Things to do in Merida
Amazing things to do in Merida
Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula is one of the hottest travel destinations on the planet. Yet most visitors entirely ignore one of the coolest places to visit in the Yucatan: its cultural capital city of Merida.
But that’s great news for you because it means you’ll get to experience the many amazing things to do in Merida without having to fight for space with thousands of other visitors!
From exploring colonial Spanish architecture to trying traditional Mayan cuisine, to cooling off in underground swimming holes, there are so many fun things to do in Merida that you may just never want to leave! There are too many places to visit in Merida to cover them all in a single post but this quick guide to a few of the best things to do in Merida, Mexico will help you get started:
Walk around the historic center
Probably the most popular thing to do in Merida is to explore the city’s enormous historical center, the epicenter of which is the aptly named Plaza Grande. Further north, you’ll find Parque de Santa Lucia, which in the evening fills with tables and chairs for a smattering of tourist-targeted restaurants.
Both those places are great, but for a more authentic and less touristy experience, don’t be afraid to wander a bit! Just a few blocks away from the tourist center you can visit the churches and plazas at Parque de Santa Ana, Parque de Santiago, and Parque de San Juan, all of which are usually blissfully free of the crowds.
Cool off in a cenote
Merida is an awesome place to visit, but its one downside is that it can get incredibly hot. Fortunately, the city happens to be one of the best places on the planet for exploring cenotes (openings in the area’s limestone bedrock that lead to fresh and inviting pools of groundwater). Perfect for cooling off on a warm day!
There are thousands of these natural swimming pools in an around the city. They can be even be found in the basements of schools or the parking lot at the city’s Costco store. And the best part is that each one is unique: some are exposed to the open air while others are in underground cave complexes.
Explore Mayan Ruins at Uxmal
The ruins at Chichen Itza get all the attention, but most locals will tell you that the best Mayan ruins in the Yucatan peninsula are actually an hour southwest of Merida at Uxmal.
The 40 meter-high Pyramid of the Magician is the main attraction here, towering over the many other ruins at this important Mayan site. And, unlike at Chichen Itza, you’ll actually be able to climb on some of the ruins here! Best of all, the entire site is wildly under-touristic (owing to its relatively remote location away from the beach resorts) meaning you won’t have to fight back any crowds.
Experience a festival
While other cities have long lists of “must see” landmarks and points of interest, the true highlight of a visit to Merida isn’t any tangible object or physical place: its the city’s dynamic culture that makes it so special. And if you want to really soak in Merida’s culture, the best way to do it is by visiting during a festival or special event. And you won’t have to try hard to find one, because there seems to be a festival just about every other week here. Crowd favorites include Merida Fest (January), Carnaval in Progresso (February), and Xmatkuil, the Yucatan State Fair (December).