The Yucatán Peninsula is more than a white-sand-beach exotic destination. This area has so much to offer, such as the unique and vibrant city Mérida. When I planned to visit Mexico, I definitely wanted to make a short trip to Mérida, which is the capital and largest city in Yucatan state in Mexico. Though it’s called “The White City” (named after its limestone buildings), Mérida has the kindest people, eye-catching colonial architecture, a unique heritage, charming museums, art galleries, great traditional Mexican food and many more.
Here you’ll find beautifully restored colonial maisons and haciendas, which are transformed into boutique hotels, or are available for vacation rentals. This city has lot of positive vibes and there is a lot to see in the city and around. In this cultural capital of Yucatán, you will always find a festival, concert, theater, or an art exhibition. (Scroll down to learn more)
HOW TO GET THERE?
The kick off our adventure into the Yucatán state of Mexico started from Cancun to Tulum. After a week of white sand beaches, swimming in the Cenotes of Tulum, exploring few amazing places near Tulum, I was more than excited to visit the provincial and cosmopolitan city – Mérida. We drove exactly three hours to Merida from Tulum, and the highway was great. If you fly from the USA, flights to Cancun are usually al lower price than flying directly into Merida. You can rent a car or take a local bus to get to the city of Merida from Cancun. However, you can also fly directly into Merida, which is more comfortable. Check different flight websites to get the best deals.
As I mentioned on the previous travel post about Tulum, renting a car in Mexico is the best choice you can make. We drove to Mérida from Tulum, also we made a stop between and visited Chichén Itzá and back to Cancun after Merida. The most comfortable way to visit places around is to rent a car. For good deals search for rental cars online, or make a deal directly at the airport. Don’t forget, you need to get pesos before you leave the airport because there are tolls on the highway which are actually expensive (like approx. $15). FYI: keep in mind that there are barely any gas stations on the highway, so prepare everything before you take off.
WHEN TO VISIT?
The city’s climate is tropical, and just like Tulum as well as the rest of Yucatán Peninsula, the best months to visit Merida are December to March for consistently dry and sunny weather. Although we have been there in so called wet season, there was no rain during our stay. Even if, the storms are short and rainfall is only super heavy occasionally, not every day. For full weather stats, click here.
SAFETY IN YUCATAN PENINSULA
The first thing I researched before booking the trips in Mexico was about safety. There are lot of articles and news about Mexico’s crime-related violence, but the Yucatán Peninsula remains as the safest area in Mexico. Carry your bags and valuable things with you, and if your hotel has a safe, leave most of your important documents, smaller valuables things there, also do not leave anything valuable in a parked vehicle. I would also suggest not to leave any valuables unattended while you are visiting crowded places, but overall Merida and the whole Yucatán Peninsula is safe.
WHERE TO STAY?
I think small boutique hotels provide the best comfort to enjoy the cities vibes and not feel like a tourist. There are few remarkable and beautifully restored colonial boutique hotels that I would definitely suggest you to book:
Casa Lecanda Boutique Hotel
Honestly, I was the happiest to have the chance to stay in this five star boutique hotel that I’ve been dreaming about for so long. Casa Lecanda Boutique Hotel (Adults Only) is located in the historical center of Mérida, just two blocks away from the prestigious Paseo Montejo. Great location for sightseeing, dining and shopping around the cities most characteristic streets. Before I booked Casa Lecanda, I was looking for a luxury private boutique property, which is authentic and provides unique experience of Mérida. That’s why I found Casa Lecanda so dreamy, because it also has an ultimate exclusive and tranquil atmosphere with all the modern comforts of a contemporary hotel. Featuring beautiful tiled courtyards, a pool and luxurious rooms, this property also has one of the top-rated locations in Mérida. Additionally, the food and the service was excellent! Address: Calle 47 No 471 x 54 y 56, 97000 Mérida, Mexico
The Diplomat Boutique Hotel
