Are you planning to visit the Mayan ruins of Uxmal? Then, you shouldn’t miss the Eco Park Chocolate Museum Uxmal, either. It’s easy to do both activities on one day as the Museum is situated on the left side of the road to Campeche, opposite the bus stop where you will hop off when you come from Mérida.
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: 140 pesos
Time needed: 1.5 – 2 hours
Eating and drinking: Chocolate drinks and cookies at the museum, Cole Chepa Chi restaurant between museum and Uxmal ruins or shops and cafés in front of Uxmal ruins entrance.
Take with you: water, snacks, sunscreen, mosquito spray, hat/cap, umbrella
How to Get to the Chocolate Museum Uxmal
If you already read my article about the Mayan ruins of Uxmal, just skip this part. I’m simply repeating all necessary information here for those readers who accidentally (or intentionally) stumbled just about this post.
The Chocolate Museum Uxmal is situated about 80 km (50 miles) south of Yucatán’s capital Mérida, on the road to Campeche. Buses from Mérida to Uxmal 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. However, 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).
Some facts about the cocoa bean and the production of Chocolate
The cocoa bean originates from the Orinoca region of Brazil/Venezuela and it’s not sure how it got to Guatemala and Mexico. The Mayas obviously discovered around 900 AD that the beans could be made into a liquid. However, the cocoa drink of the Mayas has little to do with our chocolate drinks today. Sugar was not known in Central America and as a result, the cocoa drink was very bitter and the Mayas even added chili peppers.
It was Christopher Columbus who brought the first cocoa beans to Europe in the early 16th century. However, it took a while before cocoa/chocolate became popular all over Europa. During the 16th century, it was only known in Spain. Until the mid-1700’s, cocoa drinks were made using ancient Maya recipes. This changed in the late 18th/early 19th century when the first machines were invented which turned the cocoa bean into a paste. Chocolate was born and more and more flavours were added.
Nowadays, the African countries of Ivory Coast and Ghana are the main producers of cocoa beans. Sadly, many cocoa farmers in those countries have no idea what chocolate tastes like as the final product is mainly consumed in Europe and North America. Brazil, Mexico, Ecuador, Peru and the Dominican Republic can also be found in the Top 10 of the cocoa producers.
Mayas, Aztecs and Cocoa
Although cocoa drinks were available for everyone in the world of the Mayas, the cocoa bean obviously had a special meaning for them and was often used in religious ceremonies. The Mayas are even supposed to have a cocoa god or goddess.
However, when the Aztecs took over, cocoa was no longer available for common people but became the drink of the wealthy class. The Aztecs didn’t have the Maya’s skills to grow cocoa trees. Cocoa beans had already been a means of payment among the Maya and their importance increased significantly after the Aztec’s had seized the Maya’s land and economy.
In the picture below, you can see some examples of what you could trade against one, two or three cocoa beans in the times of the Mayas and Aztecs.
ECO Park Chocolate Museum Uxmal
As the name suggests, it’s actually more than a museum. Don’t be fooled by the cover picture of this post. This is just the entrance area where you get your ticket. Afterwards, you’ll be in a park and are led through various huts with Mayan artefacts and information about the history of the cocoa bean, its importance for the Maya and the beginning of the chocolate production in Europe.
The Chocolate Museum Uxmal is also a shelter for rescued animals. They have monkeys and jaguars. I had the chance to talk with one of the staff members and he explained to me that the monkeys and jaguars were caught and sold illegally as babies. In the case of the monkeys who live in groups, this means that all adults are killed. The same happened to the mothers of the jaguar babies. In their case, the poachers would often take their fur.
Both monkey and jaguar babies are sold as pets. This illegal animal trafficking is a huge problem in Mexico. The monkeys get used to being fed but they don’t lose their instinct to bite and destroy everything (like sofas or other household stuff). As a result, people often want to get rid of them when they grow up or abuse them by beating them or chaining them.
When I was there, they had two jaguars at the Chocolate Museum Uxmal. I didn’t see them because they were probably sleeping in a cool and dark place around 2 pm. However, the staff member I talked to explained to me that one of the animals had attacked a family member and therefore, they had handed it over to a shelter.
It’s sad and we should always remember that wild animals shouldn’t be kept as pets.
Well, immediately after passing the monkeys, you’ll be invited to watch a Mayan Chocolate ceremony. They will talk to you only in Maya and lead you to the place where they will conduct the ceremony. It takes about 15 minutes and consists of dancing, music and a ritual. It was interesting to watch but I found it a bit sad that no further information was offered.
A bit later on, you are invited to a hut where someone will show you how the Mayas prepared their cocoa drinks. This time, the explanations are in English and Spanish and you are offered a cup of chocolate afterwards. I added some cinnamon, chili and a little sugar but it nevertheless tasted quite different from what I know as hot chocolate. I met two women from Chiapas there who agreed with me – and told me I HAVE to visit Chiapas because it’s the most beautiful part of Mexico. Well, one day in the future, who knows.
For Yucatán standards, the entrance fee is quite high. However, in my opinion, it’s absolutely worth it to visit the Eco Park Chocolate Museum Uxmal. The staff is very friendly and well informed. Don’t hesitate to ask questions – and leave a note in the comments if they also speak English. As I do everything in Spanish, it’s only when I write my blog posts that I realize some things may be more complicated for people who don’t speak the language :-).
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 Chocolate Museum Uxmal? Or do you plan to do so? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
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