- Places to Explore
- Travel Tips
- Fodor's Choice
- Spanish Phrases
Ek Balam Review
What's most stunning about the large Ek Balam ("black jaguar") site are the elaborately carved and amazingly well-preserved stucco panels of one of the temples, the Templo de los Frisos. A giant mask crowns its summit, and its friezes contain wonderful carvings of figures often referred to as "angels" (because they have wings)—but which more likely represented nobles in ceremonial dress.
As is common with ancient Mayan structures, this temple, styled like those in the region of Chenes in the northwest, is superimposed upon earlier ones. The temple was a mausoleum for ruler Ukit Kan Lek Tok, who was buried with priceless funerary objects, including pearls, perforated seashells, jade, mother-of-pearl pendants, and small bone masks with movable jaws. At the bases at either end of the temple, the name of the leader is inscribed on the forked tongue of a carved serpent, which obviously didn't have the negative biblical connotation ascribed to the snake in Western culture today. A contemporary of Uxmal and Cobá, the city may have been a satellite city to Chichén Itzá, which rose to power as Ek Balam waned.
Another unusual feature of Ek Balam are the two concentric walls—a rare configuration in Mayan sites—that surround the 45 structures in the main part of the site. They may have provided defense, or perhaps they symbolized (more than provided safety for) the ruling elite that lived within.
Ek Balam also has a ball court and quite a few freestanding stelae (stone pillars carved with glyphs or images for commemorative purposes). New Age groups sometimes converge on the site for prayers and seminars, but it's usually quite sparsely visited, which adds to the mystery and allure. Ek Balam is one of the few Mayan sites where visitors are permitted to climb the structures.
Free Fodor's Newsletter
Subscribe today for weekly travel inspiration, tips, and special offers.
Fodor's Trip Planning Ideas
- Weekend Getaways: Fodor's Recommends the Best Weekend Escapes in the US
- Great American Vacation: Find Your Next U.S. Trip with Fodor's
- 80 Degrees: Fodor's Helps You Find Your Best Beach Vacation Spots
- Go List: Fodor's Top 25 Places to Go in 2013
- Hotel Awards 2012: Fodor's 100 Top Hotels
- Best of Europe: Fodor's Picks the Best Places to Visit in Europe
- Book in Merida: Save at the Hacienda Merida in Jun Fr $151+/Nt Expedia
- Book in Merida: Save at the Colon in Jun Fr $62+/Nt Expedia
- $164 & Up: The Villa Merida 4-Star Hotel in Merida — $164 Expedia
- Save Big This Jun! Book 3 Nts at Del Gobernador Fr $48+/Nt — $48 Expedia
- Sale! Save 20% on this Stay.: Caribe in Jun — $52 Save with Expedia, $11/night less
This is our 3rd condo rental visit to PDC. Read more
· News & Features
With a burgeoning food and drink scene, gorgeous green spaces, and festivals galore, Philly should be... Read more
In Spain, the gin and tonic (called "gin tonics") is an art form with carefully chosen gin and small-batch... Read more
Hong Kong is known for great food, buzzing nightlife, inspiring attractions, and for having one of the... Read more