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 century A.D. 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 AD. Other evidence suggests that Uxmal collaborated politically and economically with Chichen Itza, the popular ruin located between Merida and Cancun.
Flora and fauna
Uxmal is located about 50 miles south-west of Merida, 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 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
There are three daily buses from Merida (as of December 2012, at 8:30 AM, 9:30 AM, and 12:30 PM). You can also take a bus or a frequent and inexpensive collectivo van from Merida to Muna; a taxi from Muna to Uxmal will cost around $4 USD. Organized tours are also available from a variety of companies.
Entrance fee : $166 pesos (about $16 USD)
The most impressive structure and the tallest at 100 feet, is the House of the Magician 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. Note as of October 2009, tourists are no longer permitted to climb the House of the Magician.
The Nunnery, another large building on the site, was 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.
The Governor's Palace is 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 House of Turtles, decorated with turtle sculptures associated at that time with rain, the Dovecote, a building with many separate chambers, the House of the Old Woman, and more. Uxmal also has a large ballcourt, enclosing a playing field that is 110 feet long and 32 feet wide.
Uxmal offers a rich architecture of the Puuc Style, a city full of palaces, temples and a unique pyramid "El Adivino". INAH offers nightly a "Light and Sound Show" that is far more interesting than the one offered at Chichen Itza.
[Add 17% to room rate for taxes
The Lodge at Uxmal: $177-$205 in the low season (May-Oct), $360-$441 in the high season(Mar-Apr)
Hacienda Uxmal: $148-218 (Mar-Oct)
Mision Uxmal Park Inn Hotel: $90-$113 (Feb-Dec 19)
Villas Uxmal Club Med: $80-$140 (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.