“Built three times” means Uxmal in the translation from the Maya dialect.
The name refers to the fact that the highest building of the complex – the 38 meter high pyramid of the magician with its extraordinary, elliptical floor plan – was built over three times. According to legend, it was built by a Dwarf Magician in one night. To many, Uxmal is considered the most aesthetically beautiful of all Maya cities. Uxmal belongs to the UNESCO world heritage. Built in the so-called Puuc-style, Uxmal experienced his high time in the Late Classic.
With an estimated 25,000 inhabitants, it was also one of the largest Mayan settlements in the Yucatán. It probably dominated the neighboring cities of Kabah, Labná, and Sayil, with which it is connected by Sacbeob, the white, straight-lined streets of the Maya.
Characteristic features of the Puuc architecture, so named after the nearby hill chain of the same name, are also found in Uxmal. Simple foundations and lower floors, on which the richly decorated upper floors are mounted onto. Ornaments, carvings and stuccos feature snakes, lattice structures, and masks of the rain god Chac. Since there were neither surface water nor cenotes in the surrounding area, the inhabitants constructed cisterns or so-called chultunes, in which the rainwater was collected.
With the rare but heavy rainfalls, the fertile soil of the Puuc Mountains was washed into the lowland, so that the area of Uxmal was one of the best cultivable areas of Yucatán.
One of the most important buildings next to the pyramid of the magician is the complex called the Nunnery Quadrangle, whose name was chosen with reference to the 74 monastery-like rooms surrounding the rectangular courtyard. What function the buildings actually had is unknown. The Governor’s Palace is considered an outstanding example of Puuc architecture. It stands on an artificially raised platform and dates from the late phase Uxmals.
On the same platform is also the house of the turtles, which got its name after the turtle-ornaments of the frieze, which flows around its cornice. The Mayans supposedly believed that turtles were suffering from drought as did humans and that they would ask for rain just like they did.
The Great Pyramid, the so-called dovecote, the house of the old woman, the temple of the phalli and the cemetery group, are exposed to severe decay.
You can stay inexpensive in nearby Santa Elena or expensive in the immediate vicinity of the ruins. Uxmal can also be visited from Mérida within a day trip.