The Diplomat Boutique Hotel is located in the historical center of Mérida, just 0.6 mi from the Plaza Grande Park and 801 m from the Zoo. This property is owned by a Canadian couple who have spent the last 18 years exploring the world together. They found their home in Merida and build their own boutique hotel to provide an unforgettable experience for their guests and a home luxury in this vibrant city. Offering an outdoor swimming pool and free breakfast, this five star boutique hotel will fulfill your expectations. Address: Calle 78, 493A entre Calle 59 y 59A, 97000 Mérida, Mexico
Hotel Hacienda Mérida
Another property that is one of the top-rated locations in Mérida. Hotel Hacienda Mérida is a historic building which dates back to 1840. Rooms are set around a characteristic central courtyard, filled with tropical plants. It looks like those perfect “Latin Telenovela” villa with outdoor pool, a spa in colonial-style. Located 801 m from Mérida Cathedral, it’s easy to get anywhere you want and roam around the city. Address: Calle 62 No 439, 97000 Mérida, Mexico
Hotel Koox Casona de las 3 Marías Boutique Hotel
Great boutique hotel for two travelers, Hotel Koox Casona de las 3 Marías Boutique Hotel is located in Mérida, 500 m from Montejo Avenue and 801 m from Merida Cathedraln Mérida, 500 m from Montejo Avenue and 801 m from Merida Cathedral. Certain rooms have views of the pool or garden. Rooms include a private bathroom fitted with a bath or shower. Highly recommended by many and it’s an affortable boutique hotel. Address: Calle 64 entre 49 y 51 Centro Histórico, 97000 Mérida, Mexico
Viva Merida Hotel Boutique
With a spacious sun terrace, Viva Merida Hotel Boutique is located in the heart of Centro de Merida of Mérida, 1.4 km from Merida Cathedral. It has an outdoor swimming pool, as well as a garden and a continental breakfast is available each morning. Address: 553 Calle 59 Centro, 97000 Mérida, Mexico.
La Hacienda Xcanatun
I wish, I had spent more time in Merdia and visit more haciendas and boutique hotels, like the Hacienda Xcanatun. This 18th century hacienda has been converted into a small luxury hotel with outdoor swimming pool and spa. Their spa offers a variety of beauty and wellness treatments using New Age and ancient Mayan relaxation techniques. The rooms are spacious, with marble flooring and a colonial style décor. Address: Calle 20, S/N, 97302 Mérida, Mexico
Coqui Coqui, Mérida
Ah, I have this thing will beautiful boutique hotels that excites me whenever I see remarkable and aesthetically decorated properties. Just like the Casa Lecanda Boutique Hotel, Coqui Coqui Mérida is on my list of top favorite boutique hotels. If I will visit Mérida again, this is going to be the place I will stay next time. Located in less than 1 km from Mérida Cathedral, Coqui Coqui Merida has a number of luxury amenities, including an outdoor swimming pool, and a garden. Absolutely gorgeous! Address: Calle 55 516 entre Calle 62 y Calle 64 colonia Centro, 97121 Mérida, Mexico
Casa Azul Monumento Historico
One of the most photographed blue house is set in a 19th-century listed building. Casa Azul Monumento Histórico is two blocks from Montejo Avenue. This boutique hotel features an outdoor pool, restaurant and luxurious suites. Unfortunately, we couldn’t make it to visit this hotel, but I hope next time! Address: Calle 60 No 43 x 37 y 35 Col Centro, 97070 Mérida, Mexico
Mansión Mérida On the Park
Another gorgeous five star hotel located in Merida’s town center, Mansión Mérida On the Park is housed in a refurbished French-style mansion of the 17th century. It offers an outdoor pool, a bistro bar, gym and spa facilities. Mansión has a great restaurant that serves international cuisine for dinner, including the bistro bar/restaurant that offers fresh breakfast everyday. Address: Calle 59 No. 498 por 58 y 60 Colonia Centro, 97000 Mérida, Mexico
Hotel Boutique by The Museo
Also this boutique hotel – The Museo is located in Mérida’s city center. The property, located in a historic building, is just steps away from Palacio Cantón, Yucatán´s Anthropology Museum. It features an outdoor pool also a garden view from the room. Perfectly located for sightseeing, dining and shopping in Mérida. Address: Calle 43 y Calle 58 #481, 97000 Mérida, Mexico
Hotel Rosas & Xocolate Boutique Hotel & Spa
I call this boutique hotel “A Pinterest worthy modern barbie house“. As we didn’t had so much time to visit more places, Rosas & Xocolate was definitely on my To-Do list and I finally got to see this beautiful charming boutique hotel. Housed in two vivid pink colonial mansions on Paseo Montejo, the 17-room design-focused hotel in cheerfully colored and Mexican-modern style. The inner courtyard houses a palm-fringed pool which connects to the restaurant’s modern dining room. They serve excellent gourmet chocolate deserts, but for a truly delicious experience you have to go to the spa for a rose and relaxing chocolate-scented treatment. Address: Paseo de Montejo No 480, 97000 Mérida, Mexico
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK?
