Puuc Route: A Journey Through Mayan Cities

Last Updated Sep 7, 2023

Do you want to embark on a fascinating journey through time as you explore the Puuc Route?

The Puuc Route is an enchanting trail that takes you through a series of ancient Mayan cities in Mexico. You can discover there the architectural wonders, vibrant history, and cultural heritage of this fascinating region. From the bustling streets of Cancun to the mystical ruins of Uxmal, this itinerary is truly an unforgettable adventure.

Join us as we delve into essential travel information, guiding you on how to make the most of your Puuc Route experience.

What is the Puuc Route?

The Puuc Route, also known as Ruta Puuc in Spanish, is a designated archaeological route that encompasses a series of Mayan cities located in the Puuc hills of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. It is located about 80 km south of Mérida and is a perfect one-day trip.

The term "Puuc" translates to "hills" in the Mayan language, referring to the hilly terrain characteristic of this region.

Stretching approximately 50 miles (80 kilometers), the Puuc Route takes travelers on a captivating journey through ancient Mayan sites (Uxmal, Kabah, Sayil, X-Lapak, Labna), showcasing their unique architectural style, intricate stone carvings, and historical significance.

In addition to these archaeological wonders, travelers can explore the mysterious caves of Loltún, visit well-preserved haciendas including the Yaxcopoil museum (admission fee of $75 pesos), check out the restaurant and museum at Ochil, and stop at the Temozon boutique hotel and restaurant. The route also features stunning cenotes, opportunities to visit Maya villages, and encounters with larger Maya towns like Ticul and Oxkutzcab.

This route offers a glimpse into the prosperous era of the Maya civilization and provides an opportunity to explore some of the best-preserved archaeological sites in Mexico.

The Puuc Route

A Bit of History

The Puuc region was inhabited by the Maya civilization from around 200 BC to 1200 AD, reaching its peak during the Late Classic period (600-900 AD). The Maya people were skilled architects, astronomers, mathematicians, and artists, leaving behind a rich cultural legacy that continues to captivate modern-day travelers.

The cities along the Puuc Route were once important centers of political, economic, and religious activity. They flourished as trading hubs and significantly influenced the region's cultural and commercial networks. The architectural style found in the Puuc cities is distinct and characterized by gorgeous stone mosaics, ornate friezes, and detailed sculptures depicting mythological and historical themes.

During the decline of the Maya civilization in the 10th century, many of these cities were abandoned, and their grandeur was gradually reclaimed by the dense jungles. It was not until the late 19th and early 20th centuries that archaeological exploration and restoration efforts began, revealing the magnificence of these ancient sites once again.

Today, the Puuc Route stands as a testament to the advanced engineering and artistic skills of the Maya people. Exploring these cities allows visitors to step back in time and gain insights into the daily life, religious practices, and architectural achievements of this extraordinary civilization.

Downtown Merida

What to See on the Route

Let us recommend you some obligatory stops on the Puuc Route.


Begin your Puuc Route adventure by exploring Uxmal, one of the most remarkable Mayan cities in the Yucatan Peninsula. Marvel at the monumental architecture of the Pyramid of the Magician, the Governor's Palace, and the Nuns Quadrangle.


At Uxmal, visitors can find a convenient tourist center offering various amenities such as shops, restaurants, and restroom facilities. The entrance fees for Uxmal differ for non-Mexican citizens, priced at $494 pesos, while Mexican citizens enjoy a discounted rate of $225 pesos. Please note that climbing to the top of the Pyramid of the Magician in Uxmal is no longer permitted.

For an enchanting evening experience, consider attending the Light and Sound Show or video mapping at Uxmal. The shows take place from Monday to Sunday at 7:30 pm and 8:15 pm.

Choco-Story Uxmal is also a must-visit attraction located across from the Uxmal archaeological site. It offers a delightful experience at the chocolate museum. The entrance fee for Choco-Story Uxmal is $180 pesos.

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Your next stop is Kabah. It is known for its well-preserved façade of the Codz Poop, the Palace of Chaac Masks (The Mayan rain god) where you can admire the elaborate stone carvings that depict Mayan deities. The entrance is $75 pesos.



Sayil, located approximately five kilometers away, bears the name "The Place of the Ants." As you arrive at the entrance, you'll notice an open-air museum with a thatched roof. Take the opportunity to explore the remarkable stelae, dating back to the period between 800-1000 AD.

