Chichen Itza, Mayapan, Dzibilchaltun, Ek Balam, Uxmal – these are only some of the must-see Mayan civilization sites one can visit on a day trip from Merida, on the wonderful peninsula state of Yucatan, Mexico. But what else is there to do for an excited traveler bent on seeing a bit more? Try a shopping/sightseeing trip to one of the many local towns within a couple hours of Merida where you can find many handcrafted items lovingly made by talented indigenous peoples, marvel at historical architecture, and take in the slow, steady pace of life in the Yucatan. Here we suggest a trip to the pottery and ceramic town of Ticul.
Just sixty miles and an hour and a half from Merida is the town of Ticul. You will find many small shops (tiendas) offering their own, hand-crafted ceramics and pottery. Begin your search in the heart of town, exploring the main square, with its many shops and food stands. Every little town in the Yucatan revolves around its own main square, sometimes called a Zócalo.
You will find shops offering clothing, ceramics, and shoes, shoes, shoes (and sandals). Pick up a piñata for your nephew or princess costume for your niece, pick out a pair of sandals for your kids, or a locally-made guayabera for your loved-one (and then wear it yourself when he’s not looking).
Now, I know this is supposed to be a shopping trip, but since you are in Ticul, you should see Iglesia de San Antonio de Padua, located just off the main square. Although looted on several occasions, the church retains some original touches, such as the stone statues of friars on both side entrances and a Black Christ altarpiece.
Also take note of the many Mayan statue reproductions in the medians and on many street corners. There is also a fascinating open-air market at the corner of Calles 23 and 28a. Check it out.
Grab an ice cream, or eat at one of the restaurants adjacent to the square. Then hop back in the car and head out highway 188 (Calle 23). After a few blocks you will begin seeing shop after shop of beautiful ceramics and pottery. Pick up a little ceramic butterfly, frog, or one of those ubiquitous iguanas. Looking for something more impressive? You will see pots, both gigantic and not-so-gigantic, fountains, birdbaths, and much more at a tienda just past Calle 36b, on the right, with “alfareria” (pottery) painted on the front. Further on is another alfareria, this one on the left and offering smaller, more delicately painted pottery. By the way, all the tiendas in Ticul will carefully wrap and ship your selections home, so don’t shy away from purchasing that huge Mayan god facemask you want for the rumpus room.
At this point (somewhere near Calle 38) you should just park the car, and with a bottle of water walk down Calle 23. There is store after store of imaginative, beautiful pieces of arts and crafts. You’ll want to spend an hour in each store, and easily could, but we have to keep moving.
On the right is a store, Chaa-Multun-Ka’t, with hanging ceramic pots and sconces. Next to that is Artesanias Decoración Maya, one of my favorite places, selling reproductions of Mayan statues and wall hangings. Pick one up and the family who owns the place will tell you exactly what Mayan god is represented and why they are important.
Two doors down is La Perla del Sur, another alfareria, and then a small, unnamed (at least last time I was there) shop with some of the most imaginatively designed sconces I have seen. The family’s son, who is about 20 years old, has begun to design his own pieces, and they are striking in color and design. Many of them are featured in our Bed & Breakfast in Merida.
Across the street is a ramshackle building with a black roof that seems to be falling in. But don’t let that deter you from checking out their brightly-colored sconces and pots of sunflower designs. The roof isn’t really falling in; it is simply made of a very inexpensive, flexible material and so is often used on local shop buildings.
If you are still up for more, walk a couple more blocks, or take the car to a brightly-colored, yellow lean-to on the left. The woman running this tienda has a large number of pots in more traditional designs and natural terracotta.
Now you will want to turn around and visit your favorites again to see exactly what pieces you cannot live without. Have them pack up your treasures and hop back in the car (after stopping for another bottle of water), and head back to your home base at Casa Del Maya Bed & Breakfast in Merida, where your extremely well-appointed hosts will be waiting to see what great taste you have. Take a dip in the pool while we drool over your art pieces, then grab a nap before heading out for a fun night on the town. But come home early and get some sleep, because tomorrow it’s off to Temozon for wonderful, hand-crafted furniture.