Yucatán’s magic lies in discovering and visiting little-known communities that guard ancient and current stories; as well as cultural, architectural, and gastronomic attractions. The town of Acanceh, located 28 km from Mérida, combines elements of three cultures: pre-Hispanic, colonial, and modern.
Acanceh is situated just off the Mérida-Chetumal highway, and welcomes you with a stone arch with deer carvings (“Acanceh” means “the bellow of the deer”). The town is on your way to the Cuzamá and Homún cenotes, as well as the first stop on the Convent Route.
At the main plaza you’ll find a scene of contrasts: in front of you a colonial church dedicated to Our Lady of the Nativity; to the side, on one of the main streets, a Maya building with mask ornaments, the Pyramid; on the other side, the chapel dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe; and next to the church the municipal market and contemporary buildings. This is where the name of the three cultures plaza comes from. Nowadays you can take a picture with the colorful letters of the town name and the pyramid as background.
The main church is of colonial-style with Franciscan influences, built in the 16th century; it stands out because of its yellow color, its two bell towers, and a clock in the middle. On the side you will find the market that is frequently visited by passers-by taking advantage of the “antojitos” (snacks), as well as fruit and fresh flavored water.
Crossing the street, you will see the chapel: its stairs evoke the entrance of the Izamal convent; on its interior walls there are illustrations of biblical and religious passages, and a small altar with an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe. On one side is the Pyramid, notorious for is big mask ornaments, more than one meter high, located at the corners of the platform; you can reach it by its metallic stairs, for a small fee.
This fee also includes access to the Palacio de los Estucos, located a block and a half from the market. Of greater height, it requires a little bit more physical effort going up because it doesn’t have stairs, but the reward comes when you see the fragments of the red hieroglyphics of human figures mixed with animals. It is believed that the whole building was covered with depictions and glyphs.
On the way back to the park, surrounded by six Maya-style arches, in the center there is a replica of the pyramid with a deer. Don’t miss noticing some of the colonial-style houses that are still preserved on the main streets. Acanceh: a town where you can feel the magic of the past and present in a single place.
30 minutes from Mérida on the highway to Chetumal.
Public Transport: bus at Terminal Noreste (67 x 50 y 52): $23 pesos; combi (69 x 54 y 56, Mercado San Benito): $22 pesos.
Entry fee and hours for the archaeological site: $45 pesos, 8 am – 5 pm every day. Sunday free access for Mexicans.
Editorial by Violeta H. Cantarell
Photos by Yucatán Today and Violeta H. Cantarell for Yucatán Today’s use