Are you a big fan of Light and Sound shows? I’ve been to many of them in my life as a traveler and yes, some (most?) of them are extremely tacky and can easily bore you after the first 10 minutes while others truly captivate you with their elaborate projections and the unique way they mix history and culture in an interesting narrative.
Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Uxmal Light and Sound show and well, my opinions are kind of mixed about it. But hey, how about we start at the beginning of this fateful day?
How to get to Uxmal
Uxmal is a Mayan Pyramid Complex located one hour away from Merida, capital of the Mexican State of Yucatan. This majestic site barely receives 100 visitors per day, so this is perfect for avoiding all the hassle and mass tourism of Chichen-Itza and Tulum. The unique architectural style of Uxmal is called the “Puuc style” and is fairly common to find it in the ruins near Uxmal.
Unfortunately, public transportation is not as good so it poses a BIG challenge to people who like to explore the ruins until closing time (17:00), stay for the Uxmal Light and Sound show (19:00 to 20:00) and come back to their hotels/hostels at Merida afterwards. Alternatively, you can arrive from Valladolid.
The reason for this is because the last Oriente bus to depart from Uxmal to Merida does so at 17:30.
So…what should you do? There’s basically 4 options:
- If you have the money and prefer convenience, you can book a tour to Uxmal for about 50 USD, depart Merida at 13:00, explore the ruins, enjoy the free buffet (drinks not included!) and relax by the pool until the Uxmal Light and Sound show starts.
- The other option is to hire a private driver at Merida for about 100 USD and have him take care of everything, as well to show you around the nearby Mayan site of Kabah. Of course, you can rent your own car too and do it yourself.
- If you don’t want the hassle of traveling in the dark, you can book your stay at one of the three hotels found at Uxmal and worry about coming back to Merida the following day. Be warned though, prices are definitely not for the budget traveler.
- Or…you can do travel on your own like me, risk being left stranded after the Light and Sound show was over and hope that one of the tour drivers has enough space in his van to take you back to Merida.
In total I ended up paying 50 pesos for the Oriente bus to Uxmal, 160 pesos for the buffet (it allows you to use to hotel’s facilities, including the swimming pool and deck chairs so it’s great to kill some time before the Uxmal Light and Sound show starts) and 70 pesos for the ride back to Merida. Total? 280 pesos, roughly 24 USD.
Exploring the ruins of Uxmal
The main building of Uxmal is the Pyramid of the Magician, a beautiful decorated Pyramid that honors the Mayan God of Rain, Chaac. In fact, you can find dozens of faces of this God decorating the front side of the Pyramid. Unfortunately, climbing is now prohibited, not unlike what’s happening at Chichen-Itza and Tulum. However, you can still climb the rest of the structures of this archeological site to get panoramic views of the place.
Common sense would indicate that the Uxmal Light and Sound show would take place in front of this Pyramid but, although the Pyramid itself does light up, the premise of the Uxmal Light and Sound show can be found a little bit to the east of the Pyramid, in one of my favorite plazas of the ancient world.
If you continue walking north of the entrance (east of the Uxmal Pyramid) you shall find the most amazing plaza of all of Mesoamerica: The Nunnery Quadrangle. This rectangular plaza is where the Uxmal Light and Sound show takes place. In each of its 4 corners you will be delighted to hear and learn about the Mayan civilization and their fascinating stories.
During the day, take some time to explore this plaza and to behold the richly detailed carvings of birds, Gods and all sorts of animals.
Climbing the Pyramids at Uxmal
As I said before, even though you cannot climb the Pyramid of the Magician, you can still climb the structures found north of the Nunnery Quadrangle (west of the main entrance), including the Great Pyramid from which you can witness an amazing panoramic view of all of Uxmal. Just be careful not to look down when descending, the vertigo is quite distressing for some.
On the way from the Nunnery Quadrangle to the Great Pyramid, you will also find the ball court of Uxmal and a few Iguanas. Actually, scratch that, you will find A LOT of Iguanas. I recommend you not to sit anywhere in this area unless you really want to befriend a green fellow!
Take your time to climb these ruins and, once you’re finished, you can kill some time at the buffet hotel and even take a nap next to the pool. Just remember to set your alarm to 18:30 in order to get some good seats for the Uxmal Light and Sound show!
Is the Uxmal Light and Sound show worth it?
Before you make any judgement about the quality of the Uxmal Light and Sound show (specially when you compare it to the ones at France and Egypt), it is important to realize that the show has been the same ever since 1975 when Queen Elizabeth II came to visit Mexico and was amazed at the quality of the show (specially when the narration summoned the Mayan God Chaac and a real torrential downpour took place!!!).
That being said, it is better to lower your expectations since you will not find projected images, this is strictly a show where the monuments’ walls change colors. I arrived quite early and the pre-show (where the workers actually test that the lights are functioning) is basically all that you will see during the main event. The narration is kind of cheesy but I have to admit that the chant to summon Chaac is kind of catchy, and well, the sound effects for the rain are really good.
Even when we consider that foreigners have to pay a very high price to see the show (177 pesos for entrance to the site + the Uxmal Light and Sound show, 72 pesos for the Uxmal Light and Sound show only), I would definitely suggest it. Specially because this is your only chance of seeing a Mayan Pyramid under the starry night sky (the Chichen-Itza Light and Sound show closed down in 2012).
Last but not least, don’t forget to use our Booking.com Affiliate Link of Wonders for making hotel reservations.
Same price for you and a small pocket money commission for this website of yours.
Sweet deal, uh?
Have you ever watched a Light and Sound show? Which one has been your favorite? Would you like to visit Uxmal? Share your thoughts and let me know what you think!