Ek Balam Mayan Ruins
This is part 2 of my Ek Balam Mayan Ruins & Rio Lagartos day tour – view part 1 here.
After what had already been a great day out to the Rio Lagartos lagoon it was time to visit the Mayan ruins of Ek Balam. There are many notable ruins in the Yucatan area of Mexico including Tulum, Chichen Itza, and Coba. Ek Balam is probably the least well-known of the 4, and even though I’ve visited many Mayan ruins throughout Central America Ek Balam stands apart from the rest because of it’s well-preserved, exquisitely crafted stucco sculptures and artwork. Unlike the more popular ruins Chichen Itza and Tulum, you’re also still allowed to climb up the steps of the acropolis pyramid “El Torre” at Ek Balam, for panoramic views of the the surrounding jungle. The combination of less crowds and more freedom to explore made for a better experience than it’s more famous cousins.
In the Yucatec-Maya language Ek Balam translates to Black Jaguar and was once a very important kingdom in the Mayan world, and was the warring rival enemies of Tikal in Guatemala.
Only the central area of the site has been excavated and many more smaller structures remain buried to this day. Pictured above is the arch you walk through to enter the main plaza surrounded by temples and structures.
The acropolis pyramid called “El Torre” (The Tower) located in the Central Plaza is 100 feet high. There are 106 steps to reach the peak and numerous stucco art sculptures to see along the way up. Near the top of the temple is the tomb of Ukit Kan Le’k Tok’ who was once the ruler here. His tomb is protected by the mouth of a jaguar complete with teeth. The details and decoration surrounding the tomb are unlike anything I’ve seen at other sites.. just incredible! Unlike other Mayan archaeological sites the decorations were not carved from stones but instead created with painted stucco and limestone mortar.
Climbing to the peak of the main temple can be difficult if you’re not in the best shape. The heat and humidity combined with narrow and uneven stairs require careful navigating. You’ll want to reach the top so you can be rewarded with a 360 degree view of the stunning jungle canopy the stretches out for miles.
Ek Balam makes for a great day trip from anywhere in the Riviera Maya you might be staying. It’s closest to the small town of Valladolid and is just 32 miles Northeast of Chichen Itza. If you’re up for long day you can combine a visit with another attraction such as Chichen Itza, a nearby Cenote, or Rio Lagartos as I did.
- Tour length: 1-2 Hours.
- Entry Fee: 185 Pesos (~$10 USD)
- Hours: 8 AM – 5 PM Everyday