(Last updated on: 19/08/2022)
We visited Uxmal during our two week Mexico road trip and LOVED it- it was one of the best places to visit in Yucatan! I was surprised to see that there wasn’t much information online about this fantastic archeological site though… so I thought I should put a stop to that and to tell you everything I learnt during my visit!
In this post I will tell you what Uxmal is (and why you should visit), what sites there are to see at Uxmal and the best places to stay nearby.
What is Uxmal?
Uxmal is an ancient Mayan city. Located in Yucatan, Mexico, it is generally considered as one of the most important archaeological sites relating to Maya culture and today, it is one of the best vacation spots in Mexico for plenty of reasons.
Uxmal was built in the Late Classic to Terminal Classic periods, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Around 25,000 Maya lived here.
The buildings at Uxmal are noted for how big they are, and how decorated- I thought they were amazing!
As the site is located in the Puuc area of Yucatan (the east of the peninsula), the buildings are of a very typical Puuc style. They have low smooth walls which open on friezes, based on representations of Maya huts. Columns represent that the reeds used for the walls of these huts, while the trapezoidal shapes represent the huts’ thatched roofs.
All of the buildings at Uxmal are made from limestone. They are elaborately decorated and, for the most part, are oriented along a north-east axis. There are fortification walls around the central sacred complex, and there are sacred causeways too.
BONUS FACT: The House of the Governor does not sit along the same axis. Instead it faces the rise of Venus at its southernmost cycle.
As mentioned, Uxmal is in the Puuc area of the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. This is one of the safest areas of Mexico, and welcomes plenty of tourists each year. The peninsula separates the Gulf of Mexico from the Caribbean Sea. There are plenty of reasons to visit Yucatan, and the Maya ruins are just one of them.
There are various airports in the region. Aeropuerto Internacional de Mérida Manuel Crescencio Rejón, also known as Mérida International Airport, is the closest to Uxmal. If you are flying here from the UK or Europe, you will likely have a stopover in Miami, Houston, or Mexico City. However, Cancún International Airport isn’t too far in the grand scheme of things. You can fly to Cancún from various UK and European destinations as well from various US cities.
If you are flying into – or generally visiting – Cancún, you can drive to Uxmal. This takes just over 4 hours. If you hire a car in Mexico (like we did), it gives you the freedom to explore the different archaeological sites at your own pace.
–Mexico road trip: A 2 week itinerary
–What is a cenote and why should you visit one (or lots)?
–Calakmul: Tips for visiting Mexico’s hidden Mayan ruins
–The best cenotes in Yucatan [with a handy MAP]
We stayed in the Merida area so Uxmal was about an hour by car. If you would prefer not to drive, there are guided tours available which include transport, too.
The entrance feet Uxmal is 413 pesos, which includes both the general admission ticket price and federal fee. This is around £14 GBP.
What is there to see at the site
Uxmal is, as mentioned, one of Maya’s most important archaeological sites. It is incredibly well-preserved, and there is so much to see. We spent an entire afternoon exploring the area, but you couldn’t definitely stay longer!
The Pyramid of the Magician
This is the tallest monument at the whole complex. Your typical Mexican pyramid, it is instantly recognisable and truly symbolic of Maya culture and Uxmal as a site. It is a Mesoamerican step pyramid. The exact height is often debated – the accepted height is around 35 metres (115 feet) tall with a base of 69 by 49 metres (227 by 162 feet). It was built over three centuries, and you can’t miss it when visiting this archaeological site – it is the central structure of the complex.
The Nunnery Quadrangle
To the west of the aforementioned pyramid, you’ll find the Nunnery Quadrangle. It seems to have been a place of residence. The likelihood is that students, priests or soldiers lived here – there are 74 individual rooms spread across four buildings. The temple-side of each building is decorated with Chac figures. He was the rainmaker god – there was no water source at Uxmal. You will be able to spot various figures and artwork related to Chac throughout the complex.
The Governor’s Palace
Another building to admire is the Governor’s Palace. Regarded as one of the best pre-Columbian structures, it is also the most true-to-style Puuc building. Accessed by a stairway with three landings, there are three sections which stand on top of a wider terrace. You can explore the rooms and admire the view from the top – don’t miss out!
Where to stay when visiting
The best place to stay to easily access Uxmal is Merida. As mentioned, it is around 1 hour from the archaeological site, and guided tours leave from here regularly.
Below, I have included a map of all available hotels in the area. Just type in your search dates to check current prices and availability.
Hotels in Merida: My recommendations
El Gran Hotel can be found just 100 yards from Merida Main Square. In a colonial-style building with traditional decor, free parking and free WiFi, it’s a great no-nonsense option. There is a 24-hour front desk, and all rooms have their own bathroom, great views and more. Rooms are non-smoking and there is various outdoor space to make use of. You’ll find plenty of restaurants with 30 yards of the hotel, too! Previous guests praise the location and the beautiful decor.
Hotel Dubrovnik is slightly further out but still well-located. It has a pool, gym and sun terrace as well as fresh white decor and air-conditioned rooms. With breakfast provided and a restaurant on site, free parking and free WiFi, there are so many great amenities here. Previous guests enjoyed the cleanliness, service and tasty food here!
Staying at Uxmal itself
There are handful of places to stay if you want to be really close to Uxmal. They tend to be more expensive, of course. For example Hacienda Uxmal Plantation and Museum has beautiful rooms to offer; the cheapest is more than double the cost of most hotels in Merida for the same nights. If you want to be as close to Uxmal as possible (a 5 minute walk) and stay where royalty have stayed before, though, then the hotel can give you that! There is a pool, and the beautiful plantations to explore. It comes out top in terms of location and scenery, for sure.
Uxmal is an incredible example of well-preserved Maya ruins. If you are planning a trip to Mexico and want make sure you add some history in, then this complex should definitely be on your list of things to check out!