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Valladolid

Valladolid is a city founded in 1543 by the Spanish Conqueror Francisco de Montejo. It is a picturesque village with many 19th century buildings and churches. Its main sights are the large cathedral found off the main square and the marvelous ex-Franciscan convent and church of Saint Bernardino of Siena (founded in 1552). Both were ransacked during the War of the Castes when the Maya, tired of abuse and discrimination, rose up against the Spanish residents, killing most of them and reclaiming the city. A history of this uprising is displayed in a series of paintings in the town hall. In the middle of town is the ancient cenote Zaci where the original Maya city of Sisal was first built. Other architectural highlights include a variety of majestic mansions, the cathedral of Saint Servacio, and the museum of Saint Roque. Outside of town is the famous Dzitnup cenote, an underground water hole feature in National Geographic. Valladolid is famous for its delicious sausages and its local liqueur, Xtabentún, flavored with honey and anise. There are also excellent markets where you can buy sandals, baskets, handmade textiles and leather goods. Located on Highway 180, two hours west of Cancun.

Izamal

Izamal, also known as Ciudad Amarillo (the yellow city), is a perfect example of a typical Spanish colonial town. All the buildings, by order of a town law, have been painted an earthy yellow. In the center of town is the enormous 16th century Monastery of St. Anthony de Padua, built from the stones of a giant Maya pyramid devoted to Itzamná, father of the Maya gods. Inside are 75 yellow arches in a gigantic atrium that houses frescoes of saints and a statue of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception. Many miracles have been attributed to this statue and every year there is a pilgrimage in her honor. A few blocks away stands the remains of a royal city and an ancient Maya pyramid. Kinich Kakmó is currently being excavated and restored. Just off the main square are horse drawn carriages offering rides through the town while a number of lovely cafés serve food and drinks. To reach Izamal from Cancun, take Highway 180, west for 3.5 hours approximately 273 km (169 mi). Watch for the sign that reads, Izamal, and turn north.

Merida

Mérida is the beautiful capital of the Yucatán state and is the cultural and intellectual center of this region. Known in its heyday as the Paris of the Yucátan, where the barons of the henequen trade built their mansions, Mérida is a city that has a blend of French, Moorish and Spanish architecture. A visit here will teach you about the history and culture of the Yucatán. Since it’s a much larger city than Cancun it has more to offer in the way of museums, restaurants, shops, theaters, universities, schools and historical buildings. However, it also has more traffic and noise, which can be a shock after the quiet beaches along the coast. The Centro Histórico (Historic Center) is where you will find many of the older, stately buildings and mansions including the stately Casa de Montejo, built in 1542 and the Renaissance style Cathedral, home to the second largest crucifix in the world. Paseo Montejo, dubbed the Yucatán’s Champs-Elysées, is a 10-block street lined with the many opulent mansions built in the 18th century. There are also a number of lovely parks and fine museums located throughout the city. The hotels and restaurants are world class, offering the very best of Mexican and Yucatecán hospitality and cuisine while the open-air market offers the excellent shopping at the best prices anywhere on the peninsula.

 
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