I know the majority of people are absolutely deadset on going to the Chichen-Itza, and it’s hard to blame them. For those of you who are on the border, most locals will tell you that Uxmal is the way to go. I had an open mind when I headed to Yucatan for the first time, but was very keen on crossing off another one of the world’s seven wonders. If I had flown from halfway across the world and paid thousands of dollars for a flight, I definitely would have been more dedicated to seeing Chichen-Itza no matter what. But I flew a total of three hours and spent $300 on a flight to Merida so I figured, hey, the opportunity will come up again.
They already stopped people from climbing the pyramid so it probably won’t collapse under the weight of a billion tourists anytime soon. You can still climb the pyramid at Uxmal, so why not hit that up before they take that away from us? The locals I spoke to about going to Chichen-Itza all brought up Uxmal as an alternative almost immediately. After going to Uxmal, it was pretty easy to see why.
1. The details of the structures are among the most detailed and intricate of all the Mayan ruins
If you are interested in something beyond just seeing one of the pyramids labeled as one of the world’s Seven Wonders, the structures at Uxmal offer much more intricate and well-preserved buildings. Walk a little further to Kabah, and you’ll see one of the most amazing palaces you will ever see, the Codz Poop. Ignore the name. Even just staying at Uxmal you can see immense detail carved into each and every building. Imagining how majestic these buildings used to be still inspires awe in me just thinking about it. Also if you’re picky about this, I was told that Uxmal was more naturally Mayan in its structures and feel as compared to Chichen-Itza!
2. You can actually climb and explore through most of the buildings
Practically everything at the Chichen Itza is roped off and can not be accessed. At Uxmal, feel free to wander into the jungles, go through most of buildings, and even climb the Great Pyramid. The view from the top of the pyramid is impressive, with all you see being green, green jungle for miles and miles save for the few majestic Mayan structures poking out above the trees.
3. It is easier to get to from Merida
If you fly into the Merida airport and choose not to leave immediately, then you chose correctly. I love Merida, and although the city itself may not have a lot to see, it is bustling with life and culture. It also serves as the perfect home base to take on the Yucatan. An hour away from Uxmal, an hour away from Cuzama cenotes, an hour and a half away from Chichen-Itza, thirty minutes away from Progreso, and a $20 and three hour bus ride away from Cancun and Cozumel if you choose to go full tourist (like I did), it is in my opinion the best way to take on the vast Yucatan jungles and beaches and reefs.
4. There are significantly fewer tourists
The serenity of the jungle can actually be felt at Uxmal. You’ll see more iguanas than people, which if you prefer iguanas to people, is a huge plus. I’m not going to act like tourists are a terrible thing, because, you know, I am a tourist. However, sharing what should be an incredible day of sightseeing and history with thousands of other people fighting for space to get the perfect Instagram picture just did not seem like something I wanted to at that moment. Guaranteed, I will be back one day to cross it off, but as most people will tell you, it is not the most pleasant experience.
5. You won’t be swamped by vendors and salesmen immediately upon entering
Aside from tourists, the most annoying thing about Chichen-Itza is the sheer amount of people trying to sell you stuff. If you don’t answer firmly or say no right away, you’ll have someone talking into your ear about buying a sombrero for the next ten minutes. At Uxmal, you walk in, you pay, and bam. You have your peace and quiet in the jungle for the next few hours. You can hire a guide to help you make sense of everything, but other than that, you won’t hear much aside from the occasional screech of a bat or an iguana falling out of a tree. If you’re looking to go full relaxation, pick up a guidebook and go at your own pace.
BONUS REASON!!: There’s a chocolate museum right across the street!
Forget the L’ouvre or the Met or the Guggenheim, the chocolate museum right across the street is my type of museum. I heard it was worth visiting and I had two hours to kill before the next bus back to Merida came so I figured, why not? I did not expect to be feeding spider monkeys and sipping freshly made Mexican hot chocolate or listening to traditional Mayan songs dedicated to cacao. Oh yeah, and seeing JAGUARS. Yeah, what an interesting chocolate museum, right? 100% worth it.