Uxmal was one of the best day trips we took from Mérida during our trip, and it was a welcome alternative to the Mayan ruins at Chichén Itzá.
Essentially, as soon as you arrive in Mérida and start considering your options for excursions and side trips, people will start telling you about Uxmal.
They’ll tell you it’s way less touristy than Chichén Itzá (it’s true, but Uxmal still gets a very fair share of visitors daily) and that it’s more worth your while.
The truth is, there are a lot (I mean a real lot) of Mayan ruins in the Ruta Puuc area of the Yucatan peninsula. Quite frankly, that’s because the Yucatan region, along with southern Mexico, and Guatemala, were all Mayan lands in Pre-Hispanic times.
Why Uxmal, though?
Well, it’s big, it’s well-restored, you can get an English-speaking guide, and you can take a lot of nice photos. You may feel like you’re in the Mayan ruins version of Indiana Jones.
There are a few things to know before visiting Uxmal these days, so we’ve written about what can help you prepare. The other thing to decide is how you’re going to get to Uxmal, because there are several choices.
Our info that follows will help you decide when to visit Uxmal, and how, for travelers on every style of trip.
What to know before visiting Uxmal
Uxmal is not really the type of place or local attraction where you just show up, although you probably could.
You’ll want to have enough cash in your wallet to pay the entrance fees, and if you come by bus, you’ll need to know that you can’t bring a bag in.
All of these things are outlined in our ‘what to know’ section of this information.
How far is Uxmal from Mérida?
The Uxmal Archaeological site is located 84 km (52 miles) from the center of Mérida, Mexico.
It can take anywhere between an hour to two hours to get to Uxmal from Mérida, depending on which method of transit you choose.
How far is Uxmal from Campeche?
If you’re coming from Campeche city, it’ll be farther. Campeche is located 160 km southwest of Uxmal.
At minimum, driving from Campeche to Uxmal would be two hours, if you’re going fast. We have not explored the public transit options from Campeche to Uxmal, but judging by what we know about buses in Mexico, it could be between 2.5-3 hours.
Where is Uxmal on the map?
If you’re looking at a map, first, set your eyes on Mérida. It’ll be on the western side of the Yucatan peninsula, not quite at the coast, but in the general north-west region.
If you zoom in and look southward from Mérida, you’ll see a darker green region, south of Route 184.
The green signifies a designated national archaeological protected zone, or in Spanish, the “Reserva Estatal Biocultural del Puuc.”
Uxmal is located in the northwest of this designated national heritage reserve. It is not far from the state border between Yucatan State and Campeche State.
What are the Uxmal Ruins Entrance Fees?
As you travel throughout the world (outside the US and Canada), you’ll see something funny, and it’s something you have to get used to.
Yes, many countries, at their national heritage sites, have different prices for “Nationals” (domestic travelers) and foreigners.
The first time I saw this was at the National Palace in Bangkok, Thailand. I was appalled. It seemed discriminatory.
Can you imagine if places in the US like the Statue of Liberty charged different entrance fees for Americans, and for people coming from other countries? It would be deemed segregational and unacceptable.
As I’ve traveled more, through all these countries, and more, this has started to make sense. For example, when I heard that Peruvian nationals and foreign tourists pay different (drastically different) prices to visit Machu Picchu, I finally “got it.”
For a lot of domestic travelers, especially in developing countries, they can’t afford a high price to visit touristic sites, and the government makes it so that a) they can afford to pay a low price of learning about their own country through culture and history and b) they can make more money off of foreigners.
At the end of the day, to generalize, it’s the foreign tourists that have the money (after all, most of them purchased flight tickets to visit, right?).
And so, if you are not Mexican with a Mexican passport, you will pay the current foreigner ticket price of a total 466 pesos.
This fee is made up of the following:
- Admisión General (general admission): 381 pesos
- Zona de Uxmal (Uxmal area) federal fee: 85 pesos
- Total (both fees are mandatory for entry): 466 pesos (about $22.30 USD).
This being said, make sure that you pack your (and remind your travel buddies) wallet the night before your visit to Uxmal with plenty of cash in Mexican pesos, for everyone on your trip.
What are the Uxmal Ruins opening hours?
Uxmal is open every day of the year, according to Yucatan Today.
Opening hours are from 8 am to 5 pm local time. If you need ideas for how to enter the park and beat the crowds, check out how we did it at Chichén Itzá, similarly.
When were the Uxmal ruins built?
