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It was time to head for Uxmal to do some more LIVING.
MERIDA TO UXMAL:
I made my way 60 kms south from Merida to Uxmal on a second class public bus.
From the Doralba it was a 20 minute walk to the ADO Bus Terminal.
Even though it was a 2nd class bus, it was perfectly comfortable. The journey to Uxmal took 1.5 hours.
Uxmal is considered to be one of the most important archaeological sites of Maya culture, along with:
- Palenque, Chichén, and Calakmul in Mexico;
- Caracol and Xunantunich in Belize; and
- Tikal in Guatemala.
The Maya architecture here is well preserved and considered matched only by that of Palenque in elegance and beauty.
The Uxmal hotels provide free internet. The cheaper ones only do so in public areas.
I was surprised to find that my AT&T SIMcard had a signal.
WHERE TO STAY:
There are very few options in Uxmal.
The local towns offer cheaper accommodation than Uxmal.
This is what you find searching for 1 night at the end of November …
PLEASE NOTE: Hotel and Hostel search sites display prices EXCLUSIVE of TAXES. You, usually, have to add 19% to the displayed price to get the final price.
As you can see, there are very few accommodation options available to GRANDPAckers.
The usual Hotel Search Engines tend to list the same hotels and tend to compete very little on price … but, now and again, one will ‘stick its head up’ and offer a ‘member only special deal’ … like the one that I got at the La Casa del Mago (below).
I booked the day before my arrival. I did this on purpose in the hope of getting a last minute discount. I wanted to stay in Uxmal next to the ruins … not commute from a town 15-25 kms away. This was a ‘LIVING Ideas’ trip afterall …
For Uxmal I had to work hard and get inventive. I searched many sites and used comparison sites like HOTELSCOMBINED to see how various suppliers compared. I noticed that VENERE were offering a good last minute rate on the La Casa del Mago.
I never book through comparison sites like HOTELSCOMBINED … they just add yet another commission layer onto the cost of the hotel. I went directly to VENERE.COM. They had a banner saying that if you book using their Smartphone App you get an additional 15% discount using the discount code ‘MOBVAO9’. So, I downloaded the app and booked using the discount code. I got my room for MXP764 / night including fees, taxes, and breakfast. This was at least MXP100 / night cheaper than I could have booked it for elsewhere. I was arriving on a Thursday, so I booked 4 nights to cover the weekend.
The bus from Merida stops on the main road outside of the entrance to the Uxmal Archaeological Zone. From there, it was a 30 meter walk to my hotel.
I found reception and a man came to greet me; he said that I had been upgraded to a room at the Lodge. Just as well, really, because the Mago looked a bit ‘unkept’ and the swimming pool was unusable with leaves and debris settled at the bottom.
Rooms at the lodge usually go for over MXP4,000 / night … so this was a pretty big upgrade!
The room was large and came with 2 Double beds, a wardrobe, dining table & chairs, ceiling fan, aircon, hot water ensuite, bathtub/shower combo, coffee maker (with free coffee each day), 2 small complimentary bottles of water each day, good in-room wifi, minibar / fridge, and Mexican TV (5 channels).
Until I went to the restaurant for Dinner. There’s only 1 restaurant within 1 km of the hotel: the Hotel’s.
It’s a good job that it came with some bread!
The next morning I went for my Free Breakfast. There were 5 different Breakfast types on the menu … but I was told that my booking only came with the Continental Breakfast. If I wanted 2 eggs I would need to pay MXP85 more. If I wanted a different Breakfast, I would need to pay full price for it.
It is (basically) bread, butter, and jam with some fruit.
That small thing in the middle is the stuffed cheese. Around it is re-fried beans.
The restaurant seems to think that serving up small meals with lots of bread is acceptable.
This poor value for money extends everywhere. A 330ml bottle of beer is MXP55. Even a 1L bottle of water costs MXP48 … you can buy 5 Gallons for that in the supermarket.
I was a prisoner in ‘rip-off central’.
It makes no difference to me … but, alas, it means that GRANDPAckers cannot afford to stay in Uxmal.
