Ek’ Balam is an offbeat site compared with nearby Chichén Itzá, so you may have the site to yourself!! In any case, it’s more of an Indiana Jones jungle experience than the manicured lawns of Chichén Itzá or Tulum as you can just walk about and enter or climb some of the ancient buildings.
Balam is clear. It means ‘jaguar’ in the Mayan language (and is a common surname among Mayans today). Ek is less certain. It can mean either ‘black/dark’ or ‘bright star’. So it could be either Black Jaguar or Bright Star Jaguar. Most research refers to Black Jaguar, which is a cool name, so let’s go with that.
It is believed that Ek’ Balam was an important kingdom and at some point it was bigger and stronger than Chichén Itzá.
The foundation of the city dates from the Middle Pre-Classic (700-300 BC). That’s how old the ceramics are. Houses were then made of wood so they have left no trace. Most of the stone buildings we can see today date from the classical period (600-900 AD) and only some of the smaller ones date back to 100 BC.
Excavation only started in 1980 (William Ringle and George Bay) and the actual restoration did not begin until 1997. This is a space to watch as a lot is yet to be interpreted and, of course, further excavated.
THE SITE MAP
- Open Daily 8:00 am – 5:00 pm.
- It is wise to arrive by at least 4pm for the last entry.
MIX AND MATCH:
In my view, the most interesting option after seeing the ruins of Ek Balam is to combine it with a swim in a cenote. If the latter is the preference, the nearest cenote options are Hubiku.
How to get there:
If you do prefer to go by public transportation, you’ll need to take an ADO bus from Playa del Carmen or Cancún to Valladolid. The ruins are 40 km north of Valladolid on the road to Tizimín and Río Lagartos. There are no buses that go to Ek’ Balam, you need to take a car, taxi, or colectivo (a van). The colectivos to Ek’ Balam go from the town of Valladolid on Calle 37 between Calle 42 and 44.
Also note that Ek’ Balam imposed the state tax for ruin visitors. One payment is for the INAH entrance fee, another payment at a separate window is a state tax fee. Both tickets are required for entrance into the ruins. The total admission fee is 197 MXN (as of 2017).