In honor of Cinco de Mayo, here are a few reasons you should discover Mérida, a bonafide Yucatan gem.
Selected as the 2017 Cultural Capital of the Americas, Mérida is full of things to see, do and taste. A great gateway to discover the splendors of Yucatan! Read on for some tips.
1. Mayan Capital
Established in the sixteenth century on the foundations of the region’s largest Mayan remains, Mérida boasts a mystic quality. Although the Spanish settlers razed the largest pyramids to the ground, Mérida exudes a particular charm thanks to the purity of the limestone from which it was constructed, earning the moniker, “The White City“.
Discover the city’s main square, known as Zocalo or Plaza de la Independancia – a place for celebrations and strolls, overlooked by the magnificent 400-year-old San Idelfonso Cathedral, a church constructed from the stones of Mayan pyramids. Not far from here, you can explore the mythical Paseo Montejo, a beautiful promenade lined with magnificent early twentieth century mansions – to visit on foot or in a horse-drawn carriage. Located in the beautiful Palais Canton, be sure to visit the Mérida Museum of History and Anthropology, the perfect place to deepen your journey into Mayan territory. Many of the churches that dot the city are well worth a visit, too.
2. A Gastronomic City
Influenced by indigenous Caribbean and European flavors, Yucatan cuisine differs from the food of Mexico’s other regions of Mexico. Mérida offers many opportunities to discover Mayan cuisine, especially at the La Chaya Maya restaurant. Comfortably set up in a historic villa, you can sample lima soup (chicken soup with pieces of tortilla) and poc-chuc (pork marinated in bitter orange). Lively and colorful, Mercado Municipal offers the finest marquesitas (crepes with fresh cheese) and salbutes (tortillas with turkey and avocado). As for drinks, try the Champola at Caféteria Colon, a fruity milkshake of sorts, the perfect refreshement on hot days. Finally, experience Xabentun, an alcoholic drink of Mayan origin, very popular in the Mérida region, made from honey and rum or distilled anise – sip it cool as an appetizer!
3. Outside Mérida
There are plenty of Mayan ruins to explore, and if you’re short on time, the archaeological sites of Uxmal and Kabah – some of the most beautiful locations on the entire Yucatan Peninsula – are located just 80 km from the city. The most iconic Maya civilization site is undoubtedly the UNESCO-protected Chichen Itza. Located about 120 km from the city, you will discover the majestic Kukulcan Pyramid, the Thousand Columns Temple, and the large pelota playground. A must see!
For beach lovers, the romantic town of Progreso is just 30 km from Mérida. This cozy paradise features a charming harbor, peaceful atmosphere and a 6.5 km long jetty. Enjoy the view over the Gulf of Mexico from the lighthouse. Finally, biodiversity enthusiasts will be happy to visit Célestun Park, a nature reserve that hosts nearly 300 species of birds as well as turtles and jaguars. From your boat you can admire the beautiful, spotlight-stealing flamingos!