Izamal San Antonio de Padua

Izamal: village of three cultures in the middle of the jungle

The ‘yellow city’ Izamal is a village with about 15,000 inhabitants, in the middle of the Yucatan jungle and close to Mérida. Speaking of Mérida: Izamal was the capital of Yucatan before. Here the Mayan period transitions ‘seamlessly’ into the present time: in the center and just outside it are several pyramids, as part of the whole. The San Antonio de Padua Church with its huge courtyard is built on such a pyramid. Of course, this had to be bigger than the Mayan pyramid because just imagine. This is a Pueblo Magico and in addition to its pyramids, its church is also famous for the Yucatec restaurant Kinich, which is highly regarded everywhere. The village will become a route of the Tren Maya Ruta, which will surely boost tourism here.

Where is it located?

The village is an hour from Mérida, so don’t worry it’s a huge distance. Yet it is slightly off the beaten track, which is what makes it so likable, at least for me. It is also often a bit warmer here than in Mérida, so if you decide to travel in the summer, it is good to take that into account by wearing more body-covering clothing. If you don’t have a car, public transport is a great option. From Mérida, there are ADO buses to this village, but also the small collectives.

  • Izamal San Antonio de Padua
  • Izamal San Antonio de Padua
  • Izamal tree in centre
  • One of the Zocalos in Izamal

The City of the Three Cultures

This is the City of the Three Cultures and has been called ‘the soul of the cultural heritage of the Yucatec people’. Because, as mentioned, the Mayan pyramids are located between the colonial houses. Welcome to the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, you would almost say. The houses are all painted yellow and white, the streets are cobblestones: it gives things just that little bit more cachet. This cute little town is described as ‘a place with a majestic style within a regional context’. Not my words, but I can’t describe it better. As mentioned, this is a Pueblo Magico, but (for now) you don’t have to worry about many tourists. There really are hardly any.

The Church of San Antonio de Padua

Dating back to 1561, the San Antonio de Padua is the main pilgrimage site for Catholics in Yucatan and is famous far beyond the country’s borders. This is unmistakably the central point of the village and has enormous appeal. The courtyard is large and grassy and a lovely place to relax in the shade. This is just free to visit. We were not allowed to enter the church itself, but it seems to be beautiful.

Be sure to take a tour around the church. Nothing is the same, this is quite an architectural masterpiece. Around it are two squares: Parque Zamna and Parque Crescensio Carillo y Anacona. This is where the restaurants and shops are. What you see a lot here: horses with carriages. You are constantly approached by the men to take a ride. Don’t, you can walk here just fine and I’m not a big fan of using animals for something like that.

  • View over Izamal
  • Izamal San Antonio de Padua from Kinich Kakmó
  • View from Izamal San Antonio de Padua from Kinich Kakmó

The Pyramids

Then, the pyramids. We did a tour that took us inside and outside the village. We were allowed to ride a quad over the cobblestones and through the jungle. From well-preserved pyramids in the center to pyramids overgrown by nature in the forest. Including an explanation about the environment and history.

  • Izamal piramid in the centre
  • Izamal Kinich Kakmó
  • Izamal Kinich Kakmó

The largest is the Kinich Kakmó, which means something like: ‘the Macaw of fire with the face like the sun’. The God Kinich would descend with the blazing midday sun to burn sacrifices, to purify. Kinich came in the guise of the Guacamaya, a parrot species that is common here. This pyramid is the largest on the peninsula and the third largest in Mexico. Other pyramids here are . Itzamatul. El Conejo and Chaltun Ha.

The restaurant

Restaurant Kinich Izamal serves traditional Yucatan dishes. At the entrance, the tortillas are already made by hand. Be careful though: the sauces you get are very spicy. By the way, we slept at Posada Ya’ax Ich. A hotel with a swimming pool, where it is really more than a good place to stay. Close to the center, easy to walk in a nice street. There are also a few haciendas in the vicinity, where you can spend the night. Be sure to check the prices on Booking.com.

  • Posada Ya’ax Ich Izamal
  • Random bird in Izamal
Nederlander Steven van Beek ('81) is gefascineerd door Nederlanders die zich vestigen in het buitenland. Hij spreekt met name Nederlanders in Mexico.
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