The Ancient Mayan City of Uxmal, Mexico

Uxmal pyramid of the magician

Uxmal (pronounced oosh-mawl) is an ancient Mayan city located in the Puuc region of the Yucatán Peninsula, 38.5 miles (62 km) south of Mérida, Mexico. Uxmal has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered an important representation of the Puuc architectural style.

Archeologists estimate that Uxmal was founded around 500 A.D., with most of its architecture built between about 700 and 1100 A.D. No new construction seems to have occurred after 1200 A.D. when it is believed the population of Uxmal declined. Most historians seem to agree that it was a drought that caused the Mayans to leave the area. However, the actual dates and reasons for Uxmal’s abandonment are controversial.

Entering the 150 acre site of Uxmal, you are greeted by the impressive 120-foot high Pyramid of the Magician (Piramide del Adivino). Set in the backdrop of a beautifully clear blue sky, this majestic structure inspired awe and appreciation for the effort that must have gone into its construction. This pyramid is also known as the House of the Dwarf (Casa del Enano) because of an ancient legend claiming it was built overnight by an enchanted dwarf who then became the city’s ruler.

Making my way around the Pyramid of the Magician brought me to the Nunnery Quadrangle (Cuadrángulo de las Monjas). Archeologists believe this area, consisting of four rectangular buildings, may have been a palace or residence for priests or soldiers. It received its name in the 16th century, as it was thought to resemble a convent.

Walking through an opening in one of the structures of the Nunnery Quadrangle, I found the Games Court (Juego de Pelota) where Mesoamerican ball games were played. The court is roughly 111 by 33 feet (34 by 10 meters).

Less crowded and less commercialized than its well-known neighbor, Chichen Itza, I enjoyed the more serene feel of Uxmal. There was a noticeable lack of vendors at Uxmal, which creates a less touristy feel. Uxmal encourages you to go at a slower pace, take it all in, and imagine what life was like here centuries ago.

Above, a friend rests near the base of 100 ft. high Great Pyramid (La Gran Piramide).

Further south, atop a wide terrace accessed by stairs, is the Governer’s Palace (Palacio del Gobernador). The Governor’s palace is a beautiful well-preserved example of Puuc architecture.

The view from the terrace was spectacular. A gorgeous clear blue sky provided a backdrop for viewing the Pyramid of the Magician, the Nunnery Quadrangle, and the ball court.

A push mower? Someone get his guy a cerveza!

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    1. Hi Eric. Thanks for stopping by. The people were actually that sparse, unlike Chichen Itza which was crowded and full of vendors. It made for a really nice relaxing environment. Chichen Itza arguably had more impressive structures. In particular, Chichen Itza has a massive ball field. I still preferred the environment of Uxmal overall.

  1. What an impressive site! It looks like you picked a perfect day to visit. As always, your storytelling is top notch here. It really seems like a contemplative place. The workmanship on these structures is hard to fathom considering when it was built. Just mind-blowing. And that dude with the push mower is a trooper! Se merece mucha cerveza!

    1. Agreed. It’s such an impressive place to behold. Unlike Chichen Itza, I found Uxmal to be very calming and serene. Yeah, that mower guy is definitely a trooper. He was dwarfed by the pyramid and had his work cut out for him.

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