A few minutes drive east of Xlapak is Labna. Labna shares the same intricacy in its' carved stone buildings as the other Puuc sites, the buildings at Labna have had minimal restoration work done but still retain much detail and are well worth spending the time to explore. Due to the fact that the puuc route and surrounding ruins are beyond reach of day trip buses from the mass tourism areas like Cancun and Playa Del Carmen, it can be a very intimate experience exploring these sites (assuming no tour buses from Merida happen to be here at the time). At times I was the only person at some of these sites. I used a hire car to get around these sites and had no problems allthough I would discourage tourists from travelling the roads at night due to the possile risk of being robbed by banditos.
Xlapak, approximately half way between Sayil and Labna, is a fairly small ruin with intricate buildings but in generally poor condition. It shouldn't take long to go through and see these ruins. All locations on the puuc route are easy enough to find as they are signposted pretty well.
Sayil is a little further south past Kabah. It consists of one major building (pictured) and a number of small buildings within walking distance. The smaller buldings are in relatively poor condition, is if they'd just been dicovered. If you're running short of time you could have a look at the main building and skip the smaller outlying buildings and move on to the next destination. Sayil, Xlapak and Labna (the Puuc Route) are on a side road which runs off highway 261.
The Uxmul Ruins are an absolute must see, in my oppinion they are bigger and better than Chichen Itza. Located south of Merida and west of Ticul, follow the road from Merida which runs south down through Muna and goes on through to Uxmul and then on to the Puuc Route (Kahah, Sayil, Xlapak and Labna).
A few minutes drive from the Calcehtok Caves is the Oxkintok Ruins. If you use your time efficiently it should be possible to take in these ruins and possibly the Calcehtok Caves in one day along with Haciendas Yaxcopoil, Temezon Sud and Ochil. Alternately you could take in Oxkintok and Calcehtok with the Puuc route, you will need to make an early start though to fit everything in.
On highway 261 near km176 is Hacienda Ochil, a restored hacenda plant with a small cenote at the back of the resturant. It has a very relaxed atmosphere about it. Certainly worth a visit, mabe even stop for lunch.
Ek Balam is north of Valladolid. Ek Balam is certainly worth a visit, you can climb to the top of the ruin shown here in the picture and you'll get a great view but be careful, there was a lizard at the very top which I wasn't expecting to see which startled me for a moment, not enough for me to loose my footing but be careful none the less.
Just outside of town, north of Valladolid is Cenote Keken (a.k.a. Cenote Dzitnup) which is a well known cenote. Certainly worth a visit, but if you have one, take a mini tripod for your camera. To take photos in dark environments like Keken a slow shutter speed is required and any movement will cause a blurred photo. You can steady your camera on a rock but that is not really ideal. You can go swimming in keken if you like.
Close to the Oxkintok ruins (south west of Merida) is the Calcehtok Caves. The caves are good but before you go you should be aware that the lighting in these caves is small torches, so visibility of the entire cave system is limited and photography is entirely reliant on your cameras flash. There is no fixed lighting like in the more popular caves. The tour guides only speak spanish. I personally think a trip to the Loltun caves would be a far, far better choice as there is proper lighting and multi lingual tour guides.
Directly east of Merida is he town of Izamal. The town of Izamal is interesting in that most of the buildings are painted yellow, like the monestry by the town square. There are ruins at Izamal, they are big but really not very intricate or interesting. I would not go out of my way to go to Izamal.
Coba opens at 7:00am, the site is spread out over a large area and bikes are available for hire (from 8:00am onwards). If you geta there early you can have the site to yourself, the tour guides dont get there until around 8:00am.
East of Merida is Ake, an overlooked ruin which is worth a visit. The most direct and simplest way to get to the ruins is to get onto highway 180 which runs between Merida and Cancun and take the turn off to Ake. The road to Ake may be intimidating to some people as it starts out as a two lane dirt road and quickly turns into a single lane bush track with dense follige growing right up to the sides of he road. Should another vehicle come from the other direction (unlikely) there may be quiet a bit of reversing involved to find a spot where the vehicles can pass. Follow the track for about 11km and you will come to an intersection with a few houses around,this is the town of Ake. At the intersection look to your right and you should be able to see some stone pillars a few hundred meters away which are at the top of the ruins. To get to the ruins turn right and drive toward the ruins then around the old hacienda. There is a henequen processing plant right next to the old hacienda, dont park across the rails as the horse drawn carrage uses them to take the henequen to the plant. Walk past the processing plant to get to the enterance to the ruins.
Don't just stay in Cancun or Merida... take advantage of all the Yucatan has to offer by getting out and looking around. There is so much to see! If you are in Merida, its tempting to stay in the city and explore the colonial streets, the museums, the churches, the restaurants. Or if you are in Cancun, its also tempting to just lie on the beach and read a good book. But outside of those two cities are wonderful adventures. Explorations of Mayan ruins like Ek Balam, Dzibilchaltun, Uxmal and others. Visiting restored or unrestored haciendas like Temozon and Uayelceh. Swimming or diving in a cenote, going sailing or fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. Scuba diving in the Caribbean.
My advice is at least once during your trip to the Yucatan, get out of your comfort zone and do something you wouldn't normally do. There is definitely magic here.
This is a much smaller set of ruins compared to Chitzen Itza, but as long as you're in the area, it's worth checking out. You can also climb the main structure for a very nice view from top.
It costs $5 to get in.
(I'll post pictures later)
Probably most frequented of the Mayan ruins. There are several different area of ruins, including El Castillo, the ball court, observatory, etc. You can walk around on your own or get a guided tour. Your $10 ticket includes a light show at night, but we thought it was kinda lame. Probably 2-3 hours will be enough to see most, perhaps longer if you take your time or get a guide. You can also buy souvenirs from the vendors within the ruins.
Make sure you bring a hat - it's very hot here, especially in summer time.
Oh, it's also a World UNESCO Heritage site. Open 8-6.
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