After visiting Ek Balam as opposed to the more-visited locales of Chichen Itza or Coba, most visitors remark on the quiet magnetism of the spot. Its unusual architecture, enigmatic name, and location deep in the remote jungle bring vivid visions of Mayan daily life to mind. The Ek Balam ruins are an enigma for tourists and historians alike.
Ek Balam was founded sometime around the third century A.D. It grew in population and prosperity as a hub for trade, worship, and agriculture. At its peak, Ek Balam was spread out over seven square miles, with a population estimated to be over 20,000 individuals. The sacred acropolis and the region within the fortified second wall were reserved for noble people, priests, and other city leaders. It is thought that Ek Balam was a kingdom seat or capital at its peak of influence. Indeed Ek Balam, or the Black Jaguar City, was as powerful as its namesake from 770 A.D to 840.
However, just after the height of its power, the population of Ek Balam vanished during the Postclassical period. The hasty abandonment of the city has puzzled historians and is often likened to the vanishing of the residents of the Roanoke settlement in Virginia centuries later. Supernatural theories abound. However, what is most likely is that the city, which had suffered several attacks over the eleventh century, was invaded a final time, and the remaining residents fled rapidly. Ek Balam was invaded at least once by the Itza tribe. The Itzas were a subgroup of Mayan people who lived in the same area as Ek Balam. This led to resource and trading clashes over the centuries.
Are there any cenotes at Ek Balam?
Yes! The Xcanche cenote is located a mile away from the Ek Balam ruins, and you can rent a bike from the visitor center to get to the incredible freshwater cenote.