Do you crave taking a day trip to somewhere you can feel like you’re the only tourist around? Well, do I have an idea for you: Oxkutzcab!
Getting to Oxkutzcab is fairly easy, take the highway toward Peto and follow the road signs, it should take about an hour and a half. As you start getting into the Puuc Region, you will see the topography begin to change as hills appear. I visited mid-rainy season, and everything was beautiful and lush green with plenty of butterflies and other critters flying across the road as I drove.
When you first arrive you will notice there is a combination of traditional Maya homes, classic colonial constructions, and more contemporary houses. In order to find your way, you really don’t need to ask for directions, in part because things are pretty self-explanatory and also because the locals are so friendly that if they sense even a slightly puzzled look on your face, they will come up and offer their assistance (I’m not kidding, this happened three times over the course of two hours).
Main Square and Municipal Market
Start your visit at the main square and walk through the beamed halls of their municipal offices to get your bearings. When you’re finished, cross the street to the park where they have a fountain decorated with a wheelbarrow full of famous Oxkutzcab produce which you’ll be able to see up close at the market, one of the highlights of coming here.
The town is often referred to as “The Orchard of Yucatán” and has a bustling municipal market where people from all over the state come shopping for fruits and vegetables; it is particularly well known for its citrus fruits. Outside of the market, you can see a colorful mural which depicts the city’s main economic activities; you will also find vendors who mostly sell by the “huacal” – or crate – but if you step inside, you will be able to buy smaller quantities of produce, flowers, meat, clothing, toys, and of course: food… panuchos, salbutes, mondongo, cochinita galore… so it’s a great place to come hungry.
Once you’re done roaming the market, you can also visit the former Saint Francis of Assisi Convent which is right across the street and dates back to 1581. Mornings are the best time to visit, since this is when the offices are open so that you can go into the former convent and see the paintings and sculptures of the church, as well as getting a closer look at the former convent’s surviving cloister and bell tower.
On the southern hills is La Ermita de la Virgen del Pilar. This church dates back to 1697 and in order to visit you must climb the staircase from the bottom of the hill to get to its gates, but don’t get discouraged, it doesn’t take too long. When you reach the top, you get a superb view of the market and town center, not to mention the opportunity to visit the small edification dedicated to Our Lady of the Pillar.
If you are driving your own car, you can take a look at the former train station. This building constructed in the Puuc style dates back to the 1940s and was integral in the transportation of goods before highways in the state were built. Today, it houses the city’s cultural center where they host workshops and artistic events.
The city also hosts their annual “Feria de la Naranja” at the beginning of December each year. Since 1984, this festival has aimed at promoting the city’s agricultural activities, by presenting replicas of archaeological sites and buildings made completely out of oranges, as well as presenting concerts, contests, vaquerías, and other shows.
If you want to stay for lunch, the Príncipe de Tutul Xiu is located on the same street as the market and is always a solid option. They serve up traditional Yucatecan cuisine, and it’s a well-known restaurant even for Yucatecos who are craving authentic Poc Chuc!
Oxkutzcab actually has quite a few small hotels which makes it a great place to overnight if you’re spending a few days in the area.
After visiting Oxkutzcab the options are endless! Head to one of the sites of the Ruta Puuc, such as Loltún, Sayil, Kabah, or Uxmal; visit another traditional Yucatecan town like Maní, Mama or Teabo; do some more shopping in Ticul; go see the caves in Tekax or, if you’re like me, rush home and get all your produce put away before it gets too ripe in the Yucatecan sun.
Editorial by Maggie Rosado
Photography by Maggie Rosado for use in Yucatán Today.
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