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Founded in 1542 by Spanish conquistadors (atop the ruins of an abandoned Mayan city), Mérida has a rich Mayan heritage and colonial history. The city’s centro histórico district is sprawling; it’s one of the largest in the Americas, surpassed in size only by the historical districts of Mexico City and Havana. Here, much of the original Spanish colonial architecture remains. Wander narrow cobblestoned alleys that spill out into vibrant plazas, where locals and tourists alike eat sherbert and drink champalo. As the capital of Yucatán, Mérida has all the trappings of a modern city: museums, art galleries, restaurants, and shops. Another perk? It’s just 22 miles from sandy Gulf of Mexico beaches.
Mérida’s plazas are vibrant meeting places. Plaza de Independencia, also known as Plaza Mayor, is the largest in town. Spend an afternoon amid its flower gardens and palm trees, cooling off with champola and agua fresca juice from the market.
The Spanish colonial influence can be felt in the town’s two centerpiece cathedrals: Mérida Cathedral and the white limestone Iglesia de la Tercera Orden. Both colonial-era churches were built using relics from ancient Mayan temples.
Mérida’s most impressive museum is the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya, which features ancient Mayan artifacts, crafts, and artwork. The building itself is designed to resemble a ceiba—a sacred tree to the Mayans.
You could visit the always-popular Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá, 75 miles away, or instead opt for Uxmal—it’s just 50 miles away and much less crowded. The site is renowned for its meticulous construction and intricate stone carvings.
Let your worries slip away at Celestún, a sleepy fishing village along a tranquil white-sand beach. Stroll through the Reserva de la Biosfera Ría Celestún, a wildlife sanctuary home to flamingos and waterfowl.
Go for a refreshing swim in the turquoise waters of X’Batun, an open-air cenote filled with aquatic vegetation. The cenote is a hub for diving and snorkeling.
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On the Day of the Dead (November 1 and 2), Latin Americans honor their deceased loved ones with homemade altars. Many Meridanos blend Catholic and Mayan rituals, crafting altars adorned with both Christian crucifixes and skulls.
Mérida was named after a Spanish town of the same moniker. Its nickname is “The White City,” or La Ciudad Blanca, perhaps due to the whitewashed colonial architecture of yesteryear. Today, the quaint city is a rainbow of candy-colored, pastel hues.
Lonely Planet named Mérida as the “American Capital of Culture” for 2017 thanks to its flourishing culinary and arts scene. On Sundays, the city’s many plazas burst to life with outdoor markets, dancing, and live music.
The regional cuisine is an interesting blend of European and Mexican flavors. Try cochinita pibil (marinated pork), lime soup, panuchos (tortilla with chicken and refried beans), X’tabentun (appetizer), and michelada (spicy beer).
Mérida’s climate is tropical wet and dry, depending on when you travel. It’s hot and humid in the summer, with temperatures often rising above 100 ℉ in the afternoon. Winter is a more mild time to visit, with temps hovering in the mid-70s. The closer you get to the coast, the breezier it is. Rainy season is classified as June through October, with an average rainfall of 5–7 inches per month.
Google Maps satellite images are not always up-to-date, especially in non-U.S. destinations. Some Inspirato accommodations are located in developments built after images were last updated. Our pin placements represent our best location estimates, but actual locations may vary.