Ek' Balam (Yucátan)
|ANGEL OF HEAVEN: Stonework at Ek' Balam (Liza Prado)|
Rising out of low, dense jungle, Ek' Balam is a small archaeological site that throws a heavy punch. A thriving city between A.D. 700 and 1100, today it is a Maya ruin with over 45 uncovered structures. Among them is La Torre, one of the most voluminous pyramids on the Yucatán Peninsula480 feet long, 180 feet wide, and 96 feet high. Near the top of La Torre, visitors can see the best of the site: its front door, an enormous mouth representing the entrance to the underworld, complete with pointy teeth, representations of the god Chaac, fantastical animals, and intricately carved angel-like creatures. From there, visitors also get a commanding view over the site that includes the ball court, a circular building thought to be an observatory, and the double stone wall that helped protect the heart of the city.
Inside Tip: Ek' Balam has yet to make the tourist trail, so most days you'll have the site almost entirely to yourself.
Practicalities: Ek' Balam is 19 miles north of Valladolid, and can be reached by car or bus. It's an easy side trip on your way to or from Chichén Itzá. Open daily 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; admission is US$2.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication