Merida, a city of about 1 million people, is a wonderful mixture of colonial city and cosmopolitan destination. With Merida as your base, you can visit cathedrals and churches, Mayan ruins, museums , haciendas and cenotes . You´ll also find movies, theaters, important hospitals, public and private schools, four universities, shopping malls.
The Spaniard Francisco de Montejo founded Merida on January 6, 1542. When the Spaniards arrived, Merida was a large Mayan city known as T´ho , situated on what is now the Main Plaza. It was conquered by the Spaniards, who dismantled all the pyramids and used the huge stones as the foundation for the Cathedral of San Idelfonso (1556-1599), the oldest cathedral on the American continent.
The Cathedral, situated on the east side of the Plaza, is only one of Merida´s many interesting sites. Directly across the Plaza is the Palacio Municipal (1735), Merida´s Town Hall. On the south side is the Casa de Montejo (1542), the former home of the conqueror of Yucatan.
The Palacio de Gobierno (1892), on the north side, houses 27 murals by Fernanco Castro Pacheco illustrating the somewhat violent history of Yucatan.
Because of its tranquility and cleanliness, Merida has become a popular place for families from other Mexican states.
A walk along Paseo Montejo is a great way to discover some of these mansions, many of which have been completely restored, and some of whose romantic decay are food for the imagination. Yucatan is one of the quietest and safest states in Mexico, with like Florida or Cuba climate. Yucatecan are good, tranquil and hospitable people have strong roots and traditions. They take pride in their city, known as "The White City", not only because of the predominance of limestone as a building material, but also because its streets, squares and parks are cleaned every day. Free guided the Historic Center of Merida City Tours are available every day at 9:30 AM. Call 928-2020 Ext. 833 or go to the Tourist Office in the basement of City Hall (corner of Calle 61 and Calle 60)
What to do in Merida
Sunday: Visit the handcrafts Market "Lucas de Gálvez"; it has everything. Enjoy Merida en Domingo , outdoor handcraft markets and food festivals in the Main Plaza, Hidalgo Park and Santa Lucia Park. 9:00 am to 9:00 pm. Also visit Museo MACAY for free.
Monday: Take the tourist bus at 10:00, 1:00, 4:00, or 7:00 in Santa Lucia Park. In the evening, enjoy an outdoor concert with traditional Yucatecan dancing and dress at the Palacio Municipal on the main Plaza at 9 pm.
Tuesday: Travel to the Mayan ruins at Chichén-Itzá and the Caves of Balankanche. In the evening, dance to big band music of the 40´s in Santiago Park on the corner of Calle 59 and 72 at 9:00 pm. Or watch the University´s Mexican show at the Peon Contreras Theatre, calle 60 between 57. Don´t forget Trova Night at the Olimpo at 9:00 pm.
Wednesday: Visit Hacienda Teya on the way to the City of Izamal , or take the Convent Route: of Acanceh, Tecoh, Telchaquillo, Tekit, Mama, Chumayel, Mani,and Oxcutzcab. If you stay in town, enjoy shows at the Olimpo at 9:00 pm.
Thursday: Visit the Mayan ruins at Dzibilchaltún , on your way to the beaches of: Progreso , Chelem, Chicxulub, Telchac and X-Tampu ruins. Visit the co´op next to the church in Dzilbilchaltun. Perhaps you might like dinner at Hacienda Xcanatun on your way back. Or there is also an open-air concert in downtown Merida featuring Yucatecan dress, dance, music and folklore.
Friday: Go shopping at the markets, Pasaje Picheta or the best in the city, Casa de las Artesanias on Calle 63, with handcrafts from Yucatan made by Yucatecans with the best prices in the city. In the evening, enjoy the University serenade in the Main University building on the corner of Calle 60 and 57 at 9:00 pm.
Saturday: Explore the caves in Loltun and travel the Pucc Route: Kabah, Labna, Sayil, Xlapak and Uxmal . Stop by Hacienda Ochil or Yaxcopoil as you return for the Fiesta Mexicana on Paseo Montejo & Calle 47 at 7:00 pm.
Located to 96 km of Merida course to the West, this beautiful port of fishermen is really colorful. Celestún is famous not only by its restaurants of seafood like the Palapa, located in front of the sea, but also by the river, the beautiful flamencos, the water eye and the calm beaches.
The strolls by the river are contracted in since it is in the entrance of Celestún. Each boat takes of 4 to 8 people, following the tide.
