Mexico has 35 towns that are considered magical, which has to do with interesting sites, accessibility, and the desire of locals to maintain or create the sort of environment that folks want to experience. And a visit here is, indeed, a special experience. The whole town is painted egg-yolk yellow! The colonial buildings, the huge convent, the market…everything. It’s awesome midday when the sun is bright and the Yucatan sky is at its bluest. With cobblestone streets and antique lampposts and horse carriages serving as taxis, a stop here felt like stepping back in time.
The enormous 16th century monastery and church of St. Anthony of Padua sits on (and was partially built from) the ruins of a Mayan pyramid. Pope John Paul II came here in 1993 and led prayers in the giant atrium (believed to be second only in size to the Vatican).
A statue of the Nuestra Senora de Izamal was brought here from Guatemala in the 1500s by Bishop Diego de Landa and miracles are attributed to her with a yearly pilgrimage and fiesta that takes place in her honor.
Ancient Izamal was also an important religious center for the Mayan people. The cathedral was built over the ruins and a cenote, the dampness causing the tile floors to buckle in several places inside the chapel. Many businesses along the town’s main plaza still have the remains of pyramids in their back yards. This one, Kinich Kakmo, dedicated to the sun god and now covered in jungle growth, can be seen from almost anywhere in town. It looks like a big hill. Izamal is sometimes called the “city of hills” although the Yucatan is as flat as a pancake. Up close, you can see that the “hills” are ancient pyramids, built stone by stone.
Kinich Kakmo is the largest pre-Hispanic building in the Yucatan. It’s base covers about 10 acres and was part of a royal Mayan city that flourished between AD 250 and AD 600.
There is an interesting mix here of the three cultures — the ancient Mayan pyramids, the colonial Spanish architecture, and the modern-day activities in the town’s plazas and markets. It’s a good place to buy hammocks made from henequen, wood carvings of the saints, papier mache birds and animals, and jewelry made from the cocoyol seeds. And there are lots of great photo ops!
See more info about Izamal HERE.
See also “10 Things the Maya Got Right”