Ek Balam, also spelled Ek' Balam or Ek' B'alam, is an important archaeological site of the late classic Maya culture. Ek' B'alam means Black Jaguar or Star Jaguar in the Yucatec Maya language, but inscriptions indicate that the original name of the site was probably Talol. Rare and original stucco sculptures are protected by modern thatched roofs on the remains of the Acropolis. Such stucco sculptures generally do not survive because they are just plaster and weather rapidly. As Chichen Itza became more powerful, eclipsing Ek Balam, the Maya themselves buried the Acropolis at Ek Balam, preserving the stucco sculptures and many painted hieroglyphic inscriptions. This gives us an illustration of what many other Maya sites must once have looked like.
There is no museum on site. The small visitors' center charges for entry and has restrooms. Hotels and restaurants can be found in any nearby town, including Mérida and Valladolid. This site is becoming more popular with tourists, but is still (July 2007) much less visited than the much larger Chichen Itza.
An hour and a half is plenty of time to see the site, unless you are an archaeologist. Ek Balam can easily be combined with visits to other sites.
Flora and fauna
Hot, humid, often with blazing sun. Bring water, sunscreen, and a hat.
Ek Balam is easily reached from major highways in the state of Yucatan. It is close to Mérida, Valladolid, and Chichen Itzá. The usual blue and white tourist signs indicate the direction on the highway (these signs are few and far between, and as of July 2007, were accurate).
There are no buses that go to Ek Balam, you need to take a car, taxi, or collectivo taxi. Collectivos are vans or regular taxis that take multiple people to the same place, and are cheaper than taking a private taxi for just your group.
The Collectivos to Ek Balam pick up on Calle 37 between Calle 42 and 44. Collectivo cost is 40 pesos per person or 160 pesos for a taxi (May 2014). They don't run a van but just put several people into the same taxi.
When departing there is a shaded waiting area outside the entrance where you can decide if you want to wait for more passengers to go via collectivo or you can just pay the full taxi price and leave immediately.
Admission fee is 95 pesos (June 2013)
See the cenote nearby. There is a path by the main entrance that leads to it, and there are often people with rickshaws who will taxi you to it for a small fee. Cenotes are freshwater sinkholes dozens of feet deep, and were considered sacred to the Mayans. Ek Balam's cenote has stairs leading down to the water, a boardwalk around the edge of the water, a rope swing from the boardwalk and a kayak. It's great for swimming on a hot day or just watching the catfish that live in the water.
The small town/village of Ek Balam is near the site. The village has at least one restaurant (Italian).
Very close to the site there is a small "cafe" dispensing cold drinks.
If you climb the ruins, be aware that the descent can be visually disorienting. Do not climb the Acropolis if you are subject to vertigo. The stairs are small and uneven, so take caution coming down, as medical help may take a while to arrive if you fall.
The area around the site seems quite safe.
Vendors near the site may direct you to park next to their shop and may pressure you to pay them to watch your car. If you do not desire their services, you may safely turn them down.