Uxmal is one of my favorite ancient Maya cities in the state of Yucatan. Over the past twenty-five years, my family and I visited it often. No matter how many times we see it, we don’t mind coming back to it over and over.
Revisiting the Ancient City of Uxmal
We were some of the first visitors of the day to the ancient Maya site of Uxmal. We enjoyed the cool breeze when we started walking, since we knew that later it would be hot and sticky. In the hills of Yucatan a breeze is a rare commodity and the humidity is high enough to make the heat unbearable.
Like every time we find ourselves in the region, we got up early to arrive to the site when it opened. Once again, we managed to beat the crowds that show up late morning in the tour buses from Cancun. The Pyramid of the Magician
Pyramid of the Magician. Uxmal
The first structure we noticed upon entering the site was the Pyramid of the Magician. Its massive frame dominates the plaza, and the whole site. One of the largest reconstructed pyramid on the peninsula, it is also my favorite. Its rounded sides have more of an appeal to me than the sharp corners of the pyramid of Kukulcan in Chichen Itza.
But part of the reason I love this particular pyramid has to do with the legend of its creation.
According to this legend, a dwarf, hatched from an egg, built it in one night. While doing it, he proved himself worthy to be the king of the ancient city. Read the whole legend, as well as a different point of view of my trip to Uxmal here . Revisiting the Nunnery Quadrangle
The Nunnery Quadrangle
Early in the morning we were sharing the site with only a handful of visitors. We made our way to the main compound of the Nunnery Quadrangle. The name doesn’t fit, it has nothing to do with nuns or any kind of nunnery. The Spaniards mislabeled it when they first saw it. The plaza surrounded by four major structures resembled their idea of a nunnery.
Archaeologists think that the plaza was a palace for high officials. In the center, it has a stage for ceremonial dances. Walking though it, we marvel at the elaborately decorated facades of the buildings. We can no longer enter any of the rooms, though we remember being inside them during previous visits. They are each very similar, in shape and size, with small variations.
Archway Entrance to the Nunnery Ball Court in Uxmal
We left the Nunnery Quadrangle, and walked through the ball court. Not quite as large as the one in Chichen Itza, it is still spectacular. This time it looked better than I remembered. We could tell that work was done to reconstruct it in the past few years.
Walking through the Palace of the Governors
We walked over to the Palace of the Governors, a long building on top of a high platform. My favorite feature of it is the facade. In fact, it is the longest facade in the Yucatan featuring the Rain God, Chak.
Palace of the Governors. Uxmal
These rooms were not closed, so we were able to enter them once again. We revisited the rooms that Stevens and Catherwood, the first Western explorers of the region, lived in while here . We talk about them as we walk through the rooms, and recognize the signs of fire in one of them. I remembered reading an interesting entry in their book about how a native built the fire for them. They wrote the Incidents of Travels in Yucatan over a century ago, but the book is still a good read.
Facade on the Palace of the Governors
Facade on the Palace of the Governors
Casa de la Tortugas
We walked over to the Casa de Las Tortugas, the small structure decorated with turtles. It was starting to get warm as the day progressed. We were prepared for the usual hot and sticky feeling we always get while exploring Mayan ruins. This time, Chak must have been in an unusually good mood. Clouds rolled in and a welcomed breeze cooled us down.
Casa de las Tortugas On the Grand Pyramid
We moved on to one of the structures we can still climb, the Grand Pyramid. We sat on top of it for a long time, enjoying the breeze, and the view of the site.
The pleasant breeze was soon accompanied by a few drops of rain. We visited this site often during the years, but I don’t ever remember rain here. Chak, the rain god, was happy indeed. We stood on top for a long time, enjoying the water hitting our hot bodies.
On top of the Grand Pyramid
While we were enjoying the light rain, we didn’t notice the crowds coming into the site. We looked down and realized that the major parts of the site were overrun by huge tour groups. When one of the large groups started climbing the stairs of the pyramid, we decided that it was time to leave. The Cemetery
We took the opportunity to revisit the cemetery. Most tours and visitors don’t bother walking so far, so we found ourselves alone once again. Later, we encountered one lone visitor here, among the stones decorated with skulls. Like us, he was enjoying the quiet that this out-of-the-way part of the site offered. The Pyramid of the Old Woman
Later on we took the less traveled path towards the Pyramid of the Old Woman, the mother of the legendary dwarf. Overgrown by vegetation, the trail doesn’t seem to be used , though is not closed down. Few visitors wonder out this far off the beaten path.
The pyramid of the Old Woman is still in rubble, though for the first time since our many visits, it is roped off. ‘Will they work on reconstructing it?’, we wonder . It is a good size pyramid, though far from the center of the city.
According to legend, this Old Woman was a witch and lived in a small hut. After her son, the dwarf, became king, he built this pyramid for her. It must have been beautiful in its time.
On the way out, we had trouble navigating the crowds in the main plaza and the entrance area. We were glad that once again we managed to enjoy the site while sharing it with only a handful of fellow visitors.