Uxmal is a little over an hour from our home in Merida. But we knew it would be part of this tour, so we held off visiting ourselves. Since the tour in February, we’ve headed back once on our own to stroll the grounds and enjoy the property.
The History of Uxmal
Uxmal was founded about 500 A.D. by Hun Uitzil Chac Tutul Xiu. It may have been the most powerful city in the Western Yucatan. Its alliance with Chichen Itza dominated all of the Mayan area.
During the conquest of the Yucatan, Xiu allied with the Spanish. The city remained occupied and powerful until about 1550. However, the Spanish never built there, so many buildings remained.
Puuk Style Architecture
The city is considered an excellent example of Puuc architectural style. Uxmal means build three times, and part of the Puuc style of architecture built temples on top of the original temple.
One of the elements of this style of architecture is smooth lower walls leading up to more ornate upper walls. The upper walls often include elaborate patterns of stone carving that look almost like lace.
Temple of the Magician
The centerpiece of Uxmal is the Temple of the Magician. The temple is 100 feet tall and almost oval, typical of local Maya huts across the Yucatan.
It is dedicated to the Mayan rain god Chaac. The god Chaac is always depicted with an elephant-like curled nose and can be seen across the city.
The Nunnery Quadrangle
Built between 900-910 A.D., the nunnery quadrangle, as the Spanish called it, was the home of a larger number of honored women who lived there. The quadrangle consists of four separate rectangular buildings with multiple rooms in each building.
The four buildings form a large courtyard while not connected and different in their ornate decorations. The upper portions of the facades are decorated with geometric and nature carvings, including a two-head snake and owls.
The Ball Court used for a game called Pok-ta-Pok is not as well preserved as other areas of the site.
What remains are two large side walls that are sloped. The idea was to put a ball, thought to be made of rubber, through the large stone circles on the wall. The original circles have been removed to preserve them, and reproductions stand in their place.
Pok-ta-Pok, thought to be the first team sport, was played by putting the ball through the circle without using your hands or feet, just hips and upper body. The movement among other players was hard on the body, and the heavy rubber ball also took its toll.
It’s still unclear whether the winners or losers were sacrificed. Or if any players were sacrificed at all. While the Maya were a culture of sacrifices, it seems that one team would have been.
Temple of the Turtles
The Temple of the Turtles is located on the top of a large hill near the Governor’s Palace. The long rectangular building is rather plain and has three inner chambers. Along the top trim of the outside of the building are carvings of turtles. It’s believed that they are there because of their association with rain and water. Essential elements to Uxmal as there are no rivers in the area.
The Governor’s Palace
This long rectangular building at the top of a large rise is one of the largest buildings in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. It has more than 20,000 carved stones on the exterior that look like delicate lacework.
The building consists of three buildings connected by huge vaults. The building faces Venus, and it is believed it was positioned for solar equinox and solstice events.
It’s said that Frank Loyd Wright called this building the finest example of ancient American architecture.
In front of the Gavenor’s Palace is the Throne of the Jaguar, the two headed jaguar was the seat of the throne. Diggning during the 1952s unearthed 913 pieces including beads, pectorals, jade earings, earthenware, Cornaline polished black stone, and spearheads as well as flint and obsidien knives.
Things To Know
As we mentioned, Uxmal is about an hour’s drive from Merida, and you’ll find any number of tours or private drivers who act as guides advertising in Merida.
If you’ve got a car, it’s a relatively easy drive, and there is parking onsite for a nominal fee.
Uxmal does not allow vendors onsite, unlike Chicken Itza and others, where you can get inundated. There are a few set up in the parking lot and the courtyard with food and restrooms just inside the ticket area.
Currently, Uxmal is open Monday – Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the last access at 4 p.m.
Your ticket price has two portions. The admission cost is 90 pesos with an additional fee from the state of Yucatan, which is currently 441 pesos for foreigners and 150 pesos for Mexican residents.
The entrance offers stairs and ramps that take you to the Pyramid of the Magician. From there, the ground is relatively flat and hard, with ramps to the left of the pyramid that can take you into the quadrangle and down to other smaller buildings. So, the property is somewhat handicapped accessible. But not up to the Governor’s Palace or the Temple of the Turtles.
We found that allowing yourself about an hour and a half to two hours would provide for a very leisurely visit. Building in a little time to sit in the shade and take in the site is needed; the Yucatan is very hot.
DO NOT forget to bring bug spray, as both times we visited; we found a lot of mosquitos.
Lunch at Coole Chepa Chi
We had lunch at Coole Chepa Chi at the Hacienda Uxmal, adjacent to the archaeological site.
The property is owned by Mayaland Resort, a company that also owns a resort we would stay at later in the trip with an interesting history.
They also have an impressive collection of vintage jeep-style vehicles for their Mayaland Adventure tours.
We dined in an open-air palapa-style restaurant. Tables were set with fresh fruit sprinkled with Tajin.
Our next course was a cup of flavorful Soup de Lima, a popular Yucatecan dish similar to ‘Tortilla Soup’ but packed with the flavor of Yucatecan Limes.
One of our entree selections was Fresh Grilled Fish with Vegetables and Rice.
Dessert was a refreshing Sorbet.
Overall, lunch was just okay, but the service was not the best, considering our time constraints.
Maybe the most redeeming quality of lunch was the abundance of fun, music-inspired sculptures that circled the restaurant.
Off to Merida
Our next stop on our 13-day tour is Merida. Yes, we’re going home for a few days!