Ek Balam – The Black Jaguar – Riviera Maya

Ek Balam in the Mayan language means “Black Jaguar”. It was a city of the ancient Maya in the Mexican state Yucatán around 30 km north of Valladolid and 150 km west of Cancun.

In 1997 the excavation was started. According to legends that were recorded by the Spanish government during the 16th century after the conquest of Yucatán, the city was founded by a ruler with the name Ek’Balam.

Ek Balam - Main Pyramid

Ek Balam – Main Pyramid

The Kingdom Talal

The city was the capital of a kingdom called Talal. It’s first ruler Ek’Balam was murdered after 40 years leadership. Earliest human traces date back to a time around 100 to 300 BC. The decline of Ek Balam began around AD 1200.

Look south - the Oval Palace

Look south – the Oval Palace

The ceremonial center of Ek Balam has a size of 1 km² and is surrounded by concentric walls that are interpreted as structures for defense activities. The surrounding area with structures that have not been excavated yet has a size of 12 km².

The Acropolis

The biggest building in Ek Balam is the “Acropolis”.  With its length of 160 m, the width of 70 m and a height of 31 m this pyramid is definitely the biggest pyramid in the northern Yucatán peninsula, due to its volume.

The snake mouth - entrance to the grave

The snake mouth – entrance to the grave

The building rises up to 6 levels. The excavation work revealed 72 rooms that were built into this high structure. In one of these rooms, archaeologists discovered the grave of Ukit Kan Le’k Tok. Inscriptions that were found say, that the initiated the construction of this pyramid during his regency in the years 770 to 801.

Beside this, there are several impressive structures more in the area. The Oval Palace allows a good view to the Acropolis. The Entrance Arch is a special building. It opens to 4 sides. The roof was reconstructed.

Ek Balam - Entrance Arch

Ek Balam – Entrance Arch

A highlight of Ek Balam are the many reliefs that are in a very good condition and show figures of the religious and real life of the ancient Mayas.

Cathedral of Valladolid

Cathedral of Valladolid


During my visit I combined Ek Balam with a visit of Tulum and Coba. To do this it makes sense to stay in Tulum and take a bus to Valladolid in the early morning. This takes around 2 hours on the highway.

There are “Collectivo” taxis that bring you to Ek Balam then. Another possibility is to stay in Valladolid and visit Chichén Itzá and Ek Balam in combination.

Valladolid is a very nice city with friendly people with houses in the Spanish-colonial style. It’s a good place for shopping as well, because it’s far away from the main tourist places.

Christian Schoen

Christian Schoen is a globetrotter, travel writer and author of the very successful travel guide "Die Ruinenstädte der Maya", published in Germany. He loves to visit temples, pyramids and any kind of ancient ruins. The SLR in his hand, he can be met on adventurous hiking tours in tropical jungle landscapes - sometimes - or just somewhere in his neighbourhood, the Black Forest Mountains in Germany.

1 Response

  1. 2013/10/06

    […] Ek Balam – The Black Jaguar […]

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