This was it! The start of our cycle tour across the Yucatan peninsula. The first week of our trip consisted of exploring cities (Cancun and Merida) and doing day trips (Isla Mujeres and the Dzibilchaltun ruins), but now we were hitting the open road, our bikes laden down with everything we’d brought with us.
For more details on how and what we packed for this trip, see Packing the Bromptons for Mexico.
So Sunday morning, after enjoying Biciruta Mérida, we checked out of our hotel, connected the Komoot route app to the speaker, and cycled out of Mérida.
We were heading for Izamal via a scenic detour to the Aké ruins. That detour turned out to be one of the best and worst parts of this ride!
CYCLE ROUTE STATS (Mérida to Izamal):
- Depart Mérida: 10:00am
- Arrive in Tixpehual: 11:15am
- Arrive in Tixkokob: 11:45am
- Lunch in Ekmul: 12:30pm
- Arrive at Aké Ruins: 1:30pm
- Depart Aké: 2:30pm
- Time Spent on 7km of Dirt Road: 1 hour
- Arrive in Izamal: 5:00pm
- Total Time Cycling: 4 hrs 31 mins
- Total Distance: 74km
- Average Speed: 16.2km/hr
On the map above, you can zoom in and out right from our blog. Click on the preview photo in the bottom right corner to bring up pictures, and click on the pictures to be redirected to our Komoot page.
Crossing Mérida’s Highway
Cycling north out of Mérida to the Dzibilchaltun ruins was when we first encountered the highway that encircles Mérida—Annillo Periferico Manuel Berzunza. We knew we’d have to cross it heading west out of the city as well. Calle 19 ends at the highway and barriers were put up so we couldn’t run across. That was odd; running across the highway is how they do things in the Yucatan! But then we saw why the barriers were there—to direct us two blocks south to a gigantic pedestrian/bicycle bridge!
It’s not the prettiest structure or the most efficient, but we got to the other side of the highway safely. From there we connected with Calle 65 which took us straight west out of the city and turned into a paved state road—the Carretera Mérida Tixkokob-Tekantó—with wide shoulders for pedal-powered and other slower vehicles.
It took us 45 minutes to get out of the city, and we spent at least 10 of those minutes crossing that crazy zigzaggy pedestrian-bike bridge!
Tiny Towns En Route to the Aké Ruins
By the time we got to Tixpéhual, the paved shoulders were gone, but traffic had decreased too. It was mainly just us, the open road, some people on motorcycles, and funnily signed speed bumps.
Then we arrived in Tixkokob, greeted by a Christmas tree made of old tires and toy trains on the clearly no-longer-in-service tracks that run through town.
There was also a lovely cemetery with some gorgeous graffiti.
Komoot took us on the backstreets of Tixkokob where Pier made friends with anyone who was also on two or three wheels, even though he doesn’t speak Spanish and they didn’t speak English.
Then Komoot directed us to go down this dirt path (the second time Komoot’s route was questionable), but we stayed on the paved street to get to Carretera Txkokob-Sotuta—the road to the Aké ruins!
By this time we were hungry and decided to get lunch in the next town. So far all the towns we’d gone through had been super tiny, and Ekmul was no different. We looked around for anything that resembled a restaurant and finally, once in the centre of town by the park, we found this little place:
There were three things on the menu, but the only word we understood was “pollo”. The rest was a mystery! Good thing we’re not picky eaters. We ordered the “Pollo Kentoky” and the “Pozole Rojo” and we got…
The “Pozole Rojo” was a soup full of vegetables. Yum! And the “Pollo Kentoky” was friend chicken with fettuccini alfredo! Wha-?! That’s not what we were expecting in Mexico! Now that I look at the menu again, I think the word “Kentoky” is supposed to be “Kentucky” as in KFC friend chicken. Luckily, this chicken was delicious—flavourful, crunchy and not greasy—much better than KFC. As for the fettuccini alfredo? Who knows, but it was good too.
Satiated, we continued cycling to Aké.
