Yucatán leaped from two to four “Magical Towns” now that the federal tourism ministry has added the port town of Sisal and the historic convent route village of Maní to its elite list of destinations.
The towns join Valladolid and Izamal as destinations in Yucatán that will gain special attention and promotion by the federal government.
Mexico added 11 towns overall, also including the expat enclave of Ajijic, Jalisco; as well as Isla Aguada, Campeche; Mexcaltitán, Nayarit; Paracho, Michoacán; Santa Catarina Juquila, Oaxaca; Santa María del Río, San Luis Potosí; Tetela de Ocampo, Puebla; Tonatico, Mexico State; and Zempoala, Hidalgo. This brings to 132 the number of Pueblos Mágicos in the tourist promotion program that began in 2001.
Yucatan has campaigned for years to add Sisal and Maní to the list, a sort of “hall of fame” for towns that rely on tourism. It also qualifies local governments for federal funds and locals get training in welcoming visitors.
Through a videoconference, Tourism Secretary Miguel Torruco said the program seeks to reactivate the domestic tourist economy, the sector with the greatest potential for recovery following the pandemic.
The new Magical Towns have an “enormous cultural and natural wealth, made up of a mosaic of folklore, architecture, tradition, languages, gastronomy, crafts and biodiversity,” said Torruco.
The new appointments come amid stricter rules to qualify as a Magical Town. Only 16 of 121 municipalities evaluated in 2019 met all the requirements, and some towns struggle to remain on the roster.
Yucatán state had only two Magical Towns for years. Izamal was the first to make the list in 2002, and Valladolid was selected 10 years later. That number doubled overnight.
Sleepy Sisal, about 70 kilometers northwest of Mérida, was once Yucatán’s main port. Now it is a fishing village of about 2,000 residents, boasting a few waterfront restaurants, a pier, mangroves, and unspoiled beaches.
Maní, 90 kilometers south of the capital city and on the way to Uxmal, has a 16th-century church and the convent of San Miguel Arcángel de Maní, where Fray Diego de Landa burned the Maya codices. It is part of a “convent route,” an off-the-beaten-path tour of west-central Yucatan.