A Day Trip from Mérida to the yellow city Izamal

Izamal is a beautiful little town named after the Maya god Itzamná and known for its bright yellow buildings. Izamal is one of Mexico’s “Magical Towns,” or “Pueblos Mágicos”. This is a program the government developed to offer visitors special experiences because of their cultural richness, traditions, cuisine, and great hospitality. It is intended to increase tourism. In this guide I will share with you what to do on a Day Trip from Mérida to Izamal- the yellow city.

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You´ve probably heard of Izamal because of all the yellow-painted buildings. There are a lot of myths when and why the buildings were all painted yellow. A lot of people say it was because of the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1993 and they painted the walls to honor the Vatican flag. Another myth says the Mayan painted the city yellow in honor of the sun god Kinich Kakmó. Also one of the tour guides said it was because of a yellow fever pandemic hundreds of years ago. So the real reason for the sunny color remains unclear but that´s not really important to enjoy this beautiful city, right?

Yellow buildings in Izamal
Yellow city izamal

How to get to Izamal from Mérida

There are buses that drive directly from Mérida to Izamal. They leave pretty frequently. You can go to the Noreste Terminal on Calle 67 between Calle 50 and 52. We paid about 33 pesos (<2USD) per person one way and the drive is approximately 1,5 hours (70km).

Izamal is not a big town so you can easily get around by foot. There is also not a lot to do in the yellow city so I think it makes a perfect Day trip from Mérida. But if you want to stay longer, there are also a couple of Hotels and AirBnBs.

Food in Izamal and Kinich Restaurant

When we arrived in Izamal we were really hungry so we went to eat something straight away. When you walk to the Convento de San Antonio there is a little food court where we decided to eat. I can not recommend the Panuchos we had because they were really dry but my bowfriends burrito was pretty good.

If you want to go to a restaurant you can try Kinich. It is pretty famous among food critics and often named one of the best restaurants to eat local dishes like Poc chuc or Papadzules.

panuchos in izamal
kinich restaurant izamal

Mayan ruins in the yellow city Izamal

After we ate we walked around the small town of Izamal and saw a lot of old pyramids like the Pirámide de Itzamatul which apparenly was dedicated to the god Zamná. Eventually we made it to the big pyramid Kinich Kakmó. The temple of Kinich Kakmó today is partially underground and overgrown by grass and flowers. It was built anywhere between 400 – 600 CE, which places it right during the Mayan classic period. The Maya used it to honor their sun god Kinich Kakmó.

It is free to go to the pyramid and you definitely want to go all the way up there. It´s worth the nice view. When we went there, luckily there was a local named Gustavo waiting to show us the pyramid and explaining a little bit about it for free only working on tip-basis. He showed us an easier way to get to the top of the pyramid which was worth the tip we gave him. So if you see him there, it´s definitely worth paying a couple of pesos if you want to have a nice view from the top of the pyramid without the hassle of climbing broken stairs.

maya ruins izamal
Pyramid Itzamatul
Kinich Kak Moo pyramid
Kinich Kak Moo pyramid
Kinich Kakmo Pyramid view

Plaza Izamal and sign

After climbing the Kinich Kakmó pyramid we walked to Plaza Izamal where the Izamal sign is located. It is beautiful because you have the Convento of San Antonio in the back so you can take nice pictures there. From here you can also take a carriage to get around town. We didn´t do that because we felt bad for the horses. Speaking of the horses, they all wear hats which looks really cute.

horse carriage
horses with hats
izamal sign

Convento de San Antonio, the yellow citys main building

After we took some pictures at the Izamal sign we went to the Convento de San Antonio which is THE building to take pictures in Izamal. It is still functioning as a convent and the hill it was built on is actually a Mayan pyramid the Spanish leveled into a terrace. The size of the atrium is second only to the Vatican. We spend some time here and watched the sunset before we headed back to the nearby bus station and to Mérida. We had a wonderful time here and I would recommend going to Izamal for a Day trip from Mérida or Valladolid. Have you been to Izamal?

convento de san antonio atrium
convento de san antonio
sunset at convento de san antonio

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Jessica Buck

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