The Acropolis

MayaJourney                                                                                                                           Español

Lak'ech Ala K'in  "I am you, and you are me." Maya Greeting

Ek’ Balam "Black Jaguar" - "The Great Talol Empire" 

The occupation of the site starts from 600 BC and lasted until 1600 AD and the height of its importance was during the Late Classic Period (600-900 AD). 

  • The rise of the site corresponds to the period between 770 and 900, in which appears the record of a ruler named Ukin Kan Le’k Tok’, which together with his descendants, succeeded in extending the power of the city to compete with the great city of Cobá.
  • Ek 'Balam was founded by Ek' Balam or Coch Cal Balam. He came from the east and ruled for 40 years
  • Ek’ Balam was a large and powerful city that was part of the Maya Talol Empire and the capital of the Maya Empire of TOH. It had a population of more than 15,000 inhabitants in 12 square Kms. approximately.  
  • The city was one of the longest continuously inhabited Maya sites. 
  • The towns of the eastern part of the state paid tribute with offerings of shell and other valuables.
  • The Maya King Coch-Cal-Balam, founded Ek' Balam, but, U'kil-Kan Lek-T'ok, was the powerful ruler that is buried in the main pyramid called the Acropolis.

Sacbéob (plural) -  Scabé (singular) - Maya Roads

The arches are at the entrances of the Sacbéob, the Maya roads made of shells, lime, sea shells and sap of the Zapote tree and raised with stones. 
The roads connected the city with other Maya cities and within the temples and pyramids of the center. The Maya traveled at night to avoid the heat, and by using shells on the roads, the light of the moon was reflected on them making them white.


This great city was a ceremonial place where everything was planned. There are several architectural styles but there are details that make it unique like the winged warriors on top of the Acropolis or main temple. 
These are some of the main structures:
  • Temples, ball court, and beautifully carved monuments known as the hieroglyphic serpents have been uncovered.
  • Surrounded by protective walls and four beautiful arches, the architecture of this city is completely different to others in the Yucatán.
  • 45 structures are surrounded by two concentric stone walls, plus there is another wall that unites the central buildings. The walls were used to control the access. 
Arches are at the entrance of the Sacbéob - ©María.O.Baum

  • North and South Plaza

  • It has a ball game, an arch where a Sacbé (Maya Sacred road), connected the main temples and pyramids with other nearby cities.
  • Structure 10 with big space for ceremonial purpose and a temple from the Post-Classic Period.
  • Structure 17 - "The Twins" with two identical structures. 
  • Structure 16  - "Oval Palace" - rooms for the elite of the city with more than ten rooms and a temple.

  • Acropolis - Six level structure with vaulted passageways. This is one of the most outstanding works of Maya architecture, the "White House of Reading", erected by Ukin Kan Le’k Tok’ whose decoration shows a series of winged figures flanking a façade which represents an impressive monster-earth element in Maya iconography that refers to the entry and / or exit from the underworld.  Above the main Temple or Acropolis there are beautiful sculptures of winged warriors, representing the gods who flew to create this amazing culture. Huge snake fangs frame the door.

  • Mural painting. 
  • Ball game 
  • Archway entrance where a Sacbé (Maya sacred road) connects the main temples and pyramids with other nearby cities. 
  • Stelae and hieroglyphic monuments beautifully carved in stone blocks, and structures of various architectural styles. 
  • Several masks, statues and friezes with references to rulers and the jaguar have been found at the site. We can infer from their hieroglyphs, the name of the rulers, their descendants and the cult of Kukulcan, the feathered god, the god who came flying, to create the Maya.
  • Still mounds surround the site waiting to be discovered.
    Human Femur, Ek' Balam

