Welcome to my blog on Izamal, the “Yellow City” of Yucatan – one of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos. My name is Lina and I’m from Puebla. I was born and raised there but I currently live and work in Mexico City. I studied International Business and now I work as a Credit and Collections Manager for a company dedicated to beauty and personal care products.
Nine years ago, my boyfriend and I promised each other that we would spend the New Year in a different place every year. We liked the feeling of seeing new places and decided to do it more often. That is how my passion for travel started. Today, I travel and post my adventures on my Instagram. Feel free to follow me on my travels in Mexico at @pato_viajeramx.
Exploring Izamal for a Few Days
In Mexico there are 132 “Pueblos Magicos” and Izamal is one of them. My goal is to visit all of them! I had already seen Izamal through photos and I really liked the idea of visiting for myself in real life. I actually spent the whole month of May doing home office work while in the Riviera Maya and I took the opportunity of touring different places, including Izamal.
When I arrived I was impressed because my eyes were seeing what they had already seen in photos: yellow colors everywhere. It was crazy! The houses, churches, shops, restaurants and businesses all had these yellow facades – all with the same shade of yellow. I went to Izamal for a couple of days to get to know this town and I can’t wait to visit again one day soon.
Why Izamal is such a Magical Town
Izamal is a quiet place but the warmth of home is felt everywhere. Locals are friendly, and they are proud of their traditions that they still preserve. There are many beautiful legends about our ancestors and the founding of the town, and even people who still speak indigenous languages.
The town is one of those places that will remain in your heart forever. Izamal is rich in culture and you will fall in love with the architecture. Here you have the famous Convento de San Antonio – a yellow church which has the second largest atrium in the world after the Vatican. This church was even visited by Pope John Paul II in 1993. It’s a must-visit place!
History of the “Yellow City” of Yucatan
The “Yellow City” was painted yellow in 1993 after the visit of Pope John Paul II. Apparently, those were the colors of the Vatican at the time. So to receive the Pope, the streets were painted yellow and they have remained that way since. It was an enormous honor for Izamal to host the Pope.
We took a tour of the town in a cart pulled by a horse. Our guide told us that when the Pope visited Izamal, he went to the small market of the town to greet all the locals and later he visited the Convento de San Antonio.
Convento de San Antonio & The “Corner of the Deer”
I have two favorite places in Izamal. The first is Convento de San Antonio. My visit to Izamal was inspired by this church so I could see the second largest atrium in the world. I also fell in love with a spot called the “Corner of the Deer” after hearing about it from our tour guide.
Legend has it that on this street there was a house where a rich man lived. He was very greedy. This man was the owner of an apple orchard and he never shared his wealth with anyone. One day he discovered a destitute old man who spent his nights in the rich man’s orchard, eating his apples.
From that day on, he got up early in the morning to run the old man off his property. Months passed and one day he found the old man sick. He was almost dying in the garden. The rich man felt sorry for him and took him home to feed and protect him. The old man thanked him and blessed him.
Thanks to this act, the rich man had a change of heart and began to share his wealth with the villagers. He is now loved by everyone in Izamal. The days then passed and the old man disappeared from the rich man’s house.
One day the rich man found a deer eating apples in his orchard, and he and the deer became inseparable. They went everywhere together until the day when the rich man died. The deer also vanished after his death.
Legend has it that the deer was the soul of the old man who stayed with the rich man during his last days. Since then the house that was on the corner has been known as the “Corner of the Deer”. Strange yet amazing!
Top 5 Things To Do in Izamal
- See the Convento de San Antonio: Go at night to experience the show of lights that is projected on the facades of the historic center.
- Take a Tour on a Horse-Drawn Carriage: On this tour your guide will tell you about the legends of the town. You can also take a tour on an ATV or go by bicycle (either with a tour guide or exploring by yourself).
- Explore the Archaeological Zone: See the Kinich Kak Moo pyramid.
- Eat at the Mercado Municipal de Izamal: It’s a tradition to go taste typical dishes of each state in the town markets. The place is like a huge dining room with many local restaurants situated together.
- Visit the Craft Workshops: There are eight in total and in these workshops the people of the town show you how they make the products they sell – hammocks, embroidery, herbs & spices, ancestral jewels, wood, miniature figures, tin & brass and cross stitch embroidery.
Mexico is a country rich in culture and Izamal has a lot of Mayan culture. If you want to be immersed in it, these would be some of the most recommendable activities for you to know more about our ancestors.
Eating my Way through the Town
I also tried some of the typical dishes on the street and at some of the market businesses. The best dishes I tried were Cochinita Pibil, Poc Chuc, Salbutes and Las Marquesitas. Yucatecan cuisine is very delicious!
Best Places to Stay in Izamal
Here is an option for all budgets. I, for example, always recommend looking for accommodation near the historic center. This way you can walk around without having to go so far as to use a car, as parking is quite a hassle.
Near the historic center of Izamal, I realized that Airbnbs were almost the same price as hotels. That is why we stayed at the Hotel Rinconada del Convento, which was between $36-$38 USD per night. However, there are cheaper options if you are traveling on a tight budget. What I liked most about Izamal is that almost all the hotels have air conditioning and pools.
Need to Know Before you Go
The Festival of the Virgin of Izamal is when the virgin of the purest conception is celebrated during the first days of December. Vaqueria dances are performed which are the typical dances from Yucatan.
The Path of Light (the night show of lights projected on the buildings of the historic center) is only from Thursday to Saturday, starting at 8pm from the Plaza de los Canones. As I mentioned, there are eight handicraft workshops and they are all inside artisan houses. These are normal houses but you must knock on the door to be able to make the tour – no bookings!
Near Izamal there are many points of interest, so it would be a good idea to designate a few days to visit cenotes and other magical towns. Consider packing light clothing and a hat. Izamal is a hot place all year round.