Ek Balam excavations didn’t start until 1998, and many unexpected things have been found here. A marvelous site that is still relatively unknown, its popularity is sure to grow due to its quality and its nearness to Cancun and Playa del Carmen. You’ll want to see this sooner than later if possible.
Most visitors to Ek Balam will come from the fore mentioned cities on the Riviera Maya. It is about a two hour drive from Cancun via the toll road 180D. The majority of tourists will come via bus from these cities and will also experience the on-site cenote as well. For visitors that have seen and enjoyed Chichen Itza and Tulum, it is a natural next choice to experience another Mayan site.
My preferred way to visit is to drive myself as part of a multi-day Yucatan trip. It is only 30 minutes north of the lovely colonial town of Valladolid and should be combined with visits to other nearby Mayan ruins as well as the not-to-be-missed cenotes. Valladolid has several nice hotels around the city center that is within walking distance of the Zaci cenote and the nice cathedral there. Just south of Valladolid is the pair of Dzitnup cenotes, X’Keken and Samula. These are located on the same site. A bit further to the west is Chichen Itza as well as the more famous Ik Kil cenote. There are also less visited cenotes up near Ek Balam – Palomitas and Agua Dulce.
The fastest road from Cancun or Playa del Carmen is toll road 180D. It will cost about 300 pesos to ride this each way so it is a bit expensive. You can avoid this toll easily enough by taking other roads like 180 (no ‘D’), but the trip takes longer due to having to navigate small towns and a slower speed limit. I recommend paying the toll and using 180D to maximize your time here, but if time is less of an importance and depending on the route you take, you can avoid it. The toll is only charged east of Chichen Itza but is free going from Chichen Itza west to Merida.
Ek Balam is nicely landscaped and the walking is flat. There is a bit of ground to cover to get to the structures from the parking lot, but once there, the site is pretty compact (especially compared to the spread-out Chichen Itza). Climbing the stairs onto any of the pyramids will be a bit more challenging for those with accessibility issues. Mayan stairs are steep and unforgiving – people have died falling down stairs at some Maya sites, but the ones here are not as steep or scary as the ones at Coba, for instance. If you are able, climbing the stairs is highly recommended – please, just be careful.
At the time of our visit, it cost 193 pesos for a foreigner to visit – the payment is a total as you have to buy a ticket at two separate windows much as you do at most archeological sites in Mexico. They also charge an absurd extra charge for using a video camera on site – phone videoing or videoing with DSLR cameras do not require the extra fee (don’t ask me why – it doesn’t make sense to me either).
There is not much in the way of facilities on site. There is a restroom but no refreshments, so plan accordingly. It can get hot in the Yucatan, so bring plenty of water and cover your head and put on sunscreen. In the small village of Ek Balam there is an unexpected Italian hotel and restaurant called Dolce Mente. I have read good things about it but did not visit there myself.
To read details about our visit to Ek Balam, go here.
Pictures of our trip are here.
A listing of my favorite Mesoamerican ruins is here.