I am so happy I got to squeeze this into my trip as I loved walking around Uxmal. I can only recommend it if you are in doubt of going or not. Come here early to have the site to yourself. You can hear birds singing, iguanas "waking up" and at times pure silence.
As said this was a last minute decision as I wanted to do most of the trips by public transport, but it seemed almost impossible to reach Uxmal and Celestun in the same day. (More on Celestun in a separate post), but Delio the guide we had on the tour to Chichen Itza placed the seed and so we checked options with getting a private car. As Delio's brother Luis (contacts) lives in Merida he offered us a price of 2600 pesos (130 Euro) to bring us to Uxmal & Celestun and pay the parking in Uxmal. This was a bit expensive I would say, but to be fair he also provided us a lot of information about different things in Mexico.
Getting there from Merida
By car - 130 Euro
By Oriente (second Class ADO)
Entrance Prices & Schedule
The parking is 80 pesos
The ticket is 418 pesos for foreigners to be paid cash
Program is 8:00 - 17:00 (you can buy tickets till 16:00)
Sunday's Mexicals can enter for free with their ID, take this into account when planning visiting Uxmal.
!Notes (archaeological sites)
1. Drones are not allowed
2. If you want to use a GoPro or similar, you need to pay a fee
Information about Uxmal
Uxmal was first settled 500 BC but only in the 9th & 12th century AD it became the seat of the Maya political and economic power in the Puuc region ("Puuc" in Yucatec Mayan means "hill" and this area is the only place in this flat limestone peninsula where there are any hills + the highly-decorated style of Maya architecture used here that is known as Puuc. - Source)
It is estimated that a population of 25000 inhabitants was distributed over a territory of 37.5 square km with enormous agricultural potential but lacking in permanent water sources. They has developed a complicated system to use rainwater.
"Uxmal was declared a world heritage site by Unesco in 1996, and it’s considered one of the most important archaeological sites in the Mayan Peninsula." (Source)
Below Picture provides some great route options that you can explore. We followed the Short Route (in red)
Now let the exploration begin :)
1. Pyramid of the Magician
You get to start with the Pyramid of the Magician, which looks like the biggest from all the buildings I saw in Uxmal, and this pyramid 5 structures have been identified from 5 different time periods; interesting guys this Mayas.
There is this Website, Mayan Peninsula, I need to give credit to also in this post as on top of what I read from before, what Luis told us and what I read on the boards in Uxmal, I got some super cool info from this web-page. So below you can see how the 5 stages of this pyramid evolved.
"The pyramid of the Magician in Uxmal was made in such a way that the western staircase faces the sun on the summer solstice sunset. It measures around 35 meters in height and has an elliptical plan of 53.5 meters." (Source)
2. The Nunnery Quadrangle
Going further you reach the Nunnery Quadrangle. I loved the decorations on the building as well as the view from it. Take some times for fulling around taking fun pictures :)
It was built from 900-1000, and the name related with nuns was assigned in the 16th century because it resembled a convent. The quadrangle consists of four palaces placed on different levels that surround a courtyard. (Source)
3. The Ball Court
After passing through the nunnery Quadrangle you reach the ball court. This is smaller than the one in Chichen Itza and is a good link to the next section of the "city"
4. The Temple of the Turtles
This was my favorite building. You might ask me why, and I would tell you: I don't know. Maybe the view from there but I have no real arguments :)
The decoration is sober and its smooth interior walls contrast with the columns that are in the upper facade, where along the cornice there are sculptures of turtles, which acquire great importance due to their association with the rain and with the earth. Surely the Temple of the Turtles in Uxmal was dedicated to the aquatic cult.
The building is about 30 m long and 10 m wide.
5. The Governor's Palace
This one is really stunning, crazy decorated looks pretty amazing.
"The decoration of the facade of the building has glyphs of Venus, placed on the cheeks of the masks of Chac, god of rain and fertility, there are also eight two-headed snakes above the main entrance. Along the facade, there are thatched huts, garlands, columns, thrones, feather headdresses, numerals with bars and dots appearing in two Chac masks in the north corners of the palace. In the center stands the throne of a sovereign sitting majestically, surrounded by entwined snakes and masks of the god Chac." (Source)
6. The Great Pyramid
This one is a great one as well. With all the steps you can climb (it's about 30 m tall) and if you are lucky enough to be there alone for a moment to take in everything you saw it's quite something.
"Is one of the few large Mayan buildings that you can still climb. It has nine stepped bodies and a stairway facing north" (Source)
"There are four last steps to reach the top of the Temple of Great Pyramid in Uxmal named Temple of the Guacamayas, where there’s an entryway with a large mask of Chac. This Temple was built on the VIII century and it was decorated by a cornice, frets and a decoration of birds, specifically macaws, which gives the temple its name. The Temple’s corners have three masks of Chac, one over another, the figureheads have a rounder sculpting than others from Uxmal." (Source)
With all the pictures, toilette breaks and so one, it took us almost 1.5h to go around and explore. This is more in case you would need to time anything or are in a hurry.