“Why nobody told us about Ek Balam before?” my visitors asked to me. I had no answer. We had spent the morning at Chichén Itzá, perhaps the most famous Mayan city in the Yucatán Peninsula, and they were amazed by the Castle (Kulkulcán’s Temple), and the Ball Game Court, of course. But, when we got to Ek Balam, they just fell in love with the site.
“It feels more pristine, like very few people have been here, and there is jungle covering some buildings, like there are more secrets to discover here…” they said. And yes, it’s true. For me, Ek Balam is a Mayan secret gem. It has a different bright.
Ek Balam, which means “star jaguar” or “black jaguar”, is located only 20 miles north of Valladolid, in the Yucatán state, and two hours away from the Riviera Maya. Archaeologists believe the city covered 7.46 sq. miles, but they have explored only one sq. mile! However, this is enough to realize how different it was from any other Mayan cities. It seems that they developed their own architectural resources, like performing an entire façade with stucco.
“Which archaeological site do you prefer?”, I asked to them. “Ek Balam, definitely”, they said. I was agreed. It doesn’t mean I don’t like to take my visitors to Chichén Itzá. That ancient city is awesome, and the Mayan left it as a testimony of how much they understood about math, astronomy and architecture. It’s a must when you visit Yucatan or the Riviera Maya.
I just think that Ek Balam offers a more intimate experience. Since it’s not as crowded as “Chichén”, and the vendors are not allowed to stay inside the site, it easy to let the imagination fly and get a better idea of how this city looked like when the Maya lived there.
The best thing about Ek Balam -sorry, Chichén Itzá, fame has its price- is that its allowed to climb the pyramid. Long time ago, visitors could climb the Castle or Kukulcán’s Temple at “Chichén”. Now, we cannot even touch it. But we can have an idea of the view when visiting Ek Balam and climb the Acropolis, which has almost the same height as the first one: 30 m or 137 ft. Oh, that beautiful green carpet covering everything just take your breath away… And from the top you can see those unusual hills… well, those aren’t hills but undiscovered buildings!
I love this private tour itinerary: Chichén Itzá/Ek Balam. I mean, you do not have to choose one of these archaeological sites. You can visit them in the same day, because they are close to each other. Both my visitors and I were so tired at the end of the tour, but we were very happy too. I like to see their faces when they admire for the first time the grandeur of the Mayan Culture.
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