How to Visit the Uxmal Ruins, the Best Mayan Ruins in Mexico

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The Uxmal ruins of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula are an incredible place to visit. Many people think that the best Mayan ruins in Mexico are found at Chichen Itza near the town of Valladolid. Chichen Itza is certainly impressive. That said, our family thought the Uxmal ruins were the best Mayan ruins in the Yucatan Peninsula…and the rest of the country. Read below and see for yourself.

How to Visit the Uxmal Ruins, the Best Mayan Ruins in Mexico

Uxmal Ruins: The Best Mayan Ruins in Mexico?

The Yucatan Peninsula has so much beneath the surface. Freshwater cenotes run deep under the jungle floor, and they continue to find new artifacts from the Mayan empire. There is so much to discover in Mexico, and the Yucatan Peninsula is a great place to start. One of the best places to witness the remnants of Mexico’s preColombian history is at the Uxmal Mayan ruins.

Pronounced “Oosh-Mahl,” this ancient Mayan city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Archaeologists believe that this ancient Mayan city was founded around 500 AD and came to prominence around 800 AD. These Mayan ruins cover a large expanse and are quite fun to walk around. Signs with Spanish and English are found in front of the main structures.

Book Your Uxmal Tour

Uxmal & Kabah Tour with Mayan Planetarium

Full-Day Uxmal & Kabah Tour from Merida

4WD Uxmal Tour from Merida

Uxmal Archeological Tour Overnight Package

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Why Uxmal Ruins are the Best Mayan Ruins in Mexico

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There are so many great Mayan ruins in Mexico, and you should visit as many as possible. Yet for us and many others, the Uxmal ruins are the most interesting Mayan archaeological site. Here’s why.

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You Can Climb the Uxmal Pyramid

How to Visit the Uxmal Ruins, the Best Mayan Ruins in Mexico — Mexico Family Travel top of the pyramid sky 9

That’s right: you can still climb the main Uxmal pyramid. While the Chichen Itza ruins may be larger, the steps to the top of the Chichen Itza pyramid are off-limits. In contrast, at the Uxmal ruins, you can climb to the top of the Pirámide del Adivino (Pyramid of the Magician).

At a height of 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 group.

Related: Do You Need Travel Insurance?

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Crowds: Uxmal or Chichen Itza?

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

Fewer Touts & Souvenir Sellers: Chichen Itza VS Uxmal

We saw very few tables of trinkets or tchotchkes for sale in the Uxmal Mayan ruins. It’s possible that they are outlawed inside the grounds or there simply isn’t a market for it there. To be honest, souvenir stands don’t bother me as much as they do some travelers. For example, they don’t take the ambiance away from places like Chichen Itza ruins for me. I understand why these people do what they do. But it’s nice to be able to wander freely through the Uxmal buildings without someone asking you to buy a necklace, wood carving, or Mayan chess set. It’s easier to take better pictures of the ruins at Uxmal too.

More Iguanas at Uxmal Ruins

iguana How to Visit the Uxmal Ruins, the Best Mayan Ruins in Mexico— Mexico Family Travel iguana 11

iguana How to Visit the Uxmal Ruins, the Best Mayan Ruins in Mexico — Mexico Family Travel iguana 13

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

Look for Mexican iguanas wherever there is sunlight on a rock. This goes double for the huge piles of rocks you’ll find throughout the Uxmal city complex. They also live inside the walls of the remnants of the governor’s palace! I tried to get a picture but they scurried into the cracks before I could focus.

More Interesting Design – Uxmal or Chichen Itza?

How to Visit the Uxmal Ruins, the Best Mayan Ruins in Mexico — Mexico Family Travel wall 2
How to Visit the Uxmal Ruins, the Best Mayan Ruins in Mexico

Okay, so your preferred aesthetic for Mayan ruins in Latin America is purely subjective, but the kids and I liked the design and architectural flourishes of the Uxmal pyramids and temples more than the Chichen Itza ruins. The Puuc style seen here has more curves and softer lines. We liked that.

There’s a Pok-ta-Pok Court – Uxmal Ruins

How to Visit the Uxmal Ruins, the Best Mayan Ruins in Mexico

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 Pok-ta-Pok demonstration in Merida and it was very cool. The Pok-ta-Pok court at the Uxmal ruins isn’t as large and intact as in some Mayan archaeological sites, but it’s still impressive.

Bonus Trip to Choco-Story México 

choco story How to Visit the Uxmal Ruins, the Best Mayan Ruins in Mexico

choco story collage How to Visit the Uxmal Ruins, the Best Mayan Ruins in Mexico

Looking for something to do after visiting the Uxmal Ruins? The Choco-Story Museum is only a few hundred meters away and we enjoyed it as a separate activity. I don’t say that about some of the chocolate “museums” I’ve been to. And there have been 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 is 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.

Uxmal Facts and Info

How to Visit the Uxmal Ruins, the Best Mayan Ruins in Mexico — Mexico Family Travel 1

Now let’s plan your Uxmal visit. Here’s all the important info you’ll need to plan your trip. 

Uxmal Opening Hours

The Uxmal Archaeological Zone is open year-round, 7 days a week from 8 am to 5 pm. We highly suggest walking in when they open. 

Uxmal Entrance Fee

As of November 2019, the fees for visiting Uxmal increased significantly, now totaling 413 pesos for non-Mexican citizens. This is actually two fees: one for the site and one for the government. Is Uxmal worth it? Yes, it’s worth it.

Uxmal Tours

There are lots of ways to experience Uxmal, and for many, the best way is on a tour. There are a number of good Uxmal Tours available. Here are a few.

