The enormous elaborate Acropolis pyramid, located inside the Mayan site of Ek Balam, is a striking sight after driving miles through the surrounding jungle. Ek Balam, which means black jaguar, was at the height of its importance as a city during the Late Classic period (600-900 AD). When the Mayas abandoned the site, it went under cover, literally, as the dense low-lying jungle of the Yucatán engulfed it. As with all of the Mayan pyramids, these were discovered when archaeologists and adventurers saw a group of hills with trees and brush growing out of them. Digging in the mounds, they uncovered treasures of buildings and artifacts hidden for hundreds of years.
At Ek Balam, restoration has been ongoing since 1997. The Acropolis is the largest restored building, measuring 480 feet across, 180 feet wide and 96 feet tall. This palace has six levels where the governors and higher echelons of the city’s population lived. Archaeologists believe it was not built all at once. You can climb this imposing structure, and from the top you can see all the other structures at Ek Balam, as well as two large hills which are two unrestored buildings.
At the entrance to the Acropolis pyramid there is a monster-like figure that is said to be guarding the entrance to the underworld. Under the thatched roofs that protect the facade, other statues and carvings of angels, animals and various figures are integrated in a complex and beautiful design.
Ek Balam, located just north of Valladolid, is special in another sense: it is never overwhelmed with tourists. While it is quieter and more peaceful than Chichén Itzá, it is also not as fully excavated nor does it provide the same comfort facilities for the traveler. There is one restroom at the site, but no refreshments, so be sure to bring your own. You can buy drinks and food in Temozon, a small village you will pass on your way from the cuota road. Temozon has a delicious claim to fame...its smoked meat, be sure to try some!
In the small village of Ek Balam, there is an unexpected oasis...an Italian hotel and restaurant called Dolce Mente. They grow their own organic veggies and have honey from their own bees. They make their own pasta, and have an extensive menu.
The Ek Balam site is open every day from 8 am to 5 pm and the entrance fee is 185 pesos for foreigners, 126 pesos for Mexican nationals.
Editor's note: there are a lot of stray dogs at the Ek Balam site. A recent visitor decided to do something about it, and you can help. She started a campaign: www.gofundme.com/balamdogs Please click on the link and consider contributing to a program to feed, treat and control the birth rate of feral animals in the region. It is a very well-organized and solution-oriented program.
NOTE: THE ENTRY FEE IS SPLIT INTO 2 AMOUNTS (STATE "CULTUR" AND FEDERAL "INAH") AND IS PAID AT 2 SEPARATE WINDOWS, AND YOU WILL NEED BOTH TICKETS TO ENTER THE SITE.