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Uxmal Ruin Complex

While not as well known as Chichén Itzá, the Mayan archeological site of Uxmal was named a World Heritage Site in 1996 because it represented “…the pinnacle of late Mayan art and architecture.” Uxmal enchants the visitor with graceful, refined pyramids, temples, and palaces and a dramatic location in the Puuc Hills south of Mérida.

Uxmal means "built three times" in the Mayan language, but it took the Maya many centuries to design and construct this harmonious city. From Uxmal came the Puuc Style of Mayan architecture. It is highly ornamental, featuring exterior surfaces coated with fabulous, intricately patterned mosaics, each fashioned from thousands of precisely cut stones.

Whether as a day trip from Mérida or part of a longer stay in southern Yucatán state, the splendor of Uxmal is not to be missed.

The founding of Uxmal has been attributed to Hun Uitzil Chac Tutul Xiu in 500 AD, although the area may have been inhabited as early as 800 BC. Major construction dates from 600 to 1000 AD. While almost all Mayan cities were built on cenotes, Yucatán’s main source of water, Uxmal is unusual because it relied on countless cisterns to capture rainwater, evidence of highly evolved engineering.

The city was the powerful capital of western Yucatán from 850-950, dominating the region in an alliance with Chichén Itzá. A series of kings from the Xiu family ruled over a city of 25,000, with thousands more living in Uxmal’s vassal territory including a Gulf Coast port on the island of Uaymil. Stone roads connected the empire like the one leading from Uxmal to Kabah, an astonishing 18 km (11 miles) long. Around 1200 the Xiu moved its capital to Maní and construction at Uxmal ceased. The Maya continued to live in Uxmal as late as 1550 when the site was abandoned and became part of a Spanish hacienda.

First noted in European annals in 1588 by Antonio de Ciudad Real, Uxmal has attracted serious archeologists since the intrepid John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood chronicled its many beauties in the 1840s. A who’s who of archeologists have examined, documented and reconstructed Uxmal beginning with Sylvanus Morley in 1909.

The highlight of the Uxmal is the Magician's Temple. The Governor's palace and the Nunnery Quadrangle are close runners-up. But that's not all: there are many different areas of interest worth checking out.

Site Information

Hours of Operation:

Site: Daily, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm

Parking: 8:00 am to 10:00pm

Visitors Center: 8:00 am to 10:00 pm (shops close around 7:00 pm)

Admission: MX$111/US$10, includes site, museum and sound and light show. Children under 13 free. Discounted price available for students, teachers and seniors. Video camera use: MX$36/US$3. (If you arrive in the evening and pay for only the Sound and Light show but plan to visit the site the next day, keep your ticket. When you return show it to the ticket seller and you will only have to pay the difference.)

Parking: MX$20/US$2.40 per car. MX$30/US$3.60 per bus. Guided Tours: Available at entrance costing MX$450/US$45 for 90 minutes in Spanish. MX$550/US$50 for English, French, German or Italian.

Services: museum, restaurant, bookstore, ATM, artisan crafts, restrooms, lockers.

Museum: Before you visit the site tour the excellent museum, included in the price of admission.

Sound and Light: If you saw the old Sound and Light show that dated back to 1972, make sure that you see the new version, updated in 2009. Winter, 7:00pm. Summer: 8:00pm. Sound and Light only: MX$40/US$4.80. In Spanish, with headphones offering narration in English, French, German and Italian available for MX$35/US$3.50.

Additional information: When touring any archeological site in Yucatán, wear sturdy walking shoes and be careful when climbing stairs. Take your time if it’s hot, as it’s likely to be, and carry water. Wear a hat and use plenty of sunscreen and insect repellent.





By George Nunes
Mayan archeology and culture are my passion and I've visited over 20 sites so far. My career path has encompassed being a professional dancer and...
03 Mar 2010

Things to do in Uxmal Ruin Complex

Pyramid of the Magician (Pirámide del Adivino)

137991The most famous structure at Uxmal is the Pirámide del Adivino, variously translated as the pyramid of the magician, soothsayer or sorcerer. A beloved and oft-told Mayan legend relates that the ...

Uxmal - Governor’s Palace (Palacio del Gobernador)

137992The Governor’s Palace is majestic, a dwelling truly fit for kings. Completed in 987 AD it is the architectural opposite of the Pyramid of the Magician: rectangular rather than oval, a residence ...

Uxmal Ruins - Nunnery Quadrangle (Cuadrángulo de las Monjas)

137993To the Spanish this perfectly proportioned complex resembled a convent and so they called it a nunnery. Warriors might have studied here, or perhaps astronomers and astrologers. John Stephens ...

Uxmal Ruins - Other sites of interest

137994At the Uxmal Ruin complex, the big draws are the Magician's Pyramid, the Governor's Palace and the Nunnery Quadrangle. But there are other areas of interest for ruins buffs and historians to check ...
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