What to do and see in Merida in Mexico
I have to be honest: Merida failed to charm me, did not fully conquer me, even if I consider it an important stage along a itinerary between Yucatan and Chiapas. Perhaps it was the first approach that conditioned me. I arrived in the city in the late afternoon after 200 km and a day passed between Mayan site of Chichen Itza and some bath in the cenotes. In short, I got there particularly tired and immediately I had to collide with what is a stumbling block in life in Merida in Mexico ... the traffic!
Damn how much traffic there is! It was the only place on my Mexican itinerary where I really struggled to extricate myself. Between road signs non-existent and people in post-work panic, I would need a few drops of tranquilizer to stay calm among the thousand intersections of Merida.
You should know, in fact, that Mexican cities are almost all made up blocks formed by squares. Most of the streets are one-way and cross with as many one-way streets. A delusion.
So my arrival was not the best, but that's not the only thing that changed my opinion on Merida.
Merida, known as "the white city“, It is a large city, the largest in the Yucatan and is considered the cultural capital. It is served by an airport where direct flights from Italy land and is therefore also very convenient as a starting point for exploring the entire peninsula.
Although it is a very large city (whose historic center is second in size only to that of Mexico City) everything revolves around its beautiful main square: the Big square.
It follows the classic style of Mexican squares: very well taken care of, with a central fountain and lots of vegetation. The people of Merida appreciate it, and it shows. It is always populated and represents the hub of city life. All the main places of interest in the city overlook the Plaza Grande, namely the Cathedral of San Ildefonso House of Montejo, Government Palace and the Fernando García Ponce-Macay Museum of Contemporary Art.
The cathedral is of enormous importance to the people of Merida. When I entered, a Mexican boy approached me and with great pride told me that, a few months earlier, the pope had visited Merida and knelt in a precise spot in the cathedral. I let you imagine what pride he showed.
Fifteen minutes' walk from the center, the small streets are transformed into the big ones Paseo de Montejo, an elegant tree-lined avenue that hosts the commercial life of the city of Merida. There are hotels, historic buildings, shops, restaurants ... Personally, however, it did not impress me.
Local crafts and Yucatec cuisine
Besides being the cultural capital it is also important for two other aspects: the kitchen and l 'handicraft.
The Mayan culture is very strong and many inhabitants believe they are still 100% maya. Several shops scattered around the city try to preserve this identity and sell items created by the indigenous Mayan communities. The money from the various purchases contributes to the support and protection of these minorities.
All very nice, until you walk around the city and come all the time stopped by people who are said to be Maya and wants to sell you his product. I believe that it is not to be done with all the grass, the smart ones will always be there and they cannot undermine the truthfulness of an ideal like this. If I can afford I want to recommend a shop that seemed consistent with the cause, go to Mundo Maya. It is located just a few steps from the main square.
I have not yet spoken to you, however, of the most important handicraft object of Merida: theamaca.
If you want to buy a hammock, you are in the best place to do it. Moderate prices and very high quality. I have discovered a lot of things about hammocks and also debunked some clichés that the same famous printed guides fall into. Mexicans, and especially the inhabitants of Merida, constantly use the hammock, and not only to take a nap but just to sleep at night and ... do other things too. So much so that there is even a small book called Kamasutra for hammocks, also called Amakasutra, which is kindly offered in case you buy one. I don't know if it's a marketing gimmick, I won't go into the matter, but the guy who explained to me seemed very satisfied.
Merida has one particularly interesting cuisine, possibly the best in the Yucatan Peninsula. It has undergone Caribbean, European and indigenous influences. There are two dishes that I will not forget: the sopa of lima and cochinita pibil.
Where to sleep in Merida?
The city has a wide choice of hotel accommodation. They range from hostels to expensive hotels. I made a choice linked simply to three factors: cost, proximity to the center and availability of parking. The choice fell on Yucatan Vista Inn . Close to the center and affordable. The good thing is an extravagant and quirky owner of English descent. In the morning she cooks your breakfast as if she were your mother. You won't be able to say no to his omelets.
Possible excursions from Merida
Besides being an interesting city, Merida is also a important pivot point to other destinations on the Yucatan Peninsula.
By staying several nights in Merida you will have the opportunity to move around and see the pink flamingos in the Celestun biosphere on the west coast or the Rio Lagartos Reserve on the north coast.
From Merida you can reach the famous Mayan site of Chichen Itza and the Cenotes of Dnitzup. On the road leading to Campeche you can stop and see the beautiful archaeological site of Uxmal which left me speechless. There are many excursions that you can do from the center of Merida and they are all of great interest.