A visit to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, whether through the quiet colonial city of Merida or the rocking tourist mecca of Cancun, affords visitors the opportunity to explore and discover the exciting world of the ancient Mayan civilization. From east to west, or north to south, literally hundreds of mayan ruins dot this amazing tropical landscape. Built close to “cenotes” (in English “natural well”) these sites are a window into a culture that once dominated an extensive geographical region reaching as far as Guatemala and Honduras.
One of the most important ceremonial centers that has been recently restored is the walled city of “Ek Balam” (in English “Black jaguar” or “Star jaguar”), a name that most likely referred to an important ruler of this city.
This is an aesthetically beautiful archaeological site that boasts a very peculiar layout and uncommon architectural characteristics. The site is entered through a “sacbe” (in English “white road”) which is flanked by breadnut, palm and mallow trees, and leads to a vast central square. This square is in turn encircled by towering hills, massive platforms, impressive vaulted structures and a ball game court. It is in this square that the beauty of the place and the sheer enormity of the buildings can be fully appreciated.
Although there are only 106 steps leading to the top of the Acropolis, it is in fact a deceptively hard climb as the stones are old, worn, and uneven. It is surprisingly steep and there are no railings running along the side of the wide steps and nothing else at hand to hang on to. It might not be for the vertigo-challenged, but getting to the top of the Acropolis at Ek Balam is well worth the effort. It is, quite literally, a view fit for a king.
Ek Balam is one of the great Mayan cities that definitely deserves a visit from those who enjoy learning about this once great Mayan civilization.