If you are planning a trip to Yucatan, Mexico, the ruins of Ek Balam need to make it onto your list of places to visit. Let me share 5 reasons to visit Ek Balam.
What Is Ek Balam?
It is an ancient Mayan City, like many other ruins in the Yucatan. It means "black jaguar", and is where the king of Ek Balam and his people used to live. The city was in use for about 1000 years, and interestingly enough, was not discovered until around 1980!
There is still much of the city itself that is uncovered. Only the center of this area has been uncovered. Funding is slowing the process as it is with so many other ruins in the area.
El Torre, or the tower, is one of the largest Mayan structures in the area.
Mayan Ruins In Yucatan Mexico
If you are in the area, chances are pretty good Chichen Itza is on your list of Mayan ruins. It was not on our route though, and let me tell you why.
While I have not visited the area and can't speak from first-hand experience, I heard Chichen Itza is very busy. Not only are there a lot of individuals and families who visit, but TONS of tour companies.
We tend to avoid those areas when we are on vacation. So, I started to look for other options.
Ek Balam came up in several searches, and its history is pretty cool. Not only that, but it is very close to a cenote, so we decided to give it a try.
5 Reasons To Visit Ek Balam Ruins
- You can still climb and explore many of these ruins. While this doesn't appeal to everyone, we loved being able to explore- even though it was pretty terrifying climbing el Torre.
- It is less crowded. As mentioned above, Chichen Itza is pretty close to this. If I had to do it all over again, I would choose this one again without a doubt.
- The history of these ruins is fascinating.
- It is in the same area as the beautiful cenote, if you are visiting Ek Balam in the hot summer months as we did, a dip in the cenote is a must!
- The area is so calm and peaceful. It feels as though you are stepping back in time.
Exploring Ek Balam
The second reason we loved the ruins at Ek Balam so much was that we were still able to climb on and explore so much of the city. We also visited Uxmal on this trip, and while you can admire the ruins, you cannot explore them.
There were a few areas that are closed off for restoration, but other than that, most are open.
40 structures are within the walls of this city.
Avoiding The Crowds
The first reason we loved Ek Balam is it is not as popular as Chichen Itza. This means we were able to visit and explore without being a shoulder to shoulder with a few hundred other people.
On the day we visited, I bet there were not more than 30 other people there. It is such a big site, there were plenty of times we were by ourselves. With space, it gives your time to explore.
History Of The Area
I loved to read all about the history of the area on the Mayan Ruins Website. This was where I did research before we left.
Ek Balam dates back to the Middle Pre-Classic, 700-300 B.C. Most of the construction dates to its Late Classic heyday,600-900 A.D. The name was used to identify the area or the leader.
They estimate that at one point this area housed about 20,000 people.
The most amazing things about the ruins are the facades and stone carvings. They are really amazing and tell so much of the history of the ruins and area.
In the same area, there is a beautiful cenote called Cenote X'canche. You get to the cenote from the same parking lot you park in for the ruins.
One thing I loved about it being so close was when we visited in July, it was HOT! Having a cenote so close to jump in and cool off was perfect!
The cenote was 30 feet deep, so the boys, my traveling friend, and others who were visiting jumped off the rope swings, and the stairs that led down. I opted for the tiny little platform about 3 feet off the water. That was scary enough for me.
The water was pretty cold, but it felt so good after being in the hot sun!!
They have lockers available, which I didn't see anyone use. Most people carried their things down in backpacks, then set them on the side while swimming. I kept an eye on our things, but didn't feel threatened or worry that anyone would take out things.
Exploring In Peace
One really cool thing about this area is it is fairly isolated. This is a good thing because it makes for such a nice peaceful trip. Exploring the grounds and the area was so soothing. Ek Balam is in a heavily forested area, this also adds to the quiet nature of the area.
So, if you like solitude and quietness, this area is for you.
Things To Know About Visiting Ek Balam
Wear decent shoes for walking and climbing. The ruins are spread out a bit and there is plenty of climbing to do. So, come prepared.
We visited in July and it was HOT. Bring plenty of water to stay hydrated.
There are no ATMs in the area and they do not accept credit cards, anywhere. So make sure you have cash. I will explain the expenses below.
The cost for entrance to Ek Balam is about 400 pesos or just a little over $20/person. I know this is a little spendy compared to other ruins, but it is well worth it, I promise.
There are drinks, snacks, and plenty of handcrafts to purchase as well. So, keep that in mind when you are deciding how much cash to bring.
The entrance for the cenote was about 80 pesos, $4/per person.
The cenote was a few miles off the parking lot. If you do not have a car, rent a bike! It is a good little walk.
There is the Mayan village of Ek Balam where a small population of people still live. We got turned around on the way in and wound up in the village, just a mile away. I would recommend seeing this small town.
There were many women weaving hammocks and fruit hammocks. I highly recommend stopping by the village and watching or even purchasing. The process was fascinating. One of my biggest regrets is not purchasing a hammock.