Uxmal Mayan Ruins
Archaeological site in Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico.
First things first. Uxmal, according to our tour guide, is pronounced something like “ewsh-mall”. I spent weeks saying “ux-mall”, and nope, that’s not right…at-all.
Like I mentioned in my previous post, we stopped at two ports on our Western Caribbean Carnival Cruise. Our first stop was at Cozumel, and our second was at Progreso. Progreso is located on the north-western tip of the Yucatan Peninsula with the closest big city being Merida. For this port, we had quite a few excursion options, but we ultimately chose the Uxmal Mayan Ruins (Zona Arqueológica de Uxmal) because of the reviews. We considered going to see Chichen Itza since it’s one of the seven wonders of the world, but I think we made the right choice because our tour was fantastic and there weren’t a ton of people. And as a side note, I want to thank my mom for gifting us the excursion – she does “experiences” for James and me in lieu of physical presents for birthdays/Christmas. And this was definitely quite the experience!
After gathering in the Rome Lounge on board to make sure we had all of the documents/information needed, we walked off the ship and found our guide holding the correct sign. We waited for what felt like foreeeeeever, and still, six people who had already paid for the excursion didn’t show up. Our guides finally made the decision that we couldn’t wait any longer.
We grabbed our supplied snacks (ham/cheese sandwich, banana, cookies, and a water from “Nuevo Wal-mart de México”) and climbed onto the tour bus. The seats were comfy but there wasn’t the bathroom we’d been promised (which was fine until the drive back when I’d gotten a few margaritas in me!)
One of our tour guides spoke for about 45 minutes as we made our way south through Merida. Then we had about an hour more to kill so I read Audra’s paperback since she had fallen fast asleep.
I’m going to be honest here. James and a few others had spooked me about the dangers of being a tourist in Mexico – apparently a few years back a tour bus was robbed – so I couldn’t get it off my mind leading up to the excursion. I even took my backup DSLR and none of us brought our phones. But like everything I stress myself out about, once we were actually riding along, I realized I had been worried for nothing. Our drive wasn’t scary, and other than the signs being in Spanish, it generally looked like we were moving along any interstate in America.
I get that I still have to be cognizant of my surroundings, but isn’t that true anywhere? I clearly am a noob at international travel. And I’m a big worrier. So, I have some growing and learning to do if I want to step outside of my comfort zone again.
Anyway, we arrived at the ruins and encountered a really beautiful area full of bookstores, gift shops, refreshment stands, restrooms, and a restaurant. After about ten minutes, we got started on our tour.
Now I’ll tell you now, I don’t love guided tours. Give me a pamphlet or just let me read the signs and I’m good to go. We only had three hours at the ruins, and honestly, I didn’t love that half of that time was spent following along in a group listening to facts and history that I definitely won’t remember. (Although I do find it fascinating while I’m listening!) Am I alone on this?
But as far as tour guides go, I did really love ours. His name was Armando. In addition to just being a funny and knowledgable guy, he gave us a chance to take photos as we went, and we did have time at the end to walk around and check things out on our own. So it was fine.
I figure you know how to use Wikipedia so I won’t bore you with a lot of information about the ruins. The highlights are that it is a very important archaeological site that was constructed by the Mayans sometime around 850-1000 CE (common/current era). The history of the place is incredible, and I wish we’d taken more time to learn about it all before we were there.
Once you’re past the entrance area, you come across this structure which I believe was once used to collect water.
But just a little bit further, and we were rewarded with this beautiful oblong building. The House of the Magician. (La Casa del Adivino)
As we walked around to the left/east of it, we got a different view.
This is the backside (which might actually be the front.)
Just beyond that is the Quadrangle of the Birds. (Cuadrángulo de los Pájaros) It seems it’s also referred to as The Nunnery online.
And there were spiny tailed iguanas everywhere. And they were huge.
This is standing inside the quadrangle.
One of the reasons we chose these ruins was that we could climb on them! So we did.
We moved out of the quadrangle farther to the east toward the Ball Court. This shot is looking back toward the quadrangle. Gorgeous, right?
I don’t remember much about this part of the tour, but I do recall Armando telling us the winner of the big Ballgame (el Juego de Pelota) got his head cut off as a prize. Sooooo, that sounds like a fun time for all.
The kids felt like this looked a bit like quidditch, but on the ground. Where are my Harry Potter fans? Apparently the object was to get a rubber ball through the “hoop” using only one’s knees, elbows, or hips. Sounds easy enough.
Another iguana. One of at least 20 we saw that day.
I believe this path led back toward the cemetery, but we didn’t make it over there. And it’s important to note that this “ta-da!” pose was not related to the cemetery! We didn’t even know it was there at the time. 😉
This is where I sat down and took a break because I have apparently been in Colorado’s dry climate too long. Shockingly enough, Mexico is hot. And humid.
But James and Austin were brave (and energetic) enough to run up the stairs of The Great Temple/Pyramid. (Templo Mayor o Gran Pyrámide) Can you see them?
They also got a selfie at the top.
James ran all the way back down, grabbed my DSLR, then ran all way back up to snap these shots. I think I’m gonna keep him around.
In the center there you can see the quadrangle and the House of the Magician.
I believe to the right there you can see the Governor’s Palace (Pialacio del Gobernador), but we apparently didn’t make it over to that structure.
Here is another shot of The Great Pyramid – with all the other brave tourists on it.
And because I like to torture my kids…one more shot of them.
I can’t for the life of me figure out what this building is, but it seems to be just in front of the Governor’s Palace.
Now that we’re home and looking at the maps online of the place, I realize we missed quite a few things as we headed back toward the entrance! I’m not even sure if printed guides were available, but I bet we could have purchased some sort of pamphlet in the book store. I think mostly we were thirsty and ready to get in the shade, so maybe we wouldn’t have kept exploring regardless.
As we were walking out, Armando offered to snap a family photo for us.
And then we got one more directly in front of the House of the Magician. Because you can never take enough photos, amiright?
Once we were back in the gift shop area, we counted our dollars and tried to figure out what we could afford. Thankfully, all of the places we visited in both Cozumel and Uxmal accepted American money, but we weren’t smart enough to bring more cash. We figured we’d gotten enough souvenirs the day before, and we didn’t know there’d be a restaurant.
Well, as luck would have it, we had just enough money to get a magnet, four margaritas (2 for the ride home), drinks & ice cream for the kids, and tips for our server and tour guides. Whew!
These were the best $5 margaritas we’ve ever had in our lives! And the complimentary chips/salsa were amazing as well.
The ride back was way more fun thanks to our little solo cups full of sweet and sour slushy goodness, but I was really needing that bathroom by the time we made it back to port!
This was by far our favorite day of the cruise. And Audra has decided she wants to learn Spanish, so we’ll see what happens with that. But what I know for sure is that we will be back.
Mexico has absolutely captured our hearts. We can’t wait to plan our next trip! Have you been to one of the Mayan archaeological sites? Or do you have a favorite spot in Mexico? We’d love to hear about it!