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Explore Yucatán’s rolling hills from atop Muna’s ‘mirador’

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Yucatán is known for being exceptionally flat, but the hills in the southern tip of the state near Muna are the exception. Photo: Abraham Bojórquez / Yucatán Magazine

Yucatán is known for its flat topography. In fact, the name Mayab, what the natives called the territory before the Spanish arrived, literally means “flat.”

However, the more one travels south, this landscape transforms into sloppy hills and even a small range known as Pu’uk or Sierrita de Ticul. As you would expect, the area offers some dramatic views of the Yucatán plain. 

This is what Pedro Ayuso realized over 25 years ago when he asked permission to take over an ejido land to create El Mirador de Muna. As the name suggests, the project started as a overlook but has developed into a whole ecological experience that includes hiking trails, ceremonies, temazcal sweat lodges, handcrafts workshops, and a museum. 

Large temazcales have been found across Mesoamerica and are thought to have been used for both recreational, medicinal, and ritualistic purposes. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

“It was a natural viewpoint,” he remembers as he tells the site’s story. The location was key, as it is right outside of Muna, on the way to the ancient ruins of Uxmal. When Pedro saw the cliff-like spot and the continuous flow of tourists headed to and from the archaeological site, he connected the dots. 

“The land was unaltered, you couldn’t walk through it, thorns everywhere. We had to open up some space, cut a few trees, move around rocks. Just by using the debris from this process, we were able to shape the site.” For every tree that they have removed, he says they have planted another one elsewhere. 

From the main viewpoint, there is a clear view of the Yucatecan jungle, a vast bed of green extending all the way to the horizon. Pedro likes to call it “the highest point in Yucatán.” The actual highest point is the Cerro Benito Juárez, at the state’s southern frontier, but he might be right about one thing. El Mirador is probably the highest lookout accessible by car. 

Ceiba trees are central to Maya cosmology, as in mythology this majestic tree represents the universe itself. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The real adventure begins down the interconnected trails that lead to several platforms from which different views can be had. The main platform is guarded by a majestic ceiba and it is the place used for most of the Mayan ceremonies that take place at El Mirador.

Muna is well known for its production of quality replicas of ancient artifacts as well as ceramic and wooden handcrafts. Photo: Abraham Bojórquez / Yucatán Magazine

Pedro describes the ceremonies as spiritual experiences in which a shaman burns copal and incense, sings Mayan chants, blows through a seashell, and invokes the four cardinal points, known as los cuatro rumbos del universo in pre-Hispanic lore, as well as the four natural elements. The purpose of these ceremonies, according to him, is to connect with everything that is natural, with the universe itself. Having studied the Maya culture for years, he places great importance on making sure that these rituals are as close to their ancestral versions as possible. 

We all sometimes need a little reminder of just how wonderful life really is. Photo Abraham Bojórquez / Yucatán Magazine

The complete hike can be completed in a couple of hours. As the paths descend, the scenery keeps changing, and the park begins to blend with the jungle. Besides the platforms, visitors can find a medicinal herbs garden, picnic and camping sites, and a grotto at the far end of the trail. 

At the temazcal, a different kind of ceremony – focused more on cleansing and purifying – is reserved for the brave. 

People in Yucatán have been creating remedies for all sorts of ailments and diseases from plant life for thousands of years. Photo Abraham Bojórquez / Yucatán Magazine

There is also a Museum of the Shaman, which displays ceremonial artifacts and information on the history and the tasks with which these priest-like figures are entrusted. 

Finally, a handcrafts store displays all kinds of treasures, from masks to vessels, jewelry to clothing, all made by hand with the traditional techniques of the region’s artisans. 

Besides making these at the regularly scheduled handcrafts workshops, Pedro has created a network of artisans around Yucatán who provide their work to be sold at the store in El Mirador. The collection includes a wide array of traditional musical instruments like the sacatan drum (made from deer skin) the tunkul (wooden percussion device), and all sorts of animal-shaped rattles and whistles. 

Pedro Ayuso poses for a photo in Muna, Yucatán. Abraham Bojórquez / Yucatán Magazine

For Pedro, who was born and raised in Muna, the best part about creating this space has been meeting and talking to people from all around the world who come and visit. “Finding out how we all share the same language, which is the love for nature. That’s the religion.” 

El Mirador has survived a couple of adverse developments. A few years ago, a highway was built to bypass the town of Muna on the way to Uxmal. In a Route 66 kind of story, the number of travelers passing by the viewpoint dropped dramatically. Pedro had to form alliances with tourist operators to bring people back to the site. COVID was a second and much harder hit, which forced him to shut down entirely for several months. 

“Things have been slowly picking up, but it is nowhere near how it was before the pandemic, even after two years.”

Pedro, however, seems relentless in his mission of ever-improving the project. He has recently set up accommodation facilities which he rents through Airbnb and his business partners. Coming soon, a traditional kitchen experience will show visitors how locals slow cook food in underground ovens. 

How to get to El Mirador

From Mérida, take the highway to Campeche and look out for the exit to Uxmal, right after passing Umán. Drive straight ahead and, instead of taking the bypass to the ruins, drive straight through the town of Muna. You will find El Mirador about half a mile after exiting Muna, on your left side. 

View of Uxmal from atop the Nunnery. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

From Uxmal, simply follow the road towards Muna without taking the bypass and you’ll see it on your right side about half a mile before entering the town. 

Phone: 997-140-4715

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/miradormuna/ 

Address: Carretera Hopelchen-Uman 760, Abalá, Yuc.

Location: https://goo.gl/maps/vA2zG1h7tX4X9VBGA 

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