Uxmal is an impressive Mayan archeological site located about 80km south of the city of Merida. Situated in the Puuc region of the Maya world, the architecture is representative of the Puuc style, with Uxmal being the largest and most well restored of the sites on the Puuc Route. The site is known for its rounded-edge pyramids and intricately detailed facades and is considered one of the most important cities in the Mayan world. While Uxmal is a popular archeological zone, and has a good number of visitors, it is much quieter than Chichen Itza and there are still some pyramids at Uxmal that you are allowed to climb. This makes Uxmal a more popular choice with some travelers who choose to forgo that crowds at Chichen Itza and explore Uxmal instead.
While inhabited, the city of Uxmal would have been brightly colored in blues, greens and reds, all made from natural dyes. There are some areas of the site where the colors can still be seen today.
UXMAL – TICUL HOTEL INFORMATION
While many people choose to visit Uxmal as a day trip from Merida, there are a few hotel options for those who want to stay. There are two hotels almost directly in front of the entrance to the site and another on the highway nearby. All of the hotels highlight traditional Mayan living, one offering Mayan cooking classes, another boasting a traditional sweat lodge and another that hosts classes in Mayan spirituality. All of the hotels are deluxe with swimming pools, restaurants and great views and are relatively good value considering their location.
Some of the staff at the hotels speaks Maya, so you might be able to learn a few words.
GETTING TO & AROUND UXMAL
Located 80km south of Merida, Uxmal can be reached by private car, taxi or bus. The site is well served by public transport and there are many tours that head to Uxmal from nearby cities.
By Car from Merida
Take the 180 heading west out of Merida and follow it until you reach the large junction and roundabout that feeds onto the 261. Here take the 261 South, which will be signposted for Uxmal. Follow the signs to Uxmal, where you will find a parking lot in front of the site. The cost of parking is roughly 30 pesos.
While Uxmal is relatively far from Merida, if you have limited time then organizing for a taxi to take you there and back is a good option. It can also work out economically if you are a group of four. A one-way trip is around $300 pesos and you can negotiate a fee for the driver to wait for you and bring you back.
Buses leave a few times daily from the second-class bus station (TAME) next to the ADO bus station and drop you at the road just in front of Uxmal. When returning to Merida, the bus stops at the other side of the road and you can buy your ticket onboard.
Once inside the site you can explore on foot and there are a number of shaded areas. Nonetheless it is important to keep hydrated, as the area is usually very hot. Uxmal is one of the few archeological sites that has extensive wheelchair access, with ramps throughout.
There are no restaurants within the archeological zone of itself but there is one just at the entrance and others in nearby hotels and on the highway outside of the Uxmal. Most serve regional cuisine along with some more general Mexican options and a few international dishes. Along the highway, the restaurants offer good quality buffets and cater mainly to the passing tour groups.
If you are staying in Merida, we would suggest that you have a substantial breakfast, grab a snack at the ruins and return to Merida to eat a really good meal.
THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT UXMAL
Of the popular Mayan ruin sites, Uxmal, albeit somewhat popular, is not held by many enthusiasts to be a site of any significant reckoning. Our understanding is that Uxmal has a vivid Azteca flavor to it demonstrating the latter part of the Mayan record, which parallel with the invasion of Azteca Feathered Serpent cult and then the Spanish conquistadors.
Uxmal has an interesting feel to it. Much different than Chichen Itza. Where as Chichen Itza has an extremely political ambiance about it, with the large ballcourt and complexes dedicated to the warrior class. Uxmal on the other hand has an elaborate stadium and large structures that have more of an artistic look to them than an economic or military look.
The cult of the Feathered Serpent is everywhere at Uxmal. There is no denying that this philosophy permeated every aspect of Mayan culture during this period [either by force or by voluntary integration].
In our modern society the use of art is focused on marketing products and services. This marketing art is everywhere in the United States and Canada. At Uxmal there is also a collective effort to market a single stratagem. What that specific stratagem is nobody knows and scholars can only theorize, however what is predominant is the concept of the Feathered Serpent.
As you travel south the Feathered Serpent becomes less and less visible until it transmutes into something totally different in appearance but similar in nature. This change is noticeable in Palenque where the Maya style still maintained its essence while the cultures more influenced by the Azteca adopted and merged Azteca beliefs and practices into their own forming a new branch [Chichen Itza].
What exists in Uxmal appears to be a society dedicated to worshipping the cult of the Feathered Serpent. Possibly before the Azteca arrived, Uxmal may have been a culture focused on the arts. A city of schools, books, architecture and imagination. Once the Azteca arrived they obviously did not destroy everything, but instead built over everything with the orientation being that of a bias towards the Feathered Serpent.
Much advertised is the Uxmal light and laser show which is okay if you happen to be there when its on but what is much better to witness and experience is when the Cave Swallows come out and fly around the inside of the Nunnery Quadrangle.
The Nunnery Quadrangle is so-called because its four inward-facing buildings create the tranquil atmosphere of a convent courtyard. The walls are covered with carvings which is quite breath taking in itself. But when the birds start flying around chirping their heads off it becomes quite a magical event.
Birds are active in the morning so if you want to experience this try to arrive well before 10:00 am.
Ticul is located 100 km south of Merida, 19 km northeast of Uxmal, and 17 km from the Loltun caves. It is on both the Convent and Puuc Route circuits. This should not be confused with Tikal in Guatemala.
Ticul is a small city of 30k people, large enough to accommodate hotels, restaurants a market, telegraph office, banks, pharmacies, medical assistance, internet e-mail services, and bus stations. If you are just passing through on your way to the Mayan Riviera then this is a better place to buy items like hammocks, pottery and hupils.
Ticul has a diversified craft enterprise consisting of collectives primarily manufacturing shoes, pottery, hupils, and hammocks. In some instances you may even be buying the item from the person who made it which means you pay no middlemen and a larger percentage of the gross profit will go right to the person who made the object.
Pottery chard’s found at Ticul date as far back as 600 BC which demonstrate that some of the locals could possibly date their ancestry right back to the ancient Olmecs. Evidence to back this suspicion can be found close by at Loltun caves where carvings remain, corresponding to the distinct development stages of the Maya historical record.
In Ticul you will find a mixture of cultures. You will see the old; colonial buildings, the Cathedral, thatched roof homes, and some new, like the open-air stage by the Cathedral and the museum at Uxmal.
Ticul has got to be one of Mexico’s best-kept secrets. While tourists flock to Playa del Carmen and southward to Palenque they overlook this excellent location to set up camp and stay for a week or two.
There are quite a few Mayan ruin sites within a short drive and natural wonders that defy the imagination. You are in Mayan territory and if you can speak Spanish or good Spengish then you can get to talk to some of the locals who are very friendly and quite interested in learning about you.