The Heart of Mayan Yucatan: Explore Muyil, Felipe Carrillo Puerto, and Beyond

Discover the heart of Mayan culture on this journey through the Yucatan. Explore ancient roots, immerse yourself in rich culture and hospitality, and enjoy the natural beauty of this often overlooked region. Visit to fully experience the essence of the Mayan people.

The Heart of Mayan Yucatan: Explore Muyil, Felipe Carrillo Puerto, and Beyond
Panoramic view over Felipe Carrillo Puerto. Image by Felipe Carrillo Puerto

Discover the heart of Mayan culture on this journey through the Yucatan Peninsula, with a focus on the quintessential Mayan region of Quintana Roo. Explore the ancient roots of the Mayan people at the rare archaeological site of Muyil and learn about the modern history of resistance and resilience at the former capital of Chan Santa Cruz, now known as Felipe Carrillo Puerto. Immerse yourself in the Mayan people's rich culture, language, customs, and daily life. Enjoy their hospitality and the natural beauty of this region, which is often overlooked.

Start your adventure in Felipe Carrillo Puerto, a convenient base for your travels. Head northwest on federal highway 295 towards Valladolid, Yucatan, taking a secondary road that heads east through Francisco I. Madero and Chumpón. This road may be narrow, but it is safe for all types of vehicles as long as you drive with caution. Continue on Federal Highway 307, the main north-south axis of the state, until you reach the stunning archaeological zone of Muyil and the breathtaking shore of its namesake lagoon.

Take a scenic route back on federal highway 295, stopping at the charming town of Tepich. Continue down the paved road for about 70 kilometers until you reach Highway 307, which runs the length of the peninsula. Take a break and visit Francisco I. Madero, where you'll find the stunning cenote Jaas (banana). This large sinkhole has a diameter of 25 meters and a 10-meter-high ceiling, with a lush "island" in the center featuring a few banana trees. Be sure to request permission from the ejidal commissioner before visiting.

Along the same road, just 39 kilometers from Francisco I. Madero, you'll find Chumpón, one of several towns in the area with Mayan sanctuaries. These ancient pagan sites, with Christian overtones, were associated with the cult of the Talking Cross that guided the Maya rebels in the 19th century. Other towns with similar temples include Tixcacal Guardia, Chancah Veracruz, Tulum, and Felipe Carrillo Puerto. Make sure to ask permission from local authorities before visiting these historic sites.

Felipe Carrillo Puerto

Felipe Carrillo Puerto, formerly known as Chan Santa Cruz or "Little Santa Cruz", was the stronghold of the Cruzoob people during the Caste War in the 19th century. It was here that the legendary "Talking Cross" was born, and where the Maya people waged battles against the government for over 50 years.

After the Caste War came to an end, the city emerged with stone buildings, a spacious central plaza, wide streets, and a church built by the local indigenous people. Today, it serves as the hub for all the nearby Mayan communities and is located near the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve.

In the heart of the city, you'll find the modern municipal palace and the Santa Cruz parish church, both with unique histories. During the Caste War, the Mayan rebels used slave labor to build the church. They also built the Casa de la Cultura, which is now home to the Quintana Roo Culture Institute.

A restaurant serving wild meat dishes from the Yucatan region is located on Calle 67 by 68, Number 799, a short drive from downtown Felipe Carrillo Puerto. You can enjoy dishes like pheasant, venison salpicón with caper sauce, or pipián knowing that the restaurant sources its ingredients from legal farms.

Laguna Azul, Señor, Quintana Roo.
Laguna Azul, Señor, Quintana Roo. Image by Laguna Azul


Discover the richness of Mayan culture in Señor, where ancient traditions are still cherished and kept alive. Take a visit to the local healer's house to learn about the indigenous plants used for medicinal purposes, such as chaya for the kidneys, oregano grande de Castilla to reduce inflammation, and xtukli for stress. Immerse yourself in a world of knowledge and wisdom about the relationship between man and nature. Located just 30 kilometers north of Felipe Carrillo Puerto on Federal Highway 295, Señor is not to be missed. Don't forget to stop by Santa Rosa, just 15 kilometers away, where a group of women runs a one-of-a-kind embroidery shop. Browse the beautiful huipil, blanket shirts, and hammocks, all handcrafted with traditional Mayan techniques.

