If you plan to visit the Yucatán and are as fascinated by Mayan history as me, you will most likely have heard of the Mayan ruins of Uxmal. In this article, you will find information about the history of the place, how to get there and how to make the most of your visit.
No time to read the complete article? Just looking for the most important information? Here we go:
Bus Mérida – Uxmal: Terminal ADO TAME, Mérida (6 am, 7 am, 9 am, 10:30 am), one-way ticket: 65 pesos
Alternative return to Mérida: kombi Uxmal – Muna 15 pesos (parking lot directly in front of the entrance) + kombi Muna – Mérida 30 pesos
Entrance fee Uxmal: 234 pesos
Time needed for Uxmal: 2 – 3 hours
Entrance fee Chocolate Museum: 140 pesos
Time needed for Chocolate Museum: 1.5 – 2 hours
Eating and drinking: possible directly in front of the entrance, at the Cole Chepa Chi restaurant a few meters away plus chocolate drinks and cookies at the Chocolate Museum
Take with you: water, snacks, sunscreen, mosquito spray, hat/cap, umbrella
Short History of the Mayan ruins of UXmal
According to Maya chronicles, Uxmal was built around 500 A. D. For a while, it was the most powerful Maya site in Western Yucatán and dominated the whole area in alliance with Chichen Itzá. After Chichen Itzá’s fall around 1200 A.D., Uxmal also lost its importance. When the Spanish conquistadores arrived, Uxmal was still inhabited. However, unlike in other old Maya cities, the Spaniards didn’t build a town in Uxmal and as a result, the place has been abandoned since the middle of the 16th century.
Uxmal nevertheless remained much better preserved than many other Mayan ruins. As a result, you’ll get a really good idea what a Maya city looked like 1,000 years ago.
In the 19th century, the world became interested in the Mayan ruins of Uxmal again. It took until 1936, though, before the Mexican government started a restoration program. Nowadays, Uxmal is the second most visited archaeological site in Yucatán – well behind after Chichén Itzá, of course (Chichén Itzá: about 900,000 visitors/year, Uxmal: about 100,000 visitors/year).
How to get to Uxmal from Mérida and Back
Uxmal is situated about 80 km (50 miles) south of Yucatán’s capital Mérida, close to the road to Campeche. Buses from Mérida leave at 6 am, 7 am, 9 am and 10:30 am from the ADO TAME bus terminal in Mérida Centro (Calle 69 no. 554). The trip takes about 90 minutes and costs 65 pesos (app. US$ 3.20) one-way. No need to buy a ticket in advance.
The easiest way to get back is to take the same bus, of course. However, there are not so many direct buses from Uxmal to Mérida in the afternoon. For example, I was ready to go back around 3:30 pm and was told that one bus had just passed and the next one would come around 5:30 pm. You can certainly eat and/or drink something at the restaurant while waiting for the bus but there’s another possibility. Kombis frequently go to the city of Muna, a 15-minutes ride. You’ll find them at the parking in front of the entrance to the Mayan ruins of Uxmal. Mine looked like a normal car, so just ask (that’s a general advice: I’ve found Yucatecans to be extremely friendly and helpful). In Muna, you can either take the normal bus back to Mérida or another kombi. I paid 15 pesos to Muna and 30 pesos from Muna to Mérida, so that was cheaper than the direct bus (and just as fast).
Visiting the Archaeological Site
You need to two tickets for the Mayan ruins of Uxmal, the actual ticket for the site and a ticket which says that you paid the taxes for the site. However, you will get them both at the same ticket counter, so nothing to worry about. When I visited Uxmal (May 2018), the total price was 234 pesos (app. US$ 12). The entrance ticket is also valid for the small museum. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit but I totally forgot about this museum. My only excuse is that it was extremely hot, so my brain probably wasn’t working that well.
What you should take with you
Once you’ve passed the controls, there’ll be no more possibilities to buy anything. You’ll find restrooms immediately after the entrance and that’s it. Make sure to have these things in your bag or backpack:
- Water (a 1-litre bottle minimum)
- Some snacks
- Mosquito spray
- Wear a hat or a cap to avoid a sunstroke
- Umbrella in the rainy season and/or as sun protection
Mayan ruins of Uxmal – Buildings
The Pyramid of the Magician is the first building you will see and it’s simply amazing. It was the only building tourists couldn’t climb when I was there. You may climb and enter all other buildings if you like. However, the steps are quite steep and there are no handrails. So after descending the stairs of a smaller building and realizing that I felt a bit insecure, I preferred not to climb everything.
In general, the buildings are very well preserved. Take your time to explore the details of Mayan architecture, it’s amazing.
I’ve been fascinated by the pre-Hispanic cultures of Latin America ever since I was a teenager so it’s not surprising that visiting Uxmal was a great experience for me.
I liked it that you can freely explore the site. However, I really missed information boards. There were some which mainly explained the architecture itself but hardly anything about the everyday life and what’s known about it.
Guided tours are available in various languages and may be worth it. My main reason not to join a tour was actually the heat. I knew I’d need to take my time and take breaks in the shadow which is a bit difficult when you’re part of a guided tour.
Uxmal’s inhabitants nowadays
After the Mayas left, lizards took over. Well, I think that they are lizards. They are quite big and you’ll see them everywhere.
What if you’re Hungry
Once you’re onsite, you’re on your own with your empty stomach :-). And as mentioned, there are only restrooms immediately after entering. So if you plan to explore the site thoroughly, make sure to bring something to eat and, more importantly, water.
Uxmal itself has a small plaza in front of the entrance where you can buy souvenirs, food and beverages.
Coole Chepa Chi restaurant
Personally, I opted for the Coole Chepa Chi restaurant which is located a few steps away from the actual site. They offer Yucatecan and Mexican cuisine and some excellent cocktails. Prices vary between 150 and 800 pesos (app. US$ 7.50 – 40.00). It’s not the cheapest option but I liked the surrounding and the staff was extremely friendly (they were the ones who told me about the option to go first to Muna and from there to Mérida).
If you’re vegetarian, just ask, they have more dishes than offered on their menu.
BONUS: Chocolate Museum
Please click here to read more about the Chocolate Museum Uxmal.
When you get off the bus, the Chocolate Museum is situated on the other side of the road and it’s definitely worth a visit. It’s actually not a real museum but an eco-park. You’ll find several huts with information about the history of the cocoa bean and its importance in the Mayan culture. The entrance price includes watching a Mayan cocoa ceremony and tasting an original cocoa drink. Apart from that, the Chocolate museum is home for several monkeys and jaguars which were kept as pets and either taken away from their owners or being handed over by them when they were not small and cute anymore.
Entrance fee: 140 pesos (app. US$ 7)
Time needed: 1.5 – 2 hours
Do you want to know more about the Yucatán and the Mayas? Check out my recommendations:
- Lonely Planet: Cancún, Cozumel and the Yucatán
- A Yucatan Kitchen: Regional Recipes from Mexico’s Mundo Maya
- A Forest of Kings: The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya
Have you visited the Mayan ruins of Uxmal? Or do you plan to do so? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
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