We woke up early with head colds (stuffy noses and sore throats), but we couldn’t let that stop us! We’re on vacation! So we went to a drug store and bought some throat lozenges, then walked around Izamal to see the sights before cycling to Chichén Itzá.
La Cuidad Amarilla
Izamal is nicknamed La Cuidad Amarilla (The Yellow City) for its traditional golden yellow buildings.
In ancient times it was the centre for the worship of the Maya god Itzamná and the sun god Kinich-Kakmó, and there were a dozen temple pyramids throughout the city devoted to these and other gods. Of course, the Spanish knocked down the temples, then built a Franciscan monastery (el Convento de San Antonio) on the ruins.
The one site the Spanish didn’t knock down was the pyramid Kinich Kamkó.
Maya Ruins – Pirámide de Kinich Kakmó
We arrived very early in the morning, at 8am, and no one else was there! Having the entire place to ourselves was amazing!
Then we headed back to the hotel for breakfast, and by 10:30am we were packed and ready for the road.
Cycling the Scenic Route from Izamal to Chichén Itzá
Google told us to either head south from Izamal to Kantunil, then east to Chichén Itzá, or to head east from Izamal to Dzitás then south to Chichén Itzá. But Komoot suggested a 71km scenic route that ran diagonally between Izamal and Chichén Itzá.
Like our ride the previous day, Google had suggested we stick to the main roads, but Komoot had suggested a scenic route from Aké that included a rocky dirt road that looked much like the ground approaching Kinich Kakmó (see photo). However, Komoot did label it a “dirt single track”. So I checked the app to see if any so-called dirt roads were on the route to Chichén Itzá, but it assured me that every road was paved.
Spoiler Alert: Komoot lied!
CYCLE ROUTE STATS (Izamal to Chichén Itzá):
- Depart Izamal: 10:30am
- Arrive in Sudzal: 11:10am
- Arrive in Chumbec: 12:30pm
- Learn the road south does not exist!!! Head north to Tunkás.
- Arrive in Tunkás: 1:40pm
- Arrive in Dzitás: 3:15pm
- Arrive in Piste: 4:15pm
- Finally get to our Hotel outside of Chichén Itzá: 4:30pm
- Total Time Cycling: 4hr 42mins
- Total Distance: 91km (20km more than the planned route)
- Average Speed: 20km/hr
- Top Speed: 35km/hr
But we didn’t yet know that Komoot’s scenic road south of Chumbec was a lie, so we headed out blissfully unaware that this was going to be a more challenging ride than we’d anticipated.
We left Izamal via a bike path running alongside the state road heading south. Yay for bike infrastructure!
We stopped briefly in Cuauhtemoc, the first little town south of Izamal, to see this 17th century chapel:
Then we continued on to Sudzal, which is a bit bigger but still a very small town. Here Komoot again tried to take us down a dirt street (Calle 7 on the map), but we took a paved alternative while I tried not to worry about how the app had promised no dirt roads but had just tried to send us down a dirt road.
TIP: Buy water in Sudzal! We only had one bottle of water and unbeknownst to us, this was the last place we’d be able to get anything until Chumbec. The places on the map between Sudzal and Chumbec aren’t really towns, they’re just names of private ranches or resorts or perhaps villages that used to exist but don’t anymore.
From Suzdal we went east into ranch country where we saw many “el toro” crossing signs.
Four kilometres east of Sudzal we came across this Christian-Maya chapel in the middle of nowhere!
And three kilometres past the chapel, I took a picture of this ranch because the barn looks like the Convento in Izamal!
Then it was miles of nothing! The “town” of Nuevo Tzalam was just a corner with a couple shacks. This road east seemed to go on forever…
Though the road is nicely paved! And then Komoot told us to turn right…
That couldn’t be correct! Komoot had promised pavement, and that dirt road looked worse than the dirt “single track” from Aké! So we continued on and minutes later arrived in the small town of Chumbec. There was just one store, a tiny building that sold liquor, gas and water. We bought two big bottles of water from the kids manning the counter. Then Pier asked, using hand signals and broken Spanish, if there was a road going south from Chumbec that would get us to Highway 180 to Chichén Itzá. They shook their heads no and pointed north out of town. I pulled up the Komoot map on my phone and showed them the road going south that Komoot wanted us to take. They emphatically shook their heads NO, and we got the gist that maybe it wasn’t a public road and went through private property? Or maybe they meant it wasn’t passable because it was too damn bumpy.
The only thing that was for sure was if locals were telling us not to go down that road, that the only way to Chichén Itzá was to go north and meet up with the road to Dzitás, then that’s what we had to do. The kids even drew us a map!
And so we headed north.
The road from Chumbec to Tunkás is actually a beautiful ride. From the signs I could half-read, I gather that it goes through a nature conservation area. However, just a few kilometres into it I got stung by a bee right between the eyes! And all I could think was, “I hope I’m not allergic to Mexican bees or I’m going to die out here.” Because only two vehicles passed us the entire time we were on this road and there was nothing around but nature. Luckily, I am not allergic to bees and I’m alive to write this post. But in all honesty, it was pretty scary, so while my forehead swelled from the sting, all I did was ride and breath, and I didn’t stop to take any photos. So you’ll just have to take my word for it that it was one of the prettier stretches along the route.
An hour later, we arrived in Tunkás and found a sign pointing to Dzitáz.
The state road leading to Dzitás is pleasantly shady and has very little traffic considering this is one of the more major roads in the area.
Also, fair warning, there’s really nothing along this stretch; you will need to pee on the side of the road.
Eventually we see a sign letting us know we’re entering the teeny town of Quintana Roo (not to be confused with the state on the coast). This is the halfway point to Dzitás. We kept following the signs…
…until we arrived in Dzitás! This small town’s claim to fame is being the place where everyone turns south to go to Chichén Itzá. Hence this town sign:
In Dzitás we stopped at a store to purchase sustenance. I can’t remember what we bought to eat, but it was probably more cake-bread (that seems to be the snack of choice in corner stores in the Yucatan). Oh, and the store was out of big bottles of water, so I bought some orange drink. Not the healthiest snack, but we were running on fumes by this point and needed the sugar boost anyway.
South from Dzitás, we pedalled hard. This was one of the hilliest sections we’d encountered in Mexico, but we just needed to get to our destination! And in record time considering the hills (we travelled 14km in half an hour), we came upon the big toll highway where motorists turn to go to Chichén Itzá. We were almost there!
After a bit of a detour (Komoot tried to take us through Chichen Itza to get to our hotel, but we had to go around the archeological site), we were in our room at Hotel Mayaland.
Oh, and it was Christmas Eve. So we had a fancy dinner…
… and then we went back and hand-washed our laundry in the soaker tub.
We were tired and had stuffy noses, but we’d made it.
All-in-all, the scenic route via Chumbec was rather nice. If you want a quiet ride through the countryside and don’t mind the extra 20km, you might want to take this route instead of the state road from Izamal to Dzitás. Chumbec is the biggest town on the route and even it’s super tiny. The local people all stared at us and waved. We got the impression they rarely, if ever, saw tourists. That would make sense since there really is nothing out there except a pleasant bike ride!
Coming up next: we visit the famous Chichén Itzá ruins.