Built on the site on an ancient Maya city, Merida has a unique cultural identity with colorful traditions that are infused within every aspect of local life.
From exploring boutique shops hidden in the heart of the cosmopolitan city and dancing to the beat of the salsa at the annual carnival, to taking an exhilarating excursion to the crystal clear underwater pools of the Yucatan cenotes, a trip to Merida is a once in a lifetime experience.
Whether you love relaxing on the beach, adventuring through the jungle, or indulging in a spot of retail therapy, we're dishing the dirt on all things Merida so you don't miss out on the best that this enchanting city has to offer.
Hot Spots to Visit
Rich with breathtaking beaches, fascinating cities, and mesmerizing wildlife, you'll never run out of things to do in Yucantan:
Colonial City Center of Merida
Tranquil and cleanly, Merida pride's itself on being the safest city in Mexico. With museums, art galleries, restaurants, shops and boutiques, waiting to be discovered around every corner, Merida is the hub of Yucatan. Boasting the oldest cathedral on the American continent, Cathedral San Ildefonso was built using stones from ruined Maya pyramids and temples. Situated on the east side of the Main Plaza, the cathedral is one of the top Merida attractions. Every Sunday the city hosts a weekly street festival in the Main Plaza with handicraft markets, live music and dancing. Hop on the bright red double decker Turibus at any of its many stops to take a tour around the city.
The Yellow City of Izamal
East of Merida lies the magical city of Izamal, a colonial town with important historical and cultural significance. Houses, shop and churches throughout this enchanting destination are all painted golden yellow, hence its nickname La Ciudad Armarillo or The Yellow City. Browse local artisans' workshops and watch them at work as they handcraft famous local hammocks, tunics and jewelry made from native woods and cocoyol seeds. Overlooking the town are the ruins of four large Maya pyramids, with the Kinich Kak Mo Pyramid providing impressive panoramic views of the surrounding Yucatan region.
Celestun and the Pink Flamingos
If you're wishing to break away from the hustle and bustle of the main tourist destinations, then escape to the picturesque coastal village of Celestun. Considered as the birthplace of eco-tourism in Mexico, Celestun is a nature lovers paradise. Kick back and relax on golden beaches lined with coconut trees or take a swim in the warm emerald green waters. Home to a rich and diverse collection of animal, plant and marine life, observe sea turtles depositing their eggs on the beach, hummingbirds fluttering above freshwater springs, and crocodiles traversing through the mangrove swamps when they come out to hunt as night falls. A trip to Celestun is not complete until you have witnessed the most renowned inhabitant in all its glory - the pink flamingo. Hop aboard and take a boat tour to marvel at more than 18,000 flamingos that will paint the landscape pink, for a truly unforgettable experience.
Adventures Waiting to be Experienced
From trekking through the lost lands of ancient Mayan civilizations to kayaking along the mangrove estuaries, with Merida as your base, you can visit ancient archaeological sites, breathtaking haciendas and mesmerizing cenotes:
Yucatan’s Famed Underground Waterways
The famed underground caves or cenotes of Yucatan are sinkholes in the earth that were formed by the above limestone rock collapsing to reveal crystal clear pools and caverns below. Mexico is home to the largest network of these underwater caverns in the world, with 6000 in the Yucatan area alone. The beautiful turquoise waters provide refreshing relief from the extreme heat of the Yucatan peninsula, as well as adventure aplenty for adrenaline junkies. Gran Cenote just outside of Tulum, is one of the most enthralling cenotes of all, with open water pools, underground caves and caverns, huge stalactite clusters, and rock corridors connecting different sections of water. Grab a snorkeling kit to make the most of your swim and admire all the wonderful fish navigating the waters below.
Sacred Mayan City of Chichen Itza
As the largest, most famous and most accessible Maya sites, the brilliant ruins of Chichen Itza leave evidence of the dazzling ancient city that was once the center of the Maya Empire. Steeped pyramids, temples, and columned arcades, form a fascinating complex of observatories, nunneries, and sacrificial alters. The most recognizable structure is the Temple of Kukulkan or El Castillo, a glorious pyramid that reveals the accuracy and importance of Maya astronomy. The temple has 365 steps, signifying each day of the calendar year. On the spring and autumn equinoxes, a shadow falls on the pyramid forming the shape of a serpent, which descends the steps to join the head of stone serpent at the base of the great staircase.
Kayaking Through the Mangroves
The mangroves of the Yucatan coastline are part of a unique and precious ecosystem which protects the coastline from erosion, provides wildlife habitats, and adds to the beauty and majestic nature of the peninsular. What better way to explore this spectacular waterscape than by taking a guided tour through the mangroves by kayak? This experience not only allows you to understand and appreciate this delicate ecosystem, but also to experience sights and sounds that you will not find anywhere else in the world. With a range of trips lasting from a few hours to a few days, your kayaking adventure will take you through a maze of mangrove estuaries, stopping off at some equally awe inspiring landmarks and ruins along your journey. An unforgettable way to get around the Yucatan Peninsula.
Local Festivities to Get Involved With
Fiestas play an important role in Mexican life, celebrating the historic Mayan and Spanish heritages of the region as well as bringing communities together for music, dancing, theater, and social events. Vaquerias are traditional dance and feast celebrations which are unique to the Yucatan region, held in honor of the patron saint of a village. These celebrations offer a fascinating insight into the Yucatan culture and history as well a great excuse to let your hair down and enjoy food, drinks, dancing and fireworks. Merida’s historic center is home to some of the most impressive vaqueria celebrations, centered around the San Ildefonso Cathedral in the picture perfect central plaza.
Where to Stay
Traditional haciendas are the best way to enjoy an authentic Yucantan experience:
Situated in the midst of the picturesque Yucatan countryside is the stunning Hacienda Petac with its 250 acres of private gardens and luxurious traditional rustic villa. Combining the true essence of luxurious Mexican hospitality with the natural awe of this amazing region, this is a venue that lends itself perfectly to almost any occasion from a romantic wedding, to a family weekend getaway.
This intimate venue has all the comforts of a five star hotel including a swimming pool, spa, fitness centre, nail salon, game room, and on site chefs ready to rustle up a plethora of traditional Yucatan treats, enabling you to relax, unwind, and invigorate body and mind. The spa complex is reminiscent of a traditional Maya village and is an enchanting place with plenty to explore and enjoy, especially the yoga garden, cold water cascades and jacuzzi.
Located near some of the most breathtaking beaches in the peninsular, and a stone’s throw from the historic city of Merida itself, the Hacienda Sac Chich is a luxury estate offering three unique private residences. The complex dates back to the 1850’s and blends together historic architecture and landscaping with modernistic features and fittings to provide you with the ultimate Yucatan accommodation. Each residence has its own individual styling and fanciful features, including the sunken living room, patio, garden and plunge pool of the Casa Nueva, and the contemporary living space, swimming pool and lily pool of the Casa Sisal.
The communal areas of the Hacienda Sac Chich offer some of the most luxurious hacienda living experiences of all, especially the open air loggia, which is a remarkably sophisticated rustic open air dining area that is the perfect place to host a dinner party. The historic gardens of the hacienda have been developed through the years to include some rare and spectacular tree and plant species, as well as numerous fascinating ornaments and sculptures. The property’s original water tank has been turned into a 40ft swimming pool, surrounded by lounge chairs and hammocks.
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