La Laguna Azul

Located just 7 kilometers from Señor, La Laguna Azul is one of the most stunning bodies of water in Mexico. Its pristine shores feature only a few palm-roofed huts and a tiny dock. To visit La Laguna Azul, you must go through the non-profit organization X'Yaat Ecoturismo Comunitario Maya in Señor. They manage visits to the area as well as offer bike and kayak rentals in Señor and promote environmental awareness through reforestation and cleanup efforts in Sian Ka'an. Visit X'Yaat Ecoturismo Comunitario Maya at Calle 8 Number 114 in Señor.


Tihosuco has a rich history dating back to 1534 when the first Catholic missionaries arrived in the area. Just 25 years later, they established the Franciscan province of San José Yucatán, which covered the current state of Quintana Roo. Tihosuco was one of the towns chosen as a starting point for their mission to spread Catholicism. However, Tihosuco has faced many challenges throughout its history. In 1686, the town was raided by the infamous pirates Lorencillo and Gramment on their way to Valladolid. And during the Caste War, Tihosuco was almost destroyed. Despite these challenges, the town has stood the test of time and remains an important part of Mexico's history.

Caste War Museum

Discover the rich history of the Maya rebellions against the authorities at the Caste War Museum. Housed in a 15th-century building, the museum features four rooms filled with maps, documents, and historical artifacts that showcase the Mayans' struggles from the 16th to the 20th centuries. The exhibits include the machete skull of Mayan leader Bernardino Cen and handcrafted products from the region, such as herbal medicines, cotton yarns, and Day of the Dead candles. With its excellent museography and well-preserved pieces, the museum provides a fascinating look into the past. Open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., the museum is located just one block from the Centro on the corner of Calle 17 and Calle 26.

Route of the Churches

Before you leave, stop by the beautiful Tihosuco Virgin Church, which is located in the Centro neighborhood at the intersection of Calle 17 and Calle 26. This church, built in 1839, is open from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. from Tuesday to Sunday and is worth a visit. Then, discover the charming "Route of the Churches" in Tihosuco, Mexico. Visit the historic, colonial churches that were once the center of the Caste War. Start your journey by heading 6 km south of Tihosuco and visiting towns such as Huay Max, Sabán, Sacalaca, Xcabil, Xquerol, and Polyuc.

Made by Mayan hands

Discover the best place to see and buy handmade clothing in Quintana Roo at this store located in the main square of Tihosuco, in front of the church and next to the municipal office. It's run by a cooperative of Mayan women and offers a variety of blanket clothes with beautiful designs, including some with flowers and others with intricate fretwork. Visit the shop-factory Monday to Saturday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. Don't forget to buy some of the locally made shampoos, soaps, medicines, and ointments, such as aloe vera-based products and remedies for foot fungus and mosquito bites. While you're there, get more information about tours to nearby cenotes and hacienda huts.

Muyil Archaeological Zone
Muyil Archaeological Zone. Image by INAH

Muyil Archaeological Zone

Step into the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve and explore the largest archaeological site on the eastern coast of Quintana Roo. This site was thriving during the Early Classic period, from 300 to 600 AD, and had connections with other Mayan centers like Coba. During the Postclassic period, between 1000 and 1100 AD, Muyil shifted its focus to sea trade.

The site is comprised of three main groups: Muyil A or Entrance Plaza, Muyil B or Cenote, and Poniente, all connected by sacbes. Don't miss the famous El Castillo, a 17-meter tall pyramid with a temple on top and traces of Mayan paint on its stucco walls. Another highlight is Structure 8, a pyramid with four levels and a staircase that leads to an upper temple. Visiting hours are from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm every day. You can reach the site by driving north from Felipe Carrillo Puerto on federal highway 307 (63 km away), or 20 km north of the junction with Highway 307 from Chumpón.

Muyil and Chunyaxche Lagoons

Take a tour of the stunning lagoons at Muyil and Chunyaxche with the Uyo Ochel Maya Tourist Services Cooperative Society. Located just 200 meters south of the Muyil archaeological site, this cooperative offers three standard tours and custom excursions. The simplest tour takes you to the Xlapac archaeological site and takes about two hours. The second tour includes a visit to both Muyil and Xlapac and takes about four hours. And the third tour takes you through both lagoons and ends at La Playa. Part of the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, the lagoons and their surroundings offer a breathtaking experience. Contact the Uyo Ochel Maya Cooperative at the Carrillo Puerto-Tulum highway, 100 meters, second stop, Chunyaxche for more information.