City of Merida and best Yucatan day trips

After spending couple of days in Mexico City, it was about time to get on the plane to Yucatan Peninsula. I’ve heard only good things about this region and the photos I’ve seen were amazing. Almost begging me to go there.

We landed in Cancun, got the car from the rental company and drove to our first stop, Merida. Driving around is probably the easiest way to explore the area at your own pace. You may ask if it’s safe, and the answer is yes, absolutely. However, if possible, do not adventure yourself on the road at night. Better safe, than sorry, in the end it’s Mexico.

There are 2 options to get from Cancun to Merida. One of the routes takes you through lots of small villages. This is a good idea if you’re traveling during the day, as you can stop on the way for a break and some photos. But if it’s dark, you’d better take the highway. It costs around 10eur/one way but it’s well lighted, safe and much faster. It’s absolutely worth the money. One thing to keep in mind is that in 300km there is only one gas station.

So there we were, arriving in Merida, 32 degrees at 8 in the evening.

We stayed at Rosas y Xocolate, a lovely boutique hotel on Paseo de Montejo, the main avenue of the city. Amazing location, walking distance from the bustling city centre, but at the same time very quiet. The place has a cocktail bar on the rooftop, perfect for the hot summer days. Actually this would be any day in Merida 🙂

Airbnb is also a good idea if you plan to stay overnight in Merida. Loads of beautiful place, just need to have a look and you’ll find something on your taste. I must confess there are some gorgeous houses you can rent out, so you might want to look into that.

Things to do/see in Merida

Monumento a la Patria – an impressive eye catching monument, along the main boulevard

Plaza Grande Park and San Ildefonso Cathedral. What to find around – lots of souvenir and handcraft stores, coffee places & a nice gelato shop.

Restaurants & coffee places

El Catrin – lovely place for Mexican food & cocktails with a gorgeous garden in the back. Popular place among both locals and tourists, book ahead is recommended.

La Negrita cantina – for tacos, cocktails and mexican vibe

Apoala – mexican restaurant in one of the squares in the centre.

Latte Quattro Sette and Cafeteria Impala for a good coffee. Pola Gelato shop for possibly the best gelato in Merida

Day trips from Merida

Uxmal, Unesco World Heritage Centre, founded year 700 A.D. Beautiful ancient Maya site, considered one of the most important of the Maya culture, together with Chichen Itza. As we were expecting Chichen Itza to be packed, we decided to visit this one instead. And was the good decision.

Top tip: plan your visit early in the morning for 2 good reasons. 1. it may get very hot during the day and there’s not much shade to hide 2. the coaches bringing tourists arrive around 11:00-12:00 when it gets busy.

Valladolid

2h drive from Merida (direction of Cancun) you’ll find the lovely city of Valladolid. Highlights in the city: 16th century Convent of San Bernardino of Siena, baroque style San Gervasio Cathedral, Francisco Canton Rosado Park & Garden, Calzada de los Frailes (probably the prettiest street in the city). There are also a couple of cenotes around the city if you want to refresh yourself: Zaci, Samulá and X’Kekén.

Calzada de los Frailes is probably the prettiest street in the city. Not only that this is where Tresvanbien is, but this is the place where you can buy quality handcrafts and fragrances. We fell in love with the Coqui Coqui perfumeria and Dutzi design shop.

If you’re looking for a place to have lunch or maybe just a coffee, go to Tresvanbien. We absolutely loved this place and its cute little garden in the back. Perfect place, no doubt for a laid back afternoon. Super friendly staff, very good music, amazing fresh juices and delicious Argentinian empanadas. The place is so nice, I simply couldn’t stop taking photos in my attempt to capture all the details. You don’t want to forget a place like this.

And the juices, omg. Have the papaya or the mango one, you’ll never forget it.

Izamal

Pretty small city, 1hour and a half from Merida. Best is to combine this with Valladolid, just 45min drive between the two. The town is known as the Yellow City and this because, as you might guess, all the buildings are yellow. There’s not much to do, other than visiting the Convento de San Antonio and wondering the city centre.

Celestun

Fishing village, gateway to the Celestun Biosphere Reserve, well known for its flamingos and pelicans. Head to Celestun early in the morning and get a guided boat tour through the mangroves. The flamingos move in the afternoon, so if you get too late you might just miss them.

Boat tour in the morning, then have lunch at Pampanos, a seafood restaurant right on the beach, followed by beach time.

The other place in Yucatan where you can spot flamingos is Rio Lagartos, famous not only for the beautiful pink birds, but also for the pink lake. We didn’t have time to go, but one on the list for next time.

Some other places I had on my list as ‘day trips’ from Merida:

Kabah, Mayan archaeological site in the Puuc region

X’batun cenote and the Cacao village (which you pass through on the way to the cenote). The plan was to go to the cenote, however for some reasons it was closed for the day. Funny fact on this – we couldn’t understand the reason why it was closed, as the lady there did not speak English 🙂

Hacienda de Sotuta de Peon – if you want to see an algave plantation and learn how tequilla is made, this is the place.

Hacienda San Pedro Ochil – between Merida and Uxmal, the perfect place for a break and a traditional Mexican lunch

Ixi’im restaurant – really need to go back to this place, as it looks amazing. Typical Mexican restaurant in an old textile factory, renown not only for its cuisine, but also for the cocktails.

A bit further, around 2h drive from Merida is Campeche. Port city in the Gulf of Mexico, known for its baroque colourful colonial buildings.

If I were to organise the trip again, I would definitely spend a couple of nights more in Merida. There’s so much to do and see around, so I’d plan with probably 3-4 nights in the city.

Safe travels!

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