The Uxmal city and pyramids were built between 600 to 900 AD. This was a super long time ago!
The Mayan structures and former sites of cities were a thriving region, before, and during the Spanish conquest of Mexico.
We recommend reading up on the history of the Uxmal structures, and the surrounding smaller and lesser-known Mayan heritage sites nearby, like Palenque, Calakmul, Dzibilchaltun, Ek’ Balam, and nearby Kabah, Labna and Mayapan.
What to expect at the Uxmal Archaeological Ruins
At the Uxmal ruins, you can expect an experience much like visiting the ruins of Chichén Itzá, but with tons fewer tourists.
I would say that what everyone told us before we went to Uxmal, and while we were there, was that the crowds at Uxmal are so much more manageable.
In fact, it was easy to take a photo with on one else in it. This is our favorite thing to do, to make it look like we avoided the crowds, like on these trips.
We had a private guide during the length of our tour, which totaled about two hours. Our guide was only speaking with us and taking us to the top spots and viewpoints for two thirds of that time. (Make sure to tip your guide at the end of your guided tour.)
For the rest of the time, he gave us about 30-40 minutes at the end during which we could explore on our own, go back to the places we had already seen, or take ourselves through the final part of the ruins and get some tourist-less photos.
You can see a few more in our photo gallery.
In terms of temperature and heat, it can get hot at the Uxmal Archaeological Site, especially during the hot and rainy season of the Yucatan (May to September-October).
It is best to go early, if you have the choice (i.e. going with a rental car or private driver on your own schedule), to beat the heat.
If you’re going at a set hour, either based on bus timetables or the designated hour with your tour, be sure to wear sunscreen, spray some mosquito spray on your ankles beforehand and fill up your reusable water bottle (to travel sustainably!).
Luckily, Uxmal does have some shaded areas, so you can take a break from the direct sunlight.
Is there any wildlife at the Uxmal ruins?
Yes, there is wildlife to be seen, if you look hard. You’ll see iguanas (some big, and some small) that blend in very curiously with the stones. You may even see five at a time.
Beware: refrain from the inclination to feed them, and avoid interacting with them! They are wild, and should not be fed the food that humans eat. Uxmal is their natural home.
What to bring (and not to bring) to the Uxmal Ruins
As of 2020, 2021 and 2022, there are new regulations at Uxmal for security, preservation of the archaeological heritage and personal safety.
Visitors are no longer allowed to bring in backpacks, bags and large purses. I repeat: If you bring a backpack or handbag larger than a tiny purse, the officials will not let you bring it in. There are lockers where you can store your items, but it has been rumored that they may not be so well-guarded, so do this at your own risk
What you can bring into the Uxmal ruins are any of the following:
- A travel camera (if you’re seeking a new one, we recommend these suggestions
- A phone
- A water bottle (no size limit on water bottles)
- A small-sized cross-body purse or fanny pack like this one (it may depend on the discretion of the guards at the entrance)
Overall, I felt pretty naked without a purse or a backpack. Someone else from our tour group was allowed in with a tiny purse and held my travel-sized sunscreen for me.
Dan and I kept one wallet between the two of us, held in his shorts pockets, and I kept my phone on my person, stored in my bathing suit top that I prefer to wear when I am wearing loose dresses and we’re going sightseeing.
As soon as we got back to our tour van, I was reunited with my tote bag, where I had responsibly kept my travel-sized sunscreen, travel-sized bug spray, Lonely Planet Yucatan guidebook, spare napkins and sunglasses case.
How to get to Uxmal (from Merida)
Getting to Uxmal could be a little more complicated than it seems, because there are so many choices at each budget and level of difficulty.
Had I been ten years younger and backpacking solo on a shoestring budget, I probably would have chanced the public bus and gone with the stipulations of that choice.
Had I had a never-ending budget and a shorter, more YOLO-style trip in the Mérida region, we probably would have hired a private driver for the day.
And had we been in a roadtripping mood with a whole tour of the region rather than a home base in Mérida for the month, we probably would have gone to Uxmal with a rented car.
Nevertheless, we took a private guided day tour, and it turned out to be just fine for us.
As I did LOTS of research on the topic of how to get from Mérida to Uxmal, I will detail it all here for you to use and make the best choice for your travels.
Hire a private driver from Mérida
We looked into getting a private driver from Mérida for getting to Uxmal. This is not the route to take if you’re interested in saving as much money as possible during your trip.
