Southern Mexico has some of the most beautiful and well-preserved ruins of the Mayan civilisation and if you’re heading to the Yucatan Peninsula then visiting some should definitely be on your bucket list. I’m sure you’ve probably already heard about Chichen Itza and if you plan to visit don’t forget to read A Short Guide to Visiting Chichen Itza (on a budget and without crowds) before you go, but what about the many other Mayan ruins in the area such as Ek Balam and Coba? If you are interested in history and culture I would definitely recommend exploring further than just Chichen Itza.
Ek Balam is one of the most famous and well-known ruins in Yucatan. This is primarily because visitors are still allowed to climb the pyramids here, unlike at Chichen Itza and Coba, giving you a greater impression of the ruins themselves and the jungle around you. Ek Balam is the remains of a traditional 8th Century Mayan village or citadel and consists of a range of temples and pyramids.
EK BALAM RUINS NEED TO KNOWS
↠ The site is open from 8 am to 5 pm every day.
↠ Entrance fee in 181 pesos ($8/£6)
↠ Allow about 1.5-2 hours for your visit.
↠ Eating options are quite limited at the ruins and are limited to over-priced snacks. Try to visit after having eaten or bring some snacks with you. The best eating options are in nearby Valladolid.
The Ek Balam ruins are located 27km/17 miles north of Valladolid, 175km/108miles east of Merida or 172km/106miles west of Cancun.
Car– Renting a car at your origin and driving to Ek Balam is the best and easiest way to see the ruins. You can also combine a visit to Ek Balam with a visit to Chichen Itza, Valladolid and a range of other beautiful cenotes in the area.
Bus – Unfortunately there is no bus that will take you all the way to the ruins. From Cancun, Merida, Tulum or any other city in the Yucatan Peninsula take an ADO bus to Valladolid. From there you’ll have to transfer to a colectivo or shared taxi, 2 blocks from the bus station. The colectivo costs 50 pesos pp and departs when full so if you are the first people to arrive you may have to wait a short while. If you’re in a hurry then the driver will take you privately if you cover the remaining empty seats in the car.
Looking to extend your trip past just Ek Balam? Check out The 6 Incredible Valladolid Cenotes You Simply Must Visit
WHAT TO SEE AT EK BALAM
One of the first points of interest upon entering Ek Balam is the Entrance Arch that sits on four legs welcoming visitors into the citadel. Upon entering you’ll also notice parts of the city’s defence wall which still survive to this day. Ek Balam has two defensive outer walls, protecting it from attackers with the inner wall having been stuccoed and probably painted while the outer one was purely for defence. Archaeologists have also found a couple of other walls running through the city itself.
Only the centre of Ek Balam has actually been excavated and here you’ll find a few large structures or temples. The largest structure here is oval in shape around one side with a staircase leading up to it around the northern side. This is known as The Oval Palace and due to the many relics found here, archaeologists believe it was used for cosmological ceremonies.
Adjacent to the Oval Palace you’ll find two small pyramids with stairs leading up to the top and platforms jutting out at all four corners. I’d highly recommend climbing these for a better view of the site and Acropolis or main structure located just to the north.
Just north of these is the Great Ballcourt used during Mayan times as a space for games, larger gatherings and physical competitions. You can notice the stone structures where the audience would have sat on either side, similar to a stadium.
Continuing north you’ll get to the Acropolis, the largest and tallest structure at Ek Balam. Many believe that this structure contains the tomb of Ukit Kan Leʼk Tokʼ, a significant ruler of Ek Balam. Inside the Acropolis, on the left, you’ll also find the temple, El Trono, the place where Ukit Kan Leʼk Tokʼ is buried on your way up. While the stairs to climb the Acropolis are very high and steep, I highly recommend doing it. Not only is it a great workout, but also the views from the top are beautiful and you can see the stucco facades of the temples, carvings and depictions of jaguars, mythological creatures and deities. Although the stucco is reconstructed, it gives you an idea of what it would have looked like in Ek Balam’s glory days.
I highly recommend walking around the Acropolis and taking some of the random paths in the jungle nearby. YOu’ll notice a couple of other even larger buildings that have yet to be excavated as you start to realize how much larger this place and how much work there is still to go to undercover the Mayan secret of Ek Balam.
If you’d like to learn more about the history of Ek Balam and you read Spanish then check out the official government website here.
Do you have any questions or comments about visiting the Ek Balam ruins? Let me know in the comments below!
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