Ek Balam | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Ek Balam

Unajil Ekbalam, Yucatan, Mexico

Sarah Roller

24 Nov 2020
Image Credit: Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock

About Ek Balam

Ek Balam or Ek’ Balam is a Maya site on the Yucatan Peninsula with some impressive ruins.

History of Ek Balam

Translated either as ‘the Black Jaguar’ or ‘Star Jaguar’, Ek Balam is surrounded by a low, stone wall, an unusual feature in Mayan cities. Within this area are several restored pyramids and large temples as well as a ball court.

Ek Balam reached its zenith between roughly 770 to 840 CE, before being abandoned suddenly. Archaeologists and historians believe the city may well have been attacked by invaders: the walls which surround the city suggest a need for defence.

The Acrópolis is the longest structure uncovered in the Mayan world at 160m long. The city was gradually reclaimed by the jungle after its abandonment: it appears in some Spanish chronicles, and Desire Charnay, a French archaeologist, visited the site in the late 19th century and undertook some excavations. It was nearly one hundred years later when major archaeological excavations actually took place.

Ek Balam also features five sacbe, white roads or causeways, leading from the central area. El Torre, the tower, is one of the largest of Mayan buildings. The site’s vast main pyramid rises to a height of almost 100 feet, making it a remarkable example of Maya engineering.

Ek Balam today

The ruins are an easy and worthwhile half day trip from Valladolid: they’re half covered in jungle still and extremely atmospheric. Note the particularly ornate and beautiful carvings. Bring water and sturdy shoes for walking round: the site is relatively expansive.

Getting to Ek Balam

Ek Balam is about 20km north of Valladolid. Buses or taxis will get you there easily from the city – although you might want to book a return taxt trip as there aren’t always heaps of taxis lurking near the ruins.

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