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Ek Balam-The Black Jaguar of Mayan Ruins

Ek Balam mayan ruins Yucatan Mexico

Ek Balam ruins have become more popular because they are relatively new to the tour scene. Most people have seen Chichen Itza and are now looking for some new adventure to add to their vacation. Ek Balam offers something new for people wanting to explore the rich culture of Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula.

Ek Balam Ruins

Ek Balam started to be restored in 1997 so that is relatively new. The term Ek Balam means  “black jaguar” in Mayan. The city of Ek Balam was used from 600BC to 1600AD and the heyday was 770 AD-900 AD. The site is actually 15 square kilometers large but the core of the site was a walled city and contained about 40 buildings.

Ek Balam mayan ruins Yucatan Mexico

The view from the top of the pyramid at Ek Balam.

What Makes Ek Balam Ruins so Special?

What makes this site unique is the shape of the main pyramid and the fact you can climb to the top. You should do this if you can. It is 96 ft. tall and you get a great view over the Peninsula and tree tops. That is like a 7 or 8 story view.

Another interesting feature is the restored part of the main pyramid under the thatched roof. Look closely for the winged creature. Was this originally there or some creativity of the restorers? It is interesting to think about because so many ancient sites have incorporated winged creatures.

Ek Balam mayan ruins Yucatan Mexico

Notice the winged statues on the upper right hand side of this photo.

What to bring to Ek Balam ruins when visiting

Wear comfortable walking shoes and loose, cool clothing. Bring sunscreen but make sure that if you plan on getting in the cool waters of the cenote to bring biodegradable sunscreen, it is required and protects the fragile eco system. It is good to bring a drink with you. If you don’t have one you can stop in the small town (pueblo) of Ek Balam that is a short distance by car from the entrance to the site or pay for slightly expensive ones by the entrance.

Ek Balam mayan ruins Yucatan Mexico

The main pyramid at Ek Balam.

Ek Balam Tours

Are you thinking about a tour to Ek Balam? We recommend two options below.

First you can read about a full review of a tour that takes you to Ek Balam ruins and also to Cenote Maya here.

And you can also look over the tour information below to see if this interest you.

Ek Balam Ruins and Cenote Maya Park Day Trip from Playa del Carmen

Where is Ek Balam ruins?

Ek Balam is 20k north of the colonial city of Valladolid. This makes it near the center of the Yucatan Peninsula. It is a little closer to Cancun and Playa del Carmen then Chichen Itza. Once you start getting close to the archeological site you will be on a narrow road with tall corn fields on both sides. You will feel like you have been transported back in time 500 years to this Mayan area where nothing has changed and things are still done in traditional ways. It should take just over 1 1/2 hours to get there from Playa Del Carmen if you take the new highway 305. Once you get to the intersection of Highway 180 and the turn off for Valladolid, follow signs to go north on 295 to Tizmin. You will pass through the small town of Temozon. Watch for topes (speed bumps)  in the populated areas. Once you past Temozon you will see signs for Ek Balam and you will turn right. Follow the road straight to the ruins. Don’t get confused at the intersection where a sign points to Ek Balam (Pueblo), that is the small town nearby.

If you wanted to get to Ek Balam on your own without your own car it is possible. You would need to get to the city of Valladolid. From the bus station you would need to make the short walk to 44th St. and 37th St. where they intersect. This is near the Hotel Zaci. This is where the colectivo taxi cars fill up and take people to Ek Balam. There is more people going in the morning so plan on starting off early and coming back before later afternoon. Not only will you avoid the heat but you can get better transportation without waiting for it to be filled. The cost is 40 pesos per person each way. A whole car is 160 pesos. If there is no other people you might want to negotiate a price for a private ride.

How much is parking at Ek Balam ruins?

There is a small parking lot at the site. There will be children that work there as “parking guides” and “watch your car” for you. These kids are entrepreneurial and offer their services. This in  no way is a dangerous place to park and nothing happens in this quiet hamlet of a town. It is just a cute thing to see these kids doing this. Since most of the kids a of Mayan descent you could also offer them a tip in exchange for learning a word of Mayan. A tip of 5-10 pesos is nice to give these kids if you feel inclined to do so. Parking is free at these ruins unlike some of the other ruins where you have to pay i.e. Chichen Itza, Tulum, and Coba.

What is the entrance price to Ek Balam?

The site is open everyday from 8am-5pm. Price is about $10 USD (132 pesos). As with all archeological sites Sundays are free to nationals.

You are not allowed alcoholic beverages or food in the ruin site.

How much are tour guides at Ek Balam?

Like many archeological sites there are guides here. Most speak several languages. There is a sign in the entrance that says the “official” price is 500 pesos for Spanish speaking guide and 600 for the other available languages.

Usually though at ruin sites in Mexico there is no set price for tours although a typical price thrown out there is 500 pesos, this however is more for a larger group. Guide prices are negotiable. It is up to you if you want a guide and if you accept the price they offer.

It is how some locals make a living and it is nice to promote this type of eco/historical  tourism.

Where can you eat near Ek Balam?

If you are looking for a place to eat after visiting the ruins you will find several places on the 295 road that goes from Valladolid to Ek Balam. These places are set up for tourist and have nice accommodations. Just to mention one, on the north side of the small town of Temozon is a restaurant called Restaurant Familiar. It has a large round palapa roof and is close to the road on the east side. They have friendly service and a range of Mexican dishes and cold drinks.

You can also go in to the center of Valladolid and eat there. Valladolid has a lot to offer and also makes for a good stop in your visit to this area.

What is the cenote like at Ek Balam?

There is a cenote that is near to the ruin site. This is an added  adventure just waiting for you. If you are wanting to just see a cenote, it is not as fun as jumping in and enjoying a small swim and cool off. It is interesting to see though and will be a tranquil part of your day. Not too many people visit and you can find yourself here with just a few people. This cenote is different then the one that tours stop at for Chichen Itza, so you will have a unique experience here.

Ek Balam mayan ruins Yucatan Mexico

The cenote at Ek Balam

Basic entrance is 30 pesos per person. Keep your ticket to show after the road to get there and show it again. There are packages that offer all inclusive activities like the bikes to the cenote, zip line across the cenote and rappelling. These combined activities are offered once you get to El Balam. Most likely you will not want to do everything and you have to decide if it is a good value to get all or some of the add-ons.

The bikes might be nice to get to the cenote if you don’t feel like walking. It is a good 14 minute walk down a dirt road to the cenote. It is however shaded form the hot sun. If you wanted to take a bike taxi it cost about 50 pesos for two people to go one way.

This cenote is deep and has dark deep water. You can just imagine what monsters are waiting for you under the water (but there are not except small catfish like fish that live there). The cenote has  a rope swing where you can jump off into the water as well.

There are stairs down into this cenote. If you have issues with navigating uneven surfaces or stairs this might not be the easiest place for you to see.

Ek Balam mayan ruins Yucatan Mexico

The cenote at Ek Balam

Happy adventure everyone!

Have you been to Ek Balam ruins before? What did you think? We would love to hear from you in the comments below.