The natural beauties of the state of Yucatan are innumerable, and between most important they are the natural wells and the grottos. The amount of natural wells is innumerable, is why we make a selection of most important and showier of the zone.
Located in the heart of Valladolid, this is a semi-open cenote that has a diameter of 150 feet and is 260 feet deep. This is a popular cenote for swimming in the refreshing turquoise waters. You will see a rare species of eyeless black fish known as "lub." A third of the cenote is covered with stalagtites and stalagmites and there is a walkway around the entire cenote.
Cenote Dzinuo or Kekén
Located to 7 km to the southwest of Valladolid, this natural well is within an underground camera. It can observe stalactite formation, waters of alive color turkish and illuminated by the natural light that penetrates through a hollow in the central part of the vault. The water is little deep and is so clean and clear that the fish are observed. It is possible to be swum. Open from 7:00 to 17:00 hours.
This village gets its name from the large number of cenotes located within the town and the outskirts.
Located at the Mayan site of Dziblichaltun , just north of Merida, this is the closest to Merida . Meaning "old village," it is an open ground level cenote, great for swimming. It is more than 140 feet deep at one end. Open from 8 AM to 4 PM, it is a great place to jump in after a visit to the ruins.
The famous Mayan pyramids of Chichen-Itza are over 1500 years old and are located only 75 miles from Merida. The name Chichen-Itza is a Mayan word: CHI (mouth) CHEN (well) and ITZA (of the witch water). Some say this is because people were often thrown into the nearby cenote as sacrifices, and those who survived were believed to be seers.
The site is divided into three sections. The North grouping of structures is distinctly Toltec in style. The central group appears to be from the early period. The southern group is known as "The Old Chichen." All three can be seen comfortably in one day. Try to visit Chichen Itza early in the morning or late in the afternoon, as the sun can be punishing at midday. The main attraction is the central pyramid. El Castillo del Serpiente Emplumado, which means "Castle of the Plumed Serpent," It is sometimes possible to visit the inside passageway of the pyramid, but we would encourage visitors who are claustrophobic to skip that part of the adventure.
Dzibilchaltun (tzee-BEEL-chahl-toon) is the "place where there is writing on the stones," a great Mayan city that is only nine miles from Merida . Here you will find the Museum of the Maya People, one of the best and most comprehensive museums in the Yucatan. We recommend hiring a guide at your arrival so they can explain the archaeological and astronomic wonders of this site. Dzabilchaltun is a great place to wander, enjoy the peaceful surroundings, climb the structures and imagine what life must have been like there hundreds of years ago. Last but not least, head for the Xlacah (ISH-lah-cah) cenote for a refreshing swim. This cenote is open to the public until 4 PM.
An interesting tour that gives you an overview of the Mayan civilization awaits you just 50 miles south of Merida. Known as the Puuc (hilly) Route, the sites include Uxmal , Kabah, Sayil, X-Lapak, Labna and the caves of Loltun. Each of the sites has restored Mayan pyramids and other structures, covered with brush, tree and jungle, much the way early explorers and archaeologists found them. The most "manicured" of the sites and last stop in this route, Uxmal means "the thrice built city" with the colossal "Magicians Pyramids", impressive "Governor´s Palace", intricate "Doves Temple" and the grand "Nuns Quadrangle".
Uxmal (OOSH-mahl) means "built three times" in the Mayan language, and though its name is a mystery, its beauty is not. As a World Heritage site, it is one of the best restored and maintained ruins in the Yucatan, and certainly one of the most magnificent. Its architecture, some of the most majestic of the Yucatan ruins, is characterized by low horizontal palaces set around courtyards, decorated with rich sculptural elements and details.
Uxmal was the greatest metropolitan and religious center in the Puuc hills in the late classical period. It thrived between the 7th and 10th century A.D. and its numerous architectural styles reflect a number of building phases.
Recent studies have suggested that Uxmal was the capital of a regional state that developed in the Puuc region between 850 to 950 AD. Other evidence suggests that Uxmal collaborated politically and economically with Chichen Itza, the popular ruin located between Merida and Cancun. The most impressive structure and the tallest at 100 feet, is the House of the Magician which you will find just beyond the entrance. According to ancient legend, this pyramid was built by Itzamna in one night. It actually appears to have been built in five phases, and it was situated so that its western stairway faces the setting sun at summer solstice.