Ruinas de Aké
We thought Aké was a town. Well, I guess it is, but barely. As we cycled in, we came to a T intersection. There were porta-potties on our right, and a local minivan bus parked to our left. The bus looked promising, so we turned in its direction, but the people on it weren’t going to the ruins, they were going to this church.
So we went back to the right, past the porta-potties, and saw what looked like a farmer’s field that had an “Aké” sign, but there was no way in and, besides, nothing was there except cows. Honestly, there seemed to be nothing in Aké except that church, a farm and porta-potties. Where were the ruins?
Then we saw some people walking towards us on a dirt lane. They were waving, and when they reached us we learned they were tourists too. They’d driven by us in their car and recognized our bikes and my sombrero helmet. Ha! They confirmed the Aké ruins were indeed down the unmarked dirt laneway, so away we went…
Down the laneway and around the corner, there’s finally an official sign!
No people or place to pay yet. So we wander farther in and way up ahead (where if you zoom into the next picture you can see a scooter parked under a tree) we found a man in a little shed behind the stone wall collecting entrance fees.
We paid and he motioned for us to leave our bikes near his scooter. He promised to keep an eye on them, but to be honest there was no one around!
And so, we entered the Ruinas de Aké. The first thing we did was climb the big ruin with the unusual columns on top.
There were no signs or people around telling us we couldn’t climb on the structures, so we scaled the steep face of the other ruin. This was definitely the steepest ruin we climbed in The Yucatan!
We took a less steep route down. See the shack, scooter and our Bromptons in the photo below? That’s the very subtle official entrance to the Aké ruins.
On our way out, we stopped to look at the Aké Hacienda. It’s also a ruin.
The Shortcut from Aké to Izamal
When I was planning this trip, I wanted to fit in the Aké ruins, but Google maps told me we’d have to backtrack all the way to Tixkokob, which would add 30kms to our route for a total of 100km. Since we knew we wanted to experience Biciruta Mérida first that morning, a 100km day was not ideal. I considered skipping the Aké ruins until Komoot told me about the “dirt single track road” that cut from Aké up to the Carretera Mérida-Tekanto. We street-viewed the dirt road on Google and it looked passable. So we decided to do it!
Now you can see that this road isn’t smooth dirt; there’s a substantial amount of rocks in it. But we weren’t in the thick of things yet. Less than ten minutes in, the road got worse, so rocky that it was like mountain biking on the flat.
It was fun for like five minutes, and then it was a chore. The entire road was only 7km long, but it took a full HOUR to ride it. And for the entire time, not a single vehicle passed us. We started to worry that this “road” was actually private property and we’d run into a big fence and wouldn’t be able to pass through to the carretera. Nooo!
Luckily, that didn’t happen and we made it. We’ve never been so happy to see asphalt.
So was it worth it? At the time, I was having serious regrets (mainly worrying we weren’t going to arrive at our hotel in time). And the next day my legs were sore from the technical cycling over the rocks. But in hindsight, I’m glad we did it. The Aké ruins were a highlight of our trip, and the insanely rocky road makes for a good story. Though I would caution that due to how slow we had to ride, this route cannot be considered a time-saver. Backtracking to Tixkokob to get on the Carretera Mérida-Tekanto would have taken us, at our regular cruising speed, about 1hr 15mins. So we only saved ourselves 15 minutes by taking this shortcut.
In conclusion, as long as you’re prepared for the slow ride, I recommend the dirt road shortcut between Aké and Izamal. It is definitely an adventure!
Once back on blacktop, we booked it as fast as we could—only stopping for this one photo in front of an agave field…
We needed to check into our hotel in Izamal by 5pm. But time was running out, the sun so low that the scrub brush on the side of the road put us completely in shadow…
Then finally we rolled into Izamal!
After checking in, we mustered up enough energy to go get some delicious food at Restaurante Zamnh (more on that in another post, “What to Eat in The Yucatan, Mexico”), and tour around downtown Izamal before going to bed.
Up next… despite developing nasty head colds, we climbed Izamal’s Pirámide de Kinich Kakamó early in the morning, then set out for Chichen Itzá, and that’s when Komoot really let us down…