    The Acropolis

    The magnificent fortified temple-pyramid is 524.934 ft./160 m. long, 229.659 ft/70 m. wide and 101.706 ft./31 m. high. 
    The Maya temples were renewed every 52 years by building on top of them, representing the re-incarnation or renewal. 
    The overlapping constructions have several rooms on different levels and vaulted passageways. On the top, the magical winged warrior figures, art and symbolism attached to them, every movement, every finger, every thing created to represent something with symbols. This magnificent structure has life-sized stucco figures that were excavated in perfect condition. 1200 years ago they were carefully buried and covered with stones and dirt before the Maya disappeared. 
    • U'Kil-Kan Lek-Tok ruled the Talol Empire for thirty years. During his reign, Ek' Balam became the greatest power in the northeastern region of the Yucatán Peninsula.
    • Large masks, glyphs and statues with references to the jaguar and to the rulers of the city have been found.
    • The cult to Kukulcán, the snake-flying-god, the winged snake which flew to earth to create this incredible civilization, is reflected in their glyphs.
    • A tomb, with offerings of marine snail shells, pectorals, nacar conch, objects of jade, fragments of necklaces, representations of fish, shrimps in shells, and more than 25 containers of deer femurs with inscriptions, were found with the name of one of the governors: U'kit-Kan Lek.
    • There is a beautiful oval palace, ball court, sweat lodge and other impressive structures.
    • Temples and structures are perfectly aligned, designed and planned.
    • There are several plazas and an incredible water system on the left side of the main pyramid.
    • One of the monuments depicts the ruler of Ek' Balam, U'kit Jol' A'hkul, wearing a headdress with stacked monster snouts holding a scepter and an offering.
    • Above the ruler, is U'kil-Kan Lek-T'ok, the powerful man that ruled Ek' Balam in 800 AD. 
    The Winged Warriors - ©María.O.Baum

    The Acropolis, the impressive fortified pyramid, is the tomb of U'kil KanLek-T'ok. His name has been deduced from a glyph in the tomb. The emblem glyph named the ruler as the "Divine Lord of Talol."  Talol was the name of the kingdom in ancient times.
    • The pyramid-like structure or Acropolis was reconstructed several times; a symbol of death and renovation or re-incarnation.
    • There is a great amount of vaulted quarters in different levels, several passages and rooms. Underneath the straw roofs, protecting the façade, we can appreciate the complex detail of art and the symbolism in the sculptures that adorn this temple.
    • The structure has 525 ft. (160 m.) of length, 230 ft. (70m.) of width and 102 ft. (31 m.) of height.
    • The Acropolis is an impressive building crowned by a Temple that has big jaguar's teeth with beautiful winged life size Maya warriors on the top, carvings, animals and other figures.
    • The Acropolis sculptures are perfectly preserved because it was discovered until 1999. Before that, it was a minor site covered by jungle.
    • There are two sculptures of a snake head on lower level stairs. Their tongue is covered with glyphs.
    • Take your time looking at the different symbols. It is worth it to take a guide and then walk on your own.
    • The Chenes-Style serpent-mouth at the top of the Acropolis, is the entrance to the tomb that the Maya covered with dirt and stones when they abandoned the city.
      The column in the center is the monster's nose. 
      The figures of the winged Maya warriors are about the height of a present day Maya

      Not long after Ukit Kan Le'k Tok' was buried inside the building, it was carefully filled with powdered limestone and rocks and then the entire façade was covered and forgotten for centuries.  Every day new discoveries on the site are changing the History books.

      When you climb to the top, pay special attention to the painted figures on the side of the right door. They are similar to the ones found in Egypt.
      Visit Ek-Balam and climb to the top before someone falls from the top of the pyramid, as it happened in Cobá, where thanks to that incident, nobody is allowed to climb.
      07/2010 - 2 students running from the top of the Acropolis fell and died.

      Ek' Balam©María.O.Baum
      CULTUR, a state organization created to receive revenue from the archaeological sites, closed the site for the locals, where the Chamánes were healing people, built fences, made a new entrance, and charge an extra fee to enter. You have to pay a fee to park the car, one for the archaeological park and one for the entrance.

      With great disappointment we found out that in Ek'Balam, the healers and the healing hut is gone. The Mexican Government has built fences around the place. The locals can't go in unless it is at a specific time, when they are allowed.

