On October 14th, the Mexican Caribbean will witness an extraordinary event: the 2023 annular solar eclipse, the first in four decades.
While this awe-inspiring phenomenon will be visible throughout the whole country, the southern states of Campeche, Yucatán and Quintana Roo are in for a special treat with an impressive 90.5% sun coverage level.
This eclipse is a once-in-a-lifetime event – well, maybe twice-in-a-lifetime, as there’s another one coming up in 2024.
But since Yucatán won’t see a solar eclipse again until 2071, this event has garnered significant anticipation, with archaeological sites like Chichen Itzá, Uxmal, Kabah, and Sayil gearing up for a surge in visitor numbers.
However, the magical town of Izamal has taken preparations to the next level, offering travelers a series of exciting activities guaranteed to make this experience truly unforgettable.
A Golden City
Found 72 km east of Mérida, the capital city of Yucatán, Izamal is a picturesque town best known for its saffron-colored colonial buildings – a feature that has earned it the ‘Golden City’ nickname.
Far from being just a random Yucatán town jumping on the eclipse bandwagon, Izamal stands as the state’s third most visited destination, only surpassed by Mérida city and the state’s beach destinations in terms of popularity.
Moreover, Izamal is one of Yucatán’s seven ‘Magical Towns’, a prestigious title awarded by the Mexican Secretary of Tourism to destinations with unique natural, cultural, historical and culinary features.
And with its distinctive colored colonial architecture, nearby archeological sites, and a wide array of culinary and artisan offerings, it’s no wonder why Izamal has been granted this recognition.
While Izamal is a self-sufficient magical town that needs no eclipse to attract visitors, local authorities do expect a significant uptick in tourist numbers, up to a whopping 30%, during the celestial event.
As a result, the town has arranged an array of activities and experiences with the intention of inviting visitors to spend the night after the historical event, as highlighted by the town’s mayor, Warner May Escobar.
Many of these activities are deeply rooted in the region’s rich Mayan heritage, showcasing the profound significance that solar eclipses held for this ancient civilization.
In fact, Mayan astronomers were able to predict them, and impressively enough, they could do so even when the eclipses themselves were not visible on the Yucatan Peninsula.
During the first stage of the phenomenon, around 9:45 am, visitors will be able to attend a traditional Mayan ceremony.
This special event will take place beneath a sacred ceiba tree alongside the San Antonio de Padua Convent.
The next stop is the Kinch Kakmó pyramid, where attendees will be able to observe the full alignment of the moon and the sun close to noon.
After the solar eclipse is over, more exciting experiences await, including a scenic tour around the pyramid and video mapping on the church’s facade.
Simply peacing out after the much anticipated astronomical event wouldn’t be much in line with Izamal’s notorious Yucatecan festive spirit.
So, as the day draws to a close, visitors will be invited to the town’s main plaza, where traditional dances and music will fill the air.
The lively scene includes a charanga band, folklore ballet, and the traditional ‘pig head dance.’
Of course, this festive atmosphere also offers the perfect opportunity to savor local culinary delights, including the classic cochinita pibil and a variety of other mouthwatering dishes such as pork with beans, tamales, papadzules and lime soup.
But the culinary journey doesn’t end there.
If you choose to stay overnight, you can’t miss the ‘Festival del Huevo Encamisado,’ which translates to ‘Jacketed Egg Festival,’ the following day.
Here, you’ll have the chance to savor this beloved Yucatecan dish, named for the way eggs are nestled inside a tortilla – which becomes, you see, the egg’s tasty jacket – and fried.
Topped off with fresh tomato salsa, beans, and cheese, this Yucatecan classic offers a truly flavor-packed experience – not unlike much of Yucatán’s excellent cuisine.
And with more cultural and artistic events taking place during the day, it’s genuinely hard to find a better destination to witness the upcoming solar eclipse than this colorful, magical town.
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