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