Second stop of my Easter road trip: Izamal, little village that we decided to explore before arriving to Valladolid at night. If you want to have a break on the road this is ideal because it’s half distance between Mérida and Valladolid and it’s a MUST DO.
Izamal is a “pueblo magico” with a beautiful Franciscan monastery (San Antonio de Padoua) where everything is yellow. All the buildings, as well as the monastery, are indeed covered of a yellow painting, which gives a lot of charm to the village. This is also why some people call it the “ciudad amarilla”.
Originally, Izamal was an important religious Maya center, so don’t be surprised to see some pyramids all around. The contrast with the monastery, which is one of the oldest of the American continent (1561), is actually interesting. When Spanish arrived, they destroyed most of the pyramids and replaced them by colonial buildings and churches.
The visit is pretty fast because the village is really small. We didn’t take a horse-drawn carriage because I actively boycott the use of animals in tourism and to do business in general. The poor horses were maintained around the central place, in the heat (almost 40°C) without protection and water: I call this slavery. So, we moved around the village by walking, we went to the monastery where all the grass has disappeared in the atrium, burnt by the sun…and we enjoyed a fresh juice in the yard of the San Miguel Arcángel hotel. (which holds a little pyramid).
After our little discovery, we took the road again to Valladolid where we had booked two nights. Direction to the Zentik Project, a little boutique hotel which revealed itself to be a little nugget. The place is ecological and had been decorated by artists, the restaurant is good, the pool is nice, but above all, the hotel holds another pool with hot and salted water inside a natural cave found 6 meters underground, opened 24h. You cannot ask for more! A little detail: Samantha, our breakfast waitress, was amazingly kind and funny.
But what about Valladolid itself? It is also a “pueblo magico” and I literally felt in love with it. The village was built on the previous Mayan Zaci site. Such as Izamal, Spanish built colonial buildings and churches. The principal one is San Servacio, a cathedral located on the zocalo (central place).
I have to admit that we didn’t manage really well our visit of Valladolid because there were many things that we didn’t do such as the San Bernardino monastery (built during the XVIth century), the Zaci cenote or the market where it’s possible to find many “artesanías”. The fact is that when you travel with friends or family, you have to adapt to each other and at the end, you never do all you wanted to do. We all have different tastes, different desires, and also different rhythms. This is why I am probably not good at travelling with a group, I recognize it! The good thing is that my better half and I have the same crazy rhythm!
We took the opportunity to be in Valladolid to visit the archeological site of Chichen Itza: a “must do” when you are travelling in Yucatan. It’s at only 45 min driving from Valladolid and the site has been listed as World Heritage by UNESCO. It seems that during the Vth century, the place was the main Maya religious center of the region. But why the name of “Chichen Itza”? Actually, in maya “Chi" means “mouth” and “Chén” means “water well”. As a matter of fact, the site has been built on this particular geographical area because there were five cenotes (natural wells) that could irrigate the city. And “Itzá” ("water wizard") was the name of the group which leaded the place.
The site is huge because it was actually a real city with a sports field, a “castle” which corresponds to the main pyramid and so on. If I share my personal feeling, which is basically the objective of a blog, I don’t really like spending hours in readings about the history of an archeological site. I like to see it, to contemplate it and walk around within it. But I have the tendency to disconnect when a guide starts to make me a whole history of the place. Therefore, I won’t do that in this article! All what I can say it’s that it’s something to do!
A little detail: if you keep your entry ticket you can go back at night for a spectacle where projections are made on the main pyramid (I didn’t do it because I was too tired to go back, so I cannot talk about it).
After our visit, we decided to go to two cenotes. As I mentioned it, cenotes are natural sinkhole resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. They are typical in the Yucatan peninsula and were sometimes used by Maya for sacrificial offerings.
The cenote Saamal, first one where we went, is open-air. We had lunch there because there’s a buffet (Hacienda Selva Maya) which was recommended to us by a friend. Unfortunately, we had been disappointed: if there are quantities of food the quality is “so so”. But no matter! We ate and then we ran to the cenote! We had been really lucky because there were no any other tourists at this time: a bus arrived as we were leaving! My feeling: actually, it’s like swimming in a big pool but a natural one. I definitely enjoyed it.
Then, we went to the X’keken cenote (also called Dzitnup or “blue cave”) which is literally underground. I haven’t been a fan of this one: maybe my claustrophobic side or the cluster of dark fishes (totally inoffensive by the way) but it’s something to do because it’s beautiful. There are numerous cenotes in Yucatan so you will be spoilt for choice (for more cenotes see my article about Tulum).
At last, Valladolid is simply full of charm. The simple fact of walking through its little streets will make you feel happy and rested.
If you want to have a diner in a nice place, I would recommend going to the Meson del Marques in the central place, at the other side of the church. It’s not cheap but the place is extremely nice with tables all around an inside garden and the cooking is typical from Yucatan.
I hope that you enjoyed this article and that I shared with you some good tips! Next time I will take you to Ek Balam ruins and…to the beach: direction to Playa del Carmen!