Puuc Route is located in the southwestern part of the Yucatán below
Mérida. It consists of a number of ruins: Kabah, Sayil, Labná and
the famous Uxmal. The Puuc style is recognizable by its sophisticated
architecture made up of clean lines, rounded walls, ornate stone
frescoes with intricate patterns, rows of columns and high vaulted
arches. Many of the buildings are flat, low elongated built on artificial
platforms and laid out in quadrangles. They are perhaps the most
elegant ruins in the Maya world.
Uxmal (thrice built) is the largest ruin. As one of the largest
Maya cities, Uxmal was an important economic and political power
in ancient Mesoamerica. Its most important period was during the
Classic Period (AD 200 – 900) when many of its structures were completed
or renovated. Although one of the most important Maya cities in
the area, most of the site is un-restored but there are three main
buildings that should not be missed. Píramide del Adivino o Enano
(Pyramid of the Magician or Dwarf) is an unusual Mayan pyramid because
of its distinct rounded corners and elliptical shape. It is also
the tallest building: 38 meters high with a central staircase that
has a steep 60° angle making it a challenge to climb. At the summit
are a series of small temples; Temple Four has a giant mask of the
water god Chaac with his mouth open against the backdrop of the
majestic Puuc Hills. According to legend, a dwarf magician built
the pyramid in one night.
La Monjas (the Nunnery) received its name from the Spanish conquistadors
who thought this series of buildings resembled a convent. Archaeologists
have determined it was actually the living quarters of Uxmal’s king,
Chaan Chak, whose name means “abundance of rain”. His carved figure
on Stela No 14 can be seen in the museum located at the entrance.
The Nunnery is made up of four main buildings in a square formation
with an inner courtyard. Each buildings has a series of small chambers
divided by carved columns and are interconnected by passageways
looking out onto the private courtyard. The nunnery is the most
representative of the Puuc architectural style with smooth lower
walls in contrast to the limestone facades carved into elaborate
The Palacio del Gobernador (Governor’s Palace) covers 5 acres and
rises over an immense acropolis. It is thought to have been the
administrative center for Uxmal and is the only building facing
east. There are 11 entrances and three arrow shaped arches create
a series of passageways and chambers. Arrow-shaped arches add to
the elegance of the building. The whole palace is 12 meters across
and eight meters high resting on a platform base 320 feet long.
The lower walls are typically smooth but the upper section is one
long continuous mosaic of ornate carvings, geometric patterns and
Chaac masks in a façade using over 20,000 individually cut and carved
stones. Many considered it one of the most magnificent building
erected in the Americas on par with the cathedral of Cologne and
the great pyramids of Egypt.
Other highlights at Uxmal include the Casa de las Tortugas (House
of the Turtles), Casa de las Palomars (House of the Pigeons) and
the Juego de Pelota (Ballcourt). At night there is a Light and Sound
show that explains the various legends and history of Uxmal. The
Puuc route begins on highway 261, 2 hours drive south of Mérida,
four hours west of Cancun. The ruins are open daily 8 AM – 5 PM.
Admission: $5 for entrance to ruins and museum, sound and light
show $5, use of video cameras $8. Free Sundays and holidays.
to the Mayan Ruins Main Page