Izamal is an aesthetically vibrant town with ancient pyramids standing tall alongside an old Spanish monastery and town buildings painted in yellow hues. These pyramids are believed to have been built between 600 AD and 800 AD and are especially important due to the fact that they were once a ceremonial center of the Mayan civilization. The most famous – and largest – of the pyramids is Kinich Kak Mo, a holy site built for the Mayan sun god.
After the Spanish settled here in the 16th century, the structure of Izamal took an interesting turn. The Spaniards simply reconstructed the existing Mayan buildings instead of tearing them down, and as a result, the famous yellow Franciscan Monastery is actually built on top of the Mayan acropolis. Many of the churches built in town also used stones from existing Mayan sites, so it is very interesting to walk around the Izamal ruins and see the two different periods of time coexisting so prominently.
Izamal is easy to reach from Merida, which is just 45 miles away, but can also be accessed via a day trip from Cancun, which is three and half hours away.