I remember sitting in my middle school Spanish class looking at slides of my teacher’s previous trips to Mexico. Even at that age ancient ruins fascinated me. I was in awe seeing that my teacher had visited and climbed to the top of Chichen Itza. But having only travelled to a handful of states, my eleven year old self wasn’t certain I would get an opportunity like that. So when we booked our cruise to Mexico that was one of the first excursions I searched for. A chance to see remnants of the Mayan civilization up close and climb to the top of a pyramid. I was pleasantly surprised to find there were several options to see ancient ruins on our cruise. After narrowing down the selections to sites that allowed visitors to climb a pyramid and that featured multiple structures to explore, we decided on Uxmal.
As Uxmal is about an hour and a half away from the port of Progreso, it is a full day option. Prior to the trip, the amount of driving time scheduled had me nervous. I didn’t want to feel like we had spent the majority of our only day in the Yucatan on a bus. While there are other Mayan sites closer to the port I still highly recommend this one. Though a bit of a drive, the bus trip went by quickly with a tour guide sharing stories about the region. Emilie especially enjoyed when he practiced Spanish with her.
When we reached Uxmal, the tour was very well organized. Everyone from the excursion entered together and a tour guide walked us among the different structures, sharing the history. The guide was very knowledgeable and wanted to make sure every guest left with an understanding and appreciation of the culture. It was an amazing way to bring history to life.
At each portion of the park, there was plenty of time to admire the buildings and take photos. We definitely appreciated this as there were so many fascinating spots. The Ball Court amazed me. I know these are fairly common among Mayan ruins, but having learned the history of Ball Courts in the past, it was so exciting for me to see one in person. Additionally, the intricate stone carvings on the temples were beautiful. And the oversized iguanas roaming the grounds definitely surprised us. We had never seen wild iguanas before, and these were massive!
After a thorough tour of the city, the guide released the group to explore the grounds. We immediately headed to the Great Pyramid. Prior to the trip, I read warnings regarding the amount of walking and stair climbing on this excursion. We definitely walked and climbed a lot. Getting to the top of the pyramid was a feat for me. And once it was time to descend, I will admit I was hesitant. I’m not the most graceful when it comes to climbing…or even basic walking. For most people, it’s definitely doable. Our daughter was in second grade at the time and had no trouble or anxiety in either direction. Despite the physical exertion and nervousness, I would climb that pyramid again without hesitation. It was breathtaking getting to stand at the top of something so historical and look out to see views of the ancient city and jungle.
When it was time to return to Progreso, I left Uxmal feeling like we had made the most of our visit. I am definitely grateful for the amazing tour guides who helped ensure it would be both informative and memorable.
On our way back to the boat, we made a stop for a light lunch break at Hacienda Ochill. This was such an unexpected gem and I only wish we could have stayed longer. We first headed to a charming outdoor patio, with a wooden roof, open air doorways, and tiled floor.
Lunch itself was a small meal of traditional Yucatan foods, as well as a sample of rice milk and hibiscus juice. It was exciting to try something authentic to the area. Emilie’s favorite was the rice milk!
After our meal they invited us to explore the grounds and gift shop. Emilie purchased a small henequen fiber fan as her souvenir, a perfect choice since the Hacienda Ochil is a recreation of an 18th century henequen farm.
The architecture, rows of henequen, foliage, and the fountains were all so dreamy. Everywhere I turned I wanted to capture a picture and I wish we could have stayed longer. The beauty of the grounds were so absorbing we almost missed the bus to leave.
Both Uxmal and Hacienda Ochil were fantastic experiences. We all had a great time experiencing Mexico of the past; being engrossed in another culture and civilization. And it was my favorite type of adventure where were could be outdoors moving around, among picturesque sights, and learning at the same time. We would definitely recommend both of these for families who want to make some unique memories when visiting the Yucatan.