Edzna Ruins Mexico: The Mayan City You Forgot

The Edzná ruins in the southeastern Mexican state of Campeche are what remains of an impressive ancient city that thrived during the days of the Ancient Mayans. In its heyday, more than 25,000 people called Edzná their home, and the settlement sprawled across a whopping 25 square kilometres, making the city larger than Chichen Itza. Sadly, like many cities, Edzna began to decline following the Spanish colonisation of Mexico and was eventually abandoned. 

Today, few international travellers have even heard of Edzna, nor do they take the time to travel there. The ancient city is nestled in the heart of the dense Yucatan jungle in the southern part of Campeche state and is not the easiest place in the world to get to without a car. 

As someone who has been living in the Yucatan for the last few years, I have travelled to every single Mayan city in the peninsula (and there are a lot!). Among these, Edzna stands out as one of my favourites, and I have created this guide to help you discover its highlights too. 

Edzna archaeological site, Mexico
The Edzna archaeological site, Mexico

Visiting the Edzná  Ruins in Mexico

The City of Edzná, known as the “House of the Itzas” dates back to around 600 BC. It became a major commercial and political hub for the Maya and was eventually abandoned in 1500 AD.

The name “Itza”, as in “Chichén Itzá ” was most likely the pre-Columbian name of the family that governed the city between 800 and 1000AD. It was also the name that was given to the people living in the city so, despite the fact that they all had their own distinctive surnames, other civilisations knew them as “Itzaes”. 

Despite the size and grandeur of the city, the Edzna ruins were not discovered until 1907, and the site remained largely unexcavated until the 1980s. The various pyramids and structures at Edzna are centred around a main square known as “the Great Plaza of Edzna”. 

Some of the most notable buildings to look out for here are the Great Pyramid, the Grand Acropolis, and “The Temple of the Masks” which is home to two incredibly well-preserved large stucco masks of the Mayan sun god Kinich Ahau. 

The great thing about visiting the Edzna ruins is that the site’s out-of-the-way location means that for now at least, the site is pretty off the beaten path. My partner and I visited on a Sunday, and there were only a couple of other people at the archaeological site.

Many people who have been on a weekday have said that they got the whole place to themselves!

Visiting the Edzna archaeological site, Mexico
Visiting the Edzna archaeological site, Mexico

Most Important Buildings at Edzna

There are a couple of notable buildings to keep your eyes peeled for at Edzna which we will look at here. 

Most of these structures have been designed in the “Puuc” style of architecture similar to the Uxmal ruins and the cities of Kabah, Labna and Sayil. (Even though Edzna is a long way away from the Ruta Puuc). 

The Puuc style of building is very different from the style used in creating structures at Chichen Itza, for instance, and usually consists of smooth limestone walls decorated with intricate stucco friezes. The walls are often decorated with masks of Mayan deities such as the rain god Chaac. 

The Piramide de Los Cinco Pisos

The Piramide de Los Cinco Pisos (The pyramid of five floors), also known as “The Palace” is arguably the most impressive structure in the Edzna site. It reaches a height of 165 feet and, as the name suggests, consists of 27 rooms spread across five levels which were likely the living quarters for the city’s leaders. 

As you approach the base of the pyramid, you will note some interesting, weather-worn Maya hieroglyphics on the lower part of the staircase.

Glancing across the Grand Plaza, Edzna
Glancing across the Grand Plaza, Edzna

The Great Acropolis 

The Great Acropolis is a huge man-made structure that was likely created as a place for the nobles and elites of Edzna to give speeches and presentations. This area was likely a major hubbub of activity when Edzna thrived between 600 and 900 AD and consists of no fewer than 10 sprawling platforms.

The Small Acropolis

The small Acropolis is a modest, stepped structure which sits opposite the Gran Acropolis. It has a 24-foot high base and overlooks the Great Plaza and the Temple of the Masks. 

This little building is one of the oldest surviving structures in the complex and is believed to date back to the Early Classic period (300-600 AD), when it was built in a similar construction style to that found in Peten, Guatemala.

Faded red stucco masks at the Temple of the Masks, Edzna
Faded red stucco masks at the Temple of the Masks, Edzna

The Temple of the Masks 

The Temple of the Masks (Templo de Mascarones) takes its name from the two stucco masks of Kinich Ahau that were found here. One represents him as an old man, and one represents him in his youth, two images which are believed to reflect sunrise and sunset. 

It is remarkable how well-preserved they are considering their age. Archaeologists believe that the masks were once painted in shades of red, blue-green and black, but this colouring has faded with time and the elements. 

The masks were not discovered until 1988 so who knows what other artifacts and treasures may await beneath the surface here?

