Mexico is the number one sunny getaway for Americans taking international trips this year.
Famous for its pristine Caribbean coast, world-renowned hospitality, and the warmth of its Latin American culture, the Southern neighbor has never been as trendy as it is right now.
Though Cancun, Los Cabos, Mexico City, and the like have continued to dominate booking trends, asserting their status as the leading trio, an up-and-coming tourist destination has been gaining traction lately, and it looks set to have a big international breakthrough.
Merida is one of the safest cities not only in Mexico but all of LatAm, and it has made a pledge to attract more tourists. This is how:
Merida Is One Of Mexico’s Most Promising Destination
The capital of the state of Yucatan, located in the same peninsula as Quintana Roo, yet away from the Mayan Riviera, Merida has always been a relatively known regional attraction, though it certainly lacks the mass investment and promotion the Caribbean resort hotspots get.
For years, it’s been reduced to a secondary destination, somewhere you go for a one to two-day cultural immersion (if a 3-hour drive from Downtown Cancun is not an impediment for you).
Yet in recent years, it seems to be taking up more space and assuming more of a lead role. Merida is, after all, one of Mexico’s most historically-charged cities.
What Makes Merida Great?
It stands among the oldest European settlements of the Americas, and its cultural heritage is truly unparalleled.
Looking at the Meridian cityscape, it’s easy to see how some would believe it wouldn’t exactly look out of place in Southern Europe:
With a historic district still mostly surrounded by defensive walls and boasting a high concentration of Baroque monuments, towering churches with flamboyant facades, and charming colonial mansions, it is a textbook example of European citybuilding in the Americas.
Merida has retained much of that Old World charm, while a majority of cities not only in Mexico but also the United States, Canada, and countless other countries in the Western Hemisphere have had their charming past all but erased during the 20th-century development boom.
All over the continent, cities have been reduced to an uninspiring cluster of skyscrapers, business centers, and busy thoroughfares. Yet, in Merida, you will find an exception to this rule, with stunning imperial palaces and civic buildings and a colonial core that’s been left mostly undisturbed.
Merida’s earlier History is not to be overlooked, either.
A Diverse Tourist Offer
It was originally founded as a Mayan settlement, and even the landmark cathedral, the oldest in the mainland Americas, finished in 1598, was built from stones dismantled from much older pre-Columbian structures.
All around Merida, you will see evidence of the city’s contrasting identities, Spanish and indigenous Mayan, in its eclectic architecture, the ethnic makeup of its population, and even its unique cuisine, as it combines both Caribbean and European flavors.
As a matter of fact, the food scene is one of Merida’s greatest attractions, and it’s why local authorities are developing the Great Tourist-Gastronomic Corridor in the historic quarter.
How Merida Is Reinventing Itself
It is already one of Mexico’s most tourist-friendly cities, with the honor of being one of only two state capitals to be deemed a Level 1, or low-risk destination by U.S. authorities. Still, Meridians are taking it a step further by completely revitalizing the Downtown area.
This new ‘corridor’ will turn some of Merida’s best-frequented streets into pedestrianized, brick-laden zones modeled after Europe’s traditional Old Towns, except they will be flanked by Yucatanese-inspired architectural feats.
The project will link Plaza Grande, Merida’s beating heart, to the traditional districts of Santa Lucia and Santa Ana, as well as the Parque de la Plancha, with more areas to be added in later stages of the project.
A remodeling of the iconic Plaza Grande is also in the works, involving pedestrianization as well as restoration of some historic monuments, and this is estimated to be completed by January 2024, at a cost of more than $100 million Mexican pesos.
Not only will Merida become much more walkable – perhaps Mexico’s most walkable state capital – but its historic quarter will turn into a lively zone of bars and restaurants as authorities are working with local businesses to develop the city’s Bohemian culture.
There are already 11 restaurants catering to tourists in the ‘corridor’ before it was officially announced, and now as many as eight have begun serving guests.
According to the Cancun Sun, many more will be opening soon, further diversifying Merida’s culinary appeal.
The Maya Train
As if that weren’t enough, Merida is preparing to host the Maya Train, Mexico’s largest public infrastructure project in years.
As one of the country’s most promising destinations, it will have its own station on the Maya Train network, linking the city center to beach hotspots like Cancun, Tulum, and Playa Del Carmen, with inaugural journeys taking place this December.
Merida has its own international airport, but flight frequency is more limited, and only a select number of U.S. hubs, such as Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami, and Houston, enjoy nonstop connections to the city.
The Maya Train, on the other hand, will make it easier for everybody, especially vacationers landing in Cancun, to reach Merida in under three hours.
Furthermore, the city is debuting a new public transport system, the IE-TRAM, a rapid electric bus network planned to be 116 km long and connect to Merida station on the Maya Train line.
Merida is readying itself for the next phase of Mexico’s Tourism Renaissance, which will include renewed interest in historical colonial cities and cultural activities, and it’s surely sparing no effort in presenting itself as tourist-friendly.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com