Ever heard of the yellow city? Izamal

Filed under: Places to Visit - by Louise Hennessy

When someone mentioned that the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra  and the BBC Big Band chose this town as a spot to pay tribute to the Beatles in 2011(on the anniversary of John Lennon’s birthday) it struck us as hard to believe that Izamal was still relatively unheard of to Brits and travellers alike.

First impressions…. it’s so,well,… yellow!

By day, the vibrance of the buildings gives a cheerful atmosphere to the city; by night, the combination of lamp posts and these buildings cast a yellow reflection upon the cobbles, giving it a magical feel. If you have time, try to soak up both of these totally different ambiances.

How do you know when you’re in the very centre? Well, it’s not difficult, as the imposing structure of the Franciscan Monastery, San Antonio de Padua, will be looking down at you. Being the most obvious landmark here doesn’t make it any less charming; it is enough even to just plant yourself down on  the grass, surrounded by arches, and soak up the view. I’m not sure we had ever really been in a atrium, let alone one like this, the second largest of its kind in the world (after that of the Vatican). We also recommend peeping round the door of the church of the monastery, to see how simplicity can often hold the most beauty. Then, don’t make the same mistake we did, thinking there would be an exit the far side of the complex.The sloping steps you climbed up will be the same ones you climb back down!

izamal arches signed

So, what next? Step back into the Pre-Columbian era of Izamal by scaling the Kinich Kakmó pyramid.  Literally just a couple of blocks from the centre, and a bit of a climb, it provides you with a complete view of the sunny city and its surroundings. Love it when archaeological sites are within the city boundaries, it makes it all that much simpler!

One of the activities that seemed to be most popular was a tour via horse and trap, and in our case, the horse looked rather sheepish in a pink hat smothered with flowers of the same colour. However, the trip was much shorter than expected, quite rushed, and really just took us up and down the main streets around the centre, which we actually enjoyed more exploring on foot, spotting the details and relaxing into the slow pace of life there. It’s one of those trips you do because it seems like the thing to do, but this is one time where we should have acted as shepherds rather than sheep…. It’s not for everyone…

Like the great majority of Mexican town centres, the main square here buzzes with activity, ice cream and snack stalls, locals and vistors milling around, and sought after shady benches to people watch, smile contentedly and let it sink in where you are and just how lovely it is. And after visiting some of the local sights, the beauty of Izamal is best discovered sauntering around leisurely, taking it all in..and when the sun begins to go down on the yellow city, the photo opportunities are out of this world….

Our special hint: For something out of the ordinary, we suggest tasting tacos de venado (venison tacos) for breaksfast, at the stand in the central market,  sprinkling on lime, spicy sauce and garnish to really bring out the flavour!! Absolutely delish.

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