Merida: Mexico's 'White City' is the perfect base. A quick guide
"In Mexico, your wishes have a dream power" - W. Burroughs
For most, the word Mexico conjures up images of tacos and ‘Margarita Mondays’ at the local ‘Hispanic’ bar/restaurant, but in reality the country is far more than that. A beautiful landscape and historic culture, Mexico’s tourist industry has somewhat been affected by tales of violence in recent years, but don't let that stop you as not only is Mérida one of the safest cities, it provides you with a unique location to explore some breathtaking sites across the Yucatan peninsula.
Here's our guide to this fantastic city!
Walk the City
Mérida is an extremely walkable city, with any central-ish hotel giving you access to a range of bars, restaurants and sights within a 10 minute walk. Starting at the central square, take a quick jaunt through the cathedral before making your way through the historic district to Calle Montejo – a wide road lined with colonial-style mansions and museums on each side. Head over on a Thursday and watch the open-air dance spectacle on the square.
At the height of their power, before the Spanish conquest, the Mayan people dominate the landscape, both in terms of science and art and a visit to one of their ruins is not optional – you just have to decide which. From the stunning and imperious cities of Chichen Itza (a wonder of the world) and Uxmal, to the smaller settlements of Mayapan and Dzibichaltún, each has its own draws. While Chichen Itza and Uxmal are the most spectacular, be weary of hordes of tourists that descend upon the site every day. This contrasts with Mayapan and Dzibichaltún, two smaller settlements that you will have nearly all to yourself, the latter of which contains a stunning cenote within its grounds. All are easily accessible from the bus station in Mérida!
Ever wondered what crystal-clear blue waters look like underground? Here's your chance! The Yucatan region is full of these underground caverns (cenotes) filled with the calmest emerald waters. Apart from the one at Dzibichaltún, the most famous are the ones at Cuzama. Take a horse drawn cart between three of these incredible underground sights with around 45 minutes at each to swim and explore!
Mérida’s location means that it is within a 2 hour cheap bus journey of both Valladolid (come here to visit the Ek Balam ruins) and Izamal. Built on the site of a Mayan religious centre, Izamal was forcibly converted to Catholicism by the Spanish who proceeded to build a large monastery out of the Mayan stone as a show of force, the atrium of which is second in size only to the Vatican. It was the presence of this monastery that prompted a Papal visit in 1993 – for which the entirety of the town centre was painted yellow. These colourful streets as well as a variety of Mayan ruins and pyramids dotted around the city make Izamal a perfect day trip.
Advice on how to get to these sites in more detail can be found on Yucatan Secrets!
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