      12/09 - As you leave the site, turn right to visit the Maya Village of Ek' Balam, where wonderful crafts and hammocks are made. Most of the people still speak Maya. The priest visits the town sporadically, the teacher comes from far away and there is no doctor.

      Please read how the Wixáritari Indians fight the Mexican Government and a Canadian Mining Company that is destroying their Sacred Desert Site in Toltec - "The Wise Men." 

      • Hat, sun block, repellent and good shoes!
      • Ask the guides about the legend of the Aluxes (alooshes), the small ethereal beings that take care of the Sacred Maya sites and punish the people that don't take care of them. 
      • Ek' Balam©María.O.Baum
      • Local people built a small hut at the entrance of the archaeological site for the Aluxes. Sometimes is used as a healing place, please respect the people that are being healed and don't interrupt them. Have fun and enjoy this magical place!
      - 26 km north of Valladolid and 186 km to the east of Mérida, on the highway to Cancún.
      - Mo-Sun: 8:00 to 17:00 hours.

      Ek' Balam©María.O.Baum

      Don't miss the Ek' Balam town that was, until recently, separated from the rest of the modern world. 
      Maya Symbols and Mythology
      • Cancún to Ek-Balam: 100 Miles West of Cancún.
      • Valladolid-Ek-Balam: 19 Miles -Valladolid is a colonial town midway between Cancún and Mérida. Main attractions: Cathedral; built on top of a sacred Maya sacred place and pyramid, as the Spanish used to do. They destroyed the pyramids, used the stones to construct their churches; that way the locals were used to worship in that site. Main sites: Zócalo, or Main Square, Museum. There are 7 Churches around the town and all of them are on top of a Maya sacred site or pyramid. San Bernardino Convent was built over the Cenote Sis-H'a, a sacred entrance to Xibalba, the underworld for the ancient Maya. The other Cenote in the town is Zaci, with a restaurant that has a view of the Cenote; people swim in it. This is an open Cenote and there is a small fee charge for the entrance.
      On the old road Valadolid-Chichén-Itzá, you will find the Cenote Dzitnup, a beautiful Cenote that I will not visit again. The site of young children diving from the top, about 40 ft., to get some pesos, will deter me from visiting again. 

      We just got out of the site. We love the place but we are extremely disappointed. Now there are two entrance fees in Yucatán. One for the INAH that makes a wonderful job of restoring and exploring the sites, and, the other one for Conatur, the tourism state owned office that needs to raise money to pay for the land that the archaeological site of Chichén Itzá is in, and is owned by a Spanish family. That is the explanation we got from one of the workers. 

      The X-Canché Cenote, is 1.5 km from Ek' Balam. 

      Open: Monday to Sunday from 8:00 to 16:30 hours. 
      Rappelling and zip-line rope climbing, with a service of kayaks, cabins, dining room and rest areas.

      Product Details
      "ElDuende," a Maya Legend: The Three Treasures: Let's Explore!Bilingual Book Series/Series de Libros Bilingües (Volume 2)
      Driving to Ek'Balam

      COBÁ - Ek'Balam: 
      Wonderful road; one and a half lanes on each side. In México the half lane is a courtesy lane to allow people to pass. Bare to the right half lane when you see another vehicle coming to allow them to pass. Watch your speed. Take the road to Valladolid approximately 40 Km. Ek-B'alam is 8 miles North of the "Cuota" (Toll Road) on the road from Valladolid-Tizimin. 
      Beware of the "Topes", to slow you down and the "Peaton", signs, where the right of way is for the people that are crossing the street.

      Take the road Valladolid-Tizimin. Cross over the highway via TIZIMIN - After Tizimin you will see the signs on your right. Go straight and the archaeological site is straight ahead. To your
      left will be the road to Ek Balam.

      Chichén-Itzá to Ek'Balam
      40 Km approx.; take the Cuota road (toll road) which is faster or the state road (one lane each way) towards Valladolid; the exit is via Tizimin.

      INAH The National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) investigates, conserves and divulgates the national archaeological, anthropological, historical and paleontological heritage, to strengthen the identity and memory of the society that holds it.