Just 15 years ago Ek Balam (“Black Jaguar” or “Jaguar Star” in Mayan) was excavated and was believed to be an incredibly important Mayan City which dates back to 700 AD. This great city was inhabited as early as 100 BC and was first founded by the ruler “Coch Cal Balam”. In 800 AD, Ukil-Kan-Lek-Tok ruled Ek Balam. His tomb was found inside the main pyramid, which is also known as “The Acropolis”. As you can imagine the archaeologist’s great excitement in uncovering more fascinating glimpses into the ancient Mayan World
After walking ten minutes through the dense jungle you will reach the entrance of Ek Balam. You will marvel at the oversized arch way with the remains of “Sac-be” (old Mayan roads). These roads connected Ek Balam to other major Mayan cities including Chichen Itza and Coba for the transportation of their goods (honey, corn, wax and cotton).
On the way to the main pyramid you will pass through the Ball Court. The ball game was vital to the Mayan Life. The teams would play in front of Kings, Priests and Nobel men. It is believed that the winning team or team leader would be sacrificed, and offered to the gods. Archaeologists believed that the chosen one would be ritually thrown down into the Jaguars mouth (located in the main pyramid) which is also known as the “Gate of Hell”. This sixty feet hole has several long wooden spikes at the bottom and represented a portal the other world. At its base are stucco skulls and to its right are unusual winged figures, (which are thought to be Mayan angels). The sacrifice of humans and animals among the Mayans was very important, as they believed that bloodletting was a way of speaking with their gods. At Ek Balam there is evidence that bloodletting rituals were practiced here.
Upon arriving to possibly one of the most impressive sites in the Mayan World: the main pyramid you will be in awe of its size and the fact that people are working around the site exploring and discovering the temples and surrounding areas. The stairs are in great condition and fairly easy to climb, not like that of Nohoch Mul at Coba. The climb to the top seems like a hard one, but believe me the views are spectacular from the top. As you reach the top you can literally see for miles upon miles. Take a good look and if you’re lucky you can see Coba and Chichen from the top! Just proves how high this magnificent pyramid really is.
Make your way across to the other set of ruins that you saw from the top of the main pyramid, here you will see areas that are being excavated. There are 3 main palaces overlooking an impressive court yard. Take the short climb to the palace right in front of the main pyramid. You will be faced with a square shaped arch way. During the spring and summer equinoxes the sun perfectly shines through this hole. This hole is almost identical to that of the Mayan ruins of Dzibilchaltun found just north of Merida.
Most cities in the Mayan World were built in close proximity to a cenote, which was their fresh water source. The nearest cenote to Ek Balam is about a kilometer away, which is why the city leaders had to figure out a way to store rain water underground. They did this by collecting the rain water in chultunes (Mayan cisterns) and using it when necessary.
Ek Balam feels very different than that of the other Mayan ruins that I have visited, maybe because it’s so quiet and no large crowds, the fact that not a lot of information is known about this incredible set of ruins – so the anticipation of knowing more increases or maybe it’s because of the majestic views from the top of Coba and Chichen Itza either way I fully enjoyed my day at Ek Balam and will visit again very soon.
To see all of the photos from our day click HERE
How to get there:
- From the Riviera Maya, Tulum and Costa Maya; it is easiest to take the Coba road and continue on the road to Chemax and Valladolid.
- From Cancun and Puerto Morelos; it is easiest to take the Cuota road towards Merida and exit at Valladolid, and then go north.
Price: 95 pesos per person | Opening hours: 9am – 4.15pm
Mayan Explore´s Top Tips:
- The temperature, like everywhere in the Yucatan Peninsula, is very hot and humid, make sure to wear sun block, a hat and bring a bottle of water with you.
- As you enter the path to Ek Balam, there are several people selling their local goods: sweets, food, and handcrafts. All of which seem to be a lot cheaper than other archeological sites.
- The climb to the very top seems a long way up from the bottom, but the view is well worth it. Marvel at the amazing 360 degree view of the surrounding jungle and other parts of the site.
Did you know that?
- The Acropolis is the largest restored building, measuring 480 feet across, 180 feet wide and 96 feet tall.
- The city lost much of its influence around 1000 AC, like many others in the area, supposedly due to several conflicts and political fights.
- As of October 2012 the population of Ek-Balam is 551 people, 244 of them are male and 266 of them are female (253 minors and 298 adults