Merida is the vibrant capital of Yucatan, Mexico. Known as the White City for its architecture, it has a rich Mayan and colonial heritage. Here is a list of must-see places for your next escape to this magical peninsula:
Paseo Montejo is a French style majestic avenue named after the conquistador Francisco de Montejo who founded Merida in 1542. With luxurious haciendas built in 1888 during the wealth boom of the Henequen (plant native of Yucatan), many of them have been converted to restaurants, boutique hotels, museums, and wedding and event locations. Walking across this historical road, you will be able to appreciate its architecture and admire it in detail. You should visit Casa Vales, Casa del Minarete, Casa Peón de Regil and Quinta Montes Molina, which are open to the public.
The central plaza or Plaza Grande of Merida always has something to offer. With cultural events during the evening and on weekends, the Plaza Grande is always buzzing with activity. Part of the historic downtown, its buildings have a lot of history and are worth visiting. On Sundays, you will find craftwork from local producers, and dozens of traditional food stands. Walking guided tours are offered by the tourism bureau during the morning hours. The most important places to visit are the Merida Cathedral, Casa Montejo Museum, and Palacio de Gobierno, with its impressive murals.
The Mayan World Great Museum (Gran Museo del Mundo Maya) opened its doors in 2012 with an impressive Mayan history and culture display. It is an excellent place to start if you plan to explore the most relevant Mayan archeological sites. The Anthropology and History Museum is another museum that displays archeological treasures and cultural history. Other important museums include Casa Montejo, Casa Montes Molina, among others.
Merida has many unique cenotes or natural sinkholes, full of groundwater, located just a short drive from the city. These we used by the Mayans as a source of freshwater, and today you will find locals and tourists enjoying them as natural swimming holes. You will find many different locations to scuba dive or explore its caves and cliffs around them. The most popular cenotes are Ik-Kil and the Cenote Sagrado (Sacred Cenote), with a fascinating history of archeological discoveries.
Celestún Biosphere Reserve
Just a 45-minute drive away from the city, you will find Celestún. In this incredible natural reserve, hundreds of flamingoes with their pink plumage decorate the river and the nearby mangroves and natural springs. It is a natural spectacle unlike any other you simply cannot miss. This 146,000-acre biosphere reserve houses more than three hundred species of birds, including the iconic pink flamingo.
Described as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, Chichen Itza is a breathtaking archeological site you should absolutely visit. Located 75 miles from the Yucatan capital, it is home to the remnants of ancient Mayan structures, with its tallest pyramid El Castillo, built between the 9th and 12th centuries. Other notable ruins include the Great Ball Court, the Osario pyramid, and the Temple of Warriors. Plan your visit to the ruins of this great Mayan civilization filled with ancient secrets and architectural marvels.
Valladolid is considered a Magical Town for all its cultural richness with its archeological vestiges and colonial buildings. Visit the local market where you can find fresh fruit and vegetables and taste the exquisite regional specialties. Another local spot is the Handcraft Market, where you can purchase and admire stonework, textiles with delicate embroidery, jewelry, and the traditional garment Guayabera. Other attractions include the cenotes Zací, Ik-Kil, Saamal and Samula as well as the natural reserves Rio Lagartos and Punta Lagunas.
Yucatan cuisine is very distinct and different from your typical Mexican traditional dishes. With a strong European and Mayan native influence, Yucatan has its own regional specialties. Spicy, earthy, and smoky flavors make this region’s food a culinary delight. The most famous dishes include Lime Soup, Cochinita Pibil, Poc Chuc, Papadzules, to name a few. Beware of the Habanero chili, which is extremely hot and spicy and a staple of this delightful gastronomy. La Chaya Maya, Museo de la Gastronomia Yucateca, and Apoala are exceptional restaurants that feature the traditional flavors from this part of Mexico.
Merida is a safe and wonderful city in Mexico, filled with history, natural sites, and possibly the best cuisine in the country. Check out this beautiful city and all it has to offer.
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