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.
What Makes Ek Balam so amazing?
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. We really loved these ruins because they were close to the city (easy to explore here with a car) but because they were so quiet.
Not having to share you experience with thousands of other visitors should be reason enough to come visit. It’s not often that you get to explore a complex like this and not see many other people.
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 to see the city ruins surrounded by the dense jungle of the Yucatan.
Where is Ek Balam and how do you get there?
Ek Balam is located a short drive from Valladolid (Mexico). While it might not get the same attention of its more famous neighbors (Coba or Chichen Itza) it holds its own 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
This was a great spot for exploring, and we arrived on a day when the sun was shining with minimal clouds and blue skies, which is perfect for ruins pictures (and more important, it was a little less humid). The excavated portion of the ruins isn’t too big but has some very nicely preserved temples in the main square. There are two tall pyramids on the site waiting to be unearthed by future archeologists.
The highlight of any Mayan Ruins exploration is when there is a tall pyramid that you can climb, and Ek Balam has the tomb of Ukit Kan Lek Tok, which allows for great views of the surrounding landscape.
This was a really great experience, and the fact that it’s so close to Valladolid, and the nearby Chichen Itza ruins, means that you should be able to stop by here to explore on a day trip from most Riviera Maya destinations. You will not be disappointed.
Mayan Ruins of Ek Balam
Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Ek Balem:
The Mayan Ruins of Ek Balam is a small Mayan city located just outside of Valladolid, Mexico on the Yucatan Peninsula. Ek Balam means ‘black jaguar’ in the Mayan Language and the city was prominent from 300bc until the end of the Mayan Empire.
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. The best place to experience the city is at the top of the staircase, where you can see the entire city from above, surrounded by the dense jungle of the Yucatan Peninsula.