All over Mérida tour agency posters advertised excursions. I was intrigued by one with a yellow porticoed building and learned that it was called Izamal, a “Pueblo Mágico” about one hour from Mérida.
What is a Pueblo Mágico?
The Pueblo Mágico designation is awarded to those communities that over time have maintained their original architecture, traditions, history and culture. As well as to those that have been of great relevance to the country’s history.VisitMexico.com
We were surprised to see the entire village of Izamal painted in shades of ochre and yellow.
Izamal is known as The Yellow City. Sunshine makes me happy so I found this city painted in golden colors of sunshine radiated happiness.
The most important site to visit in this town of 15,000 residents is the Convent of San Antonio de Padua which was founded by Fray Diego de Landa in 1549.
There is a Spanish Mission San Antonio de Padua near the present-day town of Jolon in Monterey County, California established by Franciscans in 1771.
Looking out over the city from the convent we noticed a tall pyramid and could see people on its top! We had to go find it next.
Izamal is also called the City of Hills or “La Ciudad de los Cerros” in memory of the pyramids that went unnoticed, hidden under the brush, effectively preserving them. Izamal has six main Mayan archeological sites constructed between 400-600 AD and Kunich-Kak-Mó is the largest pyramid surface-wise in Yucatan state. Its base covers two acres. Access was free and climbing is permitted.
How We Traveled to Izamal
I began researching how we could get to Izamal on our own instead of on a guided excursion. I noticed it was situated nearly halfway between Merida and Valladolid, the next stop on our itinerary.
Instead of doing a day trip from I Mérida I wanted to create an excursion en route to Valladolid and wanted to include a visit to a historic hacienda as well.
To investigate options for traveling between two points I recommend the app Rome2Rio.
We didn’t want to rent a car and the quote for a private driver guide was expensive. With the hacienda being off the beaten path eliminated buses and colectivos as an option. Taxi seemed to be the only option. On the Uber app I could actually request an Uber to either destination but I didn’t see how to do both.
An Uber driver we used in Merida had given us his business card. I messaged him asking if he was available and to quote a price to drive us to the hacienda, to wait while we explored, and afterward continue to Izamal – about 2 hours of driving plus wait time. He quoted the very reasonable price of $50 so I booked a hotel in Izamal and we scheduled it with Arturo.
The next piece of the puzzle was how to travel to Valladolid from Izamal. I had no idea how we would do it, but I was confident there would be a way either by colectivo, bus, or taxi – all which we have experienced in Mexico. I figured we could look into it once we arrived in Izamal. No worries! (Actually, not knowing is very difficult for me, and probably most people.)
Sure enough, there was not just one, but two bus lines with several daily departures to Valladolid.
“Discover and Fall in love with Mexico” is the headline on the Visit Mexico webpage which lists 132 Pueblos Mágicos that are waiting for you – and me – to explore.
As we have seen, touring to Pueblos Mágicos requires effort and lots of logistics.
In Mexico state we failed to visit a single one of the ten because Mexico City itself is too big and amazing!
There are ten Pueblos Mágicos in Puebla state and I wanted to see one – Cholula and failed.
We missed all six of Oaxaca state’s Pueblos Mágicos.
We have been to the state of Quintana Roo three times and have yet to explore the three Pueblos Mágicos of Bacalar, Isla Mujeres and Tulum. (I confess, we accidentally went by ADO bus to Tulum but only left the bus station to eat lunch and have not seen the fantastic Mayan ruins on the beach. We missed seeing the magic of Tulum. I hope there’s a next time!)
We didn’t visit either of the two Pueblos Mágicos of Campeche state because I wasn’t aware of them and mistakenly assumed San Francisco de Campeche was one; it’s not.
In Yucatán state we have managed to visit two out of four of the Pueblos Mágicos: Izamal and Valladolid. (Hopefully there will be a next time to go to Sisal on the Gulf of Mexico.)
That leaves 127 remaining Pueblos Magicos to visit.
Planning a trip to Mexico? Mexico’s Pueblos Mágicos are listed by state HERE.