Uxmal is a Mayan ruin about an hour from Merida. Although still on the tourist map it’s far less busy than ruins like Chichen Itza or Tulum. Combining a visit to this ruin with the chocolate museum across the road is a perfect day trip from Merida. The roads are pretty empty making it a good option for a self-drive if you’re brave enough to rent a car
We arrived just in time to prove that Brits like to play in the midday sun. We paid our 30 peso parking fee and headed off to purchase tickets. Brilliantly this fee is split in to two and, unlike every other ruin site, you have to pay the two bits separately. Yes, there is a notice telling visitors this but if you’re like me you’re really not going to be reading every tiny A4 scrap of paper pinned up around the ticket office. And because of my lack of reading of tiny signs, we got to the woman taking entry ticket number one (because if you’re selling two tickets you need them to be checked by two separate people, right?) only to be told we needed to go and buy ticket number two too. Now, why couldn’t the guy from whom I bought the first tickets have told me this? He could see I spoke Spanish from the actual conversation we had but no, he didn’t say anything. Back we trundled to join a queue of similarly disgruntled visitors from around the world (including Mexicans) all queuing to purchase this magical second ticket.
All my whinging is now done.
Kids Love Ruins
My favourite thing about all these ruins is probably that my kids love them as much as I do. They are so excited to explore any open door, to create echos and to climb anything they’re allowed to climb. They love running around the ruins and I just adore hearing my kids get enthusiastic about historical buildings. We don’t go overboard telling them much about the places, partly because we don’t know much and partly because we want them to love history rather than feel history is stifling something they’re enjoying. (and I’m not above bribing SG to climb monumental staircases by promising her a biscuit at the top).
After a good few hours of exploring we headed across the road to the chocolate museum, housed in a beautiful old hacienda. It costs 120 pesos per adult but kids are free. We did pause when we saw how much it was going to cost us but then figured we should give it a chance. I’m so glad we did as it was really well done. First stop was a playground for the kids. Once we’d persuaded them to leave it behind we began our walk around the magnificent grounds.
The museum bits are housed in five or six traditional style buildings that you walk between. There is a good mix of things to look at and some very accessible text should you wish to learn about the history of chocolate. Between these buildings we met animals that the museum is rehabilitating – Col got to feed a monkey and we saw jaguars too.
We sat and watched a traditional Mayan chocolate ceremony and were given traditional hot chocolate to try (yummy). SB loved his so much he even went and thanked the staff, in Spanish, without being asked (with a full sentence, not just a ‘gracias’).
And of course, because it was a chocolate museum, we didn’t feel we could leave without buying carrots. I mean chocolate. Sadly it was the same chocolate we buy from the expensive shop in town; happily, it was the same delicious chocolate we buy from the expensive shop in town!!!
(I’m gonna leave that picture big so you can see the deliciousness)
We then to the next town (Santa Elena) for a Mexican lunch/early English supper (having subsisted on crisps and bananas all day). On the way we saw a bush fire along the road. We explained to the kids that when we got to the restaurant we’d ask them if they should call the fire brigade because that is what being a responsible citizen means. That didn’t quite go to plan:
Me to waiter: um, I have a question: is it normal to see the trees at the side of the road on fire?
Waiter: No. Where?
Me: Near Uxmal
Waiter: Not good.
Me: Can you phone the fire service?
Waiter: Why? No. Someone from Uxmal can do it.
Me: But it’s on fire and we saw it.
Waiter: It’s fine, someone else will do it
Oh, ok then. On the way back, we didn’t only see one fire but five. The big one was out but there were lots of little ones. No one seemed bothered. The kids were very excited and we got to explain about how dry Yucatan is and how easily fire can be started and then spread. Yay. And then the kids were knackered and got all shouty in the car so that was fun.
If you’re in Merida and looking for another day trip, can I recommend Izamal, the yellow city? It’s a beautiful little town and great fun to explore.