Have a look yourself:
UXMAL RUINS – NIGHT LIGHT SHOW:
At check-in, I was told that they had a light show in the Uxmal ruins that night. They don’t have them every night … so I decided to go.
Ticket sales start at the Site Entrance at about 6:15pm. There was already a long queue.
It was a tantalising glimpse of what I could expect to see the next day in the sunshine.
The light show started at 7:00pm and lasted 45 minutes.
My Spanish is not good enough to understand the story.
After I had seen every possible combination of coloured lighting, I left about 5 minutes before the end (as it started to rain), and headed back to my hotel.
THE UXMAL RUINS:
You need to buy 2 tickets to enter: one for MXP148 and another for MXP65 (MXP213 total). That is double what you pay at some other sites (such as Coba).
I decided to investigate the site bearing left walking past the Governor’s Palace towards the House of the Witch.
It is not as high as the one in Coba, but a climb to the top still reveals a wonderful view of the site. Wear shoes with good grips.
From there, it was a walk around the South Temple to the House of Doves.
Marveling at the beautiful stonework and wondering how it must all have looked when it was in its prime.
And you enter through an archway into where they held the light show the night before.
A leisurely 4 hours spent somewhere special that leaves you wondering what was … how beautiful other Maya sites must have been (before being robbed of stones to build colonial buildings) … and what might have been if the Europeans had not arrived with their overwhelming firepower.
THE KABAH RUINS:
There are 2 other sites near Uxmal that are worth a visit: Kabah and Sayil.
Sayil is a few kms off of the main road and not easy to get to without your own transport.
I walked down the old road for a while to see if I could find any more ruins … without success.
In hindsight, I should have taken the 1:00pm bus from Uxmal (not the 12:00 noon) … then, I wouldn’t have needed to wait in Kabah for 1 hour for the bus to return home.
A trip to Kabah by public bus from Muna / Uxmal / Santa Elena will cost MXP90 each.
WHEN TO GO:
The climate is similar to Playa del Carmen,
July through October is hurricane season in this part of the world, and the weather becomes more changeable and less predictable during these months.
The rainy season is May through October.
PLEASE NOTE: These countries love their tiled floors and this, coupled with footpaths worn to a polish over many years, means that it can be slippery underfoot when dry and near dangerous when wet. Wear shoes with good grips.
The high season is December through May as these are the months with the most temperate and driest weather.
From here I will be heading to Xpujil to see one of the other ‘top listed’ archaeological sites: Calakmul.
I will tell you more about that in a future post.
Uxmal is a ‘well-trodden-path’ ‘tourist trap’ destination. But, it’s worth it.
GRANDPAckers can’t afford to stay in Uxmal, itself. GRANDPAckers have 2 choices:
- Take a Day Trip from somewhere like Merida or Campeche; or
- Stay at one of the nearby towns
Day Trips From Merida / Campeche:
You don’t have to pay for an expensive package tour.
From both Merida and Campeche it should take about 1.5 hours each way.
Entry to Uxmal is MXP213 each. You will need 3-4 hours in Uxmal to see everything at a leisurely pace.
Two GRANDPAckers can do this Day Trip for under MXP700.
Stay in a Nearby Town:
The benefit of staying in a nearby town is that you can stay 2-3 nights and include a trip to Kabah.
They are, obviously, as frequent in the return direction. One passes Kabah heading back north at about 2:50pm.
You have to flag the bus down … otherwise, they’ll go whizzing past.
In Santa Elena I saw several hotels that are not listed in the online search engines.
Whilst in Muna, I took the opportunity to have a 1/2 Rotary Chicken meal for MXP25.
It is easier to commute from Muna to Uxmal than it is from Santa Elena to Uxmal. There are the same number of buses to and fro each day (MXP20 one way) but Muna also gives you the option of getting a taxi (MXP100 one way). Uxmal is only 15 minutes away from both of these towns.
Getting to / from Uxmal from Ticul is not as easy so it is best avoided (unless you want to pay for taxis).