It was with a cautious heart that I agreed to the one day Ruta Puuc ruinas tour from Mérida, as I had previously been to the famous Chichen-Itzá ruinas. I found it to be a bizarrely polarized experience, ranging from sharp fascination with the artifacts and lore of the Mayan culture which created them, to spirit-dampening sadness at the circus of hawkers that inhabits the grounds today. (I will never again need to hear the sound of the ubiquitous jaguar roaring toy, every 10 year old’s dream gift & their parents’ nightmare.) The day at Chichen-Itzá was both highly stressful and highly fascinating. I do my best to dodge the highly stressful times, though it is not always possible, wanting with equal fervor to be exposed to important life experiences that come my way.
The Ruta Puuc tour which we took in December 2018 is the Coles notes version of touring the Uxmal area ruins, consisting of a bus carrying passengers along the route of five sites, stopping at each to allow passengers to have a brief foray into each ruin. It is not likely to be adequate for the intense history buff, however it is a good introduction to the Mayan ruins which densely populate the region. As well, they are lightly visited so one is not likely to be battling hoards. One fellow on our bus who is a ruins buff used this tour as an intro with the intention of investigating Uxmal again in the following days.
The five sites visited on this tour, in order of our bus stops:
Lubna, Xlapak, Sayil, Kabah and, finally, the crown jewel of the trip Uxmal. This is a self directed tour, with no guide present; the entrance fees are paid separately from the bus fare, and is a most economical way to experience these ruins. The tour runs from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., giving 1/2 hour to each stop, with 2 hours for the final Uxmal visit. We paid 43 pesos for the bus, 55 pesos for each smaller site (except free Xlapak) and 182 pesos for Uxmal. Total = 390 pesos, or about $20 U.S. (PDC!)
Beginning with Lubna, we are greeted warmly by los perros en ruinas, a friendly family of dogs, always happy to welcome visitors. Happily, these dogs appeared to be healthy and well fed, likely in the care of the gate attendants.
My favourite structure in Lubna is el Arco, exhibiting a popularly rendered shape among arches in Mayan architecture. This particular ruin is believed to have originated as an entrance to the home of a wealthy Mayan family, while, in later years, it came to be used as a public space.
Back on the bus and on to the next ruinas site, named Xlapak (pronounced Ish-la-pac).
Intricate geometric stonework is a familiar sight on this tour, and is exhibited yet today in the handicrafts of modern Mayan weavings, crafts and paintings. Gorgeous!
This time we were bid ‘Adios’ by friendly and ever-hopeful (for a handout) ruins dogs, as we passed on our path back to reboard our transport.
Next stop, Sayil, with sprawling structures and a large expanse of grassy areas and buildings to explore. The use of columnal supports is a strong feature, likely both esthetic and practical, at Sayil.
A more modern Mayan descendant came up with this creative use of local resources to provide an attractive receptacle for garbage. (Next project: let’s find a way to eliminate plastic from the earth.)
On to Kabah, where we were able to stroll fields of grass, exploring several structures with barely another tourist sighting beyond our busmates.
Human figures adorn many of the wall sections and also appear as free standing sculptures. (Photo above by Aaron White) Below is a closer view of the figures and geometric designs common to Mayan architectural design.
Last stop in the Ruta Puuc Ruinas tour, the well known Uxmal, where the first structure encountered is an unusually smooth sided pyramid, The Pyramid of the Magician. Common folklore tells of this pyramid being constructed in one night, thus the reference to magic.
Some historical facts regarding Uxmal:
Uxmal covers the largest territory of these five ruins, and great views of jungle and the various structures can be achieved from the farther reaches of the site.
And after the torrential downpour, during which plenty of sheltering spots were to be found among the ruins, a full rainbow stretched splendidly across the sky, arching over the Temple of the Magician. How perfect!
This was a most satisfying day for me, and I recommend this tour for visitors to Mérida who wish for a day of dabbling in the mysteries of Mayan ruins. For a more indepth exploration, one can return another day, with or without a guide, after time spent ruminating over the big questions of these ancient and magical ruins.