Ek Balam – Mayan Ruins of the Yucatan

Lesser known of the Mayan cities in Mexico but equally outstanding is Mayan Ruins of Ek Balam on the Yucatan Pennisula. It’s a mesmerising site well worth a visit for an off the beaten track experience.

We’re so glad to discover Ek Balam.

Dug out of a mound in the Yucatan in 90’s, Ek Balam is a fresh site and offers a peaceful encounter with the Mayan culture, free of crowds.

Ek Balam  – an experience in solitude

Ek Balam - Mayan Ruins Yucatan

It’s just the two of us here at Ek Balam today.

We’re dwarfed by the enormous dimension of the buildings and intrigued by the highly decorated facades, intricate design motifs. It’s the detail that defines these ruins.

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It was definitely an experience in solitude here… free of the crowds.

With a central core of three large structures, including the impressive temple (Acropolis), surrounded by a series of a few dozen smaller structures, Ek Balam is a much more compact and private experience than Chichen Itza.

The Acropolis of Ek Balam

The main ‘Acropolis’ of Ek Balam rises impressively up from the jungle floor at the north end of the site. Half way up you can see what is thought to be the Tomb of Ukit Kan Le’k Tok’, the ruler of the time.

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The main ‘Acropolis’ of Ek Balam rises impressively up from the jungle floor AND you can still climb it!

There are full figure statues above and surrounding the tomb with so much detail you can see the braids in their hair and the actual patterns of their loincloths. Then there’s hieroglyphs of corn sitting next to warriors with skulls on their belt.

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Unlike Uxmal and Chichen Itza which are carved stone, Ek Balam’s decoration is crafted by stucco and limestone mortar modeled into distinct forms and then painted, interesting to know the difference.

A beautiful, stucco wall makes up the opening of the tomb with the doorway into this area made in the shape of a jaguar’s mouth with fearsome looking fangs. The doorway enters onto a pit which is about sixty feet deep, with wooden spikes at the bottom. It is thought that prisoners were thrown into the pit to their deaths.

Ek Balam - Mayan Ruins Yucatan

This pit with the monster fanged mask is said to be “The Gate To Hell”.

Unlike Uxmal and Chichen Itza which are carved stone, Ek Balam’s decoration is crafted by stucco and limestone mortar modeled into distinct forms and then painted, interesting to know the difference.

Ek Balam means “Black Jaguar”

Ek Balam means “Black Jaguar” in the Mayan language and we noticed many of these carvings throughout the ruins. The only ‘real’ black Jaguar I could find though was a gorgeous black dog chilled out in the lush green grass. He lay completely still as if part of this place.

I always want to climb pyramids and today was no exception, somehow the feeling of being on top of the jungle holds a power like none other. The Acropolis or The Tower as it is sometimes known, draws you in to scale the steep, narrow steps (no handrail either) to get a closer look.
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Stepping very gingerly up the precarious steps I was rewarded with the king’s 360 degree view from the top.

As I mentioned Ek Balam is a less frequented site and therefore you’re still allowed to climb on all structures, including well-restored palaces, platforms, ball courts, arches and other structures. I’d never pass a chance to climb a pyramid and although I stepped very gingerly both up the precarious steps I was rewarded with the king’s 360 degree view from the top. Reminds me of the saying when I was a kid…

 “I’m the King of the Castle and you’re the Dirty Rascal”
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Looking down from the top reminds me of the saying “I’m the King of the Castle and you’re the Dirty Rascal”

Take a trip to the ancient Ek Balam ruins, click on the video here.

Ek Balam Traveller Info and Tips

  • It’s easily reached by collectivo from Valladolid – 180 pesos
  • Entry Fee to Ek Balam – 122 pesos per person
  • There’s no buses, so that means no crowds.
  • We virtually had this place to ourselves and the best news is we’re allowed to climb the pyramids here.
  • You can get a good feel for the place in 1-2 hours.
  • It makes a great day trip from Cancun, stopping off at beautiful Colonial Valladolid for lunch or a dip in the Zaci Cenote.
  • More information about Ek Balam
  • Read more about the Yucatan and the Mayan Culture here.
The best way to visit Ek Balam is combined with a trip to the colonial city of Valladolid in the interior of the Yucatán Peninsula.

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