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Ruta de las Iglesias, “The Church Route”

Travel a little south of Tulum, go a little inland off the coast, just a little bit out of the tourist zone and you will be rewarded with the opportunity to engage history. The “Ruta de las Iglesias” or “Church Route” journeys through Mayan communities conscientiously working to protect their rich legacy and cultural identity. These communities represent the cultural identity of the area’s Mayan people and include important historical sites associated with the Caste War, or Mayan uprising as well as some of the oldest cathedrals in the area.

Today, community life is centered around these cathedrals, which were often constructed of stones taken from ancient Mayan monuments and temples. These are traditional agrarian communities with a tranquil way of life. Most of the population here speaks only Mayan.

The Route

Traveling south from Tulum La Ruta de las Iglesias begins in Tepich or Tihosuco.


Tepich was a native settlement that became the capital of the prehispanic province of Cochuah. It was here that the Caste War of 1847 broke out as the Mayan people sought to protest their poor living conditions, land grabbing and cultural oppression. The Mayan people were able to stave off Mexican forces until 1901 when Mexican forces occupied Tepich. The community was then looted, destroyed and abandoned for decades until immigrants from the northern Yucatan began to repopulate the area because of the gum industry. Today the colonial cathedral built on top of a pre-hispanic Mayan structure is the heart of the community. It is consecrated to the Holy Cross with St. Joseph as Patron. There is a walled Mayan cemetery to the side of the church which is accessed through a large arched door.

Tepich’s community celebrations happen between March 12 – 19 and include traditional dance, food, fireworks and of course parades.


Tihosuco may be the most recognized of the villages along the Ruta de las Iglesias. Tihosuco is recognized by the large Franciscan cathedral and monastery, left in ruins following the Caste War. The Maya bombed the church because European settlers had taken refuge inside. The façade is gone and what remains are the four side walls a small part of the façade and vault. However inside you can still see period art and decoration in paintings and stone carving.

The cathedral of Tihosuco is dedicated to the Holy Baby Jesus and community festivities are held each year December 19 -24.

Tihosuco is home to the Museum of the Caste War. The museum is located in a restored 18th century building. It houses paintings, carvings, sculptures, documents and other historical artifacts related to the Mayans rebellion against oppression. 

The museum also has an excellent exhibition of traditional Mayan medicines, music and dance and stories and legends. 


Xcabil, “Where Honey Comes From” Xcabil (Sh-ka-beel) is known as one of the few places where you can still see a water wheel used to bring water up from the cenote. The smaller church here is dedicated to the Virgin de Guadalupe. On December 12, the Dia del Virgin de Guadalupe and during July to honor the Rain God Chac, Xcabil hosts parades and other community festivities.


Saban, In the early days of the Caste War Saban was over run by Mayan rebels and left nearly abandoned for more than 50 years. The cathedral here, The Church of St. Peter, and many fine colonial homes were left in ruin. Today many Mayan rituals are still practiced, like the kéx hanal pixan (celebration of the deaths),and ja’anlij ko’ol (celebration of the corn), among others. In Saban you can sample very traditional food such as venison, boar and pheasant.  

La Ruta de Iglesias is an excellent start for exploring the area.

As a reminder, these are small and very peaceful communities, unaccustomed to the quicker pace of tourist areas. This glimpse into a proud indigenous culture and their rich history will most certainly enrich your visit to Mexico and we hope enlighten your appreciate for Quintana Roo’s true treasure, the warm and joyful Mayan people. Please be respectful. We are happy to recommend professional area guides and but with a little research you can easily travel La Ruta de las Iglesias on your own.