How to Visit Uxmal, the Best Mayan Ruins in Mexico – Yucatan Travel Tips

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Many people think that the best Mayan ruins in Mexico are found at Chichen Itza near the town of Valladolid. It’s true that Chichen Itza is larger and also very impressive.

That said, our family thought Uxmal was the best Mayan Ruins in the Yucatan Peninsula and the rest of the country. Read below and see for yourself.

 How to Visit Uxmal, The Best Mayan Ruins in Mexico.

Uxmal: The Best Mayan Ruins in Mexico

The Yucatan Peninsula has so much beneath the surface. Freshwater cenotes run deep underground, with openings across the jungle floor. There’s also history here — a long history of the Mayan empire that goes back as far as several centuries BC.

There is so much to explore in Mexico, and the Yucatan Peninsula is a great place to start.

One of the best places to witness the remnants of Mexico’s Mayan history is at the ruins of Uxmal. Pronounced “Oosh-Mahl,” the site of this ancient Mayan city is a great place to visit and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Archaeologists believe that Uxmal was founded around 500 AD and came to prominence in around 800 AD. The ruins cover a large expanse are quite fun to walk around. Signs with Spanish and English are found in front of the main structures.

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Reasons Why Uxmal is The Best Mayan Ruins in Mexico

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There are so many great Mayan ruins in the Yucatan Peninsula, and you should visit as many as possible. Yet we believe that Uxmal was the best Mayan ruins in Mexico for our family, and perhaps for you. Here’s why:

You Can Climb the Temple

That’s right: at Chichen Itza, the steps to the top of the main pyramid are off limits. In contrast, you can climb to the top of the Uxmal’s Pirámide del Adivino (Pyramid of the Magician) and take in the view. At a height around 35 meters/115 feet, you get a great view of the surrounding area.

The steps are steep, so be careful with little ones. Once at the top, there is room to move around — even with a large family.

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Less Crowded for Its Size

Not all Mayan ruins in the Yucatan get mobbed with people, but the biggest and most famous Mayan ruins can be. We loved our visit to Chichen Itza, the most famous Mayan ruins in the Yucatan. Still, we made sure to be there when they opened so we could get some pics without other people in them.

Uxmal has people and tour groups visiting too, of course. Just not as many. Considering the size and significance of the site, it made a big difference in our experience.

Few Touts & Souvenir Sellers

Where there are fewer tourists, there will be fewer people trying to sell them a T-shirt. We saw no tables of trinkets or tchotchkes for sale. It’s possible that they are outlawed inside the Uxmal grounds or there simply isn’t a market for it here.

Souvenir stands don’t take the ambiance away at Chichen Itza for me. I understand why these people do what they do. But it’s nice to be able to wander freely through the ruins without someone asking you to buy a necklace, wood carving or chess set.

It’s easier to take better pictures here, too.

More Iguanas!

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Perhaps another result of lower tourist numbers, but we saw a lot of large iguanas at Uxmal. This alone made it the best Mayan ruins in Mexico for our daughter. She felt compelled to photograph each one we encountered.

Look for iguanas wherever there is sunlight on a rock. This goes double for the huge piles of rocks you’ll find throughout the complex. At the governor’s palace, they live inside the stone walls!

More Interesting Design

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This is purely subjective, but the kids and I liked the design and architectural flourishes of Uxmal more than Chichen Itza. The Puuc Style seen here has more curves and softer lines. We liked that.

There’s a Pok-ta-Pok Court

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Pok-ta-pok is an ancient Mayan ball game where opposing teams try to get a large, solid-rubber ball through a stone hoop using only their hips. We watched a demonstration in Merida and it was pretty cool.

The pok-ta-pok court at Uxmal isn’t as large and intact some Mayan archaeological sites, but it’s still impressive.

Bonus Trip to Choco-Story México

This place is only minutes from the Uxmal ruins and can be a fun additional experience. It’s only a few hundred meters away and we enjoyed it — I don’t say that about many of the chocolate “museums” I’ve been to. And there are many.

Choco-Story is a partially outdoor museum with walking paths to rustic huts that tell the story of the cacao bean from Mesoamerican history to the present.

Yes, there’s a chocolate gift shop at the end, but the chocolate here is actually good and at a decent (but still tourist) price. Plus, there’s no one pressuring you to buy. The only downside was the caged animals. We saw monkeys and jaguars. They are clearly and explicitly marked as “rescue” animals — former pets that can’t be released back into the wild. Their spaces are better than most crappy zoos, but they’re still caged, which my girl found sad.

Admission and Getting to Uxmal

There are two fees to visit the Uxmal ruins and you pay them back to back. The first is 57 pesos and the second is 60 pesos. There are two counters next to each other. I think one is for the government and the other is for the site itself.

It’s worth it.

Tour buses come to Uxmal, but the best way to visit Uxmal is to arrive by car. There are tours out of Cancun, Merida, and other cities, and they bring small groups in minivans.

You can also hire a driver or rent a car yourself. We drove ourselves there and can tell you that it’s an easy drive. The roads are good, flat and straight. Just watch for speed bumps once you’re off the highway.

Uxmal is just over an hour (80km) south of Merida and over four hours (400km) west of Cancun.

Tips for Visiting Uxmal with Kids

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Now that you’ve decided to visit the best Mayan ruins in Mexico, here are a few tips for making it the best experience ever.

Be Prepared for the Sun

Floppy hats? Check. Sunscreen? Check. Bottles of frozen water that slowly melt, assuring that you always have a cold drink? Well, that’s one of our tricks, but this one’s up to you.

Wear Sturdy Shoes

Sure, the kids can wear flimsy flip flops if you like. Most of the grounds are fine for that.  if you plan to climb the steep steps to the top of the pyramid, then make sure they’re careful.

Consider a Guide

We didn’t use a guide, but in retrospect, I wish we had. In fact, I think we would have gleaned more out of the site had we hired a guide. I know that we enjoyed our visit to the Cañada de la Virgen pyramid & Archaeological zone more because of it.

Don’t Fear the Bee

There are many species of bee in Mexico, and the Yucatan also has two varieties of stingless bees. Consequently, we noticed a lot of bees around the Uxmal site — indeed, we even heard a faint hum of their winge in the early morning.

That said, we had zero problems. In fact, we forgot about them until we were leaving later on.

Cool Off at a Cenote Afterwards

Swimming in the Yucatan Peninsula The Best Cenotes in Mexico yax bacultun rope swing
Whether you’re driving yourself or on a tour, try to arrange some time at a cenote after you visit Uxmal. Cenotes are natural sinkholes full of clean fresh water and they feel great after walking around in the sun.

There are a number of cenotes north of Uxmal. Cenote X’batun is directly north, on the way back to Merida. The towns of Cuzama and Homun are to the northeast and have many cenotes to choose from.

Is Uxmal the Best Mayan Ruins in Mexico?

Have you been to any of the best Mayan ruins in Mexico? Which ones? Which do you think is the best Mayan ruins to visit? Tell us about it in the comments!

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Comments

  1. Hi jason,

    So cool that you can climb some of this temple! Awesome post buddy.

    As for the Mayan culture I got roped into watching a bunch of series on world mysteries via Netflix a few months ago. I learned plenty about these fascinating people and their works – marvels, really – via those binge-watching sessions.

    Neat snap of the iguana too. Cool how these guys look so different in varying regions around the world.

    Ryan

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