exploring Merida, Mexico

Until recently, I’d heard very little about Mérida, Mexico.

merida-mexico

Exploring Merida, Mexico, led us to Paseo Montajo Blvd. where we enjoyed Noche Mexicana, an evening of Mexican song and dance outdoors in the plaza. There is an abundance of free outdoor entertainment, art, and culture available throughout Merida.

exploring merida mexico

Mérida is the capital of the Yucatan state of Mexico, and is the largest city on the Yucatan Peninsula, a region most famous for its beach resort communities of Cancun and what is now called the Mayan Riviera. But Mérida is roughly 35 kilometres (22 miles) inland from the Gulf of Mexico. You don’t come here for the beaches. You come for the culture.

mayan-art

Just outside of Merida, we stopped at the Mirador viewpoint, where artisans were selling Mayan art. I fell in love with this vessel depicting a Mayan ceremonial cacao cup (carved from a Jicara gourd hollowed out and decorated.)

Indeed, Mérida is very proud of its Mayan heritage, and our time in the capital was spent learning about the history of the city, and its Mayan culture which can still be found in the restaurants, galleries, and on the streets of Mérida. Mexico’s national museums are located in Mexico City, but you will find approximately 20 museums in Mérida including the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya devoted exclusively to Mayan culture. We attended the free outdoor demonstration of the ancient Mayan ballgame in Plaza Grande, the main square of Merida. Below, the players are taking a ceremonial drink before the game begins.

merida-mexico

merida-mexico

This is the Ateneo de Yucatan, a magnificent historic structure in central Merida now dedicated as a museum of fine Yucatecan art.

We had the pleasure of staying at the Wyndham Mérida during our stay. I wish we’d had more time to enjoy the facilities that included a welcoming pool tucked away in the tranquil inner courtyard. All of the staff at the hotel were great, but I especially loved the smiles and helpful tips we received from the bellmen pictured here.

wyndham-merida

The Wyndham Merida was a great place from which to explore Merida, Mexico, and the staff was great.

I was pleased to see Westjet is now flying to Mérida and wrote about a few reasons to visit the city for their magazine here. I hope I’ll have the opportunity to soon return and continue exploring this vibrant and colourful city as I left many stones unturned. Stay tuned for more on this amazing city where Mexican meets Mayan.

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

51 Responses

  1. I’ve been to Mexico twice and have found the people to be so genuinely friendly that both trips were full of smiles. Learning about the culture of the area is one of my favorite parts of traveling.
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  2. Donna Janke says:

    Merida sounds like a great place to explore Mayan culture. The ballgame demonstration must have been very interesting to watch. At just 35 kilometres inland, I imagine one could easily combine a Merida visit with the more common beach resort vacations.
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    • Hi Donna and thanks for your comment. There is a beach community called Progresso that many people visit while they are in Merida, or conversely, stay at Progresso and visit Merida. I know that is an easy day trip as friends of ours did that. But we were on the chocolate trail, and didn’t have time for the pool or the beach!

  3. Catarina says:

    Merida seems to be an interesting place in Mexico. Not least because of the Mayan heritage. If I ever go to the Yucatan I will definitely visit it.
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  4. Voyager says:

    Mayan culture is very fascinating and your post opens up a whole new world, Merida seems very interesting and a place where you can learn and see a lot about Mayan history and culture, thanks for sharing.

  5. Linda says:

    Delightful post, Doreen. The photos are amazing!
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  6. You take the coolest trips. Thanks for sharing them with us.

  7. If I went to Mexico I’d go for the culture. Your photos and compliments about the people really bring the story to life.

    • Doreen says:

      Thanks, Christine. My life has been so much easier since I got my new iPhone. I use it almost exclusively for taking pics for my blog and social media. Sure beats lugging the big equipment around. You’re lucky you’ve got Jim to do that for you.
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  8. Sabrina Quairoli says:

    Sounds like a great place to visit. We went to visit Chichen-Itza some years ago and it was interesting to see how they lived and their many different traditions. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Erica says:

    I’ve never heard of Merida Mexico. However, from the pictures, it does seem that they do inhabit an interesting culture. I really do enjoy my beach vacations. But vacations surround by novel surroundings can be just as amazing. Looks like you had a great trip.
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  10. Doreen — I visited the Temples of Uxmal many, many years ago when I visited Mexico. There is so much of historical interest in Mexico. Wonderful place to play tourist.

  11. Ken Dowell says:

    I had heard very little about Merida as well, Doreen. It looks like an interesting place to visit. I’d likely be fascinated by the history of Mayan culture and Mayan art.

