Ek Balam is about 15 km (9 mi.) n. of the Mex. 180-D Valladolid exit via Mex. 295, following signs. To get there from Valladolid, take Calle 40 out of town to Mex. 295 and proceed n. about 18 km (11 mi.) to the Ek Balam turn-off (watch for the sign marking the turn-off). Archeologists believe the site achieved its greatest prominence sometime between A.D. 400 and 900; the name Ek Balam means “black jaguar.”
Stony, muddy walkways connect ruins unusual in the fact that the buildings have round corners where there are normally sharp right angles. Structure 1 (known as the Acropolis) dominates the main plaza. About 100 feet tall, this enormous pyramid has steep stairs that can be climbed for fantastic views of the surrounding area. Thatched roofs protect statues and carvings on the different levels.
About two-thirds of the way up is the recently uncovered tomb of Ukit Kan Lek Tok, one of Ek Balam's rulers. The opening, designed to look like a stylized jaguar head, is flanked by stucco sculptures of winged warriors intriguingly reminiscent of angels. Decorative features include skulls, a doorway lined with “teeth” and a wall covered with intricate carvings.
Smaller edifices surround the base of the main pyramid. Large thatched roofs protecting new excavation sites provide welcome shade. At the entrance is a restored Puuc-style gateway arch that once was connected to an ancient road, or sacbe (sock bay); the Maya built these slightly raised roads of limestone gravel to connect their cities.
There are restrooms in the ticket building. Wear comfortable walking shoes and bring drinking water. The small village of Ek Balam, just before the entrance to the ruins, is a good place to stop for cold refreshments.