One of the highlights of this site is a splendid palace, boasting an impressive 90 bedrooms, once accommodating around 350 individuals. From the palace's upper level, you can enjoy panoramic views that encompass the church at Santa Elena and a small ruin perched on the mountainside, known as "the nine masks." Restroom facilities are available for visitors' convenience. The entrance fee for Sayil is $70 pesos.



X-Lapak, named after its "unglued walls," is a site featuring around 14 mounds and three partially restored pyramids. Unlike some of the more extensively restored sites, X-Lapak, along with Sayil, provides a unique opportunity to witness the sites in a more raw and untouched state, resembling how they appeared upon their discovery.


As you explore X-Lapak, take note of the numerous carved stones scattered on the ground, offering a glimpse into the rich artistic traditions of the ancient Mayan civilization. The entrance fee for X-Lapak is $70 pesos.


Your next destination on the Puuc Route is Labná, which was once a bustling city inhabited by approximately 1,500 to 2,500 people between 750 and 1000 AD.


At present, four buildings have been meticulously restored for visitors to admire. As you enter the site, you'll notice the caretaker's residence with its open thatched roof, providing an authentic glimpse into the local way of life. The highlight of Labná is the well-restored large palace, which boasts 70 chultunes (water cisterns), unfortunately not visible to the public.

Another iconic feature is the highly-photographed arch, believed to be the city's focal point and the entrance to the "sacbé" (a white road or Maya highway) that connected Labná to Uxmal. If you have a gardening spirit, the caretaker's wife offers a selection of plants for sale. The entrance fee for Labná is $70 pesos.

Practical Information

Nearest Airport - Cancun

The starting point of your Puuc Route expedition begins at Cancun International Airport (CUN). This modern airport is well-connected to major international destinations, making it easily accessible for travelers from around the globe. Several airlines offer regular flights to Cancun, allowing you to plan your journey with convenience.

How to Move Around

To navigate the Puuc Route effectively, it's recommended to rent a car from Cancun or hire a local driver. Having your transportation allows you to explore the cities at your own pace and provides flexibility in reaching each site. Public transportation options are limited in the region, so renting a car ensures a seamless and convenient journey.

What to Bring

When preparing for your Puuc Route exploration, it's essential to pack accordingly. Of course, you can always buy some things that you have forgotten but sometimes in the middle of the jungle, it’s not that easy. Therefore, here are some suggested items to consider bringing along:

  • Comfortable walking shoes: As you explore ancient cities and archaeological sites, comfortable footwear is a must.
  • Lightweight clothing: Mexico's climate is generally warm and humid, so pack breathable clothing suitable for outdoor activities.
  • Sun protection: Don't forget sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses to shield yourself from the sun's rays.
  • Insect repellent: To ward off any pesky insects during your outdoor adventures, bring a reliable insect repellent.
  • Water bottle: Staying hydrated is crucial, so carry a refillable water bottle to quench your thirst along the way.
  • Camera or smartphone: Capture the magical moments as you encounter the architectural marvels and breathtaking landscapes of the Puuc Route.

Best Time to Visit

The Puuc Route can be enjoyed throughout the year, but the best time to visit is during the dry season, which spans from November to April. During this period, the weather is pleasant, with lower chances of rainfall. However, keep in mind that this is also the peak tourist season, so expect larger crowds at popular sites.

If you are a bit of an introvert and prefer quieter surroundings, consider visiting during the seasons of May to June or September to October.

Remember that all sites along the Puuc Route are open every day of the year and the opening hours are from 8 am to 5 pm, with the last access allowed at 4 pm.

Get Ready for the Mayan Adventure

Embarking on the Puuc Route is like stepping into a living history book, allowing you to witness the ancient Mayan civilization firsthand. From the architectural wonders of Uxmal to the lesser-known gems of Kabah, Sayil, Labna, and X-Lapak, this journey promises to be an unforgettable experience.

With the essential travel information provided, you're well-equipped to plan your trip, ensuring a seamless and enriching adventure through the Mayan cities of the Puuc Route. So pack your bags, prepare your camera, and get ready to be captivated by the awe-inspiring remnants of a fascinating ancient civilization!

Get Ready for a Mayan adventure

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