As of late June, the town of Tekax (along with Espita and Motul) has been named one of Yucatán’s three newest Pueblos Magicos, or Magical Towns.
The hope, at least in theory, is that this designation will attract more tourists to Tekax and southern Yucatán in general, which is far from being a tourist hotspot of the likes of Mérida, Valladolid, or Chichén Itzá.
But upon arrival in Tekak during a recent trip, no “Pueblo Magico” signs were visible, and tourist services were nowhere to be found.
It’s not like Tekax has nothing to offer. On the contrary, this tiny community of around 25,000 is charming and full of interesting spots to check out, to say nothing of the surrounding area.
Despite the lack of any “Pueblo Magico” imagery, it’s evident that Tekax has made considerable efforts to beautify itself and keep its streets very clean.
Like practically all towns in Yucatán, Tekax’s center serves as the community’s primary hub, flanked by its church, market, and municipal hall.
Like the nearby city of Oxkutzcab (try saying that fast three times), Tekax is known for producing large amounts of fruit, including pineapples, watermelons, avocadoes, pitaya, and the exotic-looking saramuyo, known in English for some reason as sugar apple. Though, of course, the region also produces an extraordinary amount of citrus, especially limes and oranges.
The facade of Tekax’s city hall is not particularly ostentatious, but if you look closely, right below the clock at its top, it says H. Ayuntamiento Socialista de 1926. This is a decade in which Socialist fervor peaked in Yucatán and across México.
The city’s main church and former convent, dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, was first erected way back in 1564, though its current configuration dates closer to the 1700s. Like virtually all large constructions dating to this period, it was erected using materials from far more ancient Maya structures.
More interesting still is the temple chapel of La Ermita de San Diego de Alcalá, built atop a large hill, which makes it resemble a miniature version of Cholula.
According to local legend, the temple was built after an image of Saint Diego of Alcalá, which is usually housed inside the town’s main church, suddenly appeared atop a steep hill, only to miraculously disappear and reappear in its original location moments later.
During antiquity, Tekax belonged to the lands controlled by the Tutul Xiu dynasty, who built a great many cities, including Uxmal and Kabah. However, by the time of the arrival of the Spanish, the main center of power in the region was Maní, as even Mayapan appears to have been mostly abandoned by this point.
As was the custom of the Spanish, members of the ruling dynasty were allowed to oversee governorship over their old domains as long as they took Spanish names, converted to Catholicism, and collected enough tributes from the locals.
During our visit, the main city market was closed due to a renovation project, so most merchants were offering to sell their wares and produce out of the back of trucks. It will certainly be interesting to see how this new market evolves.
Just a mile or so out of town lay the Grutas Chocantes, a network of particularly interesting caves featuring unique crystal formations. Other activities, such as rappelling and deep cave spelunking, are offered but require a degree of experience to be enjoyed safely.
Mexico’s Secretariat of Tourism leads the Pueblos Mágicos initiative with other federal and state agencies. To be on their list indicates a “magical” experience for visitors and qualifies local governments for federal funds. Locals also get training and guidance in welcoming tourists.
But in recent years, the program has come under fire, with locals accusing the government of not following through on their promises and leaving the communities high and dry.
Pueblo Magico or not, Tekax is worth a visit, especially for anyone looking for a taste of authentic Yucatán off the beaten path.
For reasons that are not entirely clear, Tekax is known in Yucatán as “La Sultana de la Sierra,” which translates as “The Sultan of the Mountains,” which is a bit odd for several reasons.
If you go
Public transportation from Mérida to Tekax is available, but going by car is much preferable as it is much closer and will allow you to explore other surrounding communities and attractions.
As Tekax is just over two hours away from Mérida by car and there is quite a bit to see in the region, so spending the night is a good idea. The town has several little hotels, many of which have amenities like pools and air conditioning, a real necessity from April to October when temperatures soar.