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This is why you should visit Ek Balam

05 Jan 2023

Ek Balam, with its majestic constructions hidden among large trees, is a site unlike any other in the Maya area and is unlike any other known archaeological site.

Its history begins approximately from the year 300 B.C., until the arrival of the Spaniards. It was the capital of the Tah empire, to which the people of the eastern part of the state paid tribute, including part of the coast, as evidenced by shell offerings that have been found. It covered about 12 km2, which included a sacred central space of a little more than 1 km2 where the elite resided, protected, and delimited by 3 walls. These had 5 entrances, where an equal number of pre-Hispanic roads or sacbes (sak bé oob) led to.

Ek Balam Yucatan

Where is Ek Balam?

It is located north of the colonial city of Valladolid, halfway between Merida and Cancun. To get there Take the Cancun-Merida highway, exit at Valladolid, and head north towards the town of Tizimin. From Cancun or Merida the trip takes no more than two and a half hours.

Ek Balam is located 26 km north of Valladolid and 186 km east of Merida, on the road to Cancun. An additional attraction is the X-Canché Cenote, located 1.5 km. from this archaeological zone. It has infrastructure for rappelling and zip-lining, bicycle rental service, kayaks, cabins, dining rooms, and rest areas.



Apparently, there are a total of 45 structures, and as one of the most visited archaeological sites, there's plenty to look at. It has several quite impressive buildings, which can give you a small idea of what this city was like in the past. The one that stands out above the rest is the so-called Acropolis. Also surprising is the entrance in the form of an elevated arch with 4 gates, one pointing to each cardinal point, and the Oval Palace.


Ek Balam archaeological site

The first thing we find on our way are the remains of two walls, not so much a defensive character, but to delimit the sacred areas and control access to the main enclosure.

The Arch

Ek Balam

On a raised stone mound stands this arch of 4 doors, each one directed to a cardinal point, which was accessed through a ramp. It is a very original element that is not repeated in other Mayan ruins that we have visited in Yucatan.

The Ball Game

The ball game Ek Balam

It consists of two walls where this game, so common in the Mayan culture, was played. Participants were arranged in teams, one at each end of the field, and returned the rubber ball using only their heads, elbows and knees. The objective was to try to pass this ball through one of the stone hoops protruding from each wall.

The Acropolis

Ek Balam

It is the most important building of the city and it was the palace where the rulers and high officials resided. It is structured in 6 levels, with dimensions of 146 meters long, 55 meters wide, and 29 meters high, making it one of the largest Mayan buildings in Yucatan.

The Twin Pyramids

Ek Balam

They are two identical pyramids in the center of the enclosure that, although they are not very tall, are beautiful constructions and are well preserved.

The Oval Palace

Ek Balam

It is the second tallest building in the archaeological zone, which can be climbed, and with its oval shape at the back, it is an unusual construction in the Mayan world. Climb to the top by the steep front stairs, from where there are very cool views.

How much is the entrance cost to Ek Balam?

The total entrance fee is $494 pesos ($85 pesos for the site plus $409 pesos for the government, which is reduced to $113 pesos if you are Mexican). Parking is free.

Hours are from 08:00 to 17:00, last access is at 16:00.


  • Wear comfortable shoes
  • Wear cool clothes
  • It is recommended to carry a bottle of purified water
  • Apply mosquito and insect repellent.

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