Every once in a while, you get the urge to leave the traditional touristic routes behind and take the roads less traveled. At every stop, you’ll come across few people; maybe you’ll even have it all to yourself! Doesn’t that sound just perfect? One of these options off the beaten path is the Canek-Cocom Route, by Mundo Maya Tours y Excursiones; it’s named after the two Maya leaders behind two different insurrections at different times in history, both in the areas covered by the tour.
It leaves early in the morning (7:30 am), and has you back by 7 pm. That means if you have a free day to explore Yucatán, this is a good option to learn about Yucatecan history, try local dishes, and swim in a blue cenote, among many other things. Don’t worry about your level of Spanish, the guides are bilingual!
Welcome to the charming little town where the Canek-Cocom Route begins! Not to be confused with Hacienda Sotuta de Peón, located in a completely different place. Sotuta was the last city of the Cocom Maya dynasty (rulers of Mayapán) to surrender during the Conquista. That makes it one of the best places to learn about the Maya resistance – led by Nachi Cocom – in the 16th century. Our marvelous guide, Luis, was great at teaching us about the historical context (not only Sotuta’s, but for all the stops).
While in Sotuta, we visited the San Pedro and San Pablo church, the Nachi Cocom monument, and Nachi Cocom’s Palace. You’ll see that this “palace” is a more modern, red building with a military-style, which will definitely make you wonder whether Nachi Cocom really lived there. The answer is easy: he didn’t. His house was supposedly on the same grounds. Today the palace is a cultural center in restoration; in addition, the community is working to create a botanical garden.
I’ll tell you in advance that this was my favorite stop, even if it’s about to become clear. Tabi is a village within the municipality of Sotuta, where there is a huge green space where (from what we could see) local kids love to play. In front of it, there’s a park with a playground, benches, the ruins of a chapel, and a cenote enclosed by a security fence. Peek inside; swallows fly inside and the water couldn’t be bluer.
Once we’d looked around the area, we headed to the Tabi church. It is home to one of the most beautiful pieces of sacred art in Yucatán; our guides call it “The Sistine Chapel of Yucatán.” You may imagine what is inside: a chamber with all its walls painted, including the ceiling, and a colorful altarpiece. Although a good portion of the paintings has been lost to time, it’s still possible to appreciate the room’s beauty.
This 18th-century church is very unusual compared to the rest of the Franciscan churches in Yucatán. While the main nave’s walls are white, the altarpiece is engraved in wood and decorated with gold leaf (very baroque). Little analysis will be needed to identify some passages of the Virgin Mary’s life, such as her birth and the Annunciation. After all, it’s a church dedicated to the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception. “And the Virgin herself?” you may ask. There are at least three hypotheses, but you’ll have to visit to find out what they are.
As an additional tip, you’ll need to find Lupita Chan (the sacristan) to visit the church, as she has the keys. Ask for her in town.
Yaxunah was our third stop of the day, and the longest. Here, we ate, rested, swam, and explored an archaeological site. The town’s attractions are managed by the community, so try to do as much as you can!
Visit the Parador Turístico Yaxunah to have their famous Cochinita Pibil, made with pork from a backyard piggery, and cooked in the pib (underground oven). With some luck, you’ll see the process of unburying the pot; I had never seen it! Afterward, one of the ladies explained to us how Achiote (annatto, the paste that gives the meal its red hue) is made. If you want, you can try to mix the ingredients yourself. Finally, you’ll enjoy the Cochinita Pibil accompanied by handmade tortillas and as much Jamaica (hibiscus tea) as you can drink. It’s $200 pesos per person, but you can eat as much as your heart desires. If you don’t eat meat, let them know in advance and they’ll prepare other dishes for you.
After lunch, it’s the perfect time to visit the Lol-Ha cenote and take a well-deserved (and refreshing) dip; we were there for about 40 minutes. Then we left for the archaeological site of Yaxunah! Feel the excitement, this was my second favorite stop. Luis explained that the Ejido (basically, the people in the community) directly hired the archaeologists restoring the city. As of our visit, there are eight buildings, including one to be believed to have been an observatory, the Acropolis, and a ballgame. From one of the buildings, you’ll see a stone road (sacbé) heading into the wilderness. That’s a 100 km road leading to Cobá, Quintana Roo.
Places to visit on the way during the Canek-Cocom Route
Holcá. Before arriving at Sotuta, depending on your route, you’ll go through this small town with a church that has a carved arch at the entrance. Stone pieces such as these are called “Tamborcillos” (little drums), and due to their characteristics, they can be considered to belong to the Puuc style.
Yaxcabá. Between Tabi and Yaxunah, it’s a wonderful stop for anyone interested in architecture and sacred art. Like Tabi, Yaxcabá has a huge baroque-style altarpiece. It has niches carved in blue-painted wood, with a level of detail that will leave you open-mouthed.
Editorial by Olivia Camarena
Yucatecan communicologist. Your favorite Assistant Editor. Writer, blogger, and bookstagrammer in her spare time. She also experiments with TikTok.
Mundo Maya Tours y Excursiones (Canek-Cocom Route organizers)
Cel. 999 260 3446
FB: Mundo Maya Tours y Excursiones
Mon. – Tue. 9 am – 2 pm, 4 – 6 pm; Fri. – Sat. 9 am – 2 pm
Parador Turístico Yaxunah
Tel. 985 115 7176
www.yaxunah.org (to learn about more activities)
FB: Parador Turístico Yaxunah
Meal: $200 pesos per person, includes food and beverages (Jamaica); book at least one day in advance
Tel. 985 115 7176
WhatsApp: 55 1644 5455
Entry: $100 pesos (adults) and $50 pesos (children); groups get a preferential rate
Sitio Arqueológico Yaxunah
Entry: $100 pesos per person
Mon. – Sun. 8 am – until sunset
Lupita Chan, Tabi’s sacristan and Sotuta’s Director of Culture
Cel. 999 505 6799
Photography by Olivia Camarena Cervera for use in Yucatán Today.
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