Ek’ Balam (8 a.m.–5 p.m., US$3) is a unique and fascinating site that has only recently been appreciated by researchers and tourists. Maya for “Black Jaguar,” serious restoration didn’t begin here until the mid-1990s.
It was during that time that a remarkable and incredibly well-preserved stucco mural was uncovered partway up the site’s largest pyramid. The discovery revealed a great deal about this commercially-important city, which thrived A.D. 700–1100, though much remains unknown.
Although it’s located just 30 kilometers (19 miles) north of Valladolid , and in close proximity to Cancún  and Mérida , Ek’ Balam has not attracted the bus loads of tourists that other sites have. That may change: already a huge parking lot has been completed, a new visitor center is underway, and there are plans to widen the access roads.
A village by the same name is two kilometers (1.2 miles) away and provides basic accommodations and food; for more options and other traveler services, head to Valladolid.
If you’re driving from Valladolid, head north on Highway 295 toward Tizimín. After about 17 kilometers (10.6 miles), turn right (east) onto the well-marked turnoff toward Ek’ Balam. From there, it’s another 11 kilometers (6.8 miles) to a fork: One direction leads to the village and accommodations , the other to the archaeological site .
A taxi from Valladolid to the village costs US$15–20 for up to four people. If you’re just visiting the ruins, you can negotiate for a driver to take you there and wait 1–2 hours and bring you back for around US$25.