Uxmal, Yucatan, Mexico
The ancient Maya city of Uxmal (pronounced “ooshmal”) is in the Yucatan Peninsula (along with its former ally, Chichen Itza) and dates from about 5th century AD though its peak period was 7thC – 10thC AD.
Uxmal can have several meanings as the original Maya term (oxmal/uchmal) can be translated as Three Times Built or Things to Come.
Many visitors prefer Uxmal to more famous Chichen Itza due to Chichen’s massive crowds and the prohibition on climbing pyramids. It really is a buzz standing at the top of a pyramid, overlooking the entire ancient site and the lush landscape all around it. Palenque offers the same experience but is quite remote.
Uxmal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was originally well constructed and has been carefully restored for tourist purposes so it’s well worth a visit, especially since it’s easy to reach, just 50 miles (78 kms) south of the attractive town of Merida. A half day or one day visit is enough for most tourists.
Uxmal is open every day of the year and runs a colourful Sound and Light show at 7pm on autumn and winter evenings and 8pm in spring and summer. Local hotels are not that great so most travellers stay in Merida.
Governor’s Palace, Uxmal
The Governor’s Palace (Palacio del Gobernador) with the Jaguar Throne in foreground. Photo by Jim.
This is one of several low, horizontal palaces set around the Nunnery Quadrangle courtyard (Cuadrangulo de las Monjas). The Governor’s Palace is surmounted by a spectacular display of masonry art with many fine sculptures and mosaics.
Detail from the Governor’s Palace. Photo by Adam Jones.
Nunnery Quadrangle courtyard (Cuadrangulo de las Monjas), Uxmal
The ‘Nunnery’ and ‘The Church’ on the Nunnery Quadrangle. Photo by Dennis Jarvis.
The Nunnery was so named by the Spanish as it reminded them of a European nunnery so perhaps it was logical that the neighbouring structure was the church, even though in reality they were probably used as schools for training healers, astrologers and shamans.
The Nunnery Quadrangle.
Uxmal’s popular Sound and Light show runs at 7pm on autumn/winter evenings and 8pm in spring/summertime.
Accommodation options around Uxmal are poor but the complex is easy to reach from reasonably attractive Merida – just 50 miles (78 kms) southwest – so that’s the place to stay. A half day or one day visit is enough for most tourists. The site is open every day to the public from 8 a. m. to 5 p. m.
There is a small museum at the entrance and the usual cafeteria, shops and restrooms.
Car. It’s an easy if unexciting route so this an easy option.
Bus. Three or four buses run daily to/from Merida. Check times at the bus depot.
Collectivo. This is a shared taxi/van and inexpensive. Take a collectivo from Merida to Muna then hire a cheap taxi from there to Uxmal for a few dollars.
Tours to Uxmal will be on offer in tourist areas of Merida.