We’ve been staying on the Northern coast of the Yucatàn Mexican Peninsula for roughly 11 days. It was a tactic to extend our stay to a month while keeping our daily costs low. The Northern coast doesn’t see as many tourist as the world renowned Riviera Maya which is to the South. The biggest problem we were faced with was the lack of public transportation. Getting off the emerald cape and into Merida meant spending 280-330$MXN each way and adding 2hrs to any journey. So to my discontent I had to reduce the outings I had planned on visiting from our schedule. Crossing off ‘The Great Mayan World Museum’ in Merida ( El Gran Mundo Maya Museo de Merida), the ‘Bici Ruta’ on Sunday mornings where Merida closes off parts of Paseo Montejo for cyclist, stroling down ‘Paseo Montejo’ for major picture opportunities and visiting the 1000’s of flamingos residing in the ‘Reserva de la Biosfera Ria’ in Celestun. To be honest, we were in Merida for a full day walking around the Plaza Grande and visiting Francisco de Montejo’s casa, the Catedral de San Ildefonso and the Fernando Garcia Ponce Macay art museum. We took the free guided tour that started at the corral pink coloured French influence building, the Palacio Municipal at 9:00am. But soon after the tour I couldn’t handle the intense heat. The concrete jungle with its thermal heat radiating from beneath combined with the Mexican sun gave me heat stroke with a migraine I couldn’t shake until the morning hours of the following day. Fortunately, we managed to see some of the really impressive Spanish and French influenced architectural buildings of Merida. As an alternative to Merida we decided to set our eyes on sites beyond the Capital that were mercifully shaded under the jungle canopy.
Uxmal (pron. oosh-mahl), a UNESCO world heritage site located in the Puuc Region was breathtaking. The name Puuc literally means hills or mountains in Yucatec. On a purely architectural point of view, the Puuc style is considered one of the finest architectural achievements of all time. That the ancient Maya were at the helm for architectural design.
. . . a few buildings erected in the Puuc, such as the Governor’s Palace at Uxmal, rank among the world’s greatest architectural achievements (Dunning, 1992, p. 323).
“When you stop and think about it, the Maya accomplished some downright remarkable feats. Not only did they pull off very sophisticated architecture, but they also made mind-blowing contributions to mathematics, astronomy and art. The cities they left behind remind us of this brilliant legacy.” (Lonely planet.)
Uxmal ruins came highly recommended by Yucatan locals. I had initially set eyes on Chichen Itza, like most tourists wanting to visit one of the wonders of the world but was discouraged more than once. Locals said it was overrated, with too many tourists and that Uxmal was much more colossal in size and elaborate. Uxmal did not disappoint, in fact the moment we stepped through the gates, directly in front of us, our eyes locked on to this massive, foreign stone structure, the Casa del Advino (the Magician’s House). This oval shaped pyramid was magnificent. I can’t say anything about Chichen Itza in comparison but compared to Tulum, the Uxmal ruins employ the ‘ancient civilization’ adjective quite appropriately. YOU feel foreign walking through them, almost needing an authorization. You feel a high sense of respect and I’m not saying this metaphorically. Everyone seemed to regard these ruins with the upmost respect.
What’s really exceptional about the Uxmal ruins is that you are offered the chance to get up close and personal with them. Place your hand on the very stone that was carved over 5,000 years ago. Most ruins are roped off with set trails for you to follow. After passing the Magician’s house, the five of us spread out like a fan and followed our own internal compass to what intrigue us most. The boys went straight for the Cuadràngulo de las Monjas ( Nun’s Quadrangle) I assume it’s the dark open doorways that pulled their curiosity. Supposedly this city was connected to other cities by the names of Kabah, Sayil and Labnà since there are several Maya roads connecting to Uxmal. It was believed that the ruler of Uxmal resided at all four of these locations.
It’s amazing to think the Maya have managed to build such an elaborate city in such an arid part of the country. We weren’t there for more than 2hrs and I was overheating. The sun is so intense. While planning on visiting any ruins be sure to bring along a lot of water. We climb up the narrow stairs of the Gran Piràmide, the side is really steep but well worth your effort. Behold the view once at top. With my fear of heights I felt a little uneasy when it was time to come down. It’s best to do it in a zigzag motion by keeping your sight to the side rather than below.
Because of the intense heat we missed out visiting parts of the ruins that are further a field. If possible try arriving when the site opens around 8am, that way you’ll get a few hours where the sun is not directly overhead.
Uxmal is 80km from Merida. We took a second class bus from the CAME station costed the five of us 240$MXN one way. We happened to hop on a colectivo going into Merida coming back which costed 250$MXN. I didn’t know there was a colectivo going to Uxmal but it’s roughly same price.