Exploring & Climbing The Yucatan Mayan Ruins Of Ek Balam

Ek Balam Ruins
The Oval Palace of Ek’ Balam
Valladolid, Mexico

Ek Balam is an ancient Mayan city located on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. It’s a wonderful pre-Colombian archeological site to spend the day exploring.

The ancient stone structures at Ek Balam are some of the best Mayan ruins you can visit in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

To get there from Valladolid, I took a collectivo, taxi-vans that wait around until there are enough people going to the same place before it leaves. It’s the cheapest way to get around in Mexico.

On a typical day, I’d get asked 3 different times by collectivo drivers if I wanted to go to Ek’ Balam while out walking around Valladolid.

But for some reason this morning, when I actually wanted to go, I couldn’t find any!

Ek Balam Acropolis
View From the Top of the Acropolis

Packed Valladolid Taxi Ride

I finally gave up and decided to find a taxi. I talked a taxi driver into cramming all 5 of us into his tiny 4 passenger car.

For $40 MXN each, he would drive me over to the ruins (a 30-minute drive), and wait there 3 hours to drive me back into town.

On the ride in I could see and smell the burning forest. Our driver told me they are clearing the land to build more tourist facilities in the area.

This is kind of sad, as I think the sites lose their mystery when they start adding giant tour bus parking lots and hotels all over the place.

Ek Balam Mexico
Climbing Mayan Ruins

Mayan Ruins Of Ek’ Balam

The ruins of Ek Balam were very impressive. It’s estimated they were built around 800 A.D. The name Ek’ Balam means “Black Jaguar” in the Mayan language.

The main Acropolis structure is 95 feet high, and the stairs are very steep. It was quite a workout to hike up it.

One of the great things about this site is that you can still climb on all the ruins. Another plus is that it isn’t as heavily visited as some other ruins in the area, and if you go early, you can often be the only people there.

Ek Balam Cenote
Beautiful X’Canche Cenote

Swimming X’Canche Cenote

Right next door to the Ek Balam ruins is a cenote called X’Canche, a sinkhole in the ground filled with fresh water.

This cenote is about 1 mile away though, and because it was closing soon, we had to rent bikes to get to it in time for a swim before it closed.

Swimming in the cenote was cool. It had a suspension bridge and a rope swing too. This was not inside a cave like other cenotes I’d visited in Mexico, or places like Rio Secreto.

A roof opened up to the sky. We swam for 25 minutes before they closed it up for the day.

Travel Planning Resources For Ek Balam
Ek Balam Entry Fee: $413 MXN ($21 USD)
Opening Hours: 8am – 4pm

Packing Guide

Check out my travel gear guide to help you start packing for your trip. Pick up a travel backpack, camera gear, and other useful travel accessories.

Book Your Flight

Book cheap flights on Skyscanner, my favorite airline search engine to find deals. Also read my tips for how I find the cheapest flights.

Rent A Car

Discover Cars is a great site for comparing car prices to find the best deal. They search both local & international rental companies.

Book Accommodation

Booking.com is my favorite hotel search engine. Or rent local apartments on Airbnb ($35 discount!). Read my post for tips on booking cheap hotels.

Protect Your Trip

Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a big fan of World Nomads for short-term trips. Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read more about why you should always carry travel insurance.

Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Yucatan
Suggested Reading: The Maya: Ancient Peoples & Places


I hope you enjoyed my guide to the Mayan ruins of Ek Balam! Hopefully you found it useful. Here are a few more wanderlust-inducing articles that I recommend you read next:

Have any questions about visiting Ek Balam in Mexico? Are you planning a trip? Drop me a message in the comments below!


Hi, I’m Matthew Karsten — I’ve been traveling around the world for the last 10 years as a blogger, photographer, and digital nomad. Adventure travel & photography are my passions. Let me inspire you to travel with crazy stories, beautiful photos, and money-saving travel tips.
Matthew Karsten
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Comments (3)

  1. What a beautiful location! How much was admission to the ruins? I’m planning a trip to Valladolid with a few friends, but we’re on a tight budget.

  2. Wow! The scenery is beautiful! I love the site. I am looking forward to seeing more. Sounds like so much FUN!

  3. That cenote looks beautiful. Sounds like you are making friends and seeing the sites. I am completely jealous over those Mayan foods, they looked wonderful. Keep the pictures and stories coming, we are loving it.