Book Your Uxmal Tour Now

Uxmal & Kabah Tour with Mayan Planetarium

Full-Day Uxmal & Kabah Tour from Merida

4WD Uxmal Tour from Merida

Uxmal Archeological Tour Overnight Package

When to Visit Uxmal Ruins

How to Visit the Uxmal Ruins, the Best Mayan Ruins in Mexico — Mexico Family Travel 13

We recommend visiting Uxmal Mayan ruins between October and February, but they are open year-round. The October to February window is during the dry season, with the coolest temps in December through February. Just keep in mind it’s never cold in the Yucatan, really. When I say “cooler” temperatures, I mean 30ºC/86ºF in the afternoon and 65+% humidity. With this in mind, we highly suggest walking in at 8am, when crowds and temperatures are at their lowest. 

When *NOT* to Visit Yucatan Ruins 

We highly recommend not visiting any Mayan ruins in the Yucatan in the afternoon or on Sundays. The afternoons are too crowded and too hot. And on Sundays, Mexican citizens can visit for free, which means larger crowds. 

Getting to Uxmal by Bus

Go to Merida’s TAME terminal and take the bus to Campeche (Called “Sur” or South bus. This bus stops at Uxmal on the way to Campeche. 

Driving to Uxmal

Driving in the Yucatan is relatively easy and safe. The roads are good, flat and straight. Just watch for speed bumps once you’re off the highway. I also discourage you to drive at night. Not because of bandidos of anything like that. The roads are not well-lit, and those speed bumps are not well marked. You could easily hit one going full speed and that would be bad. There’s also the risk of someone’s cow in the road or a local driving with no/few lights on. All of these make it dangerous. But during daylight, driving in the Yucatan is easy and safe.  

How to Get to Uxmal Ruins

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. For example, the last time we visited, we drove ourselves and I can tell you that it’s an easy drive. 

Progreso to Uxmal <> Uxmal to Progreso

It takes approx 90 minutes to reach Uxmal from Progresso, along main roads. 

Merida to Uxmal <> Uxmal to Merida

The Uxmal ruins are just over an hour (80 km/49 miles) south of Merida downtown.

Chichen Itza/Valladolid to Uxmal <> Uxmal to Chichen Itza/Valladolid

The fastest route from Valladolid to Uxmal goes through Merida (approx 3 hours), but there are longer/more rural routes that have more Mayan sites if you have the time. 

Cancun to Uxmal <> Uxmal to Cancun

With good traffic, it takes over four hours (approx. 400 mm / 250 miles) to reach Uxmal from Cancun by car. 

Playa del Carmen to Uxmal <> Uxmal to Playa del Carmen

Essentially the same way as from Cancun, it takes 4+ hours (400 mm / 250 miles) to reach Uxmal from Playa del Carmen.

Tulum to Uxmal <> Uxmal to Tulum

You can take the same basic route as with Cancun and Playa del Carmen above (approx 4 hours), but if you can spare a little more time and can split up your trip I’d recommend driving south near Sian Ka’an Biological Reserve and then heading west through the Peninsula. More to see along the way (approx 5 hours). 

What to Bring to Uxmal Mayan Ruins

How to Visit the Uxmal Ruins, the Best Mayan Ruins in Mexico

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. 

  • Sunscreen (Maybe): The sun at Uxmal is brutal, but remember that synthetic sunscreen is banned at cenotes, so if you must, bring organic and put it on before you arrive. 
  • Sun-Blocking Clothing (Better): Instead of sunscreen, we recommend wearing light, airy clothing, and a floppy hat. That way you’s stay shaded and still be able to jump in a denote. 
  • Sturdy sandals or shoes: You can wear flimsy flip flops if you like, but if you plan to climb the steep steps to the top of the pyramid, be careful.
  • Plenty of Water: Yucatan weather can be ruthless. Make sure you stay hydrated. 
  • Swimsuits: I just wear mine to places like this just in case there is any time to soak myself and cool off. 
  • Snacks: Eating options are limited at best in the Uxmal area. Come prepared. 

More Uxmal Travel Tips

Where to Stay Near Uxmal

The closest major city near Uxmal is Merida, which is about an hour away. We lived in Merida for a little over 3 months and loved it. It’s a great place to explore the Yucatan from. 

Consider a Guide

We didn’t use a guide at the Uxmal ruins, and in retrospect, I wish we had. In fact, I think we would have gleaned a lot more out of the site had we hired a guide. For example, we used a guide during our visit to the Cañada de la Virgen pyramid & Archaeological zone in Central Mexico, and we got a lot more out of it more because of his insight.

Uxmal & Kabah Tour with Mayan Planetarium

Full-Day Uxmal & Kabah Tour from Merida

4WD Uxmal Tour from Merida

Uxmal Archeological Tour Overnight Package

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 ruins — indeed, we even heard a faint hum of their wings 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 Cenotes Near Uxmal

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 the Uxmal ruins. Cenotes are natural sinkholes full of fresh, clean water and they feel great after walking around in the sun.

Cenotes Near Uxmal

There are a number of cenotes near 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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Disclaimer: This article may contain affiliate links. Therefore, if you buy or book something after clicking one of our links, we might get a small commission. You pay nothing extra, so don’t worry. Also, everything you see here is just my personal opinion. Further, I only recommend places, activities, and gear that I believe will genuinely help my readers and we want you to explore the best Mayan ruins in the Yucatan Peninsula. Where do you think is the best Mayan ruins in Mexico? 

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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