Uxmal (OOSH-mahl) means "built three times" in the Mayan language. As a World Heritage 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 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.
Recent 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.
Flora and fauna
Uxmal is located about 85km 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.
ADO (Autobuses de Oriente) offers buses from Mérida that leave at 06:00, 9:05, and 10:40, and return at 15:20 and 17:00 (also one around 12:00). Buses depart from Terminal de Autobuses Mérida (the main 2nd class bus station), $55 MXN one-way. Organized tours are also available from a variety of companies.
Uxmal admission: $148 MXN (Yucatán State) + $65 MXN (INAH), payable at two separate but adjacent(!) windows for separate tickets.
- 1 Pyramid of the Magician (Pirámide Adivino). The most impressive structure and the tallest at 35m, which you will find just beyond the entrance. According to ancient legend, this pyramid was built by Itzamna in one night. It actually 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 34m long and 10m wide.
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
An overpriced 1 restaurant is located in the visitor's center past the ticket counters, and an espresso bar is located 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 nearby Santa Elena, El Chac Mool offers homemade and inexpensive local food.
Add 17% to room rate for taxes.
- 1 The Lodge at Uxmal, Carretera 180 Km 20, ☎ . $2600+ MXN.
- 2 Hacienda Uxmal, ☎ . $1358 MXN+ (Mar-Oct).
- 3 Mision Uxmal Park Inn Hotel, Carretera Mérida-Campache Km 78, ☎ . $90-$113 USD (Feb-Dec).
- 4 Villas Arqueológicas Uxmal (Villas Uxmal Club Med), Carretera Mérida-Campache Km 76, ☎ . $80-$140 USD (all year).
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.
- Kabah ruins is bisected by the highway south from Uxmal to Cameche. The temple of 100 masks is a high point.
- 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.