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More Mayan heritage to explore in Izamal

Why not rent a car on your next vacation and go off the beaten track in the Yucatan. Izamal, the golden city of three cultures (Maya, Spanish and mestizo) has a “new” attraction for you to visit, the archaeological site of Chaltun Ha.

One of Yucatan’s twin Pueblos Magicos (Magical towns), Izamal is famous for the sprawling 16th-century Franciscan convent that dominates the town. Home of the patron saint of the Yucatan, the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception, San Antonio de Padua convent has one of the largest atriums in the world. Yet Izamal’s history begins centuries before the coming of the Spaniards.

Founded around 500 BC, Izamal became a sacred site with shrines to two deities: Itzamná (the chief god, inventor of writing, medicine and agriculture) and Kinich Kakmo (the sun god).

To date, archaeologists have unearthed more than 168 Mayan buildings around town, along with ceremonial roads called sacbes, tombs and house mounds. The pyramid at Chaltun Ha is one of 12 temples or pyramids in the Izamal area; the largest, the Kinich Kakmo pyramid is the third largest building in Mesoamerica in terms of volume after Cholula and the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan.

Izamal is 158 miles from Cancun and 43 miles from Mérida, take the turnoffs signposted on the toll road or Highway 180.

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