A majestic layout, spectacular jungle setting and pink-hued limestone pyramids and temples make Uxmal one of the most picturesque ancient cities in the Puuc region. The name Puuc translates to hills in Yucatec Maya, and the Uxmal ruins are situated on hilly terrain. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Uxmal was one of the most important Maya settlements in Yucatán and flourished during the late-Classical period.
The name Uxmal means “thrice-built” in Yucatec Maya, and refers to the construction of the Piramide del Adivino (Pyramid of the Magician), a one of a kind oval-shaped Uxmal pyramid and the tallest structure at the site. Uxmal was built in phases and its influences, which are believed to extend as far away as central Mexico, are reflected in the variety of architectural styles at the site.
Puuc-style architecture features intricate carvings, cut-stone geometric mosaics and masks of the rain god Chaac. These details can be seen throughout the Uxmal ruins and are best admired on the Cuadrangulo de las Monjas (Nunnery Quadrangle) and the ornate facade of the Palacio del Goberndor (Governor’s Palace). Climb to the top of the second-tallest Uxmal pyramid, the Gran Piramide (Great Pyramid), for good views overlooking the Uxmal ruins and surrounding Puuc region.
Unlike other Yucatan Maya cities, Uxmal lacked natural water sources and as a result, the rain god Chaac was held in especially high regard among the ancient city’s inhabitants. A chultun (cistern) near the entrance to the Uxmal ruins was used to store water at the site.
These days, the Uxmal ruins are home to a population of enormous iguanas and you’ll often spot the giant creatures sunning themselves on the ancient platforms and temples. You can visit Uxmal on day trips and Uxmal tours, or combine a visit to the Uxmal ruins with travel along the Ruta Puuc (Puuc Route) to visit nearby Maya ruins at Kabah, Sayil, Xlapak and Labna.