Uxmal in 2012
Uxmal was founded around A.D 500 and thrived during the late Classic period (late 9th century) when most of its construction was completed. Uxmal means “built three times,” and it was indeed destroyed and rebuilt at least that often.
Rich soils in the region allowed large populations to thrive at Uxmal, whose highest glory was in the Late Classic period (A.D. 875–900) before the Toltec overran it around A.D. 1000.
Soaring 125 feet (38 meters) with a unique elliptical base and curved corners, the Pyramid of the Magician is one of the first structures you see after passing through the visitors center. You can’t climb it anymore, but you can walk around it to the Nunnery Quadrangle. Ronald Wright, author of Time Among the Maya, called the Nunnery Quadrangle “one of the masterpieces of Maya design.” Stephens described it as “a tranquil space, enclosed and calmed by the smooth ashlars of the palace walls.”
From the Nunnery, walk through the ball court to the Governor’s Palace. The surrounding structures are remarkable, built atop a long, even platform with carvings of feathered serpents and over 100 Chaac rain god masks. The Governor’s Palace has a unique “throne inscription” hieroglyphic above the entrance, which also displays the zodiac constellations. Look for the two-headed Jaguar Throne, which John Lloyd Stephens found in 1841 (and wanted to carry out before realizing it was too heavy).
The Great Pyramid, located behind the Governor’s Palace, towers 30 meters (100 feet) high—and you can still climb it. At the top is another large Chaac mask and several panels depicting scarlet macaws.
Uxmal is open 8 a.m.–5 p.m. daily. Entrance is US$15 children under 13 are free, and there are small fees for parking and using a camera. The cost includes the Light and Sound Show (7 p.m. Oct.–Apr.; 8 p.m. May–Sept.), which takes place in the evening at the ruins overlooking the Nunnery Quadrangle.
Tour guides are available at the entrance and offer 90-minute walking tours for US$40–55 per group. There is a museum, and a visitors center has a gift shop, ATM, snack bar, and bookstore.
A few excellent lodges and restaurants are located near the entrance, including Villas Arqueológicas Uxmal (tel. 997/974-6020, U.S. tel. 888/293-0293, www.villasarqueologicas.com.mx, US$80–150).
Getting to Uxmal
Special Puuc Route buses (US$13, entry fees not included) leave Mérida’s second-class bus terminal daily at 6 and 9 a.m. and spend 30 minutes each at Kabah, Sayil, and Labná, then two hours at Uxmal before returning to Mérida at 4 p.m. The adventurous can try ordinary public buses to get to and from Uxmal.
More Travel Information
For more travel information on things to see and do at Uxmal and in the surrounding area, please visit the Uxmal section of our Moon Cancún & the Yucatán travel guide.
© Josh Berman from Moon Maya 2012