Tourism Ireland

Ulama: The Oldest Sport In The World

by Jack Guy

Apr 28, 2015

Mayan Ulama Ballcourt at Chichen Itza, Mexico © Afagundes | Dreamstime


The ancient game of ulama has been played in Mesoamerica for the past 3,500 years, making it the oldest sport in the world. Archaeologists discovered evidence that it was played from northern Mexico as far south as Nicaragua, surviving the rise and fall of civilizations to maintain a cult following to this day.


Mesoamerican Ulama Field in Coba, Mexico © Javarman | Dreamstime 36493396

Mesoamerican Ulama Field in Coba, Mexico © Javarman | Dreamstime


Teams of players line up on either side of a court made up of a long alleyway flanked by walls off of which the large rubber ball can bounce, and points are scored when one team fails to keep the ball in play. Different versions of the game were played in different regions, but predominantly the hips are used to manipulate the ball, no mean feat when it can weigh up to nine pounds.


Other forms of the game involved using the arms or wooden rackets, and courts have been uncovered during archaeological digs all over the region, including prominent Mayan sites Tikal and Chichen Itza.


Mesoamerican Ulama Field in Coba, Mexico © Tandemich | Dreamstime 38784991

© Javarman | Dreamstime


Historically the game carried religious significance, with ritualized games played at religious festivals. Some of these games were a matter of life and death, ending in human sacrifice which saw losing players decapitated. The Spanish drove ulama underground after they banned it due to this practice, leading to a sharp decline in popularity from which the game has never recovered.


Although ulama is a dying sport in modern times, there remains a small band of dedicated players who are fighting to preserve the ancient tradition. Sadly they appear to be fighting a losing battle, and to see a game, or participate in one yourself, you’ll have to get yourself to Mexico, and fast.



Insta Feed
Tips / Other
Apr 25, 2019

What to Look for When Running a Race

Choosing a race to run can be daunting. There are so many, and they all offer different perks, experiences and drawbacks.

Leave Troublesome Rideshare Worries Behind

We can see it now and remember when it happened to us: Watching as the black car icon loops around and around, seemingly endlessly, and our wait time on the rideshare app continually changes. Long wait times and confused drivers are just a few bothersome issues that can nag at rideshare users. Need a solution? Ditch rideshares altogether in favor of renting a car on your next trip.

Tips / Destination
Apr 25, 2019

Guide to Spring Festivals in Philadelphia

Spring in Philadelphia is a beautiful time. The flowers are blooming, there are people out enjoying nature and Philadelphia’s festival season begins. There are festivals year-round; however, the spring festivals draw much bigger crowds and get Philadelphians ready for a fun and enjoyable summer. Each festival is unique and it’s worth attending as many as possible to fully enjoy the city.

Products / Food/Drink
Apr 25, 2019

Modern Recreation Coffee Subscription

Have your coffee delivered right to your doorstep with a Modern Recreation Coffee subscription. The company works with specialty roasters to bring you unique, high-grade beans.

Culinary Artistry

Dining is an art, and now that applies to both on the ground and at 35,000 feet thanks to Hainan Airlines’ “Hai Chef” Inflight Artistic Chinese cuisine series, a collaboration with Dong Zhenxiang, a Chinese culinary master also known as Dadong.

Spend a Night on a Glacier with This New Travel Experience

Book the Night on a Glacier experience, available May–September, from Off the Map Travel, to not only spend a one-of-a-kind night in a one-of-a-kind destination, but also enjoy your chance at seeing Norway’s magnificent polar bears.