Merida’s history dates back more than 450 years, when it was originally built on the site of ancient T’ho, a Maya city. Nowadays, the capital of the Yucatan state is the social and economic heart of the region, providing a charming base from which to explore the many fascinating ruins that pepper the jungle-clad peninsula, including the most famous of all Mexican ruins: Chichen Itza. Merida’s attractive downtown area is dominated by a pleasant central plaza shaded by lofty palms, and relics of the colonial era include grand Spanish mansions in a paint box of pastel shades, decorated in elaborate style like intricately iced wedding cakes. These mansions lead along Paseo Montejo, the main thoroughfare into the city, providing a striking first impression.
Despite its size of just under one million residents, Merida’s colonial charms are surprisingly intact and it has a relaxed vibe that attracts visitors keen to explore the Maya sites and surrounding jungle. Holidays to Merida provide an ideal base for visiting Chichen Itza and Uxmal, two of the most famous archaeological sites in Mexico, and nearby Kabah. As well as ruin hunting, Merida holidays can also include visits to the pink flamingo reserves of the Yucatan, its gin-clear cenotes (fresh water sinkholes created by underground rivers) that make for a refreshing swimming spot, and some of the peninsula’s incredible beaches.
For the most authentic experience of Merida we would recommend staying in a stylish converted hacienda, where colonial flair has been preserved in elegant rooms and grand dining areas, often with swimming pools to take a dip in and extensive grounds to explore. Most haciendas date back to the 18th and 19th centuries, with an exquisite attention to detail that has enhanced their restoration.
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