Known as the inland capital of the Yucatan state, Merida is an authentic blend of opulence and traditional Mexican character, with an obvious passion for its Mesoamerican heritage. Explore the colonial plazas, traditional haciendas and nearby ancient Mayan ruins.
Built more than 450 years ago on the site of T’ho, an ancient Mayan city, Merida is the social and economic centre, as well as the capital of the state of Yucatan. Though a bustling city of about 700,000, Merida retains its colonial charm and has a laid-back tempo that delights visitors. With an entirely different vibe to Cancun, Playa and Tulum, Merida is rich with 19th century architecture and beautiful haciendas. The city has a bustling contemporary art scene and is dotted with quaint boutiques, authentic restaurants and many art galleries. Get lost in the maze of Spanish colonial plazas, sample local market food and stumble upon traditional live music on street corners; this is what Merida is about.
Luckily, it’s a tropical climate does not suffer from the extremes of heat and rain like in other parts of the state, making it a great location for a summer getaway. Its close proximity to the Mayan archaeological sites of Chichen-Itza and Uxmal, ecological parks, cenotes and beaches make it one of Mexico’s most desired destinations.
Chichen Itza has been recently named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Once the most important city of the Maya people, it is now the most famous archaeological site in the northern part of the Yucatán Peninsula and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, receiving an estimated 1.2 million tourists every year. Standing tall in the centre of the archaeological site, the main attraction of El Castillo is the most recognisable structure. The temple has 365 steps – one for each day of the year – and is the pinnacle of Mayan beliefs in sanctity, science and their discovery of astronomy. You’ll also find a typical Mexican cenote, where women were once thrown in as sacrifices to the gods, as well as a ball court where ritual games were played and losers were put to death.
The archaeological site of Uxmal, a World Heritage Site located 80km south of Merida, is also worth a visit and is characterised by low horizontal palaces set around courtyards, decorated with a profusion of symbolic motifs and sculptures depicting the Gods. Set in a lush green setting, the ancient site and its magnificent buildings provide a fantastic place to explore, in particular the 38 metre high ‘House of the Magician’ – which dominates the site, the Nunnery – a collection of four buildings decorated with masks, serpents and pillars ,and the ‘House of Turtles’.
Visitors can spend the day at the Celestun Biosphere, located 90km west of Merida, it is home to flamingo colonies, as well as jabiru, king vulture and greater white-fronted goose, 587 plant species, 75 mammal and 64 reptile species. A boat ride through the estuaries to observe the beautiful pink flamingo colonies and other birds is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon and fun for all the family.
When to go: The Yucatan’s dry season is during the UK’s winter months, so a getaway to Merida for some winter sun is advised. During the summer months, the Yucatan endures it’s rainy season, when it can rain pretty much every day and isn’t much fun for sunbathing. Many claim that you’re more likely to see a greater abundance of sea-life when the water is warmer too so we would recommend a trip between January and March.
To start planning your tailor-made holiday, call us on (646) 934-8942