Universally, I think most people are proud of their town and its surroundings and quick to make suggestions to visitors. What to see, where to go, best places to eat and so on. In Kansas City I would tell you to eat at Joe’s Kansas City or Justus Drugstore , not to leave town without visiting the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and National World War One Museum and to try taking in a Chiefs, Royals or Sporting KC game with a Boulevard beer in hand (Tank 7, do it). In Baca, lots of people recommend various dances and fairs and to take in some of the historical buildings in the area. We’ve seen a lot of dances at this point and live in a colonial home so when we had guests recently we decided to try something a bit different.

We’ve heard the name Uxmal mentioned by the homeowners here and bandied about by our friend (from Baca) Roger on numerous occasions. They all told us they were really nice ruins and we should definitely go and see them. I’d never heard of Uxmal before so I figured that they were some smaller, not so well known ruins that Roger was proud of because they were basically in his neighborhood. But Uxmal is close and some uncrowded, quaint ruins sounded great to us and our visitors so off we went with no further research and only some vague directions.

Let me tell you right now, I am embarrassed that the word “quaint” even crossed my mind in reference to Uxmal. When we walked in I just stopped and stared for a minute. I mean, look at this place!

uxmal pyramid
Quaint? No. Cottages are quaint, this place is spectacular!

I was expecting a dirt parking area, some half-excavated walls and perhaps a few small buildings yet somehow we stumbled upon on a city that formerly housed thousands of people, a paved lot with nice shady parking and a fully modern visitors center (complete with snack bar). All of this was on par with the more famous ruin sites of Chichén Itzá or Tulum. About the only thing I could see that Chichén Itzá and Tulum had that Uxmal didn’t were the crowds. Don’t get me wrong, Chichén Itzá and Tulum attract so many people because they’re awesome and I encourage you to see them, but fair warning, they are crowded. I just couldn’t believe that not only had we never heard of this gigantic Unesco World Heritage site but apparently neither had anyone else.

uxmal plaza
Crowds? Maybe in the shade, the stone was roughly the temperature of the sun.
uxmal shade
Well, “crowds” might be the wrong word to use here.

It’s not like there weren’t other people there, we were sharing it with quite a few others, but Uxmal is big. Big! Every time I thought we’d come to the end of the city we’d round a corner and there would be another pyramid, temple, plaza or ball court. This place goes on for acres and acres and across several different manmade levels.

-pyramid-of-the-magician-uxmal
The Pyramid of the Magician stands about 13 stories tall and towers over the entrance to the city.
uxmal-pyramid-of-the-magician
The backside of the Pyramid of the Magician is still pretty impressive even at a distance.
uxmal-governors-palace
The “Governor’s Palace” sits on a huge platform several stories tall and many city blocks across that was built especially for it. I assume all this was built to enable the Governor to catch the best breezes because it was hot like fire on our visit.
view from governors palace uxmal
The Governor also had the best views.

Not only is Uxmal huge, it’s also very detailed. It boggles the mind to think about how long it must have taken people to not only hew the giant stones it took to build the buildings but then to go back and carve them so intricately. This place was built while the Crusades were being fought and many of the carvings still stand out over 1,000 years later. Freaking amazing.

uxmal-stonework
The X shaped crosshatchings combined with the heatwaves coming off the ground to make it look like a giant snake was circling the building. Sorry no pictures, heat waves are hard to photograph.
uxmal-stonework
The stonework facade on the Governor’s Palace is the longest in Mesoamerica.
It was good to be the Governor.

So, Uxmal is a magnificent thousand-year-old city spanning several acres and rising many stories above the surrounding area, is like an hour from our house and I’d never heard of it. How is that even possible? I don’t know but what I do know is this – if you’re visiting a new place and want to know what to do, ask a local. People are proud of their area and they’re bound to know more about it than a quick internet search will reveal. Take their advice.

And if you take my advice and eat at Joe’s Kansas City? Please send me some pictures, I’m suffering from a serious case of burnt ends deprivation.