The ruins of Ek Balam are certainly not one of the most well-known or most-visited sites in the Yucatan. However, Ek Balam is a beautiful place to dive into Mayan history and learn about the culture. One of the reasons we love Ek Balam is that it is often much quieter than other sites like Tulum and Chichen Itza. You can take a guided tour of Ek Balam, or just go it on your own!
If you’re looking for a short recommendation, here it is: visit Ek Balam! It is definitely worth it, and is one of my favorite ruin experiences. Do it now, before it becomes too crowded.
About Ek Balam
Ek Balam is one of many Mayan sites in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Located in the state of Yucatan (map below), Ek Balam is fairly close the famed Chichen Itza.
This city was a bustling center in its day, and acted as the seat of the Mayan civilization. Ek Balam was populated during the Preclassic Period of the Maya (while Chichen Itza was toward the end of the Postclassic Period). Ek Balam is believed to have acted as the capital city for the government of the people.
Meaning jaguar star or black jaguar in Mayan, the city had great devotion to jaguars. With 45 structures, the city was home to over 20,000. Many of the farmers and peasants lived outside the walls, while the more prominent and wealthy lived inside.
Located in the middle of the jungle, Ek Balam is truly a beautiful site to see. The buildings are in excellent condition, with stucco motifs still visible to the naked eye. There is also a building which you can climb, one of few left in the area.
If you want to learn more about the Maya people, read our post at https://therivieramaya.org/mayan-books/ about the best Mayan books!
Getting to Ek Balam
One of the reasons fewer people visit Ek Balam than other sites like Tulum and Muyil is that it is quite a ways out in the jungle. There are many Mayan ruins in the Riviera Maya, and getting to Ek Balam can be a trek.
That being said, don’t be scared away. It’s only two hours away, and a beautiful drive. You can stop in the beautiful colonial town of Valladolid for a little break. You can rent a car, take a guided tour, or go the taxi route for the most expensive option.
One of the best ways to go if you’re staying in Playa del Carmen or the Riviera Maya is to take a guided tour that includes transport. We recommend checking out THIS TOUR for the best experience at the ruins!
On the same grounds as Ek Balam is the beautiful cenote X’Canche. You can get to the cenote from the same parking lot, by simply going right before entering the ruins. There are bicycle taxis there ready to take you over to the cenote with ease. There are small changing rooms, a bathroom, and sometimes some food available.