After you’ve been to Chichen Itza and Uxmal, you might want to visit some other villages around Merida, Mexico. One such option is the yellow town of Izamal.
Izamal lies 40 miles to the east of Merida. You have a few options to get out there – renting a car, public transportation, or a tour. I’d recommend renting a car. Tours can be expensive, and public transportation is really hit or miss – no air conditioning in the vans and buses that take nearly 4 hours when a car only takes an hour.
Rumor has it that when the pope visited Izamal in 1993, the community decided to paint many of the buildings yellow and white in honor of the pope’s colors. Other stories say the town has always been yellow. Either way, the town is an interesting mix of ancient and new.
The Mayans founded their settlement of Izamal over 2,000 years ago. In the center of town was a center of worship, and not far from this was the ten-tier pyramid of Kinich Kakmó. Originally, the were over 100 structures in the Mayan settlement, but only a handful remain. Even the central worship site was replaced by a convent when the Spanish arrived.
Both the pyramid and the convent are free to explore. If you want to visit the pyramid, head two streets north from the main square (where the large sign of Izamal is). Make a right down that street, and you’ll see the entrance to the pyramid within a minute or two. Kinich Kakmó is built in two levels and rises 111 feet above the town. The first set of steps are quite gradual, but the second set to the summit is steeper. From the top, you’ll have a nice panoramic view of Izamal and the surrounding jungle.
The Convento de San Antonio de Padua is the other main attraction of Izamal. It’s the convent in the center of town, built over the Mayan worship site. The facade is a beautiful yellow and white, matching the decor of the rest of the town. But behind that is an old abbey very similar to what you would find in Spain or Scotland. At this time during Covid, visitors are prohibited from entering the convent.
There are a few nice options to eat at in Izamal. There’s a small market next to the convent where you can grab a cheap bite, or you can find a nice meal at Kinich, not far from the pyramid. There are a handful of hotels and Airbnbs to stay at, but there aren’t that many things to do in Izamal, so I’d recommend just making it a day trip from Merida.