Ek Balam

Visit Ek Balam if you like your Mayan ruins off the beaten track. Because they’re located deep in the jungle, the Ek Balam ruins never see the same amount of tourists as places such as Chichen Itza. The Mayan name translated into English means “black jaguar,” and as the name implies, Ek Balam was a powerful city in its time. This ancient city was inhabited for approximately 1,000 years—a time span that is hundreds of years longer than other Mayan cities.

The Mayan ruins at Ek Balam, located in Mexico, are rich in art and architecture. If you’re interested in Mayan carvings and would rather wander yourself among temples and jungle than be led on a tour, then this is the perfect archaeological site for you. Visitors will be rewarded not only by the feeling of discovering something magical that has been hidden for hundreds of years, but also by the impressive buildings. During walking tours of Ek Balam you will see some of the largest Mayan structures in the Yucatan. El Torre (the tower) is one of the most impressive buildings.

The Ek Balam ruins are open to visitors seven days a week, from 8 am until 5 pm. For some extra information while you’re at the site, hire a guide to shed light on what you’re seeing. If you’d rather explore independently, there are plaques and signs by the major attractions that reveal interesting details in both Spanish and English. The site is located about eighteen miles from Valladolid, which is between Merida and Cancun.

Unlike other Mayan ruins, don’t expect there to be modern bathroom facilities and refreshments. Bring your own refreshments and be aware that there is only one very basic bathroom. Travelers visit the Mayan ruins at Ek Balam for its remoteness, not its facilities. You will feel like an archaeologist wandering through the jungle as you explore the ruins. One of the most exciting discoveries made during the excavation process was the tomb of a ruler of Ek Balam. The doorway is the shape of a jaguar’s mouth, and intricate stucco makes up the entrance of the tomb. Many experts on Mayan ruins agree that this is one of the most spectacular of all discoveries of this ancient civilization—it’s a must-see if you’re curious about this fascinating Mesoamerican society.

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