An advantage in coming to Yaxunah and making it your home base for a while is that it is a great jumping-off-place to explore “not-to-be-missed” attractions nearby.
This huge Ancient Maya archaeological site hardly need introduction. As one of the Seven New Wonders of the World, and a World Heritage Site, it is visited by well over one million people each year. What is important is that it’s only 19 kilometers from Yaxunah over paved road. See this magnificent site, then come to our tiny village to get to know living Maya.
Called the “Yellow City” because of the color of its buildings. Some say the yellow paint with white trim on all the buildings near the heart of this town date to traditional colonial times. Others explain that, while true, the paint tradition became fixed because yellow and white are the colors of the pope, who visited Izamal in 1993 and was met by a crowd swollen to over 300,000. This brilliant color scheme is likely to remain, because Izamal has been named a “Pueblo Magico”, a town recognized by the Mexican government as having special beauty and unique attractions.
The town is, itself, a large archaeological site. The largest Ancient Maya pyramid there was torn down to build the present-day monastery (completed in 1561). Because of the huge base of the Maya pyramid, the monastery’s atrium is still the largest in size except for that of the Vatican. If you look carefully around the church, you may spot some Maya carved stones incorporated into its structure. The second largest pyramid in Izmal is the Kinich Kak Mo, and it is worth a climb. From its top, spot other high clumps of trees. These are the peaks of the other large pyramids in the town. Izamal has a couple of good restaurants (the best, also named Kinich Kak Mo, is on the same street as the entrance to the pyramid), a nice folk art museum, and the horse-drawn carriage rides give a good overview of all.
This town is the county seat of the municipality to which Yaxunah belongs. It’s only about 19 kilometers to the west. The town is laden with history, as it was the site of numerous pitched battles at the height of the Caste War of the mid-1800s, and changed hands between the combatants several times. Don’t miss seeing the church. There are still Caste War gun emplacements at the corners of the church yard. It’s three-tiered bell tower is an architectural style unique in all of Mexico. Seeing the golden retablo behind the altar, alone, is worth the trip. In the memory of everyone in the community, the retablo had always been dull and unattractive. Its brown color was assumed to be paint over the wood from which the retablo was carved. However, in recent years, a state restoration archaeologist, who was in the church to look at some of its crypts, decided to take a little look behind the years of ugly paint. What she found was astonishing. The entire piece is covered in gold leaf. It can only be speculated that the retablo was painted over at some point during the Caste War in hopes of protecting it. With time, everyone who knew of the drab paint job was gone or had forgotten, and the secret remained intact for another 150 years.