Yucatan, this was built in order to collect rainwater for its inhabitants due to the absence of rivers or cenotes. Therefore, you will be able to see many carvings of the rain god Chac throughout the whole complex as well as numerous chultunes (cisterns) which served as water tanks.
During the 7th and 10th century Uxmal was home to over 15 000 people. The last building constructed at the site was the Palace of the Governor which was likely finished in 987. Luckily enough the ancient Maya city that was not destroyed by the Spanish Conquistadors during the 16th century. Some 4 centuries later, in the year of 1966 Uxmal was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The name Uxmal comes from “Oxmal” which means “three times built” due to the fact that the Pyramid of the Magician, was built on top of four smaller pyramids, located underneath the larger pyramid we see today.
Things to Know Before You Go
Getting to Uxmal by Car: Uxmal is located on the western side of the Yucatan peninsula, about an hour’s drive from Merida (80km), 237 km west of Valladolid (4 hour drive), 382 km west of Cancun ( 4 h 30 min hour drive), 338 km west of Tulum (4 h 20 min hours drive).
Opening Times: The ruins are open daily all year round from 8 am to 5 pm. I’d recommend arriving before opening so that you are among the first to enter as it is much quieter and cooler in the mornings. You may also avoid (if possible) visiting Uxmal on Sundays, as the admission is free for citizens and residents of Mexico – it will get much busier!
This post is part of the series Mexico Other posts in this series: Is Cancún…
Entrance Fee: The price for visiting Uxmal is 234 MXN (about 11 €) and for parking, you have to pay 30 MXN (1.40 €).
Time for Visiting: You can stay as long as you like, but I guess that 2 hours of stay would probably be the average.
Ideal Clothing & Footwear: This region of Yucatan is very hot and humid all year-round, so dress for hot weather. If you are going to ascend the pyramids (I’m sure you will) it is good to wear comfortable and nonslippery shoes appropriate for climbing.
When is the Best Time of Year for Visiting Uxmal?: The best time of the day to visit Uxmal is in the early morning or in the late afternoon. We arrived at 8:30 and during the first hour, there were almost no people there and the temperature was about 22°. It was absolutely lovely having almost the entire ruins site to ourselves! The only way to avoid the crowds and beat the vendors is to arrive at the ruins as early as possible and close to their opening time of 8 am. Many of the tour buses make their way from places like Merida or Valladolid in the morning and arrive at Uxmal around 10 a.m. The busiest and the hottest time to visit Uxmal is between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Why you should choose Uxmal over Chichen Itza?: My recommendation is, of course, to visit both archaeological sites. But there are some reasons why I prefer Uxmal over Chichen Itza. Uxmal has significantly fewer tourists than Chichen Itza, and you can pretty much have the ruins to yourself. In Uxmal, you are allowed to touch, climb, or go inside the pyramids (except to climb the Pyramid of Magician) – the views are brilliant and the experience is unforgettable!
What You Actually See Inside Uxmal
Pyramid of the Magician
The pyramid of the Magician is 35 m tall which makes it 5 m taller than El Castillo in Chichen Itza! Unfortunately, it’s not possible to climb the 90 steps to the top of the pyramid. The pyramid is one of the best-preserved in Mexico and one of the most interesting circular shaped pyramids that is unlike any other in Yucatan.
The building of the Governor Palace, in my opinion, has the most beautiful mosaic decoration of all buildings in the complex. The facade is decorated with different mosaics carved in the shape of gods, birds, snakes, and flowers. The terrace offers also the best views over the Pyramid of the Magician.
The Great Pyramid
The Great Pyramid is not as high as the Pyramid of the Magician, but you still can climb to the top in order to enjoy the views and get some stunning photos from above!
Ball game court
Maya played a ball game where the rubber ball (represented the sun) had to be put into a small stone circle perched very high on a wall, without using your hands or feet. The Mayan game is more than 3.500 years old, which makes it the very first organized game in the history of sports. This ball game ended in the sacrifice of one of the teams, but it is still not sure if the winning or the losing team was the sacrificed team. The Ball Court of Uxmal is smaller than the Ballcourt in Chichen Itza (Juego de Pelota).
Researchers believed to have been used for military purposes, perhaps an academy or palatial complex. Here you can admire some beautiful decorations and carvings of gods and animals.
Lunch at Hacienda San Pedro Ochil
After visiting Uxmal, the best way to continue with experiencing the uniqueness of Yucatan is to enjoy your lunch at Hacienda Ochil! Hacienda Ochil is only 30 minutes drive from Uxmal. This is one of the most beautiful haciendas we visited during our trip to Mexico! Here you can enjoy the delicious Yucatan food which affordable and tasty! You can choose from many different dishes like salbutes, kibis, panuchos, poc chuc, tacos, empanadas, and many others!
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If you are the type of person who prefers joining a tour, there are all kinds of guided tours around Mexico including Uxmal.
Enjoy the day!
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Continue reading this series:
The Best Things to Do in Merida, Mexico