Uxmal, Yucatan, Mexico

The Great Pyramid of Uxmal, Yucatan, Mexico

La Gran Piramide (The Great Pyramid) in another fantastic Maya site, Uxmal, but this one is easy to get to and uncrowded. (Chichen Itza is numero uno while wonderful Palenque is luscious but a pain to get to. e. g. 10 hours by bus from Merida. )

Visiting Uxmal

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.

The Pyramid of the Magician (La Piramide del Adivino), Uxmal

Jim looking over to the Pyramid of the Magician from the back of the Governor's Palace, Uxmal, Mexico

Jim getting a side view of The Pyramid of the Magician from the back of the Governor’s Palace.

The Pyramid of the Magician, Uxmal, Yucatan, Mexico

The front of The Pyramid of the Magician. Photo by Anagoria.

This is Uxmal’s most impressive structure at 100ft (33m) high though sadly climbing this pyramid is not allowed. Also known as Sorcerer’s Pyramid, this is one of two pyramids – the other is the Great one, above – in this small site BUT you may have seen photos of another pyramid surrounded by heavy vegetation and feel confused. Simple answer, it’s the same pyramid taken from totally different angles, distances and heights, see below.

Detail of the temple at the top of The Pyramid of the Magician, Uxmal, Mexico

Zoom detail of the temple at the top of The Pyramid of the Magician. Photo by Jim.

Governor’s Palace, Uxmal

The Governor's Palace with Jaguar Throne in foreground, Uxmal, Yucatan, Mexico

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, Uxmal, Mexico

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, Uxmal, Mexico

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, Yucatan, Mexico

The Nunnery Quadrangle.

Uxmal’s popular Sound and Light show runs at 7pm on autumn/winter evenings and 8pm in spring/summertime.

Getting There

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.