Uxmal is an ancient Maya city which you should visit during your stay in Yucatán. Declared a UNESCO Heritage Site in 1996, it is only 78 km from Mérida, about a one-hour drive south on Highway 261, past the town of Muna. Its name comes from “Oxmal” which is Maya for “three times built” or “what is yet to come”.
Uxmal was the greatest metropolitan and religious center in the Puuc hills in the late classical period. It thrived between the 7th and 10th centuries AD and its numerous architectural styles reflect a number of building phases. Recent studies have suggested that Uxmal was the capital of a regional state that developed in the Puuc region between 850 to 950 AD. Other evidence suggests that Uxmal collaborated politically and economically with Chichén Itzá, the well-known ruin located between Mérida and Cancún.
The most impressive structure and the tallest at 100 feet is the House of the Magician which you will find just beyond the entrance. According to ancient legend, this pyramid was built by Itzamná in one night. It actually appears to have been built in five phases, and it was situated so that its western stairway faces the setting sun at summer solstice.
The Nunnery, another large building on the site, was named by the Spaniards as it reminded them of a European nunnery. It was probably used as a school for training healers, astrologers, shamans, and priests.
The Governor’s Palace is an excellent example of stone mosaic work probably created by hundreds of masons and sculptors. It occupies five acres and contains many beautiful sculptures of the rain god Chaac, serpents and astrological symbols.
Other structures include the Casa de las Tortugas (house of the turtles), la Plataforma de los Jaguares (platform of the jaguars), la Casa de las Palomas (house of the doves), el Juego de Pelota (ball game) and la Gran Pirámide (grand pyramid), which you can climb on the north side and admire the forest landscape. If you want a moment of peace and quiet, this is the ideal place. On your way you might encounter a “toloc”, an unusual lizard which you can photograph if you are lucky.
Uxmal will take a few hours to explore thoroughly. There is a small museum at the entrance, as well as a snack bar, gift shops, restrooms and various local vendors. Be sure to bring a hat, some sunscreen and good walking shoes. A camera is a must as well, as the buildings at Uxmal are very photogenic.
If you want to spend the night, there are a few hotels and restaurants catering to the Uxmal visitor. Check the list of hotels at the end of this article, and be sure to visit our Hotel and Restaurant pages for some suggestions, as well as our Maps section for a map of the area. And don’t miss the spectacular Light and Sound show that takes place in the archaeological site at night.
The Light and Sound Show has state-of-the-art lighting technology (the original dates to 1972).
Virtual tour: (www.inah.gob.mx/paseos/uxmal/tour.html).
- Climbing to the top of the Pyramid of the Magician is no longer allowed.
- The site is open 365 days a year.
- Light and Sound Show (approx. 45 min.) is at 7:00 pm every night during Fall and Winter (starting the last Sunday in October) and 8:00 pm during Spring and Summer (starting the first Sunday in April). Entrance fee: $89 pesos foreigners and $57 pesos Mexicans.
- Open from 8 am to 5 pm.
- If you want to go on your own, you can take a bus in TAME (Second Class Terminal) in Calle 69 x 68 y 70, Centro. Telephones: (999) 920 4444 and 924 8391.
- Some Travel Agencies have tours to Uxmal and Labná at 9 am. There is another departure at 1 pm just to the Light and Sound Show.
- Adults: $218 pesos for foreigners and $154 pesos for Mexican nationals.
- Children under 13 years: free.
- Mexican Nationals free on Sunday (except for Sound and Light show).
- Head-phones for translations that translate the show into English, French, German and Italian are available for $39 pesos.
- Lockers for bags and suitcases are available at the entrance.
- Parking fee: cars $30 pesos, buses $40 pesos.
Note: The entry fee is split into 2 amounts (State “Cultur” and Federal “INAH”) and is paid at 2 separate windows, and you will need both tickets to enter the site.