The main plaza is a great place from which to start your exploration of Merida. Not only is it a place where locals gather but it is also home to a number of interesting sites. The Cathedral, the Palacio Municipal (town hall) and the Casa de Montejo all sit on the plaza and are worth visiting.
The plaza is also the place to pick up a horse and carriage, which can take you sightseeing around the city.
Casa Montejo is the former home of the Francisco Montejo Jnr who founded modern-day Merida. The building is an excellent sample of Spanish colonial architecture and was built in 1549.
This magnificent cathedral is known for the murals depicting the meeting between Montejo and the Mayan Emperor Tutl Xiu. Construction of this cathedral, built using stone from Mayan religious structures, began in 1561.
The Governor’s Palace
The Governor’s Palace houses 27 large murals illustrating the somewhat violent and bloody history of the Yucatan. The artist, Fernando Castro Pacheco spent his entire life working on these paintings.
La Ermita de Santa Isabela
This is a quiet relaxing area with tranquil gardens, statues and churches, located just outside the city wall.
El Paseo de Montejo
Fashioned after the Champs-Élysées in Paris, this long boulevard is lined with palatial mansions and colonial buildings. In addition to the shops, boutique hotels, bars and restaurants, the homeland monument that sits at the far end of the boulevard boasts an interesting depiction of Merida’s history.
Grand Museum of the Maya World
This huge museum opened in 2012 tells the story of the Yucatan region, spanning from when a meteorite that is believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs hit the Yucatan, through the Maya period and onto the colonial and industrial era. It is an interactive museum, with lots of interesting exhibits for kids.
Folkloric Dance Shows
On Friday nights at 9pm, the Autonomous University of Yucatan put on a traditional Mexican folkloric dance show. The show is in the courtyard of the University on Calle 60, corner with 57.
Handicrafts and Food Market
On Sunday Merida’s main plaza, Hidalgo Park and Santa Lucia Park are all host to a handicraft market and food festival. Many of the streets are closed and there is live music from 9am-9pm.
Every Thursday for the last 50 years a Yucatan Serenade has taken place in Santa Lucia Park (corner of Calle 60 and 55) at 9pm. The open-air concert is great chance to see the traditional dances, music and folklore of the area.
This ancient Mayan city is one of the more important in the area. It boasts a mixture of rounded architecture and intricate facades. You are able to climb some of the pyramids, which have incredible views over the site.
Dzibilchaltún is an interesting archeological site, with its Temple of Seven Dolls, named after the dolls found there, which have been removed to the onsite museum. Many of the temples were also destroyed in such a way that visitors can see inside them to understand how they were built.
The archeological sites of Uxmal, Kabah, Sayil, Xlapak and Labna make up the Puuc Route. The sites are in various states of repair giving visitors an interesting insight into the process of restoration as well as the architecture of the region. All of the sites can be visited in one day.
Pink famingos at the Celestun National Wildlife Refuge
Located 100 km west of Merida on Highway 281.
Celestun is a small fishing village that is home to a biosphere reserve that spans over 146,000 acres. Inland waterways provide a natural habitat for flamingoes, herons and other tropical birds. If you are lucky you may see a flock of flamingos flying over you, which is quite an experience.
Located about 33 km south of Merida, slightly off the beaten track
An old working henequen hacienda, Hacienda Sotuta de Peon offers tours of the house, the plantations and the production plants. The tour gives visitors a great insight into the work of the haciendas and ends in a dip in the onsite cenote.
Located 35 km northeast of Merida – 50 km from Rio Lagartos
The Komchen Bird Sanctuary is a private non-profit organization created at Hacienda Henequenera. This sanctuary provides facilities for the practice of ecotourism. Its mission is “to sustainably develop and conserve a nature reserve and at the same time improve the living conditions of local people”.
Rio Lagartos, which means Alligator River, is a 100,000-acre biosphere reserve that offers some of the best bird watching in the Yucatan. It boasts a diversity of habitats for a variety of animals including flamingoes, howler monkeys, crocodiles, turtles, jaguars, pheasants and white tail deer.
Named a magic town in 2002, the whole town is painted yellow and white and centers around the 16th– century Franciscan monastery that sits upon the base of the Maya pyramid that was probably the biggest in the Northern Yucatec plains.
Take a horse drawn cart along a track that stops at three cenotes that differ in size and depth. The color of the water varies in each cenote due to the amount of light that reaches the sinkhole. These cenotes are generally slightly quieter than other better-known cenotes.
Located 160km east of Merida, halfway to Cancun.
Valladolid is a small, quaint town that still preserves a colonial flavor. Cenote Dzitnup just south of the city is great for swimming and the San Roque Museum has huge murals depicting Mexican history. It is also worth taking a stroll down the pretty Calzada de los Frailes.
This colorful port city that is surrounded by a fortress is an interesting and picturesque place to visit. Learn about the history of pirate attack and admire the colonial architecture or take a visit to the archeological site of Edzná just outside the city.
Cenote Ik Kil
Located 125km Southeast on the 180 towards Chichen Itzá
Ik Kil is a popular cenote near to Chichen Itzá. It is best to visit in the morning before the crowds arrive.
This 18 hole, par 72 golf course and country club is just outside of the center of Merida. The club also has a pool, steam baths, weight-room, mini golf, tennis courts, shops and restaurants, making it a great places for families to spend the day.