Our immediate neighbor to the South, Mexico, is often overlooked as a luxury travel destination due to a reputation for all-inclusive resorts and hoards of spring breakers. While there are certain destinations, like Cancun, that cater to that type of tourism, there are tons of hidden gems that can provide a unique and authentic travel experience. Merida is one of these gems. Just three hours west of Cancun, Merida is the personification of Yucatan culture where deep traditions fuse together with contemporary offerings to create a city for artists, art lovers, and bohemians.
Merida is a versatile city that will delight any traveler, whether you plan to explore the mysterious Mayan ruins, expand your borders at the modern museums and galleries, or sample fine cuisine in the best local restaurants. We recommend starting in the Old Town of Merida, where many of the historic churches and mansions have been beautifully preserved from the 16th century. One of our favorite areas of Merida is the Parque de Santa Ana Neighborhood, where you’ll be awestruck by the vibrant houses and beautiful architecture — don’t forget to take a few photos to add a pop of color to your Instagram!
From there, walk through the gorgeous Passage of the Revolution to admire the sculptures, and over to Soho Galleries, a contemporary art gallery that features works from both local and international artists.After exploring downtown Merida, take a taxi to the architectural masterpiece that is the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya de Mérida, where you can learn more about the Mayan culture. Even if you’re in town for only one day, this quick and easy itinerary will allow you to see Merida’s biggest attractions.
After discovering all that Merida has to offer, you’re bound to work up an appetite. Thankfully, this city has many casual, authentic street food vendors as well as more refined restaurants depending on your mood. If you are looking for something more elevated, check out Merida’s home of molecular gastronomy - Nectar. This refined home of “New Yucatecan” cuisine is led by Roberto Solis who is known for his experience working in legendary restaurants Per Se and Noma. The restaurant’s menu changes seasonally and relies on the freshest ingredients available guaranteeing an incredible culinary experience.
For those who want to be closer to nature, there’s the Chable Yucatán. The hotel, originally a hacienda from the mid-1800s, was redesigned with modern amenities while leaving key elements of the historical structure untouched. Guests can choose from one of 40 stand-alone casitas spread across 740 acres of Mayan Jungle. Around the property, there are delightful touches such as bathtubs carved from one slab of stone; the open-glass bar shelves filled with hundreds of local liquors; and original artwork adorning the walls. Blend in with the jungle as you meditate on the spacious wood terraces at the foot of the cenote, or feel the power of nature as you receive a soothing massage with a mix of herbs and spices that were specially curated by the resident herbalist.
Merida is the city where ancient Mayan history meets modern culture, where traditional dishes get a new zest, and where lush nature lives in harmony with bustling streets. Thanks to its energetic art scene and bold flavors, stylish and groundbreaking hotels, and colorful streets, Merida won’t stay a hidden gem for too long — be sure to add it to your itinerary ASAP.