Our hotel concierge gave us few insider tips where to eat and drink in Merida, so here I’ve collected few places you should visit for breakfast, lunch and dinner:
La Chaya Maya (for dinner)
According to the locals – La Chaya Maya is the most popular place to have traditional Yucatan food. There is always a local Mayan lady in the traditional clothing making corn tortillas. Some will say don’t go because it’s touristy, but honestly, we were the only tourists there! If you want to feel the Mayan vibes, you should definitely visit La Chaya Maya. Address: Calle 55 x 60 y 62, Sucursal Centro, Merida 97000, Mexico.
This fine-dining Yucatan style restaurant is very popular but also a bit over-priced. Set inside a renovated mansion, chef Pedro Evia creates molecular, with artistically plated versions of Mayan classics with modern twist. Address: Avenida Rómulo Rozo 488 por 27 y 27A, Itzimná, 97100 Mérida, Mexico
Apoala (for dinner)
A first class fusion restaurant with influences of traditional dishes from Oaxaca, and extraordinary regional Yucatan cuisine. Serving up a selection of fresh and flavorful ceviches and aquachiles alongside traditional tacos with a modern twist. Address: Calle 60 #471 x 55 Local 2, Portales de Santa Lucía, Centro, 97000 Centro, Mexico
El Barrio (great for breakfast & brunch)
Located behind the Paseo Montejo, El Barrio offers delicious comfort food with traditional flavors, using seasonal products and adapting them to the gastronomic trends. Very good vegetarian dishes and I would highly reccommand you to try chilaquiles, they were so good! Address: Calle 45 #493 A x 58 y 60. Centro, Santa Ana, Merida 97000, Mexico
Catrin’s (for lunch from 1pm-4pm)
Catrin’s is a hidden gem for delicious tacos with guacamole. They serve vegetarian options, and you must try the carnitas tacos. It’s quite popular, so you might have to wait a bit until you get seated. Address: Calle 47 #463b x 52 y 54 Col. Centro, Merida 97000, Mexiko
El Fabuloso Pez (for lunch)
For really good seafood tacos go to El Fabuloso Pez. The chain restaurant is also very popular, but regardless, it’s tasty and worth to have lunch or dinner. Try the guacamole with mango and fried shrimp tacos and cornflake covered fried shrimps. So yum! Address: Calle 30 # 360, Local 1 Y 2, Merida 97144, Mexico
La Barrita (for coffee & panini)
La Barrita is a cute little Cafe that serves very good coffee, as well as the signature house coffee (mocha with tirimasu syrup). They also serve paninis and small pastries muffins or donuts. Address: Calle 50 257, Francisco de Montejo, 97203 Mérida, Yuc., Mexico
Rosas & Xocolate (coffee & dessert)
For delicious desserts and coffee go to Rosas & Xocolate Restaurant. Try their brownie with vanilla ice-cream or the chocolate-mousse is just mind-blowing. Address: Paseo de Montejo No 480, 97000 Mérida, Mexico
Voltacafe (for coffee & breakfast)
A must visit fancy Cafe in Altabrisa. Owned by the same owners of Apoala restaurant and it’s really good. Try the eggs benedict or their delicious sandwiches, also their pastries looked incredible. You should definitely visit this Cafe! Address: Calle 20 No. 235 X 7 y 15, Plaza Luxus, Merida 97133, Mexico
Coqui Coqui (for coffee/afternoon tea)
As mentioned above at “Where to stay?”, Coqui Coqui is not just another fabulous fancy place to stay, but they also serve wonderful coffee and tea with snacks or chocolate. They also have a boutique that sells luxury perfumes, homewares, and clothing. Sublime! Address: Calle 55 516 entre Calle 62 y Calle 64 colonia Centro, 97121 Mérida, Mexico
Latte Quattro Sette (for coffee & small bites)
This Insta-worthy cafe is also a must visit for everyone who loves coffee and aesthetically pleasing interior. I am a sucker for beautifully decorated places, and this cafe is right next to Lecanda Boutique Hotel. A great place for coffee and breakfast. Try their avocado toast or granola. So good! Address: Calle 47 #465, Centro, Mérida, Yuc., Mexico
THINGS TO DO IN MERIDA
Take a free walking tour
If your hotel is located in centro of Merida, the best way to explore the city is walking through the narrow streets. You’ll get to see more of Merida’s historical buildings and have a nice overview of Merida. That’s the way you get acquainted with the city.
