This colonial Mexican city, with its popsicle-colored buildings and friendly vibe, is just 30 minutes from the beach and a short drive from world class Mayan ruins. Add flavourful Yucatanean cuisine and cocktails, and you have the perfect holiday spot.

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The Plaza Grand is as old as the city itself and is overlooked by San Idelfonso Cathedral.


Start your day with breakfast along the famed Paseo de Montejo, named after the Spanish explorer Francisco de Montejo who founded the city in 1542. This iconic street is lined with mansions influenced by European architecture, Merida’s attempt to create a boulevard similar to Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico or the Champs-Élysées in Paris. Nibble on fresh fruit and French toast in the courtyard of Rosas y Xocolate, a colonial-era boutique hotel renovated with pink hues and modern artwork, a testament to the revitalisation efforts along this stunning boulevard. 


Head over to the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya, a modern building on the edge of Merida that houses more than 1,100 well-preserved Mayan artefacts. One notable piece of art is a reclining chac-mool sculpture from Chichen Itza. This museum is a great place to learn about Mayan history and culture before heading out to visit one of the archeological sites in the area.


Catch a taxi to the ancient Mayan ruins of Dzibilchaltun, just 30 minutes north of Merida. This large settlement was still occupied when the Spaniards arrived in the 16th century, and was home to as many as 200,000 Mayans. Wander among the Mayan ruins to find evidence of European influence, including a chapel built right in the middle of this city. You can apply everything you learned at the Grand Museum del Mundo Maya when visiting these amazing ruins. 

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While you’re up near Dzibilchaltun, you might as well take a dip in a nearby cenote, or limestone sinkhole. These sinkholes number in the thousands all over the Yucatan Peninsula, and are the region’s only source of drinking water. Cenote Xlakah reaches depths of 44 metres, and was first explored in the 1950s, where researchers found pottery shards, wood and bones deep in the water. It most likely served as the drinking source for the entire city of Dzibilchaltun.


Visit Chablé Resort and Spa for a luxury spa treatment before dinner. This wellness retreat was built on the bones of an old working hacienda from the 1800s, and has its very own natural spring. Each spa treatment cabin overlooks this cenote, and every option you choose is steeped in Mayan ritual. Indulge in a soothing jade facial, let stress melt away in the floatation pool, or try a sun and moon temazcal for couples. Afterwards, do a round of hydrotherapy and dry off in the wood-paneled sauna.


Treat yourself to a traditional dinner at La Chaya Maya in downtown Merida. This charming restaurant housed in a colonial building is a favourite among locals and tourists, with a vibrant atmosphere and plenty of Yucatanean favorites. Try Los Cuatro Yucas to sample four different dishes in one sitting, from slow-roasted pork in sour orange juice, to slow-cooked turkey in a rich gravy. These dishes are filling and authentic, a delight for the taste buds. You’ll encounter flavour combinations you’ve never tasted anywhere else. 

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Take a walk down bustling city streets and enjoy the large tree-lined squares in Merida, the ‘living room’ for locals. While you’re at it, stop in the artsy La Fundacion Mezcaleria for a sampling of mezcal, which is made from agave but cooked in pits lined with lava rocks filled with wood and charcoal, giving it a distinct smoky flavour. When you’ve had your fill of mezcal, catch some live music and dancing at La Negrita Cantina, an eclectic bar with a large outdoor patio. You’ll find yourself moving to salsa beats and relaxing from your busy day.


Head back to your room at Rosas y Xocolate and take a bath in the deep stone tub complete with open-air skylight. Sample the chocolate touches in your room, from bedside treats to chocolate-infused toiletries. Rest easy, then wake up walking distance from Merida’s sights and continue your exploration within this quaint colonial city. 

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Culture shines in Merida and pastel-hued dwellings add to the colonial vibe.

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• Rent a car while you’re in Merida. It’s easy and safe, and you can take a day trip along the Ruta Puuc, stock full of Mayan ruins. The Uxmal site is just as stunning as Chichen Itza minus the crowds. You can even bring a picnic lunch and dine on the lush manicured grasses.

• Head to the Celestun Biosphere, a couple hours drive from Merida. Here, you can get up close to thousands of flamingos as they dine on shrimp in the Gulf of Mexico as well as see a plethora of wildlife species.

• If all you want to do is lie on the beach, drive 30 minutes outside Merida to Progreso, where you’ll find laid-back beaches without the crowds.