Overshadowed by its larger and more well known cousins, Palenque and Chichén-Itzá, Uxmal ("Oosh-mahl") is the ruins of an ancient Mayan city located near present day Campeche. In its heyday, Uxmal was one of the largest cities of the Yucatan peninsula with a population of about 25,000 Maya. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Ancient Mayan architecture in this part of Mexico is referred to as Puuc architecture and Uxmal is a prime example of this style of architectural design. Though there are some Puuc structures in Chichén-Itzá, Uxmal is unique in all of Mexico. Puuc design is most notable for buildings with a plain lower façade and a richly decorated upper façade. Carvings most commonly found include serpents and lattice work.
Uxmal is dedicated to the Mayan rain god, Chaac and you can see his image everywhere. On the day we were there, it was blisteringly hot and humid; I could’ve done with some rain!
When I first laid eyes on the four buildings that make up the complex known as the Nunnery Quadrangle, I thought they were the most elegant Mayan ruins I had ever seen. The clean lines of the buildings give them a modernity that is surprising considering Uxmal was built more than 1,000 years ago! The carvings on the upper facades are just spectacular and give the entire structure a very delicate feel.
Uxmal is located pretty close by to Chichén-Itzá so if you go to Chichén, consider going a bit further to visit Uxmal. You won’t regret it!