When people think about the Mayan culture and its splendid sites, they usually think about Chichen Itzá in first place, for this site you will find on every post card from Mexico. But whereas Ek Balam is one of the less well know Mayan sites, it is not less great than Chichen Itzá. When you go there, you will be impressed by its buildings and its Acropolis. The name Ek Balam comes from Mayathan (Yucatan Mayan) and it is assumed that it could be translated as “Black Jaguar”. But depending on the kind of spelling, the word “Ek” can also be interpreted as “star”. Indeed, during the latest excavations there were some star-like looking drawings found at the walls of one of the buildings. Thus, “Star Jaguar” seems to be the better name of this impressive place.
Why Ek Balam?
Let’s first answer the question, why you should visit this place besides the other ones you might be interested in. Well, my main reason to recommend this place is the fact that here you can enjoy the place without masses of tourists. While Chichen Itzá is completely overcrowded, at Ek Balam you will find yourself amidst of just few visitors.
The other reason to visit Ek Balam is a nearby cenote called X’Canche, which you can visit at the same site where Ek Balam is located.
The third reason to visit Ek Balam is the fact that is not far away from the famous Chichen Itzá. Sure, Chichen Itzá is fully overrun. But nevertheless, this place is an obligatory visit for every fan of the Mayan culture and history.
Where is Ek Balam located?
Ek Balam is located at the peninsula Yucatan, about 28 km (approx. 17 miles) north of the colonical city of Valladolid, while Chichen Itzá is located about 53 km (approx. 33 miles) west of Valladolid. Check out the maps below, folks.
How to get to Ek Balam?
Well, it depends on where you stay in Mexico.
When you stay in Valladolid, you could take a taxi. To be exactly a shared taxi, called “colectivo taxi”. You will find those taxis along Calle 44, between Calles 35 and 37. The price for a one-way ride is about 50 Pesos per person, and the trip will last about 25 minutes. If you don’t want to go with a shared taxi, you can take a normal taxi, but the price will be much higher.
If you stay farther away, you need to rent a car or go there with a travel group by a touring coach, for this place is located in a jungle.
Parking at Ek Balam
You will find a big parking place at Ek Balam, and you can park there for free. Please note: it could be possible that you would be asked by some teenager guys to watch your car for a couple of dollars during your visit of the ruins. To be clear, the parking place in Ek Balam is secure and is not necessary to pay for a guarding service.
We did this nevertheless, but because of other reasons. In our case there was a boy about 13 years old who offered this service. I knew that the people in Mexico don’t have much money. Therefore, I thought, it would be worth to give this boy some cash. At least, it was better to give him some cash for a job instead for a beggary. Thus, I gave him 20 Pesos and told him he would receive another 20, if he cares about our car well.
Entrance fee and opening hours in Ek Balam
The entrance fee for tourists is higher than for Mexican people and it amounts to 193 Mexican Pesos (about 9,60 US-Dollar / 8,- Euro / 7,20 Br. Pounds). Please note, that it was the entrance fare during my visit and that it may change over time. The locals are paying about 30% less than tourists. For me it was not okay and we have here the same situation like at the Biomuseo in Panama City. It’s not about the money, folks, but about the matter of principle…
Opening hours: 8 am to 5 pm
What will you find at Ek Balam?
After a brief walk of about 10 minutes on a pretty broad and beaten path, you will reach the archeological site of Ek Balam. You will find several pretty well conserved ruins there and a the Acropolis which you can walk up to the top. From the top of the Acropolis, you will get an overview over the jungle and almost the whole area of Ek Balam. Besides that, you will get the possibility to climb up onto some other ruins which makes a lof of fun and gives a great experience to explore Ek Balam. Just check out the pics in my Mexico gallery, folks.
When you are ready with your visit of Ek Balam and on your way back to the parking place, you will get a possibility to visit the nearby cenote named X’Canche and swim a lap there. To do this, you can e.g. hire a bicycle taxi driver who will bring you to the cenote. The ride will last about 10 minutes.
Okay, folks, that’s it. If you have any questions, just leave your questions in the comments and I will ask them as soon as possible. Wish you a great time in Mexico! By the way, if you would like to know more about things to do in Mexico, for example about Cozumel, then check out this blogpost.