Updated January 2017
Merida, the capital of the Yucutan, and the very first Mexican city 'founded' by Spanish Conquistadors, its colourful colonial buildings and crumbling churches a testament to a 500 year old history. And yet, despite this, this is a city the remains fiercely Mayan, where the majority of the population share that heritage and even the street signs note the original moniker of Th'o.
It's also a city that most travellers heading south through the Yucutan will spend at least a couple of day. As it turns out, there's quite enough to entertain them - both inside and out of the city.
Here's our guide to things to do in Merida.
Check out what's going on in the Plaza de la Independencia
Merida is quite the cultural hub of the Yucutan. In fact, once the sun goes down, there's almost always something going on in the main square (Plaza de la Independencia). Our personal favourite takes place on Sunday nights, a time when locals, old and young pick a partner and dance the night away. It is a fantastic thing to watch!
For ore information, see this website, with an interactive calendar of all upcoming events.
Don't miss Palacio del Gobierno
You know us, we're not usually huge fans of governement buildings or fancy palaces, but the Palacio del Gobierno in the centre of the city, was definitely an exception to this rule. For sure, you've got to check out Fernando Castro Pacheco's Mayan murals. These fantastic works of art depicting the evolution of one race's attempts to conquer, exploit and eliminate another are really quite amazing!
Discover the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya
Recognised as one of Mexico's most important museums, El Gran Museo del Mundo Maya is a must-do for anybody wanting a deeper understanding of the history of the Maya people and their culture as it exists today.
Address: Calle 60 299-E, Revolucion, 97180 Mérida
Cost: MX$150 (foreigner)
Get your cycle on!
Merida is slowly becoming more bicycle friendly, but for those a little cautious of cycling on busy roads, you simply have to give 'Biciruta' a go! Between the hours of 8 a.m. and 12 p.m. every Sunday, the entire length of Paseo de Montejo and Calle 60 are closed to motor vehicles.
Bicycles can be rented from the temporary stand (Sundays only) near Monumento a la Patria on Paseo de Monteo, as well as from 6 Bici Merida. Expect to pay MX$30 per hour, or MX$50 for two hours.
Visit the local cenotes
One of the most popular ways to visit Merida's local cenotes is by a tour from Cuzama. Here, via a horse drawn cart (note: we did our research here, and it does appear that the horses are well treated), a local will take you to three cenotes for a swim: Dzapakal, Santa Cruz and Chelentun. How long the tour lasts for is entirely up to you, as the carriage will wait for you outside each one until you're done, but the average duration is 2-3 hours.
How to get there: Either hire a car (45 minutes driving) or take a collectivo from Calle 67 between Calles 50 and 52 (costs approx MX$24) to Cuzuma. From the drop-off point you can either walk to the carriages (but be warned, it's two miles away) or take a moto-taxi (you should pay no more than MX$30 although you may have to haggle).
Cost: Tour costs MX$350 in total, so the more people you can get in your group, the cheaper the trip will become.
Looking for more information or just want to see some amazing photos? Check out this post.
Where to stay in Merida
Merida has grown increasingly popular over the years, and as such, the number of hostels on offer have vastly increased. The hostel we stayed at appears to not exist anymore (trust us, that's not a bad thing), but we do have three that come very highly rated. They are Hostal Catedral Merida (it even has a pool and is famed for being the mot reviewed hostel in Mexico!), Nomadas and Akasha Hostel.
The old town is where you will find the bulk of the 'touristy stuff' so we'd recommend finding somewhere to stay around there.
How to get to Merida
Merida hosts two bus stations; one for 1st class travel and another for 2nd class travel. They are close to each other, around 10 minutes walk from Plaza Grande.
2nd class bus Merida - Valladolid: $102 pesos per person, 3-4 hours.
1st class bus Merida – Chetumal: $480 pesos per person, 5-6 hours.
2nd class bus Merida – Chetumal: $300 pesos per person, 7+ hours.
For more information on bus times and prices, see this post.