One of the last great Mayan cities, Ek Balam is a magnificent site located deep in the jungle of Northern Yucatan. Despite it being in a different state, it is quite easy to access from Cancún, as it is just a little further away than Chichen Itza, 30 km north of Valladolid and 174km west of Cancún; only a two hour drive from the city. This site is not the largest, nor was it as ceremonially important as Chichen Itza or a political capital like Cobá, it was however a cradle of cultural and technological development within the Mayan world.
Ek Balam has over 45 structures still standing today including a magnificent archway that guards the entrance to the elite’s compound, a ball game court, the Oval Palace and many more. The main attraction, however, is the Acropolis, the pinnacle of this city’s culture. The largest building in the site, almost 150 m long, 55 m wide and 29 m tall. This structure is decorated with some of the most impressive surviving decorated frieze, showcasing the city’s unique architectonic style as well as impressive, colorful and intricate murals depicting important moments in the city’s history. Ek Balam is a medium-sized city and it won’t take long for you to explore it, but you will be hard pressed to find a more beautiful and impressive example of the Mayan arts than here.
How to get There
If you are renting a car, the drive to Ek Balam is a simple one, follow the Cancún-Merida until you reach the exit to Valladolid, once there, there are only a couple turns to take but you can count on plenty of signaling to guide the way. Alternatively, there are plenty of tours, private and group, that can take you to this site from Cancún or the Riviera Maya. Many of these tours include visits to other nearby attractions, like cenotes or the colonial city of Valladolid, to make the most out of this visit. This option is the best if you don’t want to drive yourself and want to learn as much as possible about this site and its culture.
To make the most out of your day, try to find a tour that will take you to one of the cenotes near Ek Balam to discover this natural wonder sacred to the Mayans. Visiting the city of Valladolid is also a must, you are going to have to drive past it anyway, you might as well spend some time there and see for yourself why this quaint little town is so popular amongst tourists