Ek Balam – the Ancient City

Ek Balam is a Mayan word, which means black Jaguar. It is one of the ancient cities of the Yucatan Peninsula. It is a new and not so well known tourist attraction. The ancient ruins of Ek Balam are one of the best preserved of all ancient South America cities. Consequently, it offers much insight about the Mayan civilization.


The legends recorded by the Spanish explorers say ‘Coch Cal Balam’ founded the city. The city existed for more than a thousand years. Its construction started as early as 100 B.C. and proceeded until around 900 A.D. It is rumored that there were still inhabitants as late as during the Spanish invasion.

Interesting Facts

Much of the city of Ek Balam has not been excavated. In fact, only a small portion of the center of the city has been almost fully explored. At its peak, the city covered around 12 squares kilometers. However, the jungle now covers much of it. Only 1 kilometer squared of the city can be seen with ease.

As of now, archaeologists have identified and mapped 45 major structures at the site of this ancient city. A giant pyramid marks the center of the city. In addition, there two palaces and a number of temples close to the heart of the city. Two major defense walls protected the exterior of the city. In addition to these great walls, there are a number of tinier walls within the city.


The ancient city is found 32 miles to the Northeast of Chichen Itza. The site is a two-hour drive away from the town of Riviera Maya. From Valladolid, one has to travel 40 kilometers towards Rio Lagartos and Tizamin. For those who wish to get there fast, there is a toll road from Cancun.

From there, one can exit at Valladolid. One of the best routes is the one through Tulum via the Coba Road that branch on to Valladolid. There numerous signs that will lead visitors there close to Valladolid. For those who are in much of a hurry, there is Playa del Carmen toll road. The road cuts the journey almost in half.

Interesting Structures

The El Torre is the most impressive structure at Ek Balam. It is 30 meters tall, 60 meters wide, and 151 meters long. It is a site of some of ancient Maya’s greatest artistry. The Tomb of the ruler of the ancient city Ukil-Kan-Lek-Tok is located here. Also, the tomb is filled with many beautiful life-sized sculptures. Structure 10 and Structure 17 are also quite impressive. They give better insight into the ancient Mayan culture.


As of now, there is a double fee towards the ancient city. The taxes are used to help preserve the site. In addition, one should note that the Yucatan Peninsula has very hot and humid temperatures. As such, sun block and a bottle of water are advisable. For those who want to, there are people selling their merchandise towards the entrance of the city. These are cheaper than buying at the gift shops in the cities.

Nonetheless Ek Balam is one of the best sites to go, because it is still more or less a secret, well preserved and less frequently visited then Chichen Itza or Coba.
Ek Balam – the Ancient City
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