A brief review of our short but amazing time in Mérida, Yucatan, with things to do, places to see and experiences to be had.
When people think of visiting Mexico, they often think of the resort town, tourist destinations of Cancun, Mayan Riviera, Mazatlan, and Cabo San Lucas. It’s a shame, because there is far more rich culture, landscapes and history to be explored outside of these towns.
Close to Cancun is the city of Mérida, only about 3.5 hours in the car. Many tour companies will take you west for the day and bring you back to Cancun at night, but we recommend getting out of your resort comfort and spending a few nights in the energetic and culture rich city of Mérida. It’s filled with Mayan and colonial heritage, and it is situated inside the Chicxulub crater (where the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs hit)!
We stayed at Casa XunanKab, for our 3 nights in town. It was in a great location near the historical centre, but not too close that we heard any ruckus. And the hosts were absolutely wonderful! (Photos borrowed from Booking.com)
We asked what time we should be home to keep ourselves safe, and if it was best to take a taxi. Our host laughed and said it was a safe area at all times of the day and we could walk home at any time! We still came home by 11, but it was crazy, because I wouldn’t walk down the streets of central Auckland or Edmonton at all hours. Travel continues to remind us not to label an entire country based on negative events that take place there, but to still keep your wits about you, no matter how ‘safe’ a place is. Anything can happen anywhere, but when you leave your comfort zone, that’s when amazing things happen.
We quickly found out that Merida was celebrating it’s 477th birthday (during the whole month of January), and we arrived just near the end of the festivities. There were night markets all through the main streets, multiple stages set up, and a number of different musical acts, even one with a flamenco dancer! And what surprised us the most…all of the entertainment was free! Mexico really knows how to party.
We had 3 nights and 4 days in Merida, which was enough to get a taste, but definitely not enough for the whole meal. The city on its own has enough culture, museums, music, workshops and restaurants to keep you busy for months. The surrounding areas include many Mayan ruins, multiple geographical features and ecosystems, beaches, and the town that is at the epicenter of the Chicxulub crater (dinosaur/archaeology museum to open late 2019).
TripAdvisor and Google are full of tourist suggestions, so have a read through and pick what piques your interest. I don’t think you’ll be able to choose wrong.
In the city, the food experiences were at the top of our list. We had street tamales with mole (basically a chocolate sauce, but not too sweet, so it’s -a meal not a dessert), found the best macchiato John has ever tasted, and endulged in tacos and ceviche, as one must while in Mexico.
There was a Oaxaqueña Market near the Parque Santa Ana, I’m not sure if it’s up all year round or not, but it’s worth checking out, especially if you can’t make it all the way to the state of Oaxaca. Oaxacan food is incredible! Stay tuned to our blog for posts about our 2 months in Oaxaca.
We spent a couple hours at the Museum of Anthropology and History, which was close to where we stayed. It was $50 pesos per person, and it was all in Spanish, but it was still pretty interesting with our mild to medium Spanish language abilities. It had lots of amazing artifacts and art works, and an interactive library upstairs. And to top it off, the building itself was a work of art.
We had heard about cenotes from some friends and thought we’d look into them a bit further. Cenotes are limestone pits or sinkholes, often exposing underground river networks! Too cool. There is much evidence that the Mayans used the cenotes for spiritual purposes, as well as just a fun way to get out of the hot sun.
We found a tour company that took us to the Santa Barbara Cenotes, a random cave, and to the ruins of Mayapan. We were able to barter down from $1100 pesos to $800 pesos pp for a tour, but knowing what we know now, it is probably cheaper and easier to rent a car and do the tour on your own for the day. Our blog post on our tour guided day is on its way, so stay tuned.
3 nights and 4 days was great, but like I said before, it sure wasn’t enough. We did have a bit of a rough go on the night bus from Mérida to San Cristobal de las Casas, but that’s a story for another time. So until then, thank you for the great times, Mérida! We will definitely be back.