North-east of Valladolid, the Mayan Ruins of Ek Balam are one of the best examples of the Mayan world found in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. There is still much of this location that has yet to be excavated; only the main plaza has been excavated. It was once the seat of an important Mayan Kingdom and the site has many well-preserved examples of Mayan architecture, especially the tomb of Ukit Kan Lek Tok, the tallest pyramid on the site. For the best views of Ek Balam, hike to the top of the staircase.
Ek Balam means ‘black jaguar’ in the Mayan Language. The city was prominent from 300bce until the end of the Mayan Empire and was likely known as Talol instead of Ek Balam. The main pyramid of Ukit Kan Lek Tok is noted for the preservation of the plaster on the side of the tomb, which is covered and on display. Much like Coba, it is still possible to climb to the top of the tallest pyramid. We had heard that on a really clear day its possible to see the distant pyramids at Chichen Itza and Coba on the horizon.
Most of the buildings here are from the late classical period. Despite its size and importance during the Mayan period, it was abandoned when the Spanish arrived and the site was hidden until the 1980’s when excavation began. There are some impressive buildings that have been uncovered here aside from the main pyramid, including the Entrance Arch, the Oval Palace, and ball-court, and includes a defensive wall surrounding the complex.
Ek Balam is located a short drive from Valladolid, and while it might not get the same attention of its more famous neighbors – Coba and Chichen Itza – it holds a special charm. While a lot of this Mayan ruin is still under dirt awaiting excavation, the main plaza is well preserved, and most days you will have this place mostly to yourself