78.8 F
Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Nearly forgotten, charming Yalsihón awaits adventurous travelers

Sign up for the Roundup!

Get news from Yucatán Magazine once a week in your inbox. It's free and you can unsubscribe at any time.

*Your email address is safe with us. We will never share your information with any third party, except to comply with applicable law or valid legal processes or to protect the personal safety of our users or the public.
For the most part, even the most well-traveled Yucatecos never have heard of Yalsihón, though the locals seem to like it that way. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The tiny community of Yalsihón feels as far away from the hustle and bustle of modern life as possible in Yucatán. 

With a population of roughly 500, locals of this comisaria mostly make their living by working in one of the region’s many cattle farms.

Yalsihón belongs to the municipality of Panabá, known for its cattle ranching industry. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

But despite its tiny size, if you take the time to look around, Yalsihón has a good deal of charm. 

The path up a once grand Maya pyramid in Yalsihón. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Part of this charm comes from the choice of its locals to build what appear like traditional Maya homes with painted boards of wood instead of the more conventional adobe-like or mortar houses seen in rural Yucatán.

Wooden Maya-style traditional homes are usually associated with the coast, which makes sense as Yalsihón is only about seven miles from the ocean, though because of ongoing road construction, getting to the beach from the town requires a long detour. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

But if ancient sources are to be believed, Yalsihón was not always some remote village almost unknown to the outside world.

A stone mask was found in Yalsihón by INAH researchers. Photo: INAH

As it turns out, the small town and its surrounding area are full of evidence of Maya habitation stretching back thousands of years.

The remains of ancient mounds can be seen in the cattle fields now surrounding Yalsihón. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

But more impressive still is the town’s enormous pyramid, which was once at the center of a thriving commercial hub.

Though Yalsihón’s pyramid is in a terrible state of disrepair after over a millennia of looting, its remains are still quite impressive. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine 

Telltale signs of Maya occupation, such as stone tools and ceramics, are found everywhere in Yalsihón, to a degree that suggests that the town was much larger and more important than it is these days.

Yalsihón was likely similar in size, if not maybe a bit smaller, than other ancient settlements in the area like Dzilám, now known as Dzilám Gonzaléz. 

A stone church, built out of the materials extracted from a large pyramid just behind, is the main temple of worship in contemporary Yalsihón. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magzine

The Maya text known as the Chilam Balam de Chumayel mentions the arrival of the Itzás of Chichén Itzá in Yalsihión on their way to Xppitah, likely today’s Espita

Archaeological evidence in and around Yalsihón suggests that the community reached its zenith during the Postclassic period and likely served as an agricultural and logistical hub, connecting the eastern Yucatán with large centers like Chichén Itzá and Izamal

Given its less-than-stellar infrastructure, the northeast of Yucatán is much less dense with archaeological sites open to the public than its west and south, though that by no means suggests grand cities did not emerge in the region. 

To the east of Tizimin, Kulubá is one of the largest known ancient cities in Yucatán’s northeast and well worth a visit, despite its poor roads. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

But aside from the remains of grand temples, Yalsihón is also important because it offers us a glimpse into the way the ancient Maya actually lived.

The remains of a crumbling Maya dwelling in one of Yalsihón’s fields, constructed using stone and ancient mortar. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Walking through the surrounding fields, it is also possible to spot several structures, some of which are remarkably preserved.

The remains of a structure in the middle of what is now an abandoned ranch on the outskirts of Yalsihón. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Little archaeological work has ever been conducted in Yalsihón, with the vast majority of it being limited to surveying. 

Yalsihón’s largest ancient structure, as seen from above. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

If you go

Yalsihón is quite far away from any major highways, so the best way to get there is by car, driving northwest from Panabá.

Yalsihón may look close to the coastline on a map, but getting to the beach from there is actually quite difficult. Map: Google

As mentioned earlier, the infrastructure in the area is not the best, though some stretches of road are much better than others. 

When driving in remote regions of Yucatán like Yalsihón, keep in mind that cellphone service in the area is poor at best. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Also, because the area is so remote and receives very little traffic, moderate your speed to avoid hitting animals trying to cross the road. 

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.
- Advertisement -spot_img
Verified by ExactMetrics