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What to see in Izamal, the yellow city of the 3 cultures

The town of Izamal is located on the Yucatan Peninsula and will surprise and enchant you in equal measure.

The most surprising thing about this city is that it is painted in yellow/gold . And yes, not only the most emblematic buildings, but also houses, shops, even streets.

If you are considering making a route through the Yucatan Peninsula, you cannot miss a stop in Izamal.

In this post I tell you what to see in Izamal, the city of 3 cultures . I also add some curious information, what to do in the surroundings and where to stay (if you want to spend the night here).

Izamal is known as the city of the 3 cultures because it has a very marked mixture of its past; pre-Columbian, colonial and current.

The reason why Izamal is monochromatic is simple, before the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1993, it was decided to paint the entire town in this color to welcome him. Since then it acquired this peculiarity and became very popular. So much so that the tourists who barely came to Izamal back then have multiplied every year because everyone wants to get to know the yellow city of Mexico.

The origin of its name is found in the Mayan word “ izmal ” which means “dew from heaven”.

And now yes, let’s start with the list of the essential places to know and see in Izamal:

1. Visit the Convent of San Antonio de Padua

Under the supervision of  Fray Diego de Landa,  this sanctuary is one of the oldest in Mexico. Its works finished in the year 1561 and this building is the main reason to visit Izamal.

A curious and little known fact is that the atrium is the second largest in the world, behind that of St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican.

It also has the largest enclosed courtyard in the Americas, and the second largest in the world, after Saint Peter’s Square in the Vatican.

The convent was built on the ruins of a pre-Hispanic temple, a building known by the natives as pap-Hol-Chac.

Being Izamal one of the most sacred places for the Mayans, the Spanish in their conquest set out to build something that could counteract that force, and they did so with this impressive convent. It has a single-nave church, and inside you’ll find many murals, as well as a gold-covered Baroque-style altarpiece.

To visit it I recommend doing it in the morning, however in the afternoon before sunset, the convent square has a beautiful orange tone. At night they put on a light and sound show. Do not miss it!

2. Don’t miss the local Izamal market

In Zamna square you will find the local market. Here you will find street stalls with souvenirs, ice cream, food to eat something quick, as well as being able to find a local guide to hire a tour of the city.

Inside the market you will find stands of fresh products, cooked… full of color, smells and Mexican flavors.

3. Walk the archaeological route of Izamal

In Izamal there are several pyramids from the Mayan era. In the spaces that had previously been occupied by many of the pyramids, today various  buildings, mansions and churches have been placed . However, when they were torn down, many chose to preserve the materials as the basis for new construction.

The  most important pyramid is that of Kinich Kakmo . This pyramid has a double elevation and a total height of 34 meters. It is considered the  largest pyramid in  the Yucatan Peninsula and the third in Mexico after the Sun Pyramid in Teotihuacan and Cholula in Puebla.

Admission is free and I recommend that you visit it in the afternoon when the sun goes down. So you can enjoy the sunset.

It is accessed through Calle 27. And make the climb to the top, it’s worth it!

4. Tour the city center

In Izamal you will find quite a few churches and sanctuaries in each of its neighborhoods. Izamal invites you to wander around and lose yourself in its streets. And although the vast majority of buildings will look the same to you (because of the color), they always find a closed patio, a lady sewing in the garden or a group of children playing ball.

The Capilla de los Remedios is located in one of the most traditional neighborhoods of the city. The Chapel stands out for having a Gothic-style altarpiece.

The Plaza de los Cañones is a meeting place for both tourists and locals. War cannons used in the 20th century and a traditional arch, typical of the architecture in Izamal, are exhibited here . In addition, it is an area with several street stalls, where music plays and where you can take a horse-drawn carriage to tour the city.

The Plaza de la Constitucion is full of colonial buildings with beautiful porticoes. One of the most emblematic buildings is the Municipal Palace .

5. Craft workshops

The Artisans Route is one of the most interesting things to do in Izamal. You will find workshops where they work with wood, embroidery, herbs, even miniature figures, hammocks and henequen jewelry.

In addition, you can buy a “souvenir” in one of these workshops. You will contribute to local commerce and you will be able to bring something traditional and authentic from the area to your closest friends.

6. Legends of Izamal

Izamal is full of legends, and in the town you will find plaques along several of its streets telling them. Some of the most notorious are; that of the deer, that of the Ceiba de Los Remedios and that of the fallen cross.


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