Our friend’s friend is a Mexican local who has a foot in the tourism network in Mérida, and offered us to go with one of his drivers in a private Volkswagen sedan, for a luxurious ride. I was also recommended this driver via the Merida expats Facebook group.
- Pro: We could have gone early in the morning at 7 am, meaning we could have been some of the first people of the day into the archaeological park, like we did at Chichen Itza. We could’ve had beautiful morning light, and beat the heat.
- Con: The price tag on this journey was quoted at $100 USD, plus approximately $40 to $50 USD for gas, and that was a variable fee based on current gas prices. This would have come out to about $150 USD, or $75 USD per person, with two of us. I looked online for recommended private drivers, and the quotes were about the same via private companies and recommended agencies.
Rent a car (in Mérida)
We considered renting a car, as our local expat friends in Mérida claimed it was easy and not expensive.
After talking to our friend from Mexico City who had visited Mérida for the week with her partner, she told us that even as a Spanish-speaking half-Mexican duo, they were paying around $80 USD for a car, per day, including gas and insurance and things like that.
This comes out to $40 USD per person, for the drive alone.
- Pro: We could have the flexibility of driving whenever we wanted, and also stopping at more villages or more ruins or cenotes along the way.
- Con: The price was still a little bit steep, and we would have had to navigate on our own with the help of international service from Google Fi.
Take a public second-class bus (from Mérida)
I originally thought we’d do what seemed easy and take a second-class bus from Mérida to Uxmal. After reading recent stories on other travel blogs, though, I felt warned that this could be a messy experience for something as simple as getting to see the Uxmal ruins on a day trip from Mérida.
Since 2020, it has been reported that the second-class bus schedule was cut significantly. There are two morning departures with a company called Sur. But actually, there may only be one. Multiple reports said travelers were quoted two morning departures, one around 8 am and one around 9 am, but sometimes the 8 am one is cancelled without notice.
There are also reports of travelers showing up for the 9 am bus, and it has already left, before 9 am. It could also be late.
Next, travelers have reported the one bus per day being full. Sometimes you could have to stand, the entire ride, about 60-90 minutes, all the way to Uxmal.
Lastly, there is debatable information about the return bus from Uxmal to Mérida. There are some reports that there simply is no bus back from Uxmal to Mérida. There are other reports that there is one bus per day that goes along the route.
Travelers have reported that it can come at 3 pm, 3:30 pm, 4 pm or later, at 4:30 pm. It seems like, according to research, the bus shows up when it wants to, and you could either miss it, or be waiting for two hours in the heat.
If you miss the bus, see the next option, which is to take a taxi or hitchhike to the village of Muna, and then hop a colectivo or another taxi to Mérida. While I would be okay with hitchiking due to the general level of safety in Merida, this is just a dab riskier.
Overall, I decided that I had done enough research into the public bus experience to Uxmal, and that this simply wasn’t the time to do it, despite our luck with taking colectivos to places like Chichén Itzá on other trips.
- Pro: The price, as reports from 2019-2021 quote the bus cost at anywhere between 65 and 85 pesos ($3-4).
- Con: The lack of availability of departure times from Mérida to Uxmal, and the debatability of an actual bus coming at a designated hour for getting back from Uxmal to Mérida. I felt that our time was more valuable at this point in our travel careers than waiting for a public bus on the side of the road (in former years, I would’ve been game for the adventure, though).
Take a colectivo to Muna, and then to Mérida
For getting to Uxmal from Mérida or from Uxmal back to Merida, you can be adventurous and take a colectivo.
Colectivos are shared vans that operate in many parts of Mexico and Latin America. Typically, each person is charged a low fee like 35 pesos ($1.60), and the van leaves from its origin when the driver is happy with how many people have filled up the van.
Colectivos make many stops, or can stop wherever someone wants to get off. It is probable that no one will speak English, so keep that in mind.
There is no direct colectivo to Uxmal, as it is rather far from Merida; however, you can take a colectivo from Merida to a village called Muna. From Muna, it is much closer to Uxmal. You can take another colectivo from there.
You can also take a taxi from Merida to Muna, to do the same thing. Lastly, you can try to hitchhike once you are leaving Uxmal, and you can try to catch a ride with someone going in the direction of Muna. From Muna, try to get a colectivo, or a taxi, to Merida. It is 66km away, and could take about one hour.
From Muna to Uxmal, the distance is around 20km and it could take around 20 minutes, give or take.
With this method, our pro and con assessment is:
- Pro: The price. If you only take colectivos and taxis, you might only spend 250 pesos each way, which is about $11 USD.
