The Uxmal Ruins in the state of Yucatan are some of the most beautiful and well-preserved Mayan ruins in Mexico, along with the Tulum ruins and Chichen Itza. Uxmal Mexico is a World Heritage Site, and its ruins have been incredibly well preserved and restored. The word Uxmal means "built three times," and the origin of the name is enigmatic, as the ancient city was built over several phases and over many years, but it is just one of the mysteries of this place.
The Uxmal Ruins are characteristic of the Mayan architecture in this hilly area, known as the Puuc hills. Dating from between the seventh and tenth centuries, Uxmal Mexico was a great metropolitan and religious center in the Puuc hills area in its day, housing around 25,000 people. There are many well-preserved stone buildings, including the Pyramid of the Magician, the largest and most impressive structure. Many of the buildings here were constructed exceptionally well, using stones and concrete, which helped the site to weather many centuries without falling into great ruin. Visitors to the Uxmal ruins can see the ceremonial centers much as they were in their day.
The Pyramid of the Magician is inarguably the most distinctive building on the site. It is a large stepped pyramid, unusual in that its layers are rounded, almost oval shaped. At some point, the original layer of the pyramid was further built upon and another newer pyramid added on top of it, with a new temple built as well, though the old temple was also preserved. Unfortunately, visitors are no longer allowed to climb to the top of the Pyramid of the Magician, but it remains an incredible architectural feat and a great photo opportunity. This structure was the center of a famous Mayan legend: The ruler of Uxmal Mexico had been told that he would be deposed by a man who was not born of a woman. Eventually, a dwarf, raised from an egg by a witch, arrived at the city. The ruler threatened to kill him unless he could perform an impossible feat, built a pyramid overnight. With the help of his own magic as well as his mother's, the dwarf successfully built the Pyramid of the Magician and became the next ruler of Uxmal.
Aside from the Pyramid of the Magician, there are many other well-preserved ancient buildings. The Uxmal Palacio del Gobernador, or the Palace of the Governor, is a huge rectangular building that covers five acres of land. A 320 foot-long mosaic façade on the front of the building is its distinguishing feature. This mosaic contains 103 stone carvings of the rain god, Chac. There is also a large throne carved like a jaguar, situated at the front of the building. The Governor's Palace was probably a religious as well as administrative building during Uxmal's heyday.
Many other impressive buildings can be seen at Uxmal Mexico, albeit in various stages of preservation. The Turtle House is a simple rectangular building near the Governor's Palace, and the ruined ballcourt is now a grassy quadrangle with stone sides. There are a group of ruined buildings and pyramids at the area known as the Grupo Norte Uxmal (the north group), and the Dovecote is a beautiful ruined building with several rooms.
The Uxmal archaeological site is a well-developed tourist center with restaurants, toilet facilities, and a museum. A sound and light show is available in the evenings, though it costs an extra fee. There are hotels and other accommodation close to the site, but these can be quite expensive, and staying at the nearby town of Merida, an hour's drive away, may be a better option. Tours can also be arranged from Merida if you don't want to drive yourself; you can even look for an overnight trip from Cancun or Playa del Carmen, if you'd like to combine the trip with a beach vacation.