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Izamal, Yucatan, Mexico's Color of Gold Magical Village - ARPR MÉXICO

izamal, yucatan

When was Izamal founded?

It is estimated that human settlements began around 750 B.C., however, the city was founded with the arrival of the Chanes, a Mayan people from Bacalar, later called the Itzá people, around 550 A.D. The city remained inhabited until before the conquest. Zamná, a priest who arrived with the Chanes, later elevated to a deity in the Maya pantheon, lived and died there. When the independence of Yucatan was declared in 1840 and its subsequent incorporation to the rest of the Mexican Republic in 1848, Izamal, which had been elevated to a town in 1823, became the head of the province of the Coast, which later became the province of Izamal. On December 4, 1841 it obtained the title of city, which it retained until August 13, 1923, when the decrees that elevated it to the categories of city and town were repealed, remaining with the rank of town until December 1, 1981, when it regained its title of city, which it retains to this day. This place is known as the "City of the Hills", recalling the covered pyramids that were there when the Spaniards arrived, as well as "The City of the Three Cultures" because it combines features of its pre-Hispanic past, of the colonial period and of the present time.

If you visit the city of Mérida or pass close to Yucatán, travel east to reach Izamal, a colonial charm with the hallmark of a small town. This destination is one of the most popular in Yucatán and named one of Mexico's Pueblos Mágicos, a distinction awarded by the Mexican Ministry of Tourism to towns that have an important historical or cultural legacy.

All the houses, stores and churches here are painted golden yellow and the town has been nicknamed "La Ciudad Amarilla" (The Yellow City).

History of Izamal

It owes its name to a character of mythical origin and singular wisdom assumed as an instructor, teacher and priest of the Maya called Itzamná or Zamná, which means "Dew that descends from the sky". For centuries it was a place of pilgrimage for the Mayan people who arrived by the "sacbeoob" or white stone roads which linked it to the main metropolis of the Mayan World, and was one of the most important city-states of the pre-Hispanic Maya during the years 850 and 1,000 A.D.; also considered one of the oldest, even more than Chichen Itza and Uxmal, its first settlements date back to the third century AD.

Being an important ceremonial center of the region, seven pyramids were erected in this place and although the Spaniards respected some temples, they used stones from the old buildings to give life to the new constructions.

In the post-classic period it had a great boom as a Toltec Mayan city, being abandoned at the same time as all the cities of this period, so that when the Spaniards arrived, the place was practically uninhabited and belonged to the indigenous group of the Cocomes.

Attractions of Izamal:

Convento San Antonio de Padua

San Antonio de Padua Convent

This is one of the most important and majestic buildings in Mesoamerica, founded in 1549 by Father Fray Diego de Landa and the Franciscan missionaries and was built on the site of the highest pyramid in the town, this was called Pop Hol Chac; for this reason is that the Convent can be seen from the heights from various points of Izamal. In order to visit the Convent it is necessary to climb several ramps to reach its atrium, which is the largest in America. It has 75 arches, 4 chapels, 2 cloisters and the Chapel of the Indians. The original facade was hidden and modified during colonial times. It is considered the largest enclosed atrium in America and the second largest enclosed atrium in the world after St. Peter's Square in the Vatican. Inside the temple there is a beautiful baroque style altarpiece, covered with gold plating. It shows scenes depicting "The Death of Jesus", "The Birth", "The visit of the Virgin to St. Elizabeth" and "The visitation of the angel to Mary". In the lower part, there are niches that let observe the images of "Saint Lucia", "Saint Anthony", "Saint Francis" and "Saint Joseph". In the upper part, the "Coronation of the Virgin as Queen of Heaven" is represented and below, the image of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception, sculpture that was brought by Fray Diego de Landa from Guatemala, which also has a simple rail system that communicates with the Camarín, space where the faithful believers show their faith and devotion.