- Con: This method can take a lot of time, if you miss the colectivo and another one does not leave for a while, or if you cannot find transport from Uxmal to Muna. You may spend a bunch of time waiting, which is not very comfortable because outside the Uxmal ruins, there’s not much to do.
Take a private or guided tour from Mérida
We ultimately decided on a private tour from Mérida, and I did a little bit of research on this one also.
I went about it in a backpacker-style way, knowing one thing: hostels always have partnerships with great tour companies.
Both got back to me. Both partnered with different tour agencies. Both quoted per-person day tour rates at 900-1000 pesos per person (USD49-50), inclusive of van transport, a guide and a full restaurant meal at the Uxmal Archaeological Site restaurant.
With the price and the value in mind, here were my thoughts:
- Pro: The value-per-price offering, because with the consistency of the private tour offering and inclusion of something like lunch and foolproof transport back to Mérida, this seemed great.
- Con: First, the price (more than the bus or colectivo option), and second, the fact that we wouldn’t be able to be at Uxmal early in the morning like 9 am, or at golden hour (3 or 4 pm) for the photos I was envisioning.
Nevertheless, we opted for this route with the tour company provided by Casa Garza. We went in person to book at Casa Garza and paid cash to their receptionist, who called the tour agency to book us into a Monday tour, and everyone was very responsive via WhatsApp.
The tour picked us up at our hotel in Zona Paseo Montejo, exactly when they said we would, and we had an air-conditioned trip for a full day to Uxmal, the Museo de Chocolate and lastly, a cave cenote, getting back to Merida in one piece by 6 pm.
Here are some additional tour recommendations!
Is there anything else to do at Uxmal?
If you are “ruin-ed” out and ready for change, we recommend checking out the Museo de Chocolate, also called “Choco-Story.”
Our day trip tour took us there after the Uxmal Ruins. It is a 2-minute drive, or a 9-minute walk from the entrances of one to the other.
The Choco-Story Museum has an entrance fee, but it comes out to about $8 USD. While we probably would not have gone if our tour hadn’t had it on the agenda, it was a way for us to get value from the following:
- Learn about the history of chocolate through a well-done interactive museum. There was even a live chocolate-making demonstration, and we got to try fresh hot chocolate, seasoning it to our “gusto” with cinnamon, spices and sugar.
- See cool wildlife, seriously! The museum is indoor-outdoor, with small huts connected by pathways through jungle.
- See cute animals! There are several ways to see animals here, such as spider monkeys, birds and a leopard. All animals have been rescued from abuse and are being nursed back to health. This was awesome.
- See Mayan culture, which isn’t as accessible as it could be, elsewhere. Then again, the Maya are a traditional group and if you’re staying in Merida, you’re likely to not see a traditional Mayan dance or anything like that. At the Museo de Chocolate, we saw a Mayan musical ritual and although it was put on for visitors, it was nothing we’d witnessed before.
The only other thing to really “do” at Uxmal is to eat at the restaurant on site within the paid area of the ruins. The eatery is called Restaurante “Yax-Beh.” The brief menu includes Yucatan classics like cochinita pibil (Yucatan marinated slow-cooked pork), poc chuc (Yucatan-style pork) and some Mayan soups. One highlight is that they have unlimited nachos with a rather zesty salsa/pico de gallo, and unlimited bread as well.
Here’s a photo of a standard meal at the restaurant on site inside the Uxmal archaeological park. I’m not sure what the meal actually costs, because it was included in our tour price (the tour actually included a 3-course meal, which made the tour a great deal overall).
Is Uxmal worth the trip?
I’d say yes, for sure, for the reasons mentioned above like it was less groan-inducing than Chichen Itza, which is completely over-touristed unless you are the first one into the park for the day (like we were).
Uxmal is a well-restored archaeological and historical site, and at the end of the day, it is not terribly far from Merida. If you got stranded for whichever un-planned-for reason, you would probably find your way back with any of the ways mentioned above.
The only off-putting factor about the visit to Uxmal is the price of the entrance ticket, which starts to seem like a lot of money once you’re in the Merida region (because everything is so affordable). Consider that if you were back at home, $22 or $23 would be the price of dinner or a few drinks out.
Overall, Uxmal was a good thing to do to round out our trip in the Yucatan region. If you’re looking for more things to do for a well-rounded trip that hits all the markers of culture, nature, beach and city, check out our guide to te best cafes in Merida, along with trips to Izamal and Valladolid.
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