It’s surprising to me that Uxmal isn’t more well known. I assume that’s because it’s not really within day-trip range of the big resorts in Play and Cancun. Instead, most people who visit the Yucatan head to Chichen Itza and miss this little gem.
I headed to Uxmal on a steamy Sunday with a group of friends. Since there were 5 of us we decided to rent a car and split expenses which made the cost just about the same as that of the bus but much more convenient.
We set out early in order to beat the crowds and the heat which was fine for the driver but rough on the rest of us who’d spent the night before exploring some local Merida night life. After heading to sleep at 3 am, getting up at 6:30 was a bit of a struggle. But up and out we got and not having to walk to the bus station was a treat.
Uxmal is an easy 1.5-2.5 hour drive from Merida and is located close to several other lesser-known ruin sites which, for those who want to kill many birds with one stone, might make having a car make even more sense.
We arrived relatively early, before the big crowds from the city tour groups showed. Since it was Sunday and therefore free for Mexico residents, in the beginning most of the people we saw were local families which made a nice change from the typical group of garishly dressed, loud-spoken tour groups from the big resorts.
When we entered we decided to go to the left, rather than the right which was a great decision because we were going against the tide of the tour groups. This gave us a bit of time to explore in relative solitude which was nice. However, if you like to try to stalk the guides and gain some free info, that wouldn’t really work for you.
One of the things that really struck me about Uxmal was the detail involved in most of the buildings. I’m not sure if I just didn’t notice it at the other ruins, it didn’t exist or it had been worn away, but in any case, the amount of detail that you can see at Uxmal was very impressive.
The site itself is pretty spread out and you have to do some off-path wandering to get to some of the ruins. You can no longer climb the main pyramid, but there are other ruins that are on hills or that you can climb which will give you very nice views of the whole site (in spite of the nasty hotel that peeks through the trees and mars the view a bit.
It took us about 2 hours to make our way through the whole site by which time we were very hot and ready for some food and drinks. As is typical, the food at the site was expensive and the restaurants in the surrounding hotels were also a bit pricey. So we headed back on the road to a small roadside place we’d seen about 10 minutes before we entered the site. We were the only visitors but the food was good, plentiful and cheap so it was well worth a stop. if you’re taking the bus, you can exit/enter it right there if you’d like to stop.
There are several hotels in the area but for budget travelers your best bet is to stay in Merida and do a day trip. Many people visit Uxmal on the way to/from Campeche.