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México is a country with a rich, diverse history and culture, and in order to highlight and promote the best of the country, the Mexican Secretary of Tourism (SECTUR) has designated 55 cities “Pueblos Mágicos” or Magic Towns.
In order to qualify for this prestigious honor, the cultural and/or religious traditions of the particular town must be preserved and have great importance in the national tradition. In addition it must be located near large cities our tourist sites and be accessible by road.
The Yucatan Peninsula boasts two Pueblos Mágicos, Izamal in the state of Yucatán, and Bacalar in Quintana Roo.
Izamal is yellow; the markets, the convent, all of the buildings are yellow. This alone should be enough to qualify Izamal as a Pueblo Mágico, but in addition, the combination of the ancient Maya, Spanish colonial and modern day cultures have created a vibrant history. This charming town, complete with horse-drawn carriages and a traditional Mexican central square, is thought to possibly be the oldest in the state of Yucatán. Pope John Paul visited Izamal, also called the City of Hills, in 1993. Don’t miss “The Light of the Mayas”, a stunning light and sound show in the atrium of the San Antonio de Padua convent.
Izamal is approximately 4 hours from Cancún by car.
Bacalar, Quintana Roo
Bacalar, the other Pueblo Mágico located on the Yucatán Peninsula is located along the “Costa Maya” or Mayan Coast, an area close to the México-Belize border. “La Laguna de Siete Colores” or Lake of Seven Colors, a 35 mile long freshwater lake of many shades of turquoise, azure and blue, is the town’s greatest treasure. Bacalar was the first city in the area that the Spanish Conquistadores managed to take and hold in 1543. In the 16th century they built a fort in Bacalar to protect their interests from English pirates. The fort is now home to a museum. Visit Cenote Azul, locals claim it is the largest and deepest cenote (natural sinkhole) on the peninsula.
Bacalar is approximately 5 hours from Cancún by car.
You can find a comprehensive list of México’s Pueblos Mágicos on SECTUR’s webpage.