Mayan Ruins of Uxmal

Several years back, Kris and I found ourselves on the Yucatan Peninsula with some time to kill. We decided we would check out the ancient Mayan Ruins of Uxmal. On our past journeys on the Yucatan, we had declined to visit Uxmal and instead chose the white sand beaches of Isla Pasion. So it was with a sense of adventure and sobriety that we spent almost two hours on a bus from the Port of Progresso through Meridien into the great wilderness that is Uxmal.

The ride itself was uneventful (thankfully), and other than a brief roadside check by the federales outside of Meridien, there were no unanticipated stops. As many of you already are aware, it is not the safest (or smartest) idea to travel along the highways in Mexico. Granted, this trip was a few years before things in the Yucatan got “questionable” but nevertheless be advised…

Arriving at the site of the ruins, you have to pay a few dollars to be allowed to film or take pictures. I would highly suggest you pay the “toll” as it is only a few dollars and the authorities WILL confiscate your cameras (saw it happen twice) if they catch you without a bracelet. 

After your extortion is complete, you enter the site and are treated by the “Pyramid of The Magician.” This pyramid is atypical of the early Mayan Empire and pre-Columbian temples as it doesn’t reflect the architectural design of the era. The pyramid is more rounded and oval in its footprint; as opposed to the tiered/step design of many other Mayan temples of the era such as Chitzen Itza and Altun Ha for example.

Additionally, the main temple has a slight pink hue in the sunlight remaining from the pigments it was dyed with in its hey-day. Originally our guide told us the dye was blood from animal sacrifices, and upon doing a little “wiki-research,” it would appear he was correct. Apparently the ancient Mayan’s believed that blood had magical properties and by coating their structures in blood the gods would bestow favorable harvests, victories in battle and spiritual enlightenment.

I was also amazed at the skill in which the buildings and temples were carved into the hillsides and also the scale of the free-standing temples and structures. Unfortunately we were not able to scale the larger of the structures during our visit. I imagine the view of the surrounding complex and country-side would have been amazing from way above the canopy. We were however allowed to scale some of the smaller structures. I think the thing that surprised me the most about the view from the top was how many excavation sites remain claimed by the jungle. Upon closer examination there were tops of structures popping up out of the canopy miles in the distance as well as some just a stones throw away.


Kris and I, being the adventurous sort, walked down a small trail into the jungle to a site that was currently under excavation and captured a few images. Eventually we got a little spooked, when we heard a rustling coming from the bushes, so we ran back down the trail and caught up with the tail-end of our tour group. After the remaining portion of the tour concluded, we had about an hour left to explore on our own. We were nowhere near as adventurous on our second round of exploration. 

We still have a few more Mayan ruins on our bucket list (Tikal in Guatemala, Caracol in Belize and Palenque in Campeche) and hope in the next few years to visit those sites and share them here. As far as the journey back to Progresso, there were no surprises and no additional adventures to speak of and we are always happy for that when driving in Mexico.

Published by DW

Freelance writer, photographer and traveler who enjoys sharing his experiences with others.

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