Dig into other Yucatan Mayan sites! Beyond Chichen Itza

The Pyramid of the Magician is the tallest structure at the Uxmal archaeological site in the Puuc region of the Yucatan peninsula.

The archaeological sites of the Yucatan peninsula extend well beyond Chichen Itza and Tulum. In fact, there are more than a dozen important archaeological locations all across the peninsula, many of which have been designated as Unesco World Heritage sites. 

Mexico’s Mayan history extends back to when they migrated to the Yucatan around 2500 B.C. The Mayans built some of their most spectacular and important cities between 900 and 300 B.C., many of which still stand strong today and give a unique perspective on this important part of Mexican history. Here are three lesser-known archaeological wonders of the Yucatan. 

Uxmal

Uxmal is an archaeological site located in the Puuc region, about 48 miles from Merida, and is one of the few sites that visitors are still able to climb. Uxmal is home to the Pyramid of the Magician, the tallest structure standing, at 100 feet, which, according to myth, was built by the god Itzamna in one night. Archaeologists said it was built in five phases and is situated so that its western stairway faces the setting sun at the summer solstice. 

Visitors can still climb a few of the structures in Uxmal, primarily on the north side of the ruins, allowing views of the forest and structures in the background such as the Gran Piramide, Casa de las Tortugas, la Plataforma de los Jaguares, la Casa de las Palomas and the ball court. 

While visiting Uxmal, visitors shouldn’t miss the sound-and-light show, which takes place every day at sunset. The performance tells the legends of the creation of the city as colored lights are projected onto the buildings. The show takes place at 8 p.m. during the summer and 7 p.m. during the winter.

• Getting there: Travelers can take a bus at the CAME bus terminal in Merida. Another option is to book a tour package that includes transportation and a guide. Goway, for example, offers a three-day tour exploring Chichen Itza, Uxmal, Ek Balam, and Coba. Maya Amazing offers a seven-day tour that includes private tours of Chichen Itza, Uxmal and Ek Balam, accommodations at boutique hotels and experiences like cycling through nearby Mayan communities. For a day tour, consider Merida Day Tours

The Ek Balam complex has 45 structures and is surrounded by two stone walls linking most of the other buildings.
The Ek Balam complex has 45 structures and is surrounded by two stone walls linking most of the other buildings. 

Ek Balam

Ek Balam, located about 15 miles north of Valladolid and 115 miles east of Merida, is referred to as the Black Jaguar. The complex has 45 structures and is surrounded by two concentric stone walls linking most of the other central buildings. Inside, travelers will find a ball court and an arch marking the end of an ancient road that once connected the Mayan kingdoms.

The road still bears traces of hieroglyphic snakes as well as beautiful monuments carved from stone blocks. The structures are of different architectural styles, with details such as winged warriors resembling angels.

For something a little more adventurous, consider kayaking, biking or ziplining at the nearby Xcanche cenote.

• Getting there: There are no buses to Ek Balam. Travelers will have to rent a car, take a taxi or join a tour. 

Calakmul

Farther west on the peninsula in the state of Campeche is Calakmul. One of Mexico’s largest, most extensive and important sites, Calakmul was pivotal in the historic, strategic, military and ritual role in the Mayan world. It was unearthed in 1931 by an American botanist and has the largest and tallest pyramid in the Yucatan. The city was once home to more than 50,000 people. Much of the site still requires further excavation, but there are more than 6,000 buildings already identified. The ruins exist in a biodiverse natural, protected area, home to 250 bird species as well as jaguars, spider monkeys, pumas and ocelots. Near the site is a cave called the Volcan de los Murcielagos (volcano of the bats), where bats enter and exit each morning in thick, spiraling swirls. 

• Getting there: It is recommended to rent a car to get to Calakmul, but another way to get there is by bus or taxi. The closest cities are Campeche in the state of Campeche and Chetumal in the state of Quintana Roo.

source: www.travelweekly.com

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