ESSENTIALS

  • Mérida is the capital of the Yucatán and one of the safest cities in Mexico
  • Known for it’s laid back people, “siesta culture” means businesses are typically open Mon-Sat from 10 am-2 pm and 4-8 pm
  • The tree-lined boulevard, Paseo Montejo, was inspired by the Champs-Élysées in Paris, and the beaux-arts style buildings influenced by French architecture
  • The highest percentage of indigenous persons reside here with approximately 60% of the Maya ethnicity 
  • There are over 6,000 cenotes (sink holes) in the area which were deemed sacred places by the Mayans
Mérida
"Anyone who can leave the Yucatán with indifference has never been an artist and will never be a scholar." - Claude-Joseph-Désiré Charnay

SHORTLIST

  1. Swim in at least one cenote
  2. Aguas de fruta and tacos from Wayan’e
  3. Find a colorful hamaca as the perfect souvenir
  4. Visit a local mercado or artesanía
  5. Day trip to an old hacienda
  6. Watch the sun set at Chichen-Itza
  7. Sample one of the many regional dishes – sopa de lima, cochinita pibil, salbutes & panuchos
  8. Buy a guayabera (a cuban linen shirt) and stay comfortable in the warm, humid weather
  9. Try the miracle Maya plant, chaya, in drink form (with or without tequila)
  10. Visit the ancient Maya city of Uxmal

STAY

Boutique mansion
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French suite for two
$$-$$$
"El Portico"
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ITINERARY

Friday

  • Arrival | There are 2 ways to get to Mérida.  1) Fly into Cancun and make the (easy) 3 hr drive with a few stops along the way.  2) Connect from Mexico City or Cancun to fly directly into Mérida.
  • Roadtrip from Cancun | I recommend this option if you want to see the many ruins, cenotes, and small towns along the way. Arrive at the Cancun Int’l Airport and rent a car. It’s a safe and easy drive with tolls that will cost you approximately $25 each way. Just be sure to fuel up when you see a gas station as some areas are more remote.
  • Vallodolid | About an 1.5 hrs outside of Cancun is the sleepy little town named after the Spanish city of the same name. Stop for lunch at Taberna de los Frailes for a gourmet Mayan dish. The ceviche was fresh and the tikin Xic (Yucatecan baked fish) had incredibly unique flavors. Sit on the patio and sip on a fresh margarita for the perfect stopover.
  • Coqui Coqui Perfumerie | Swing by the perfumerie/spa/hotel with locations in 4 other Mexican towns. Bring back a tropical aroma like coco or orange blossom for a packable souvenir. The little boutique is beautifully decorated and extremely photogenic.
  • Cenote Dzitnup (Cenote X’keken) | This cenote is big and breathtaking. It’s humid, but the clear, blue waters are 75 degrees year-round. Float on your back and gaze up at the limestone walls to see the sunlight peaking through. You might even see a few bats flying around!
  • Chichen Itza | 45 min west of the cenote lies one of the most famous Mayan sites in Mexico that dates back to 600 AD.  The Chichen Itza pyramid (“El Castillo”) is one of the new seven wonders of the world. The site is best viewed in the early morning sun or the setting afternoon sun with the light illuminating the sides of the impressive pyramid.
  • Mérida | Drive into town and you’ll immediately notice the ornate beaux arts architecture and the vibrant colors of the tropical climate. It’s one of the most interesting combinations I’ve ever seen and one of the many reasons I instantly fell in love with the place.
  • La Chaya Maya | It’s touristy, but well-loved by locals and it’s the best restaurant in town to sample regional Mayan dishes. Don’t miss the salbutes (fresh tortillas topped with shredded turkey, lettuce, tomato, sliced avocado & cucumber). Try the “Los Tres Mosqueteros” for a sampler plate of relleno negro (burnt chile sauce) over pork, papadzul (an egg dish), and pipián (pumpkin seed sauce) over turkey. Waitresses don the traditional huipiles and serve ague de chaya made from honey & nutritious chaya leaves.

