Izamal: Mexico’s First Pueblo Magico
As we continue to wait until the pandemic lets us really go out and explore, it’s time to make that list of places we would like to visit or re-visit when we feel safe to do so. Yucatan has so many treasures and tourism has taken a big hit as Covid19 has unleashed its fury. So, when getting out and about again, let’s first start really exploring this fascinating state and look deeper at its history and rich culture to share in its magic.
I have only ever visited Izamal at night, which was a beautiful sight. The lights lit up the brilliant yellow Convento de San Antonio de Padua and the main square was alive with young lovers and children playing around the benches. Most of its buildings are painted in a mustard yellow color which gives it a definite charm and makes the visitor feel as if they are experiencing modern and colonial Izamal at the same exact time. It’s charming and very picturesque. We bought a marquesita and sat down on the bench to take in the moment. Izamal will be one of my first visits when we get the green light to explore again.
Izamal is also known as The City of Three Cultures for the union of Maya, Spanish and modern cultures. It was first settled in the 3rd Century AD by the Itzaes, descendants from the Ah Itzá Yucatecan Maya lineage. It was a great Mayan city and place of great religious importance and the ancient city was founded by Mayan priest Zamná. In the heart of the town lies on an ancestral holy site, the pyramid to the Maya Sun God, Kinich Kak Mo.
When the Franciscan Spanish monks got there in the 16th Century, instead of destroying the pyramids, they reused them as foundations for Christian edifices. The great yellow monastery El Convento de San Antonio de Padua is built on top of the original Maya acropolis. The Franciscans recycled the stones from many Mayan sites and repurposed them as building material for the churches. It’s safe to assume that most of Izamal’s 16th-century buildings were built from Maya ruins and you can feel the union of cultures in every corner of this small city.
Some of the places you must check out are:
Ex Convento de San Antonio de Padua
This is one of the most important and majestic buildings of Yucatan. In the interior temple you will find a beautiful Baroque style altarpiece covered in gold. It shows scenes that represent the birth and death of Jesus Christ and the appearance of the Virgin Saint Isabel as well as the visitation of the angel Mary among other representations of religious icons.
At the monastery you can also find the Temple of the Holy Conception and the image of the Virgin of Izamal, which is a sculpture brought here from Guatemala by Brother Diego de Landa in the 16th Century. This monastery continues to be a place of pilgrimage and great religious importance for the devout Catholic.
At night, when the town opens back up for tourism, they have a light and sound show at the convent which is spectacular.
Also you must check out the other religious building such as Templo de la Virgen de la Candelaria and Las capillas (the chapels) de la Santa Cruz, de San José y de San Idelfonso.
Temple of Kinich Kak Moo
The third largest Mayan temple in Yucatan is the 34m-high Kinich-Kakmó. It is located three blocks north of the monastery. The entirety of the temple has a volume of approximately 700,000 cubic meters and it was a site of daily sacrifice to Kinich Kakmó, who was said to descend upon the temple in the form of a macaw to pick up the offerings.
Where to Eat?
Everyone in Yucatan talks about Kinich Restaurant. It is a must try when going to Izamal. When I do head that way, I will get you the scoop on some of the smaller places as well; however, I have eaten in Kinich and it is delicious Yucatecan food!
Photos of Izamal from Sefotur, Yucatan Turismo and https://yucatan.travel/experiencia/izamal-ciudadcolonial/ Photos from Kinich Restaurant from https://www.facebook.com/pg/KinichIzamal/photos/?ref=page_internal