Merida Travel Guide
Serving as a colonial heart of the Yucatan Peninsula, Merida is a city that gets a lot of visitors from tourists bussing in from the Mayan Riviera that are wanting to experience a bit of culture. Don’t be in a rush though, as there are many attractions to see in the city and in the surrounding area that will make you linger longer than you ever thought possible.
In the vicinity of Merida, there are a number of Mayan ruins that you will want to check out during your time in the area. The most significant of these is Mayapan. Despite its short-lived existence of only two centuries, this Mayan city served as the capital for a portion of the Mayan world that had revolted against the elites of Chichen Itza.
From the early 13th century to the mid 15th century, the people that inhabited this city lived in peace. However, by the time 1440 rolled around, a rival family in nearby city-states grew resentful of the leaders of Mayapan, and in a sneak attack, led a detachment of mercenaries to sack and burn many of the buildings in this once proud city.
Another settlement that you should certainly make time for during your time in Merida is the ruin complex of Uxmal. While many of the buildings in Mayapan were razed to their foundations when it was attacked over 600 years ago, the buildings in Uxmal are in much better shape.
The Pyramid of the Magician is a structure you won’t want to miss, and a stroll through the grounds of this ruin complex will yield many other amazing discoveries, such as The Governor’s Palace, and the Nunnery Quadrangle.
Finally, check out Dzibilchaltún if you have limited time to spend in town, as it is located only 10 miles north of Merida. One of the structures you will want to see is the Temple of the Seven Dolls. When it was uncovered by archaeologists in the 1950s, they found 7 effigies lying on an altar, hence the name of the temple.
Most of the artifacts that have been recovered from the aforementioned ruins have found their way to museums like the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya, which is an ultra-modern structure that can be found 10 miles north of the city center. Here, one will find a variety of amazing artifacts, which include an amazing sculpture from Chichen Itza, and a terrifying lizard skin headdress and skull belt from the ruins of Ek Balam.
In town, Merida Cathedral is an example of a cultural landmark that is worth your time. After the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century, they built a cathedral in which to worship God. In doing so, they created one of the oldest cathedrals to be built in the Americas, which is evident in the faded appearance of the external facade of this structure. Inside, the massive pillars and a spacious cupola gives those that enter a sense of peace and awe.
While some barons in Mexico made their riches from gold and silver, those that landed in Merida became plantation owners and made their living from growing crops that went into the production of rope.
While some lived out in the country, others made their home in the city, many of whom chose to live along the shady streets of Paseo de Montejo. Many of the families that used to inhabit these mansions no longer do so, instead being replaced by a variety of restaurants, cafes, hotels and nightclubs.
This portion of town also includes Merida’s Zocalo, which is where most of this city’s holidays are celebrated. If you are here during the Day of the Dead, make sure that you attend ceremonies here.
If you want to see the plantations that sprung up around Merida like mushrooms after a rain, then making the journey out to Hacienda Sotuta de Peon, as it will give you a chance to experience that life for a day. From the comfortable luxury of the plantation house, to the hard laboring reality of life in the fields, this living history open air museum will make for a great day outside the city. Don’t forget to bring your swim trunks either, as you will have an opportunity to swim in a cenote on the property.
If you would rather swim in the ocean, the beaches of Progreso are much closer than you realize. Located only 40 kilometers north of Merida, the white sand beaches of this city and the surrounding area will give you a great place to cool off on the warm days that this part of the Yucatan can experience in the summer.
The waters may be a bit on the murky side compared to the Mayan Riviera, but the warm waters that can be found here are every bit as inviting as the ones found at its more beautiful counterpart on the east coast of the Yucatan.