Uxmal (OOSH-mahl) means “‘built three times” in the Mayan language, and though its name is a mystery, its beauty is not. As a World Heritage site, it is one of the best-restored and maintained archaeological sites in the Yucatán, and certainly one of the most magnificent. Its architecture, some of the most majestic of the Yucatán archaeological sites, is characterized by low horizontal palaces set around courtyards, decorated with rich sculptural elements and details.
Uxmal was the greatest metropolitan and religious center in the Puuc hills in the late classical period. It thrived between the 7th and 10th centuries AD and its numerous architectural styles reflect a number of building phases.
Recent studies have suggested that Uxmal was the capital of a regional state that developed in the Puuc region between 850 to 950 AD. Other evidence suggests that Uxmal collaborated politically and economically with Chichén Itzá, the well-known ruin located between Mérida and Cancún.
The most impressive structure and the tallest at 100 feet is the House of the Magician which you will find just beyond the entrance. According to ancient legend, this pyramid was built by Itzamna in one night. It actually appears to have been built in five phases, and it was situated so that its western stairway faces the setting sun at summer solstice.
The Nunnery, another large building on the site, was named by the Spaniards as it reminded them of a European nunnery. It was probably used as a school for training healers, astrologers, shamans, and priests.
The Governor’s Palace is an excellent example of stone mosaic work probably created by hundreds of masons and sculptors. It occupies five acres and contains many beautiful sculptures of the rain god Chaac, serpents and astrological symbols.
Other buildings at Uxmal include the House of Turtles, decorated with charming turtle sculptures associated at that time with rain, the Dovecote, a building with many separate chambers, the House of the Old Woman, and more. Uxmal also has a large ball court, enclosing a playing field that is 110 feet long and 32 feet wide.
Mayaland Hacienda Uxmal
Uxmal is located about 50 miles southwest of Mérida, and will take a few hours to explore thoroughly. There is a small museum at the entrance, as well as a snack bar, gift shops, restrooms and various local vendors. Be sure to bring a hat, some sunscreen and good walking shoes. A camera is a must as well, as the buildings at Uxmal are very photogenic.
If you want to spend the night, there are a few hotels and restaurants catering to the Uxmal visitor. Check the list of hotels at the end of this article, and be sure to visit our Hotel and Restaurant pages for some suggestions, as well as our Maps section for a map of the area. And don’t miss the spectacular Light and Sound show that takes place in the archaeological site at night.
The Light and Sound Show has state-of-the-art lighting technology (the original dates to 1972). The new show, inaugurated in June 2009, is the result of a joint effort of various disciplines: architects, engineers, archaeologists, and light and sound experts, together with authorities from Tourism and INAH.
– The site is open 365 days a year.
– Climbing to the top of the Pyramid of the Magician is no longer allowed.
– Light and Sound Show (approx. 45 min. to 1 hour) is at 7:00 pm every night during Fall and Winter (starting the last Sunday in October) and 8:00 pm during Spring and Summer (starting the first Sunday in April).
– Open from 8 am to 5 pm.
– Entrance fees: ADULTS: 170 pesos for foreigners and 120 pesos for Mexican nationals, and it includes the Light and Sound Show. CHILDREN UNDER 13 YEARS: 5 pesos. TEACHERS AND STUDENTS (Mexican) with current valid ID receive a discount Monday-Saturday. SENIORS with valid INAPAM card free every day. MEXICAN NATIONALS free on Sunday. Light & Sound show ONLY: 70 pesos foreigners, 45 pesos Mexican nationals.
– Lockers for bags and suitcases are available at the entrance.
– Head-phones for translations that translate the show into English, French, German and Italian are available for $39 pesos.