Uncover the Mayan Tradition of Hanal Pixán: Community-Led Cultural Exchange

Each year from October 31st to November 2nd, Hanal Pixán is celebrated by the Mayan communities that live on Mexico´s Yucatán Peninsula. Meaning ´food for the souls´ in Maya, this observance is similar to the Day of the Dead festivities that take place in other parts of Mexico, dedicated to remembering friends and families who´ve passed on and honoring their lives.   

Like Día de Muertos, Hanal Pixán incorporates rituals like creating an ofrenda (altar) adorned with foods such as pan de muerto (seasonal “bread of the dead”), bright yellow marigolds, and photos of deceased loved ones alongside their favorite objects. The celebration is made unique by the traditional Mayan dishes that are prepared for the occasion.  Resembling a large tamale, mucbipollo is made by stuffing corn dough with fresh vegetables, herbs, and meat or poultry, before wrapping it in banana leaves to be cooked in a pre-Hispanic pit oven in the ground called a ´pib´. Orange, mandarin, jicama and ground chili are thrown together to create xec salad and the Yucatecan x’pelón and vaporcito tamales are cooked, washed down with balché, a local spirit made from tree bark and tan-chucuá, a tasty beverage prepared with corn dough, cocoa, pepper, and anise. 

In our mission to provide socially sensitive travel that prioritizes community connection, we support two experiences in the rural Maya communities of Granada and Yaxunah. We invite our travelers to participate in a special cultural exchange that gives a rare insight into the local traditions which date back thousands of years. We love the mindful, low impact approach these experiences take – there is a very limited number of visitors allowed per day – while promoting and supporting the cultural and natural wealth of Mayan heritage.   


Yaxunah Community Experience

Join the Maya Yaxunah community in the village of Yaxcabá, southeast of Mérida, where you´ll be received with flower garlands at local homes. Start to uncover Mayan gastronomy as your hosts share their knowledge, and get hands-on with a ´mucbipollo´ cooking session under their expert guidance.  As the dish is cooking, visit a ´milpa´ field to see how local produce is cultivated while learning about sowing and harvesting processes, as well as tasting different types of ´atole´, a traditional, hot, corn-based drink. You´re also invited to a family home where you can observe an authetic ofrenda and learn about its significance to the Mayan community. Explore the past at Yaxunah´s archaeological zone – a large Mayan site surrounded by dense vegetation – and visit a one of the area´s native cenotes, natural freshwater sinkholes that are sacred in ancient Mayan cosmology. 

Ideal for: Travelers staying in/around Mérida, Chablé Yucatán and Hacienda Temozón. 


Granada Community Experience

The Granada community is located in the Mayan town of Maxcanú, just southwest of Mérida. Begin in the traspatios (backyards) of local homes, where a group of Mayan women cultivate and tend their gardens daily as an important source of nutrition for their communities. Depending on the season, you´ll sow seeds or harvest vegetables on the patio, enjoying contact with the earth and engaging with local cultivation practices.  Try your hand at shaping fresh tortillas Yucatán style, prepared with organic corn, and learn how to cook typical appetizers along with Mucbipollo. Observe the family home´s intimate altar and find out why it´s a quintessential part of Hanal Pixán for the community. You´ll also get to discover the importance of Melipona bees to the local environment, tasting the Mayan delicacy that´s renowned worldwide for its medicinal benefits. 

Ideal for: Travelers staying in/around Mérida, Izamal, or Hacienda Xcanatún 

A Mindful Approach to Travel

These meaningful, one-of-a-kind experiences with the Yucatán´s Mayan communities have three main goals: to enhance the exchange between locals and visitors, to create a space for open dialogue between the community and travelers about their conceptions of food, and to recover the value of ancient knowledge about the earth, which instructs the intricate cultural systems built around it in Mayan culture. 

We seek to support experiences like these that enhance the knowledge, respect, and appreciation of the Yucatán Peninsula´s biodiversity. This is key to conserving the animal and vegetable varieties, cultivation systems, food processing techniques and forms of consumption that sustain the alimentary safety of native communities. 

To bring you this experience, we collaborate with the Fundación Haciendas del Mundo Maya (Mayan World Haciendas Foundation) who strives to “generate actions that promote the identity, the acknowledgement, and the recovery of Mayan culture¨. They assist Mayan communities in overcoming extreme poverty by providing opportunities in fields including education, health, and sustainable development. We believe that in order to develop a successful community project, it is vital that local people take an active role as their own promoters and managers. 

Before participating in our cultural exchanges, we request that our guests read and agree to follow a code of conduct. For Journey Mexico, it is of the utmost importance that the communities are treated with the respect they deserve and not made to feel like folklore objects. 



Get in touch with one of our travel planners to learn about how you can incorporate this experience in your personalized itinerary to the Yucatan Peninsula. The cultural exchange can take place any time of the year and varies slightly when it’s outside the Hanal Pixan holiday.