 

 

Saturday

  • Wayan’e | A little outside of town is arguably the best taco stand in Mérida. Come early before the food runs out (they usually close shop around 2 pm). This family-owned joint serves up tacos and aguas de fresa. Try a huevos con chaya or poc-chuc (citrus marinated pork) and an agua de mamey (a delicious tropical fruit!) 
  • Mercado Lucas de Galvéz | Head south of the centro for an authentic Mexican market. It’s colorful & chaotic, but very safe despite the fact that there are few tourists. Most of the vendors are friendly and it’s a fun place to take photos.
  • Hamacas El Aguacate | This shop in the red light district (safe by day) is the place to buy “hamacas” or hammocks. They have a big selection made with quality materials and fair prices.
  • Zócalo | Just off the Plaza Grande (zócalo) the Catedral de Mérida is one of the oldest in the Americas which has a very impressive exterior. On the south end, do not miss the historic Casa de Montejo dating back to 1549. It’s a free (and short) tour of 4 rooms lavishly decorated and filled with beautiful art. Definitely worth a visit! Head north on Calle 60 and stop by El Palacio de Gobierno to view murals painted by local artist Fernando Castro Pacheco. They took 25 years to complete and portray the history of the Mayan’s interaction with the Spaniards.
  • Artisanal Shopping | Stop by Los Boxitos for Mexican ornaments, Guayabera Jack’s for the popular linen shirt of the same name, and Artesanías Itzel just across the street for 2 levels of locally made goods, textiles, more guayaberas and art.
  • Iglesia de la Tercera Orden | Built in 1618, this small church was built from the stones of a Maya temple that once occupied the same site. Now, it’s a popular spot for weddings.
  • El Cangrejito | Look for the red Coca-Cola awning at this tiny little taco spot. Rumor has it that the President of Mexico used to send a plane to collect food from here in the 60’s!
  • Coqui Coqui | The sister shop to Valladolid, it’s worth a stop at this location as well. You’ll want to linger in the perfectly curated space and browse the unique scents available in perfume or candle form.
  • Pancho’s | Stop by this popular expat hangout for a 2 for 1 “happy hour” starting at 6 pm. Sip on the potent margaritas at the bar and snack on the mini-bowls of popcorn served as snacks.
  • Rosas y Xocolate | You can’t miss this pink building on Paseo de Montejo. It’s chic and contemporary (very Mexico City) with an outdoor patio and upstairs lounge. The aguachile de pulpo was excellent as well as the house special Rosas Margarita.  

Sunday

  • Uxmal | You don’t hear about this world heritage site as often as Chichen Itza, but this ancient Mayan city was my favorite. Arrive early (opens at 8 am) to avoid the heat and crowds. Uxmal (‘Oosh-mahl’) means “thrice-built” which is reflected in the various architectural styles. Take note of the ornamentation on the buildings in the Nunnery Quadrangle and be sure to climb the stairs of The Palace of the Governor which is regarded as one of the best example of Puuc architecture in existence.
  • Hacienda Santa Rosa | While this can be a day trip out of Mérida, the hacienda would best be enjoyed with an overnight stay. The former noblemen’s private estate is surrounded by lush forest and has a pool and botanical garden. Enjoy a spa treatment followed by a candlelit dinner on the terrace.  
  • Cenote San Ignacio | One of the coolest cenotes I’ve ever visited, this small & low-ceiling swimming hole was a hidden gem. (If you stay the night at the Santa Rosa, stop at the cenote on your drive back to Mérida in the morning.) Rent snorkel gear and you’ll be amazed at how the waters seem to go on forever past the confines of the cave. A truly unique experience!

PACKING LIST

ROADMAP

Includes every location mentioned above
Lauren Greenberg
Itinerary By

Founder of The Weekender

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