Gran Museo de Mundo Maya Merida
A visit to a museum is a must if you want to learn more about the Mayan people, culture, and history. There are over 1000 different pieces of Mayan artifacts under the same roof. Address: Calle 60 299 E, Unidad Revolución, 97110 Mérida, Yuc., Mexico
Lucas de Galvez Market Merida
I love to visit local main markets where ever I go, and Merida’s Lucas de Galvez Market is something that should be experienced. Here you’ll find everything from fresh vegetables, to homemade crafts, local clothing, and a lot more. Address: Mercado Lucas De Galvéz, por 65 y 67, Calle 56 Local 15, Centro, 97000 Mérida, Yuc., Mexico
Paseo de Montejo, Merida
One of the most beautiful avenues in Merida is definitely the Grand Paseo de Montejo. This wide avenue built in Merida’s heyday conjectures images of Paris’s Champs-Élysées. Here you can find many nice cafes and shops. Address: Paseo de Montejo 97000 Mérida, Yuc., Mexico
Museo Fernando García Ponce-Macay, Merida
If you love contemporary art, visit the Museo Fernando García Ponce-Macay. It’s the only museum dedicated to the promotion and dissemination of modern and contemporary art throughout the Yucatan Peninsula, and their mission is to promote the dissemination and knowledge of national and international modern and contemporary art. Address: Calle 60 502 B Altos, Centro, 97000 Mérida, Yuc., Mexico
Casa de Montejo
For those who want to know how wealthy Victorian Mexican life was like back in the hacienda days, the Casa de Montejo is the place. For those who love interior design, antique furniture, Case de Montejo is full of inspirations. Address: Calle 63 506, Centro, 97000 Mérida, Yuc., Mexico
Catedral de San Ildefonso
The Catedral de San Ildefonso, built in the late 1500s is one of the oldest cathedrals in the Americas. If you plan to visit the cathedral, be sure to dress respectfully. Address: Calle 60, Centro, 97000 Mérida, Yuc., Mexico
DAY-TRIPS FROM MERIDA
Chichén Itzá (Wonder of the World)
It’s just 2 hours drive from Merida, Chichén Itzá is one of the new wonders of the world where you can see the largest Mayan ruins. Before you visit it, read about the New World Wonders here as well as at the UNESCO site. Chichén Itzá was one of the largest Maya cities and archeological ruin built by the Mayans which was a focal point of their lives between 800-1200 AD. The ticket price for two people was $19 USD, parking was approx. $3 USD, which is pretty low priced for a world wonder and they only take cash.
Ik Kil Cenote
This cenote hat something magical that made me emotional. Located near Chichén Itzá, this cenote is a part of the Ik Kil Archeological Park. The cenote is open to the sky with the water level about 26 metres (85 ft) below ground level. There is a carved stairway down to a swimming platform. The cenote is about 60 metres (200 ft) in diameter and about 40 metres (130 ft) deep. It is open to the public for swimming and a truly magical place to see and swim. Read more about Ik Kil Cenote here.
Celestun is one of the places we missed this time, and I would definitely plan this day trip next time when I am in Mexico. Celestun is the place where you can se thousands of flamingos and best time to visit Celestun is in December. There are also crocodiles there, so you cannot swim in the water where you do the boat tour.
Also see Uxmal, Ruta Puuc and Cenotes for day tips.
Photography © Disi Couture
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