How to Visit Izamal in One Day
Izamal is a small, sacred city about 70 kilometers from Merida and 110 kilometers from Valladolid. Most people visiting the state of Yucatan in Mexico opt for tours taking them to Cancun, Tulum, Chichen Itza, cenotes, adventure parks, etc. Izamal is not a city to be overlooked on your travels to Mexico however, so in this guide you will find helpful information on how to visit Izamal in one day.
There really is no reason to stay longer than one day, or even overnight for that matter, unless you’re looking for a place to do absolutely nothing except relax and read a book perhaps. Everything that is to be seen in Izamal can be done easily in one day, or even just an afternoon.
How to get to Izamal
Getting into Izamal is the tricky part, unless you’ve rented a car in Mexico. Second class buses leave from both Merida and Valladolid several times throughout the day, and can take anywhere from 2 to 3 hours. If you drive yourself, you can arrive in just under an hour from Merida and about 1 hour and 20 minutes from Valladolid. Parking it easy if you’re just staying for the day, you can park on any of the side streets. We recommend that you park in the streets surrounding the Izamal Monastery, because everything is within walking distance from there. The streets in Izamal are similar to those in Valladolid and Merida, with most being one way only.
Izamal is famous for being the ‘yellow city‘, where all the buildings, houses, restaurants, and more are painted in the same mustard color yellow. For the Mayan and Mexican people, Izamal is a sacred city, deriving it’s name from the ancient Mayans who worshiped the Creator God ‘Itzamna‘ and the Sun God ‘Kinich Ahau‘. The Mayan language is still very much in use here, although most are able to speak Spanish, and you will find some working in the tourist industry that can speak at least some English.
What To Do In Izamal
The main attractions in Izamal can be found surrounding the Izamal Monastery, the Colonial Franciscan Monastery of San Antonio de Padua, which was built in 1561 a top a huge hill. That’s what it looks like at least, but it is actually build on top of ancient Mayan ruins. The Spanish typically demolished Mayan cities when they arrived, and built their cities on top, but in the case of Izamal they kept some of the Mayan remains and built up on those.
The Monastery is the center of town, with cafes and handicraft shops on the roads surrounding. The Monastery is quite a sight, we couldn’t believe the scale of it, and of course, it’s yellow. The back of the Monastery has the traditional appearance of other churches throughout the Yucatan, a castle-like structure made from stone and cement. You are welcome to walk around the premises and the interior, free of charge. Don’t forget your selfies.
A walk around the town will lead you through winding streets of yellow buildings, cobblestone streets, and horse-drawn carriages. The owners of the horses don’t seem too impressed with tourists taking pictures of them without paying for a ride around town, but it’s hard to get a shot of the gorgeous streets without them in it.
There are four Mayan ruins located around town, all within walking distance from the Monastery. Kabul, Itzamatul, Habuc, and Kinich Kakmo are all surrounding the Monastery on different sides, Itzamatul is located between Izamal-Dzilam Gonzalez Rd and Calle 26, Habuk between Calle 28 and 26, and Kabul between Calle 29 and 31.
Kinich Kakmo is the main site to see, and is a short walk down Izamal-Dzilam Gonzalez road to the North, and turn right on Calle 27 for the main entrance. You are still allowed to climb to the top, which is quite a climb but easy enough, and see the 360 degree views of the entire city. The stairs are not perfect, and appear to be the original stones, not reconstructed like many of the Mayan ruins, so it would be best if you were wearing sneakers and not sandals. The description sign at the entrance to the site claims it to be ‘one of the most important constructions of Mesoamerica‘, with its pedestal measuring 200 meters long by 180 meters wide. The height of the temple is 35 meters. It was believed to be constructed sometime between 400-600 AD.
On Sundays at Parque Zamna next to the Monastery there is festival from 9am to 3pm, which has music, vendors, games, and carnival rides. Be aware that the small festival gets in the way of some pictures that you might want of the Monastery, so if photography is the main visit for your trip to Izamal, it would be best not to travel there on a Sunday during the festival, or a Monday when they are cleaning up.
Where To Eat In Izamal
There are a number of different cafes located around the Monastery, and several of the hotels have their own restaurants as well. Surprisingly the cost at most of the restaurants is at the higher end. La Terracita Izamal and Kinich Izamal are located near Kinich Kakmo ruins, while Cafe Los Arcos, Tortas Izalmal, and Muul Restaurant are located next to Parque Zamna, on Izamal-Dzilam Gonzalez Road.
We opted for Muul Restaurant, which was more affordable for a backpacker’s budget and got decent reviews. The cost for both of our meals came to around $100 pesos ($5-6 USD) but of course we indulged in a Margarita each, which cost $50 pesos, bringing our total to $200 pesos, which is still a very good deal. Complimentary chips, pico de gallo, refried beans, and pumpkin seed spread with each meal.
Leaving Izamal you can visit Valladolid, one of the most picturesque towns in Mexico, and about a 1 hour and 20 minute drive away. Make sure to check out our ‘5 Reasons to Visit Valladolid‘ article, or even our ‘Complete Guide to Valladolid‘.