Stephens and Catherwood visited Uxmal first in 1839, then again during their expedition of 1841. Describing his first view of the ruins, Stephens writes:

"We took another road,and, emerging suddenly from the woods, to my astonishment came at once upon a large open field strewed with mounds of ruins, and vast buildings on terraces, and pyramidal structures, grand and in good preservation, richly ornamented, without a bush to obstruct the view, and in picturesque effect almost equal to the ruins of Thebes...

...The place of which I am now speaking was beyond all doubt once a large, populous, and highly civilized city. Who built it, why is was located away from water or any of those natural advantages which have determined the sites of cities whose histories are known, what led to its abandonment and destruction, no man can tell."

John Lloyd Stephens, Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas & Yucatán, 1843