Likely the best surviving example of Puuc-style architecture, at the ancient Maya ruins of Uxmal, Mexico:
Many Maya structures still bear the nicknames given whimsically to them by their re-discoverers in the 19th and 20th centuries. Whether by luck or prescience, the name of this structure fits it surprisingly well — archaeological work here indicates that it was once used by the rulers of Uxmal in its heyday.
This is the north face of El Castillo (a.k.a., the Temple of Kukulkan) at the ruins of Chichén Itzá in Yucatán, Mexico:
It’s pretty much the image you see of this structure on postcards, calendars, T-shirts, and the like — and it’s harder to capture than you might think. Since it’s a “marquis” structure at one of the most visited of Maya ruins, everybody wants to get their picture taken in front of it. So if you want a “clean” photograph (i.e., no tourists) of the structure, you’ll have to do what I did — take a dozen or so photos of the thing, then use Photoshop Elements to combine them.
Derived from the Mayan for “large hill,” Nohoch Mul is by far the largest (and to judge from pictures online, the most-photographed) structure at the Maya ruins of Cobá:
As you can see, parts of it (on the sides of the stairway) are in rough shape — but it’s got the advantage of being one of the largest Maya pyramids that visitors are still allowed to climb. And for those with issues with heights, a rope is provided to help you get up and down.
At the foot of the stairs on the north face of El Castillo, in the Maya ruins of Chichén Itzá, Mexico:
Should you make it to Chichén Itzá, just remember — you can walk right up to the steps, but don’t even think about climbing them. Not that many years ago (until 2006), you could climb these to check out the temple at the top (and take in a fantastic view). But sadly, somebody slipped and fell down the stairs (to their death) — the structure’s been off-limits ever since.
The first thing you see once you’re in the gate at the Maya ruins of Uxmal, Mexico:
It’s an impressive structure — although a bit odd for photography. You get a better overall vista from the east side, but the architectural details are better on the west side.
Some years back, you could climb the stairs and either go all the way to the top, or pass through the tunnel partway up (giving you access to older temples now buried in the body of the pyramid). But sadly you can’t climb this structure any more — at least you can get good shots of most of it from the ground. This is actually stitched from two wide-angle shots, with colors tuned up a bit in Topaz Adjust.
And by Great, they do mean Great — this is the largest ball court in the Maya realm. It’s so large, in fact, that archaeologists think it may not have been useable for the ball game — instead being used for ceremonies associated with the game. Meanwhile, Chichén Itzá has plenty of other (smaller) ball courts that could have been used for the regular game.
Definitely one of the steeper pyramids we saw on our 2011 trip, in the Terminal Classic Puuc site of Uxmal:
As you might be able to tell, kids had no problems with these steps — the bigger ones were racing each other to the top! Regular adults have to do the usual angle-walk up the steps.
You might also notice that this is the only one of the pyramid’s four faces that has been restored. Aside from saving money up front (restoration isn’t cheap), this saves money over the long run too — since once you restore something, you have to maintain it. Restoration also (in a way) destroys — since you can never be 100% sure you’re restoring something exactly the way it once was. So 3/4 of this structure is being saved for future generations of researchers to study and (maybe) restore at a later date.
In the Maya ruins of Sayil, Mexico (along the “Puuc Route“):
If you’re looking for Puuc-style architecture, most of its sub-styles can be seen somewhere in this structure — its three levels were built in a mix of Puuc styles over hundreds of years. In the interest of preservation, you can’t go up the front steps any more, but with a decent long lens, you can get good views / shots of all sorts of architectural details even from down on the ground.
You’ll need either a wide lens, or some stitching software to get the whole thing in one image, though. I shot this with a 7 mm lens on my Olympus E-5 — so, equivalent FOV to a 14 mm full-frame setup.