The Pok-ta-Pok Ball Court 

The sunbleached remains of an old Pok-ta-Pok ball court also await at Edzna. Pok ta Pok was an Ancient Mayan ball game that was often used as a way to settle debates and arguments. 

Sometimes, the losing team was sacrificed! Two teams would play against each other and would have to hit a hard rubber ball through a stone hoop mounted high on the walls using their hips.

Visiting the Edzna archaeological site, Mexico
Visiting the Edzna archaeological site, Mexico

An ancient plumbing network 

The residents of Edzna are also known for a water collection and distribution network and a series of canals that they built around the city which were very advanced for the time. The Itzaes would collect rainwater, since there was not a water source nearby, and retain it in underground wells. These tunnels and storage systems can still be found around the city today. 

How to Get to Edzna

I think that the main deterrent for people visiting the Edzna ruins (aside from the fact that the site is not well-advertised) is that the archaeological site is a little tricky to get to. It sits 52km away from Campeche city and the drive takes approximately 45 minutes.

Renting a car in Mexico is the best way to explore Campeche independently. From Edzna, you can also visit the lesser-known ruins of Calakmul and Becán.

Driving in Mexico is not as intimidating as it may sound and the roads between Campeche and Edzna archaeological zone are very good and well-maintained. 

Alternatively, you can take the bus from Campeche City or seek out a local tour company

Take the bus from Campeche to Edzna

There is a shuttle bus that runs between the City of Campeche and the Edzna ruins throughout the day. It departs every 30 minutes from Calle Chihuahua and you can buy a ticket directly from the driver on board for just 45 pesos.

You won’t miss the bus – it is bright red and white and displays the words “Colectivos del Valle de Edzna” on the side.

When you head back to Campeche from the Edzna ruins, you will need to wait in the same place where the bus dropped you off. There is no wifi or phone signal in the area and it’s quite remote and quiet so waiting here can be unnerving, but services are relatively frequent.

Sometimes the buses can be a little late on account of all the other stops they make along the way. 

Organise a tour

Opting to do an organised tour can take a lot of the stress out of trying to get from A to B and is a great choice for visiting a more remote site like Edzna. Most tours include pick-up and drop-off at your Campeche hotel, not to mention that touring with a local provides you with more insight and information than you would obtain independently.

Until recently, there really weren’t very many Edzna tours available at all, but a couple have popped up on Viator over the last year. Some of the best Edzna tours are summarised below.

Book your place online in advance to avoid disappointment!

Travel Writer Melissa Douglas walking through the Edzna ruins in a red dress
Walking through the Edzna Ruins

FAQs about Visiting the Edzna Ruins in 2023 and Beyond 

Do you have any further questions or queries about visiting the Ednza ruins? The answers to some frequently asked questions are detailed below so hopefully you will find the information you are looking for there.

If not, you are more than welcome to reach out to me and I will do my best to get back to you as soon as I can. 

Is Edzna worth a visit? 

Edzna is well worth the effort to get to and you can easily spend an entire afternoon here. The city was the most important pre-Columbian city in western Campeche. It is as large and well-preserved as more famous sites like Chichen Itza or Coba, but it has the added benefit of never being crowded, which makes for a more magical ambience when you explore. 

How much does it cost to go to Edzná?

Admission to Edzna is just 60 pesos per person and the site is free for domestic Mexican travellers on Sundays. There is a sound and light show here every Thursday through Sunday that starts at 8 pm each night which costs an extra 41 pesos per person and sees the various pyramids and structures illuminated in different colours, as loudspeakers tell the story of the city’s history.

Who lived in Edzna?

Edzna was once occupied by more than 25,000 Yucatec Mayans known as “Itzaes” after the governing family, the Itzas. Today the site is abandoned. 

Final thoughts on visiting the Edzna ruins

The Edzna ruins are among the best-preserved and most rewarding Mayan ruins to explore in the Yucatan peninsula. They are well worth the effort to get to and are usually devoid of tourists.

As of November 2023 some parts of the Edzna ruins, like the Vieja Hechicera (Old Sorceress), are closed due to preservation work.

If you decide to visit Edzna and wider Campeche, I am sure you will have a fabulous time! If this is your first trip to Mexico, you may be interested in reviewing this list of Mexico travel tips to know before you go.

Safe travels! Buen Viaje! Melissa xo

Melissa Douglas

Melissa Douglas is a British Travel Writer based in Merida, Mexico and the Editor-in-Chief of Mexico Travel Secrets. She has over seven years worth of experience in working in travel media and has travelled to 57 countries, mostly solo. Throughout her career, Melissa has produced written content for several high-profile publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, the Huffington Post, Rough Guides, and Matador Network.

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