The Jaguar City of Ek-Balam
Not as vast and famous as the nearby Chichen Itzá, this once thriving Mayan city is a marvel in itself that should be on any true traveller’s list of top places to visit in the Yucatán Peninsula. It offers a wonderful chance to truly explore the cultural heritage of the ancient Mayan civilization and the staggering rough beauty of the wild nature that you shall not miss.
In the Mayan language, Ek Balam bears the meaning of “black jaguar”. After the Mayans abandoned Ek Balam, the site was gradually covered by a thin layer of soil and disappeared in the jungle. Even though it is over a thousand years old and once covered about 12 square kilometers, it was not until the late 1980s that a group of archaeologists noticed perfectly shaped group of mounds and the site started to attract more attention. The excavation is still ongoing and the statues and stone works that you can see there is beyond compare to any other Mayan city.
Quite hidden in the jungle north of Valladolid, it keeps its wilderness charm as if it has only been discovered yesterday. Away from the overcrowded luxury resorts of Cancún, it escapes the hordes of partying tourists who often tend to miss this spectacular ruin that was once a center of the Mayan civilization that prospered on the Yucatán Peninsula.
The only way how to visit this wonderful site is by foot. But don’t worry! It is truly worth the effort. Not only that the surrounding trails are open for hiking and birding, but it is one of the last Mayan ruins that you can still climb freely. Just climb the top of the Acropolis at Ek Balam, it is absolutely worth the effort because what opens in front of you is a view fit for a king. There are no railings running along the side of the wide steps to stop you and nothing else at hand to hang on to, so that you can truly explore the structures. This unique interactive feature and the lack of crowds make the site interesting to both newcomers and repeated visitors. Getting to the top of the pyramids and savoring its calm and serene atmosphere, you will feel as though you've truly stepped back in time.
Once you have fully sensed the spirit of the ancient Mayans in the Ek Balam ruins, you can taste the delicious honey liquor in the gift shop or connect even more to our mother nature and cool off a little bit in the nearby cenote and enjoy another awe inspiring experience.