  12. Kathy Andrew says:

    Great to have another post on Mexico Doreen especially as I’ve not been to Yucatan. Your photos keep getting better and I love the gourd too. I have a couple drying in the sun at the moment & have been wondering what to paint on them. Thanks for the inspiration:-)

  13. Many years ago, when my marriage went down the tubes (so to speak), I knew I needed to get away, far away, and it needed to be as inexpensive as possible. My 14 year old daughter would come with me. We decided to go to Mexico, to wherever we could get the cheapest air tickets. Turned out that was the resort area of Cancun. We landed there but did not stay. Rather, we headed into the “real Mexico” of the Yucatan, staying in non-tourist hotels, travelling on regular Mexican buses, etc. I’d never even heard of Merida before that trip! I recall the marvellous colonial architecture of that city (and also of Valladolid). Merida was also a great place to stay for access to Uxmal. Will be interesting to read your upcoming blog on that historic place.
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    • Thx for the awesome comment, Ramona. Sounds like you’ve had some memorable Mexican adventures. I’m sure that changed your life and/or perspective. I’ve not heard of Valladolid. I shall have to look it up! But yes, getting away from the beach resorts to experience a more authentic Mexico is a life changing experience that I am most grateful to have had.

  14. Mina Joshi says:

    I have always loved reading about Mexico as it’s one place I have never visited. Merida sounds like a hidden gem. Museums with all Mayan culture sounds like icing on the cake.
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  15. Phoenicia says:

    What a huge hotel!

    I am curious as to what the men are drinking to mark the start of the ceremony.

    I am yet to visit Mexico as with many other countries. I have heard the food is absolutely delicious – nothing like the restaurants in the UK.
    Phoenicia recently posted…Are you willing to be inconvenienced?My Profile

  16. Bevely says:

    I’ve been to the Yucatan Peninsula, but have never been to Merida. It sounds like an interesting place to visit with all the cultural opportunities to be found there.

  17. Susan cooper says:

    Hi Doreen. Meredia looks really interesting. It is wonderful that they are able to share some of their Mayan culture with you. Lot of history there to take in and is a place not too much talked about
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  18. I love the architecture of the hotel! I thought of you today. I went to a chocolate appreciation class today @TastingAustrallia. I learn a lot about chocolate!
    Elizabeth @ Compass & Fork recently posted…How to Avoid Surprise Fees When Renting a CarMy Profile

    • Hi Elizabeth. Australia does indeed have some great chocolate, and will be covered in detail in volume III of Chocolatour. Did you get to sample Cicada in your tasting? It is truly excellent.

    • Hi Elizabeth. Just to clarify, the historic building pictured is the Ateneo de Yucatan, now occupied as a museum of fine local art. I’m sorry I had neglected to include a cutline stating that when I first posted this story.

  19. lenie says:

    Doreen, I’ve always thought the Mayan culture was fascinating and it’s nice to know there is a place that promotes Mayan knowledge. I’m not a beach person so a stay in Merida would be ideal for me (if I were a traveler, that is).

    • Hi Lenie. Not all of us are physical travellers, but it’s great that we can share stories with one another and learn so much without even leaving home if that is our choice. Thx for stopping by the blog.

  20. What a lovely area. I’ve been to Mexico many times, though the last time was years ago. But we always either camped or stayed at some small place on the beach since we usually travelled for catamaran races … or to drink. I hope to return one day so I can visit some of the beautiful areas you’ve introduced us to.
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  21. Ankit says:

    I’ve been to Mexico twice and have found the people to be so genuinely friendly that both trips were full of smiles. Learning about the culture of the area is one of my favorite parts of traveling. The people are pretty identical to us Indians (At least i think so 🙂
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  22. Jeri says:

    I’ll take culture over beaches any day. Learning more about Mayan culture is definitely on my list after a story I edited for someone a while back.
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  23. very interesting post! I don’t know much about the Mayan culture but I love chocolate as much as the next girl, and learning about the Mayan seems really fun, especially as they’re one of the very first civilizations to extract cocoa beans and consume them as chocolates.

    • Hi Rosary and welcome to my blog! The Mayans did indeed consume and worship cacao. But they didn’t make or eat chocolate. Chocolate as we know it was invented by there Spaniards, who created it from cocoa beans brought back to Spain from the Tropics. The Mayans consumed their cacao in the form of a hot drink of cacao mixed with water and spices. Not at all like our present-day hot chocolate, but certainly the forerunner to it.
      Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…exploring Merida, MexicoMy Profile

  24. This is very eye-opening.
    Most times people comment about the buildings of a place they visit. Older buildings which were built long before. here it is more about the old culture.
    It is very interesting to read about them, thank you for sharing it with us.

    • Hi William. Yes, you’ve hit on an important point. Merida is a city most focused on its culture. The Mayan culture, the Mexican/Spanish culture, and the Mestisos, the result of inter-marrying between the Mayan and the Spanish. Approximately 50% of the Yucatan region is of Mestisos heritage and 100% of Merida’s population! I found that quite surprising.
      Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…exploring Merida, MexicoMy Profile

  25. Luca Todesco says:

    I am glad you had a good time there, Doreen. Merida is such a great place to visit. It has the perfect blend of Mexican and Mayan. Although I had my doubts before my trip to Mexico, as a tourist I didn’t face any problems. The place is an untapped tourist goldmine.
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