On a recent girlfriend getaway to Merida, we all had one thing on the top of our list: see some ruins!
After weighing the pros and cons of the various archeological sites within driving distance from Merida (including world-famous Chichen Itza), we eventually decided to check out Uxmal.
I am SO glad we did!
We basically had the whole site to ourselves and were able to enjoy the history in peace (and away from the excessive selfietography that seems to plague much of Mexico’s ruins and other highlights).
What is Uxmal?
“Uxmal” refers to the empty remains of a city called Uxmal that was built somewhere around 700 AD. At its prime, Uxmal had nearly 25,000 inhabitants. People are thought to have been living in the area nearly 1000 years before the city itself was built.
Now, Uxmal’s ruins are well-preserved and intricate, and have been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Why You Should Choose Uxmal Over Chichen Itza
Fewer tourists at Uxmal than Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza gets PACKED with people (it receives over 1.4 million tourists a year). Uxmal has significantly fewer tourists, and you can pretty much have the ruins to yourself at certain points throughout the day (especially if you arrive promptly at opening time, on a weekday, like we did).
Uxmal offers a more interactive experience
At Chichen Itza, the ruins are mostly roped off and you aren’t allowed to touch, climb, or go inside them.
At Uxmal, you can actually climb and go inside many of the ruins. Not only does this create a more tactile and immersive experience, it also allows for amazing views (and some stellar photographs).
Uxmal is less well-known but no less spectacular
Chichen Itza is a popular destination because of its “World Wonder” status, finding its way onto many bucket lists.
Uxmal is less popular only because it is less well-known and less hyped up. It’s just as impressive, beautiful, and historic as Chichen Itza.
I’d argue that the experience at Uxmal is even more memorable and breathtaking than at Chichen Itza, just because you actually get the headspace and selfie-stick-less views to actually be able to imagine what it was like to be there over a thousand years ago.
When to Go to Uxmal
Uxmal is open year-round from 8am – 4:30pm, but I’d recommend arriving before opening, so that you are the first (or among the first) to enter.
On Sundays, admission is free for citizens and residents, so it is much busier. Weekends are also busier, as are school holidays.
How to Get to Uxmal
The distance from Merida to Uxmal is just over an hour, and you’ve got a few options for for how to get there (if you’re coming from Cancun or elsewhere to Uxmal, I’d recommend going on a tour).
Cheapest Option: Take a bus from Merida to Uxmal
Buses to Uxmal from Merida go from the TAME bus station. The journey takes about an hour and a half and costs 65 pesos. Check in with the bus station for the most up-to-date timetable (as it changes seasonally), but plan on buses leaving about every 2 hours in each direction, starting at 6am and ending at 6pm.
Option We Chose: Rent a car to go from Merida to Uxmal
The road from Merida to Uxmal is pretty straightforward, as long as you try to stay on the main and major roads as much as possible. Avoid cutting through small towns both for potential safety reasons and to avoid worse roads and frequent, high topes (speed bumps).
If you don’t have access to data on your phone (to utilize Waze or another real-time navigation app), make sure to download Offline Maps through Google Maps.
Taking 180 to 261 is a good plan
Easiest Option: Go on a tour to Uxmal
Viator is my favorite international day tour provider because they have a low price guarantee and incredible customer service.
For Uxmal, they offer nearly 40 different tour options, including a combo tour of Uxmal and Loltun cave, a Uxmal day trip and psychedelic light show, and a private combo tour of the two ruins of Uxmal and Kabah.
Other option: Take a taxi to go from Merida to Uxmal
You can negotiate with a taxi (or get a recommendation from your hotel or Airbnb host) to go to Uxmal, wait for a pre-decided period of time, and return. This should cost around 2000 pesos.
At the time of writing, you can actually take an Uber from Merida to Uxmal for 900 pesos, but it is not available for the return trip (so you would need to take the bus or a taxi). [if you haven’t used Uber before, you can get a free ride with this link]
Other option: Hire a driver to go from Merida to Uxmal
For this option, it would be best to receive a recommendation from your hotel, Airbnb host, or local travel agency (in Merida) to get a reliable, safe driver.
What to Wear at Uxmal
I’ve been paying more attention to my environmental footprint lately, and am totally sold on the idea that the most ecologically-friendly way to shop is secondhand (google Fast Fashion and you’ll see why). I’m currently obsessed with ThredUp, the largest secondhand clothing retailer on the planet (you can also sell clothes to them). They’ve got shoes, accessories, and every brand of clothing you can imagine, at bargain prices for nearly new items. You can get $10 off your first shopping experience at ThredUp with this link.
- Comfortable walking shoes – you’ll be walking in grass for the most part, so no high heels
- Loose clothing for hot weather
- Hat (to protect you from the sun)
What to Pack for Uxmal
- BPA-free Water bottles (I’d highly recommend freezing water in them overnight, to stay cool)
- Eco-friendly Sunscreen (because it’s better for you and for the planet!)
- Bug spray (eco-friendly, please!)
- Travel roll of toilet paper
- Natural hand sanitizer
- Cash (the entrance fee is 304 pesos, parking is 30 pesos)