Guide to the Uxmal Ruins in Mexico!
If you love history, architecture, & Mayan culture ~ then the Uxmal Ruins in Mexico are a must on your Yucatan travel itinerary. South of the wonderful city of Merida, Uxmal is definitely off-the-beaten path a bit ~ & gives you the awe of Chichen Itza with fewer crowds. Because Chichen Itza is considered a World Wonder, it’s a #1 priority on most Yucatan itineraries. Which is fine. I went with my friends & we thoroughly enjoyed it. But I enjoyed Uxmal more…
Map of Uxmal Ruins & Hotels
On the map below, you’ll find the location of the Uxmal Ruins & the three closest hotels, as well as the Choco-Story Museum (pictured below). There are few things to do in Uxmal besides relax & visit the ruins, so if you like chocolate ~ you must visit the Choco-Story Museum!
Uxmal Resort Maya
The Lodge at Uxmal
Info on Uxmal Ruins
- Location of Uxmal Ruins: Uxmal is located on the western side of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, about 80 km south of Merida, or an hour’s drive. It’s roughly four hours from Cancun or Playa del Carmen to Uxmal, via toll roads. Directions should pull up easily on Google Maps.
- Hours & Entrance Fee: Open daily from 8AM-5PM. Quieter in the morning, busier in the afternoons. Entrance fee for Uxmal is about 132 pesos, or $7 US.
- Nightly Light Show at Ruins: A light show takes place at the Uxmal Ruins every night from 7:00-8PM. I did not see the show myself ~ but heard it was “cool,” though not a must.
- Best Way to Get to Ruins: Rent a car either in Merida or Cancun. This is the easiest, most cost-effective way to get to Uxmal. I rented a car in Playa del Carmen for $5/WEEK!!! Yup ~ you read that correctly. Best car rental deal I’ve ever found, through Kayak. Book in advance.
- Hotels Near Uxmal Ruins: 1) Uxmal Resort Maya ($42/night); 2) Hacienda Uxmal Plantation & Museum ($85/night); & 3) Villas Arquelogicas Hotel Uxmal ($132/night). ALL of these hotels are less than ONE MILE from the ruins. I stayed at the Uxmal Resort Maya & LOVED it ~ every room has a view of the ruins & they have a gorgeous pool; rooms are large. If you want more opulence & a higher price tag, opt for one of the other two options. Or, if you don’t want to spend the night in Uxmal, I highly recommend staying in the beautiful, authentic city of Merida. Check Merida hotel prices here.
History of the Uxmal Ruins
Uxmal is an ancient Mayan city, & is considered one of the most important archaeological sites of Mayan culture, along with other well-known ruins such as Chichen Itza & Palenque, as well as the famous Tikal Ruins in Guatemala. Uxmal has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in honor of its cultural significance.
The word Uxmal is derived from Oxmal, which means “three times built.” This likely refers to the fact that Uxmal had to be re-built numerous times. It was founded in 500 A.D. by Mayan leader Hun Uitzil Chac Tutul Xiu, & is said to have been the most dominant cultural center in the entire Yucatan Peninsula, along with the powerful Chichen Itza.
From a tourist’s perspective, you’re allowed to climb most of the structures at Uxmal ~ except the dominant (& very large) Pyramid of the Magician. This is different than many other ruins, which don’t allow climbing on any of the ruins.
Walking Tour of Uxmal Ruins
Using this map as our guide, let’s take a walking tour of the ruins. When you enter the site, you’ll start out in a little square with coffee & souvenir shops. This is where you buy your ticket ($7 US), & can grab a cup of coffee or some water. Next, you’ll climb a flight of stairs, & at the top, you’ll be greeted with an overwhelming & remarkable vantage point of the Pyramid of the Magician, Uxmal’s most awe-inspiring structure.
“We took another road, and, emerging suddenly from the woods, to my astonishment came at once upon a large open field strewed with mounds of ruins, and vast buildings on terraces, and pyramidal structures, grand and in good preservation, richly ornamented, without a bush to obstruct the view, and in picturesque effect almost equal to the ruins of Thebes… …The place of which I am now speaking was beyond all doubt once a large, populous, and highly civilized city. Who built it, why it was located away from water or any of those natural advantages which have determined the sites of cities whose histories are known, what led to its abandonment and destruction, no man can tell.”
– Written by John Lloyd Stephens, on an expedition to Uxmal in 1839
After marveling at Pyramid of the Magician, turn left & head towards the ball court & Governor’s Palace, which is a long, low building sitting atop a large platform. You can climb up & all around this platform, gaining great vantage points of the site. From a photographer’s standpoint though, the Governor’s Palace is nowhere near as impressive as the Pyramid of the Magician.
Adjacent to the Governor’s Palace is the impressive Great Pyramid ~ & yes, you can climb up this one! It’s not as large as Pyramid of the Magician, but it’s fun to be able to climb up, over, & around it’s narrow steps. If you have knee problems or are afraid of heights ~ you may want to skip this climb.
Once you’re at the top of the Great Pyramid, take in the view across the entire Uxmal Ruins.
My favorite part of Uxmal was the Nunnery Quadrangle, which is located directly behind the Pyramid of the Magician. From here, you can get amazing angles of the Pyramid, framed by arches & foliage. It gives you an entirely different perspective of the Pyramid, though no picture does justice to how high it actually is. You’ll find this out for yourself…
Is Solo Travel Safe at Uxmal?
As you can see from my pictures, I traveled solo to the Uxmal Ruins. I was actually quite sick when there, with the infamous “Cuba Cough.” So finding a quiet place like Uxmal suited me just fine ~ & in terms of safety, you should have no problems as a solo traveler. It’s a TINY town, all the hotels are very tourist-oriented & welcoming (my waiters knew I was sick & brought me tea daily!), & in general, it’s a very sleepy place. If you’re looking for nightlife: you won’t find it here! Head to Cancun or Playa del Carmen instead.
Speaking of safety in general within the Yucatan Peninsula: I drove ALL over the Yucatan both by myself & with friends, with zero issues (other than horrendous speed bumps)! I highly recommend the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico for solo female travel, & if you’re headed to Uxmal ~ definitely make a stop in the delightful city of Merida. It has none of the tourist-crazy vibe of Cancun, & all the charm of authentic Mexican culture. Highly recommended.
Goodbye, Uxmal Ruins!
Have you been to the Uxmal Ruins & Chichen Itza? Which one was your favorite? Did you travel solo there like I did? Let me know in the comments below!