Find Out What Yucatan is All About
I have to admit, I am not much into churches and convents, but I really enjoyed touring the Yucatan convent route towns and what they had to offer.
There is so much history in these places you can't help but wonder what it must have been like during the Spanish Conquest when the Mayan Indians were forced to dismantle their temples and all the structures they had built with so much effort, and then again forced to build these churches and buildings that were alien to them.
The Yucatan Convent Route is for you, if you are into architecture, religious art, Latin American history, Mayan Ruins or would just like to spend a nice, fun and interesting day, finding out what Yucatan is all about.
Visit the former Franciscan monasteries and churches that were built in the 16th century by Franciscan monks during the first years of Spanish rule, when the conquerors tried to convert the Mayan indians to Catholicism.
The convent (monastery) route can be completed in one day and it will take you to the countryside, right into the heart of Yucatan.
Along the way you will encounter quaint Mayan villages, colonial churches and monasteries all dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries.
You will also have a chance to visit archaeological sites and of course beautiful haciendas (17th century colonial plantations) and cenotes (underground rivers) where you will be able to take a dip if you wish to take a refreshing break from the scorching hot sun.
There is transportation to three Cuzama cenotes, the tour lasts 3 hours - the cenotes are 3km (1.8 mi) apart, please take note in case you are pressed for time. (pictures below).
Transportation to Cuzama Cenotes
Consider the Yucatan convent route as an adventure where you will learn about the history and background of Yucatan and why not, about the modern Maya people, whom you will have a chance to interact with if you wish, in the little towns and markets you visit along the route.
There is a lot to see along the way, if you have more time, you might want to spend the night in Ticul in a nice clean hotel, although not a luxury hotel.
In the morning after a delicious Mayan - Yucatecan breakfast , you could check out Ticul and then continue on your way.
On the road ahead, back to Merida, you will find beautiful haciendas, and of course the Mayan Ruins of Uxmal are not that far away if you want to take a little detour.
From the town of Muna which is the next town after Ticul, to the Mayan Ruins of Uxmal (16.5 km - 10 miles).
Some Attractions Along the Yucatan
Cuzama Cenotes (koo-sah-MAH)
Uxmal (oosh-MAHL) Mayan Ruins
17th Century Haciendas
There is a Catch
There is a catch though, after all, this is Mexico, and everything is possible here.
The churches and convents are usually open for morning mass every day, but it’s not always the norm, they don’t have regular hours, some towns follow the schedule but most of the smaller ones do not.
(Endless reasons: the priest comes to town once a week, the priest is having breakfast or lunch, the town is very small and they only have one mass, the priest is sick etc.)
So, instead of being disappointed because you only got to see the outside of the convent or church, there is a little trick that usually works, I’ve done it many times when I’ve taken family and friends on a tour of the monasteries.
Since the priest is always busy, he appoints one of the church member families who is willing, usually the lady of the house to be in charge of the church and to kind of keep things in order and clean when he is not available. This is usually an honor for the family. The family member in charge gets the keys to the church.
Everybody in the town knows who she is and where she lives, usually a couple of blocks from the church.
So all you have to do when you get to the town and you see the convent or church closed, is ask any of the people there if they know who is in charge and could open the church for you so you can see the inside.
You will have to tip the messenger and the lady keeper about $30.00 or $ 40.00 pesos ( 3 or 4 USD) each for their help. This usually works better in the smaller towns.
The best way to do the Yucatan Convent Route is by car. You should try to be on your way at least by 7:30 or 8:00 AM. Make sure you have a full tank of gas.
You want to take the “Periferico” which is the road that goes around the whole city (if you keep going on the periferico, you will end up where you started), but, you will follow the road to “Kanasin” (kah-nah-SEEN) which is Route 18.
Keep going and follow the signs to Acanceh (ah-kahn-KEH) from there you should have no trouble, in case you don’t know how to continue, just ask anybody there, there is nothing to worry about, you’re safe.
Following the Yucatan
Acanceh which means “Bellow of the Deer” is located 28 km - 17 mi from Merida.
On the main square you will find the former convent built in the 16th century dedicated to Our Lady of Nativity. On the side, you will see a Mayan Pyramid (usually referred to as “The Pyramid”) which archaeologists believe was built 200-300 A.D.
If you climb to the top you will have a beautiful view of Acanceh, other Mayan structures and the jungle that surrounds the town.
Lady of Nativity Church 16th Century
Not far away you will find a chapel in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe and the “Pyramid of Stuccos” also called the Stucco Palace, which has bas-relief sculptures depicting humanoid animal forms.
Acanceh the Pyramid
Acanceh Virgin Guadalupe Chapel
Stucco Palace Mask
Continue on the convent road from Acanceh, and 9km - 5.5 miles ahead (10 min away) is the town of Tecoh. Here you will find the convent dedicated to the Virgin of Assumption.
Although it appears to be built on top of a hill, it is actually atop the base of a large Mayan pyramid.
Church and Convent - Virgin of Assumption
Next stop Telchaquillo, 15 minutes from Tecoh. This tiny town has only two attractions, one of course is the church, which is very modest, simple and plain.
Across from the church in the main square park, here you can visit a beautiful small cenote (sinkhole) where you can swim in its cool waters and take a break from the scorching hot sun for a little while.
This underground well has stairs built in for your convenience. Entrance fee $ 5.00 pesos - $ .50 cents USD