Located half way between Merida and Cancun, Valladolid is a small, quaint city-town that still preserves a special colonial flavor. Here you will see the majority of the townspeople still using the typical dress of the Mayan, colonial architecture around the Main Plaza and many historical buildings.
It is a place where many events in history have happened. Here the War of Chaste began in 1849. There are seven districts, each with his church, that are due to visit. More impressive it is the Convent of San Bernandino in the district of Sisal.
There are two very important and impressive natural wells: Zací, that are to pictures of the place, and Dzitnup, to 4 kilometers of the town, where the maximum is to swim. It visits the Museum of San Roque, on the same street of the Cathedral and the Palace of the Government, with its enormous murals of Mexican history.
This name is derived from two Mayan words, LOL (flower) and TUN (stone). Located in the hilly Puuc region, 66 miles from Merida, these are the largest caves on the peninsula. They are also the ones that are the most studied. Evidence has been found here of human contact going back 7,000 years. Mammoth bones have been found in the caves, along with fresco paintings on the walls, "hands in negative", faces, animals, grecos and decorative figures.
Also known as Actun Spukil, these are also very large caves, the second largest after Loltun. The name is derived from the Mayan words CAL(neck), CEH(deer), and TOK(stone). These caves have a complicated series of tunnels making it obligatory to use a guide. Within the caves there is a great amount of pre-hispanic findings like intact plates, quartz hammers, arrow tips, stone sculptures, obsidian knives, human burials sites and holtuns (stone cisterns for water collection).
Located 6 kilometers from Chichen Itza, these caves were an important ceremonial site for the Mayan. There are impressive stalagtite and stalagmite formations incide.
They are to 40 km to the south-east Merida in the town of Tecoh. The name means in Mayan "Palace of the king". There are stalactites, stalagmites, columns, deep precipices and thirteen natural wells of diverse sizes. Between attractive the most impressive ones of the stroll, it appears a capricious well-known cavernous form like "the cupola of the Catedral" , by the extraordinary one seemed that it has with the cathedral of Merida. According to account the legend in this place took refuge and misled, during their flight, a Mayan prince along with the princess who kidnapping. The strolls can be realised to any hour of the day, since always there is the one in charge of the place.
Caves and cenote of San Ignacio
In the old Merida-Logwood highway, near Chocholá, is east natural well, recommendable to occur a refreshing bath. One is inside a grotto illuminated with electrical light bulbs. The vault is of about eight meters of height, with stalactite formation. The water, of fresh temperature and transparency, extends in a bottom very injured, diving towards the borders of the gallery, reason why the swimmer accustomed these places must not have well-taken care of.
Located to 45 minutes of Merida by car or a little more in truck, Izamal is truly a colonial jewel. Almost all the buildings are painted of yellow color egg having caused that all the town seems the scene of a film. The streets of adocreto and the lamps colonial style, complete this sensation.
Clean, calm, safe and colorful, this it is a fantastic town to walk. There are Mayan pyramids, colonial buildings, parks and places, caleches victories with horses and much people who to see.
The state of Yucatan has about 250 miles of beach front property. Near Merida, the most popular beaches are Chelem, Yucalpeten, Progreso , Chicxulub, Cocal Josefina, San Miguel, Uaymitun, San Benito, San Bruno (both these are not really towns, but they do have signs), Telchac Puerto , San Crisanto , and Dzilam Bravo.
Located 60 miles southwest of Merida, Celestun is a quaint fishing village where the infrastructure is very basic. The most popular thing to do here is contract a boat to travel the ria and see the flamingos. These boats are located at the entrance to Celestun, where you can easily contract with a guide. The flamingos of Celestun are a beautiful part of a fragile ecosystem. Part of the boat excursion includes a visit to the fresh water springs "Valdiosera" and "Venecia" where the water is sweet, transparent and ideal for swimming. You will also visit the "petrified forest" Tampeten, a strange place where you can see just the trunks of these trees with their roots in the water.
Ria Lagartos, located within the Biosphere Special Reserve on the northern coast of the Yucatan on the Gulf of Mexico, just east of the state of Quintana Roo, is famous for its enormous flamingo colony and large variety of other species. It is also a picturesque fishing village with colorfully painted wooden and cement homes. Protected by the SMARNAP to preserve the diverse flora and fauna of the area, it was registered in the United Nations in 1986 as an area of important international wetlands.