Photos of the San Antonio de Padua Convent

Convento San Antonio de Padua, Yucatán
Convento San Antonio de Padua, Yucatán
Interioir del convento San Antonio de Padua, Yucatán

Centro de izamal yucatan

Downtown Izamal

The Zamná plaza, also called the market square, is located to the north of the Convent, is the oldest and now constitutes at most a fifth of what it was in the previous period. Its importance led to the early construction of pilgrim portals on its south side, annexed to the Convent, and on the east a large access arch on the so-called Camino Real that communicates with Merida. In its northwest corner was built in the seventeenth century a hospice with a chapel dedicated to the Divine Master. To the west of the plaza twelve houses of lime and stone (ordinary masonry) were built in 1730 by the governor and captain general Don Antonio de Figueroa y Silva, for authorities and distinguished visitors, with semicircular portals added in 1816. In 1887 part of the portals on the east side were used as a grain market. A distinctive feature of the layout is the fact of having three squares adjacent to the convent. To the Zamná, located to the north, are added the one today called Plaza Crescencio Carrillo y Ancora to the west and the small square "2 de Abril" to the south. The first was located between four pyramids and was smaller than the one described above. It was called Plaza Menor or Plaza de Indios, however, on its west side were built the royal houses that at the end of the XVIII century were rebuilt with arcades facing east by Don Manuel de Antolin and in 1812 would house the first city hall, the public jail, the Gendarmes Barracks, the Audiencia and the Royal House of the Indians. From the previous century, during the second empire, they had been built to the east, in front of the convent, some trilobular portals, same that were extended to the north with others destined to the public market in 1891. It had military uses since the beginning of the XIX century military barracks were established adjacent to this square south and north of the Municipal Palace. Around 1878 it was divided into two parks, "5 de Mayo" and "Zaragoza" with a fence, a monument to the heroes of the Caste War and a central corridor that communicated the accesses to the convent and the Municipal Palace. The "2 de Abril" square, located to the south of the convent, was also called "plazuela del toro" (bull square) because of the bullfights and cockfights that took place there.

Municipal Palace

It was originally part of a much larger complex built on a pre-Hispanic foundation. It was built at the end of the XVIII century by the Sub-delegate of the Intendancy, Don Manuel Antolín, with money and sashes from the indigenous people. Its conformation at the beginning of the XIX century was a set that by the side that looks to the east was known as Captaincy, by the north was the Barracks of White Militias Regulated, to the west two old pieces that served as Audience and Royal House to the Indians and by the south the barracks of Militias of the Regulated Browns. It has a corridor of rooms oriented from north to south and another corridor from east to west on the north side. To the front, a gallery originally of nine semicircular arches except for the central one that had a small conopeo. One of its arches was suppressed in the modifications of the seventies of the XX century.

Photos of downtown Izamal

centro de izamal yucatan
centro de izamal yucatan
Pirámide Kinich Kakmó, izamal, yucatan

Kinich Kakmó Pyramid

Kinich Kakmó, was a god of the Maya pantheon. There is also an important archaeological site dedicated to Kinich Kakmó located in the city of Izamal, Yucatan, Mexico, 66.5 kilometers east of Merida and about 60 kilometers northwest of Chichen Itza, Kinich Kakmó means "Fire Macaw with Solar Face". It is interpreted that the Maya believed that the god Kinich came down in the blaze of the midday sun, to burn and therefore purify the sacrifices or offerings brought to the Maya pantheon, using the form of a macaw. It is the largest in surface of the Yucatan Peninsula and the third largest in Mexico after the one of the Sun in Teotihuacan and Cholula in Puebla.

Photos of the Kinich Kakmó Pyramid

Pirámide Kinich Kakmó
Pirámide Kinich Kakmó
Pirámide Tu’Ul, izamal yucatán

Tu'Ul Pyramid (The Rabbit)

It was explored in 1994, when it was determined that it consisted of three construction stages, the earliest being a small rectangular platform 3 meters high with vertical walls formed by large carved stones and right-angled corners. In the second stage, the previous building was completely covered and the new foundation had two bodies with sloping walls. The dimensions are 30 meters from east to west, by 39 meters from north to south. In the third construction period the platform grew. Its walls present a slight slope and its corners are rounded, however, the stones are of smaller size and present a better finish, being found among rubble some of Puuc style, so it would not be strange that the constructions that were on the upper platform, of which there are no longer vestiges, were of that style. Although it is not known with precision the function it had, it could have been the base of the room of some important dignitary of the Mayan era.

