One of the most important cities in the Yucatán long before the arrival of the Spanish, Izamal is still among its most beautiful. Called the Yellow City for the monochrome color scheme of its buildings, the City of Hills for the ancient pyramids which give shape to the land around it, and the City of Three Cultures for its harmonic balance of pre-Colombian, colonial and modern influence, Izamal ranks as perhaps the essential day trip from Mérida.
The tiny community of Las Coloradas certainly picked an appropriate name for itself. Found at the end of a bumpy road about 30 kilometers east of Río Lagartos, it is a town defined by its colors.
A small town on the northern tip of the Yucatán Peninsula, Río Lagartos is most well-known for the abundant bird life of its lagoon, a protected natural reserve which is named, somewhat confusingly, Ría Lagartos. But unpleasant weather during our visit spoiled any bird-watching plans we might have had. (Which was fine, since we didn’t really have any).
Just twenty minutes north of Valladolid are the ruins of Ek Balam, a fantastic archaeological site which boasts some of the peninsula’s best-preserved Maya sculptures.
The Calle de los Frailes, or the Street of the Friars, cuts diagonally across Valladolid, completely ignoring the otherwise strict grid-plan. A little fresh, but we’ll allow it. This is one of the Valladolid’s most historic streets, home to specialty shops and popular restaurants, and it ends at the steps of the San Bernadino Convent.
The largest privately-held collection of modern Mexican art in Mexico can be found in the home of John and Dorianne Venator, in Valladolid. The couple have been indulging their passion for over 35 years and have packed their house, one of the city’s most historic properties, with over 3000 individual pieces.
An inexhaustible number of cenotes riddle the limestone earth of the Yucatán Peninsula, but Valladolid is blessed with some of the most beautiful. In a single morning, we visited three, the first of which is right in the middle of town.
We spent two nights in Valladolid, the second city of the Yucatán state. Found two hours due east of Mérida, near Chichén Itzá, it’s a magical place… and that’s official. In 2006, Mexico added Valladolid to its honorary list of Pueblos Mágicos, only the second town in the Yucatán to win the honor, after Izamal.
On a visit to Chichén Itzá, you’re going to oscillate violently between love and hate for your fellow man. The mathematics, artistry and astrology involved in constructing these ancient buildings… people did this? People are awesome! But still, there’s no way around it: people are terrible. Today, the site is overrun with money-grubbing locals, megaphone-wielding guides and sheep-herd tour groups. On leaving, I said to Jürgen, “The ingenuity and ambition of humanity is truly inspiring.” And then: “I wish everyone was dead.”
Most of the mansions along the Paseo Montejo have either fallen into a state of disrepair or been converted into banks. But the Casa Montes Molina is a fortunate exception. Owned by the Montes-Molina family for generations, visitors can today tour this amazing house, or even rent it out for special events.