The Ruta de los Conventos is practically the perfect road trip. It’s very diverse and has everything you could possibly want: colonial towns, crystal-clear cenotes, and majestic archaeological sites. Sounds like the perfect day in Yucatán, don’t you think? Perhaps the best thing about doing this trip is the opportunity to see some of Yucatán’s most hospitable towns. Finding your way will be easy, since there is never a lack of volunteers who are willing to show you how to get to the cenote, or answer your questions about churches and other monuments. I’ll give you all the information you need so that you can design your own itinerary and make the most out of your visit to the iconic Ruta de los Conventos.

Planning and preparing for your trip

The first thing you need to know about this route is that visiting it can take as long as you want. There are many towns besides the ones I mention and they all deserve a visit. Check our “Map of the Peninsula” so that you can customize your own trip: you can visit a single destination, or extend it over a couple of days. Most of these towns and villages aren’t that far from Mérida, so you won’t feel that you spend too much time in the car. If any of the churches you wish to visit are closed, speak to the person in charge to see if they’ll open it for you to take a look, usually this isn’t an issue. I would also recommend that you take plenty of small bills ($20 and $50 pesos) and coins to pay for your entrances, these tend to be pretty inexpensive and the people at the entry usually don’t have change to give you.

First stop: Acanceh

Leave Mérida around 8 am and make your first stop to get some Tacos de Relleno Negro or a Torta de Lechón for sustenance; also make sure you fill up your tank with gas, and buy snacks and water for the road. The first place you reach should be Acanceh which is only 20 kilometers from Mérida. Here, the main attraction is the Plaza de las Tres Culturas; it receives this name because of the Maya, Colonial, and Contemporary buildings located around it. You can start your visit at the Cerro de Acanceh, also known as El Palacio. At first glance, you’ll think it’s just a pyramid, but if you decide to go and explore inside the site you’ll discover an additional structure as well as five large, stone masks. You can also enjoy the view from atop the main structure so that you can see all three cultures of Acanceh. When you’re done, drop by the 350-year old Franciscan church and walk around the main square taking photos. If you have any questions, there is a small INAH booth just across the street from the pyramid where they can answer all your questions.

And now for some history

Next stop: Visit the Mayapán archaeological site. This place is a must if you’re in the area. It has incredible constructions and great historical relevance due to its importance during the late Post-Classic period. When you’re finished in Mayapán, you’re going to thank me for this next tip, because you’ll be dying for a dip in a cenote right about now. Try to go as early as possible because after 12 pm, they tend to be pretty crowded.

Cheen Cha’ac Cenote

Time for a swim

Just across the road from Mayapán are Telchaquillo and Pixyáh. If you’re travelling with small children or people who are nervous about cenotes, swing by Telchaquillo and take a look at the church with Maya stones set into its façade; then walk through the park which is where you’ll find the cenote. The entrance to Cheen Cha’ac Cenote is very stable and the water in itself is very clear and shallow, which makes it perfect for kids. If you’re not scared of deeper waters, Cenote Nah Yah is a great choice. Drive through Pixyáh first and take a look at the colorful homes with bible passages painted on them; someone in the town will surely point you in the right direction if your GPS is on the fritz. The entrance into the cenote is more narrow here and the water is much deeper, but it’s a perfect swimming spot on a hot day.

Mama, a quintessential Yucatecan town

Next, go to Mama. Here you can visit the 17th century Franciscan convent dedicated to the Assumption. This building was constructed mainly for prayer but also as a “visitation” site for the dioceses. The complex is made up of an atrium, the church, the convent, and a vegetable patch among other elements. As you’re visiting the church be sure to take a look at the beautiful altarpiece and floors, as well as the fading frescoes on the masonry walls of the adjoining offices. In the vegetable patch, there is a waterwheel which supplied the whole town with water at one point. When you’re done visiting the convent, walk through town a little, they have some wonderful examples of the traditional palm-roofed Yucatecan home.

Maní: Great food and the San Miguel Arcángel Convent

Continue on your way until you reach Maní and go to the San Miguel Arcángel Convent. This place is particularly significant because 450 years ago, Fray Diego de Landa’s “Auto de fe” happened in this very spot. During this act, 40 Maya codices were destroyed along with idols, scrolls of deer hide, ritual vases, and stone sculptures. Inside the church, there are antique altarpieces which are carved and decorated with gold-leaf. You can walk through the, now, calm hallways of this former convent and its gardens which are open to the public and allow you to travel through time. It’s easy to let your imagination wander when you’re surrounded by a space which seems to have stopped in time. For the perfect ending to your visit, eat at the restaurant Príncipe Tutul Xiu, known for its excellent regional cuisine and specializing in Poc Chuc.

The numerous temples, churches, and convents of this area’s towns have given it its name. Although the Ruta de los Conventos is an excellent chance to take a peek into Yucatán’s past, it also allows you to get to know more about the people living in our state today.

So make a great playlist and pack all your favorite people in the car for a trip into the heart of Yucatán you won’t forget.

Editorial by Maggie Rosado
Photography by Laura Sánchez and Maggie Rosado for use in Yucatán Today.

Directory and Costs

Acanceh Archaeological Site
Every day 8 am – 5 pm
General admission $45 pesos; free for students and seniors
Free for Mexican nationals on Sundays

Mayapán Archaeological Site
Every day 8 am – 5 pm
General admission: $45 pesos
Free for Mexican nationals on Sundays

Cenote Nah Yah:
Every day 8 am – 5 pm
General admission: $40 pesos

Cenote Cheen Cha’ac
Go to the store “Ofelia” to ask for information
General admission: $10 pesos

El Príncipe Tutul Xiu
Calle 26, Centro, Maní
Tel.  (997) 978 4257
Every day 11 am – 7 pm

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