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On your way to El Cuyo or Las Coloradas? You can’t miss Kikil

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.

Just three miles north of Tizimín sits the tiny community of Kikil, with a population of just under 200.

Kikil remains a very small place, where the pace of life has changed little over the past few centuries. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Though the town is very small, it makes for a worthwhile stop on the way to El Cuyo, the ruins of Kulubá, or Las Coloradas.

The ruins of Kulubá are among the most impressive in Eastern Yucatán, though getting to them is no easy task. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

But for such a tiny place, Kikil sure has a lot to offer, including exuberant wildlife, a cenote, and the ruins of an impressive 16th-century convent built by the Franciscan order.  

A Mot Mot or Pajaro T’ho sits on a branch just outside the ruins of the former Franciscan convent. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The former convent of San Francisco was founded back in 1576, and its massive church dedicated to San Roman soon followed in 1584.

Like many colonial constructions of the era, the Franciscan convent was built using the carved stones of demolished Mayan temples. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The convent and church remained in use until the mid-19th century, when the Caste War  (1847–1901)  saw it destroyed and occupied by native Maya people.

The Caste War was a revolt of the native Maya of the Yucatán Peninsula against the dominant socio-political class made up of Europeans. 

Mural by Fernando Castro Pacheco. The Caste War is generally acknowledged to have ended in 1901 when the Mexican army occupied the Maya capital of Chan Santa Cruz and subdued neighboring areas. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The convent complex has been out of use for close to two centuries now but remains extremely impressive, even though its ceiling collapsed long ago. 

Like all convents and churches of the day, San Francisco was off-limits to the native Maya population, who attended services at a small adjacent chapel. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The impressive ruins of the church of San Roman feature a large nave measuring 37 feet wide, while the ruins are 85 feet tall and 150 feet deep. 

Local guides offer tours of the church and convent for 50 pesos. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

By the time the Europeans arrived at Kikil, the area was controlled by a Maya chiefdom known as the Tases, who, after considerable resistance, were forcibly converted to Catholicism. 

Aside from the church and convent, Kikil is also known for its open-air cenote, which is open to tourists and offers amenities such as showers, life jackets, a gift shop, and a restaurant. 

The facilities of the Kikil cenote are quite good, and the cost of entrance ranges between 50 and 200 pesos depending on whether you are a Yucateco, Mexican or foreign visitor. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The cenote is quite pleasant and has come a long way since I first visited roughly 15 years ago when it was full of garbage.

Aerial view of Cenote Kikil and the surrounding jungle. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Kikil is also known to be the hometown of the renowned Caste War historian Apolinar García y García, who was only 10 when violence broke out and was orphaned by the time he was 12. Much of what is known about the area during the 19th century survives thanks to his extensive writings.

Given its small population and thick vegetation, Kikil is home to several species of birds, insects, and mammals which can commonly be seen around town. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

If you go

There are no hotels in Kikil itself, though it’s possible to spend the night in nearby Tizimín if you want to get an early start and enjoy some great birding.

Tizimín is one of Yucatán’s wealthiest municipalities, given that it’s the cattle ranching capital of the region, though not all of its surrounding comisarias are quite as lucky. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The restaurant at the cenote is quite good and one of your few options if you do not pack your own lunch, but it’s always possible to find taco or torta stands lining the town’s main road. 

Kikil’s location just north of Tizimín makes it a great pitstop when exploring this often ignored part of the state. Map: Google
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