I’ve written about Yaxunah so much in the past few months that you must think I loved it, and you wouldn’t be wrong. Yaxunah, “the green-colored house” or “first house” in Maya, is a tiny village within the Yaxcabá municipality that you definitely have to visit, especially if you’re looking for a day away from the city hustle and bustle, or the more crowded destinations.
During my visit, my base—and that of many other visitors—was the Parador Turístico Yaxunah. This is a project that brings together several community groups, which have gotten organized to offer a variety of services and cultural activities that promote the village’s economic development, while conserving the environment and their way of life. That means you’ll experience a little bit of what normally happens in this village, non-performatively, but with plenty of smiles. Wonderful, don’t you think?
Remember, this is a great option to discover the everyday life of a community strongly adhered to their native Maya roots, including working in the Milpa (field) or cooking the traditional Yaxunah way. Consequently, you should be respectful during your visit. Before you go, make sure to check availability.
Make your own buried Cochinita Pibil
Cochinita Pibil is that famous, delicious dish we Yucatecos enjoy from a very young age. You could say it runs in our veins, hence its bright red color.
You’ll prepare your own Cochinita Pibil at the Parador. The ladies—a few of them, former softball players in the Amazonas de Yaxunah team—will teach you how to make the red Recado de Achiote (annatto seasoning) and how the dish is buried, wrapped in banana leaves. You’ll then get two hours to explore the village or enjoy other activities, since that’s how long it takes for the Pib underground oven to cook the Cochinita. Once it’s ready, you’ll be served a generous portion in a bowl that you’ll be able to refill as many times as you like, accompanied by delicious, thick, hot hand-made tortillas.
Are you short on time, but still craving Cochinita? Worry not, as lunch in the Parador is also an option; it also includes tortillas and a beverage (lemonade or hibiscus tea). Lucky visitors will get to watch as the dish is unearthed.
Regardless of whether you participate in the full experience or just stop by for lunch, you might notice that the Cochinita here is less deep in color. That’s because local tradition only allows for natural ingredients. It has a more tender flavor, and the pieces of pork fall apart when you touch them; those are the wonders of the underground oven.
Both experiences are by reservation only, at least one day in advance.
Price: $800 pesos for two people (cooking workshop, up to 10 people per group; approximately three hours) / $200 pesos per person (only food and drinks)
I could devote an entire article to this section. As you approach Yaxunah, and then more often the archeological site, you’ll see mounds of rocks, very well aligned. You can be sure those are unrestored buildings. To me, that’s the beginning of the Yaxunah marvel; it just grows as you get closer. The archaeological site is also run by the community. Once you’ve arrived, approach the cabin to pay for your entrance and say hi to the groundskeeper.
The site has plenty of restored buildings, in addition to the beginning of a 100-kilometer Sakbej (or Sacbé, “white road” in Maya) that used to connect Yaxunah to Cobá (imagine how important it used to be!). You’ll find what seems to have been an observatory (the design gives it away), multiple buildings, a market, a small ball game court, a huge acropolis, and a palace where you’ll be able to take a close look at Maya reliefs.
Imagine being able to explore this city by moonlight under the stars: amazing. The best part is you actually can; ask and book in advance.
Lol-Ha (water flower) cenote
This open cenote awaits a block away from the Parador. It’s easy to get in, but more challenging to get out of, since you have to do it from the water. The entrance is guarded by a group of teenagers, and the fee is about $100 pesos per person. Does it have bathrooms? No, nor does it have changing areas, but you can use the bathrooms at the Parador Turístico.
A Milpa, behind the scenes
It’s officially called “Inmersión al Maiz” (corn immersion). In this experience, you’ll learn how one of the most important staples of the Maya (and Mexican, really) diet. Here, you’ll visit a family Milpa.
The tour covers everything it takes to get an ear of corn in a sustainable Milpa. Here you’ll discover everything from the cleaning, sowing, and harvesting, to external factors that can affect the Milpa, such as pests and climate change. Unlike more traditional Milperos, this family doesn’t burn the plants at the end of the cycle but uses them as fertilizer. To find out why you’ll have to take the tour.
You’ll also be able to try eight or so traditional drinks served in Jícaras, such as Pozole (a Maya offering to the gods) and Atole (traditional in Janal Pixan, or day of the dead altars), both made with corn.
Hours: 9 am – 3 pm (2 to 2:30 hours)
Price: Depending on the number of participants, min. 2, max. 10 per group
I’m telling you Yaxunah has it all, including a workshop focusing on traditional hammocks and the different techniques used to weave them. This popular handcraft is known to be the bed of every Yucateco, and here’s no exception. Are you interested in weaving one? Along with the group Káanbal Kuxtal, you can give it a shot. As a side note, this project’s profits are destined for local teenagers’ education. There’s also a workshop to learn the basics of horn handcrafts.
Hours: 10 am – 1 pm and 3 – 7 pm
Price by the number of participants, min. 2, max. 10 per group
Editorial by Olivia Camarena Cervera
Yucatecan communicologist. Your favorite Assistant Editor. Writer, blogger, and bookstagrammer in her spare time. She also experiments with TikTok.
Photography by Olivia Camarena Cervera and Yucatán Today for use in Yucatán Today.
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