The icing on the cake maybe? Ek Balam is smaller than the most famous Mayan ruins, but that gives it its own charm.
Where is it?
Between Valladolid and Tizimin, in the heart of the Yucatan province. It’s a two-hour drive from Cancun, so it can be done on a daytrip. The quiet town of Valladolid, again, is the better jumping point though. There are collectivos (shared taxis) going to Ek Balam regularly (=as fast as they fill up).
Why is it famous?
The Acropolis. It is high and steep, with sweeping jungle views. Most special are the palapas (thatched roofs) on all sides of it.
More to see?
Yes, but the Ek Balam site is relatively small compared to Chichen Itza or Uxmal. The entrance gate is a funny structure, and on the right side the Oval Palace will immediately grab your attention. Because of its oval shape, it is pretty unique in Mayan architecture.
On its left side are the Siblings, or the Twin pyramids, identical temples. There were also two bigger structures (on the left and on the right) towards the Acropolis, but these have not been as well-preserved.
Worth the buzz?
Not as your main dish. Entrance for foreign visitors is relatively hefty (around 20 dollars), and after an hour you will have explored everything. Especially if you can’t climb the Acropolis, which depends on the weather. The stairs are old and slippery after rainfall, which is why authorities close the pyramid for visitors in those circumstances.
But as a side dish, Ek Balam is great. It doesn’t cost you an entire day, there is some unique architecture and it is very quiet compared to other archaeological sites.