After departing Merida, travel east to arrive at Izamal, a colonial town with a distinct small town feel. Izamal is one of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos (Magic Towns), a designation given by the Mexican secretary of Tourism to towns that have an important historical or cultural significance. Houses, shops and churches throughout Izamal are all painted the same shade of golden-yellow and the town has been nicknamed La Ciudad Armarillo (The Yellow City).
Izamal was an important Maya religious center and today you can visit the ruins of four large pyramids that overlook the center of town. Climb to the top of the Kinich Kak Mo Pyramid. Built during the early-Classic period, this pyramid to the Mayan sun god spans an entire block and offers magnificent views of the town and surrounding Yucatán region.
After the arrival of the Spanish, the Maya pyramids and temples were destroyed and colonial buildings and churches built in their place, often using the original Maya stones and building materials. In the center of Izamal you’ll find the Convento de San Antonio de Padua (Convent of San Antonio Padua), an enormous Franciscan monastery and one of the oldest Catholic monasteries in the Americas. The Convent of San Antonio Padua is painted the same shade of golden-yellow as the rest of Izamal.
Take a tour of the yellow city of Izamal in a calesa (horse-drawn carriage). Tours often include stops at local artisans’ workshops where you can browse a variety of local handicrafts and folk art including colorfully embroidered hipiles (dresses or tunics), hammocks and jewelry made from local materials such as henequen, native woods and cocoyol seeds.
After touring Izamal, head southwest toward the town of Cuzama where you can visit three cenotes (underwater sinkholes). The cenotes are located just outside of town on the grounds of an old hacienda henequenera (henequen plantation) and accessible by horse-drawn railcart.