Interested in Uxmal?
We'll send you updates with the latest deals, reviews and articles for Uxmal each week.
Topics include Transportation, Things to Do, Dining Scene, Mexico: For Foreign Visitors & more!
Uxmal (thrice built) is thought to have been constructed five times. Of all sites in Yucatan, it boasts some of the most intricate temples built by the Chene and Puuc, who pieced together mosaics from stone using no metal tools nor mortar. As there is no water source at Uxmal, there are chultunes scattered around the city, the first of which is stationed between the main steps leading into the site.
Once on site, the impressive 'Magicians pyramid' rises steeply into the sky, constructed with sloped, curved walls, and decorated with intricate stone work. An old legend claims there was a sorceress who gave birth to an egg, which hatched and grew into a dwarf. He was instructed by his mother to challenge the king of Uxmal, and was successful in defeat. This angered the King, who ordered the dwarf to construct a temple in one night. With the help of his mother, the dwarf succeeded in building the pyramid, and after beating on more challenge, was named the magician and uler of Uxmal. It is said the "House of the Old Woman" is where his mother, the sorceress, lived.
The Nunnery Quadrangle is a site to behold, with intricate stonework, and a fantastic Mayan arch, which are considered to be "false" arches. No proof has been found as to the purpose of the buildings that are constructed around a square courtyard, though the Spanish suspected it may have been a convent for women. Mayan scholars believe perhaps the priests did live here, but cannot be sure. It is a wonderful example of Puuc architecture, once again, and thus why Uxmal is a superb site to see with regards to esthetics.
The ball court is insteresting to compare with the massive court at Chichen Itza, as it is much smaller, and has lower slanted walls. Historians believe this equates to a less violent game, with fewer players. The lower slanted walls make the game much easier to play. At Chichen Itza, the court is enclosed, but at Uxmal, there are only the two parallel walls, with no ends. (Coba has similar courts)
Dove-cots resembles the Nunnery Quadrangle in terms of lay-out, and is thought to have provided housing. There is another Mayan arch, much like the arch leading into the quadrangle, the main difference being that dove-cots is not re-constructed, and is over-run with vegetation and trees, making it difficult to explore the lower terraces. Walk through the arch to see the quadrangle between the stone wall and pyramid structure behind.
The Great Pyramid was left unfinished for unknows reasons, and is one pyramid available for climbing. Archaeologists has discovered the pyramid was being de-built to construct a second pyramid behind the Great Pyramid, which remains a mystery. Terracing played an important role for agriculture, at Uxmal. Studies have shown the leeching of nutrients in the soil made Uxmal a beautiful garden amidst a terribly hot climate with no water sources.
The Governors Palace has the most impressive terrace of all, as the construction of the retaining wall runs 600 feet long, and 500 feet wide. The terrace itself, is 40 feet high, and is interesting to note the Governors Palace is the same height as the Magicians pyramid, due to this massive platform. The Governors Palace is considered to be one of the finest of Mayan stone-work. Before the palace, is a platform with a stone jaguar. It is interesting to note the House of the Old Woman is centered with the Governors Palace and Jaguar, meaning if one walks straight from the Jaguar, down the steps, the path below leads to this house where the sorceress was believed to live.
There are several other structures of Uxmal, including some which require a guide. As Uxmal is a large city, it takes a full day to see the entire site. The heat can be unbearable in the afternoon, so travellors are recommended to arrive early, drink lots of water, and cover up from the sun. There are less tourists at Uxmal, than other sites near the coast of Quintana-Roo, making it a wonderful excursion from Merida. One could never forget the architectural style of this site, as each temple is constructed as if a mosaic of artwork.