Photos of Tu'Ul Pyramid

Pirámide Tu’Ul
Pirámide Tu’Ul
Pirámide Habuk, izamal, yucatan

Habuk Pyramid

Its name means "Dressed in Water". It is a structure formed by a platform of 90 meters on one side and 3.80 meters high, on which there is a plaza 30 meters long and 25 meters wide, delimited by four buildings. Its first constructive stage can be dated to the Early Classic (250-600 years A.D.), and the second, during the Terminal Classic (800-1000 A.D.). As for Izamal's ceramic affiliations, they can be considered to date from the Middle Preclassic (700-450 B.C.).

Photos of Habuk Pyramid

Pirámide Habuk, izamal, yucatan
Pirámide Habuk, izamal, yucatan
Pirámide Itzamatúl, izamal, yucatan
Luz y Sonido "La luz de los mayas"

Itzamatúl Pyramid

It is the second largest and most important construction after Kinich Kakmó. Its name means "the one who receives or possesses the grace of heaven". It was a temple dedicated to Zamná. It had three construction periods. The first one is characterized for being a building of almost square plant, conformed by staggered bodies with slope walls, the corners are remitted or rounded, typical of the early buildings, reaching a height of little more than 20 mts. on the level of the street. In the second constructive period important changes were made, both structural and stylistic, in such a way that the first building is covered by the second one, and its facades were totally modified. In the last modification, a large platform was built to cover the first buildings, whose original dimensions are difficult to specify, but were probably approximately 120 meters per side with an average height of 9 meters. It was built between the years 300 and 600 of our era. It is 22 meters high.

Light and Sound "The Light of the Mayas"

The Light of the Maya is a multicolored performance projected in Los Arcos, under the belfry of the Third Order, four windows that look into the past and present of the splendor of the Mayan culture. The show lasts approximately 30 minutes and mixes architectural lighting, audio and image projections in a superb setting: the atrium of the Franciscan Convent. This show can be enjoyed Monday through Saturday at 8:30 pm. It has simultaneous translation in five languages, including Mayan, with musical compositions designed, synchronized and performed for this great event by musicians from the region and with songs performed by children of Mayan origin.

Chronology of Historical Events:

In the 4th Century: Some historians state that it was in this century that the ancient Mayan city was founded by the priest Zamná - On October 25, 1823, Izamal acquires the rank of devilla.

  • December 4, 1841: Izamal is elevated to the category of city.

  • On April 9, 1912: The rustic farm Tanya becomes part of its territory when Citilpech is incorporated to its Commissariat.

  • In 1916: The town of Tekal ceased to belong to the municipal jurisdiction of Izamal, to become part of the municipality of Temax.

  • August 13, 1923: The city of Izamal became a town.

  • December 1, 1981: It regained its status as a city.


Population in Izamal

The approximate population of the municipality of Izamal is 24334 people, of which 12079 are male and 12255 are female.

Ages of the population

The population of Izamal is divided into 8881 minors and 15453 adults, of which 2762 are over 60 years old.

Indigenous people in Izamal

17944 people in Izamal live in indigenous households. An indigenous language is spoken by 9685 people over 5 years of age. The number of those who speak only one indigenous language is 137, those who also speak Mexican is 9424.

Social structure

9860 inhabitants of Izamal have the right to health care through social security.

Economic Structure

In Izamal there is a total of 5898 households.

Of these 5749 dwellings, 197 have dirt floors and about 1378 consist of one room only.

4660 of all dwellings have sanitary facilities, 5264 are connected to public services, 5550 have access to electricity.

Economic structure

The economic structure allows 283 dwellings to have a computer, 3013 to have a washing machine and 5098 have television.


Feast of San Antonio de Padua, is held in June especially in the atrium of the Ex-Convent of the same name, where they sing to the Virgin.

Day of the Dead, every November 2, on the Day of the Dead the cemeteries of Izamal are beautifully decorated by the inhabitants to remember their loved ones.

Virgen de la Purísima Concepción, on December 8 the Virgin is worshiped with masses, processions and traditional music.


The municipality of Izamal is located in the north central region of the state.

It is bordered by the following municipalities: to the north by Tekal de Venegas, Tepakán and Tekantó, to the south by Xocchel, Kantunil and Sudzal, to the east by Tunkás and to the west by Honctún.

Typical restaurants in Izamal:

  • Kinich Izamal

  • Zamna

  • Los Mestizos

Restaurants and Cafeterias in Izamal:

  • Cafeteria Los Arcos

  • Muul Restaurant

  • Hun Pic Tok


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