Uxmal is an archeological site in the state of Yucatan in Mexico, and a UNESCO World Heritage List site. It is one of the best restored and maintained ruins in the Yucatan. Its architecture, some of the most dramatic of the Yucatan ruins, is characterized by low horizontal palaces set around courtyards, decorated with rich sculptural elements and details.
Uxmal (OOSH-mahl) means "built three times" in the Mayan language.
Uxmal was the greatest metropolitan and religious center in the Puuc hills in the late classical period. It thrived between the 7th and 10th centuries CE and its numerous architectural styles reflect a number of building phases.
Studies have suggested that Uxmal was the capital of a regional state that developed in the Puuc region between 850 to 950 CE. Other evidence suggests that Uxmal collaborated politically and economically with Chichen Itza, located between Mérida and Cancún.
Uxmal is about 85 km southwest of Mérida, and will take a few hours to explore thoroughly. There is a small museum at the entrance, as well as a snack bar, gift shops, restrooms and various local vendors. Be sure to bring a hat, some sunscreen and good walking shoes. A camera is probably a good idea as well, as the buildings at Uxmal are very photogenic. The site is open every day to the public from 08:00 to 17:00.
Since Covid, there are fewer buses than before. As of Feb. 23, Company SUR is the only one operating with buses leaving Merida AR 6 am, 9 am and noon (and probably 1 or 2 more in the afternoon). These are 2nd-class buses going to Campeche. Hence the schedule of the return bus from Uxmal might vary from 15-20 min (could be late or even in advance). To get back, the bus is at 9:30, 12:00, 15:00 and 17:00. Buses stop opposite the bus stop that dropped you at the ruins. As of February, 2023, you can buy tickets in ADO Tame terminal (there's a counter on the right dedicated to non ADO buses). You have to buy a smart card (AhorroBus) at $10 and top up the credit corresponding to your journey. For Uxmal, the price is $97 for 1 adult and $49 for 1 child (below 13 years old). The process is pretty straightforward. Last but not least, there's a convenient information booth located within waiting room 'A' with a perfect English-speaking staff.
Organized tours are also available from a variety of companies.
Fees and permits
Uxmal admission: M$404 (Yucatán State) + M$85 (INAH), payable at two separate but adjacent (!) windows for separate tickets.
Walking is generally the only way to get around Uxmal. Unlike some larger sites, Uxmal does not offer bike rentals. The site is relatively compact, with short distances between major building groups, and few hidden obstacles, so it's an easy walk.
- 1 Pyramid of the Magician (Pirámide Adivino). The most impressive structure and the tallest at 35 m, which you will find just beyond the entrance. According to ancient legend, this pyramid was built by Itzamna in one night. It appears to have been built in five phases, and it was situated so that its western stairway faces the setting sun at summer solstice. Tourists are no longer permitted to climb the pyramid.
- 2 Nunnery (Cuadrángulo de las Monjas). Another large building on the site, the Nunnery was so named by the Spaniards as it reminded them of a European nunnery. It was probably used as a school for training healers, astrologers, shamans and priests.
- 3 Governor's Palace (Palacio del Gobernador). An excellent example of stone mosaic work probably created by hundreds of masons and sculptors. It occupies five acres and contains many beautiful sculptures of the rain god Chaac, serpents and astrological symbols.
Other buildings at Uxmal include the 4 House of Turtles (Casa de las Tortugas), decorated with turtle sculptures associated at that time with rain; the 5 Dovecote (Palomar), a building with many separate chambers; the 6 House of the Old Woman (Casa de la Vieja); and more. Uxmal also has a large 7 ballcourt (Juego de Pelota), enclosing a playing field that is 34 m long and 10 m wide.
- 8 Choco-Story, MEX-281 (across the highway from Uxmal archaeological site). Daily 09:00 - 19:30. Learn about traditional Mayan methods for cultivating and processing chocolate, and of course, try some tasty samples to make sure that they're as sweet and delicious as you expected (they are). The facility also provides a refuge for rescued animals and you can feed the monkeys and deer.
INAH offers a nightly light and sound show (luz y sonido) that is far more interesting than the one offered at Chichen Itza.
Thé 1 Casa de las Artesanias and a couple of government-run craft shops are located in the visitor center and sell books, souvenirs, postcards and stamps.
Eat and drink
There is an overpriced 1 restaurant is in the visitor's center past the ticket counters, and an espresso bar in the central courtyard. Several 2 snack booths are located outside the main entrance by the parking lot.
The 3 Lodge at Uxmal also operates a full-service restaurant.
At the southern entrance of the nearby village of Santa Elena, El Chac Mool offers homemade and inexpensive local food. Venture a few blocks into the town and Restaurante La Central has similar local regional cuisine at reasonable prices.
Add 17% to room rate for taxes.
- 1 The Lodge at Uxmal, Carretera 180 Km 20, ☏ . M$2600 and up.
- 2 Hacienda Uxmal, ☏ . M$1358 and up (Mar-Oct).
- 3 Mision Uxmal Park Inn Hotel, Carretera Mérida-Campache Km 78, ☏ . US$90-113 (Feb-Dec).
- 4 Villas Arqueológicas Uxmal (Villas Uxmal Club Med), Carretera Mérida-Campache Km 76, ☏ . US$80-140 (all year).
This is an archaeological site. Walk carefully and avoid disturbing digs, relics, or fragile ecosystems. Use marked trails.
Several somewhat smaller Maya sites are a short distance south of Uxmal, and can be easily visited from here. The most impressive are Kabah, Sayil, and Labna. These sites are part of the Ruta Puuc, an itinerary of related Maya sites built using similar architectural styles.
- Kabah ruins is bisected by the highway south from Uxmal to Cameche. The temple of 100 masks is a high point.
- Sayil ruins of a late Classic period site, part of the Ruta Puuc
- Labna Maya archaeological site has some distinctive features; if you drive, take the road to Mani, a truly lovely Maya village that offers great food.