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Destination: Merida

Posted October 3, 2010 by Kay Walten in Mexican Culture,Riviera Maya Destinations

Yucatecan dancers

Experience the oldest city in the Americas. Merida was founded by the Spaniard Francisco de Montejo in 1542 when he conquered the Mayan city of T’ho, originally on this site. This amazing city is both ancient and contemporary. Ruins, cathedrals and haciendas stand next to art galleries, museums, restaurants and boutiques. Mérida is the cultural and financial capital of the Yucatán Peninsula where the resilient Mayan culture can be seen every day.

Merida, Yucatan

Merida, Yucatan

Getting There: Merida has an international airport with service from Houston, Miami and Atlanta. However if you are including Merida in your trip to Riviera Maya, consider taking a first class Ado bus out of Cancun, Tulum or Playa del Carmen. These buses are inexpensive, air conditioned, safe and very comfortable.

Best time to go: Late November through April is the optimum time to visit. The weather is comfortable during this time while the Summer months are brutally hot.

Getting around: Walking around the city is the best way to explore Merida. The city’s grid like layout makes it easy to navigate. Taxi’s are plentiful and cheap when you get tired of walking. Avoid the frustration of driving yourself around the city. The pedestrian filled streets are narrow and parking is virtually impossible to find.

Where to stay: Merida has a plethora of accommodations ranging from boutique hotels to luxury haciendas. Hacienda Xcanatun is a fully restored 18th century hacienda offering 5 star service and a gourmet restaurant.

Casa San Angel is a small hotel with loads of charm.

Where to eat: Hacienda Teya, built in 1683, has an international reputation for serving the best traditional Yucatecan food. Located just outside of the city on Km. 12.5 Carretera Mérida-Cancun, but well worth the effort to get there.

Pancho’s is a bit touristy, but the food is delicious, the outdoor seating areas are lovely and the waiters dressed in revolution era costumes are fun.

Casa Frida, an eclectic little restaurant with Frida Kahlo art decorating the walls, is the place to try one of Mexico’s greatest culinary creations – chiles en nogada.

Cafe La Habana has been roasting their own coffee beans while serving up great breakfasts in Merida since 1952. This Cuban style coffee shop is located in Centro at Calle 59 x 62

Merida, Yucatan

Merida, Yucatan at night

Street carts prepare some of Mexico’s best eats and they’re cheap! Panuchos, tacos, tortas, churros, roasted corn and many other regional favorites are prepared in these kitchens on wheels and are enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.

Do not miss: Take a home and garden walking tour to see what is hidden behind the doors of beautifully restored haciendas. These tours meet at the English Library in Centro and take about 2.5 hours.

The Cathedral of San Idelfonso located in the main plaza was built in 1556 after the Spaniards conquered the Mayan city of Tho and dismantled all the pyramids to use the huge stones as the foundation for the cathedral. It is the oldest cathedral on the American continent.

Los Dos Cooking School.

Chef David

Join the ranks of famous foodies like Martha Stewart and Rick Bayless by taking a cooking class at Los Dos Cooking School. Learn techniques to preparing Yucatecan recipes from Chef David Sterling in a fabulously restored colonial kitchen.

Every Sunday from 9AM to 9PM the streets surrounding the main plaza, Hidalgo Park and Santa Lucia Park are blocked off for a big festival that includes outdoor handcraft markets, food carts, live music and dancing. The people of Merida really know how to end the week!

Day trips from Merida: Take an eco-boat tour through one of nature’s most amazing places, Celestun. See hordes of pink flamingos, giant white pelicans and other rare birds that live in this great estuary.

Visit the ruins of Chichen Itza. Listed as one of the 7 wonders of the world makes this a must on your trip to Merida.

Hidden Gems: The original art collection at Hotel Casa Lucia. This hotel and restaurant features splendid works by famous Mexican artist Rodolfo Morales along with many other original paintings and drawings.

Rodolfo Morales

Rodolfo Morales

Stay to enjoy a coffee and gourmet dessert or grab a mojito from the bar and sip it while sitting by the pool amidst a rose garden.

The ruin site of Ek Balam, a stunning site where visitors are still allowed to climb its pyramids. Interesting features unique to this site are the restored facades. Artists together with archeologists have recreated what they believe some of these buildings looked like during Mayan occupation.

Helpful Tip: Pick up a Yucatan Today magazine when you arrive. This publication is packed with information about the area.

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