Pyramid of the Magician
Passing through the visitors center, and up a slow-sloping pathway, the first structure you reach is Uxmal’s tallest and among its most distinctive. The Pyramid of the Magician stands 38 meters (125 feet) high, and has a distinctive elliptical base, rather than the square or rectangular base of most pyramids. The softly curved edges combined with its impressive height and girth lend the temple a striking elegance.
You will approach the Pyramid of the Magician from the back, but the other (west) side is by far the most ornate. There, a staircase rises at an imposing 60-degree angle, lined by the hooked-nose masks representing Chac, the rain god.
Three-quarters of the way up, a huge “Monster Mouth” facade—borrowed from Chenes-style construction from present-day Campeche—surrounds a temple door. At the top is a two-story rectangular temple, with crosshatch panels beside the doors.
You’ll have to take our word for it, though, as tourists are no longer allowed to climb the pyramid, nor those at many other ruins. The restrictions are to prevent undue erosion, as well as accidents (of which there have been many, including a fatal tumble by a tourist at Chichén Itzá in 2005).
Before leaving, take note of the small but attractive plaza on the House of the Magician’s west wide. It’s known as the Quadrangle of the Birds, so named for the birds carved into the upper frieze of the small building opposite the house of the Magician. And there are more than just birds, but also Puuc-style decorative columns, faux thatching (or bird feathers?), and crescent-moon edging, all in remarkably good condition.
© Gary Chandler & Liza Prado from Moon Yucatán Peninsula, 9th edition