Izamal is a small town in the Yucatan about an hour drive from Merida, making it a nice day trip. We made it there on our second attempt, since the first day we tried had rain clouds and eventually a bit of rain and we didn’t feel like wandering around and sightseeing in a downpour. On our second try the sun was shining, a bit too much it turns out, as the temperature was 98 degrees!!!
Looking up the bus schedule online we saw the morning ones left at 8:30 and 10am. So thinking there would be a lot to see in Izamal we woke up early and headed off by Uber ($2) to the second class Noreste Bus Terminal. As we arrived at the ticket counter at 8:20 we were informed that the bus actually left at 8:15am. So much for planning. We had an hour and a half to sit on our butts in the terminal and while away the time with our ever present, life-saving, Kindles.
If you find yourself in this situation, with a bit of spare time, the Mercado Lucas de Galvez is only a few blocks away. We attempted another quick little walk over there but a lot of the stalls were just opening and I had a massive headache so we decided to head back to the bus terminal and chill. It is a great market though and definitely worth spending time in on a separate jaunt, which we did a few days earlier. For more on that, check out our Merida post coming soon.
We have been very spoiled while using the first class bus system in Mexico. But the second class bus for Merida to Izamal was comfortable enough. Get in line early though if you want to sit together as there is no assigned seating. Only 33 pesos for Glenn and half price for me with my over 60 INAPAM card it is quite a bargain. Plan ahead and use the free banos at the terminal as there are no bathrooms on these buses.
Izamal is a Pueblo Mágico. This is a program set up by the Mexican Secretariat of Tourism in 2001. Towns selected meet certain requirements for cultural beauty and richness, traditions and folklore, historical relevance, local cuisine, art and crafts and hospitality. Currently there are 111 towns in the program.
Known as the ‘city of a thousand suns”, “the yellow town” or “the golden city.” Izamal is just that. Bight yellow!! And that is what makes it interesting, for awhile. I may take flack for this, but it didn’t capture us for long. We found it to be very sleepy with not a lot to do, it was 98 degrees, with almost no shade, so that might have something to do with it.
The big thing, literally, to see is the Convento de San Antonio de Padua, also called El Atrio de Convento de Izamal a huge yellow (of course) structure built on top of a Maya pyramid in the center of town. It is free and makes for a couple of good photos. Check out any Instagram for Izamal and that is pretty much what you will see. There really isn’t much in the way of information. I believe there are guides but since it only takes about 5 minutes to see I don’t think they would be worth it unless a major history buff. Apparently there is a small museum but it was closed when we were there.
Delightful to take pictures of are the horse and carriages that go around town, but once again at 98 degrees I felt sorry for them and we gave the ride a pass. The horses all wear different bonnets that are creative and fun though.
It was just about lunch time when we arrived so we looked at Trip Advisor and settled on Kinich el Sabor de Izamal just a few blocks off the main square. It rates the #1 listing for restaurants and although nice and cool in temperature we didn’t find the food all that interesting in flavor. I had the Cochinita Pibil and Glenn had the Relleno Negro and we have had better versions of these at cheaper prices in Merida. There weren’t any cute little outdoor cafes to hang out in and watch life pass by.
There are a few pyramids left in Izamal and we went by one of them, Pyramid de Kinich Kak Moo, right in town. You can climb to the top but it looked a bit treacherous and I had flip flops on so we gave that a pass.
On the whole, Izamal was lacking that quaint character we love finding in towns we enjoy visiting. Although we are glad we went to see what all the hype was about we just wouldn’t say put it on a bucket list. Luckily it was only an hour away from Merida, so it is a small day trip and if you are in the area check it out and decide for yourself. And if we are totally off the mark, let us know in the comments. We are back in Merida in December and can give it another chance.