Merida is a large, sprawling city with a pretty colonial center known as the ‘Centro Historico’, about a four to five hour drive from Playa del Carmen. The ancient ruins of Uxmal are located about an hours’ drive from the capital and are well worth a visit.
The capital city of the Yucatan is also the region’s cultural heartland. If you need a break from the modernity and tourism of Playa de Carmen, head inland to Merida for a colonial fix and a taste of the ‘Real Mexico’.
Restored colonial buildings are painted in agreeable pastel colours and paint peels delightfully from crumbling facades.
This is a bustling city with a thriving cultural calendar, museums, galleries, theaters and more. The zocalo or main square, is the heart of the city where every Sunday, traditional dances and other cultural performances take place.
We were lucky enough to be hosted by the Hotel Hacienda Merida during our stay, which is a Hacienda-style boutique hotel. It has beautifully decorated rooms with comfortable beds and spacious bathrooms. The best part was the cenote-fed swimming pool in the central courtyard. It is in a good location, walking distance to the zocalo where all the action takes place.
It’s not a place we would have stayed at if traveling on our own dollar, however, as we rarely (if ever) spend that sort of money on accommodation. Jimmy of Jimmyeatsworld.com stayed at The Hostal Zocalo which looks nice and is right near the square with a great view of the cathedral.
Not only is Merida the cultural center of the Yucatan, but it is surrounded by amazing sites!
We visited the ancient ruins of Uxmal, and I was pleasantly impressed with the restored, ornate structures. Be sure to climb the pyramid farthest away from the entrance for an amazing view of the grounds.
We took a drive up to the beach-side town of Progresso, where locals gather to catch a sea breeze and escape the oppressive summer heat. It’s not much of a swimming beach, however. There wasn’t much compelling us to stay there, but it was nice to see regardless.
There are also countless cenotes dotted around Merida city to cool off, but since we had a cenote-fed pool (!), we enjoyed that instead.
You can read about our adventures in Merida and Uxmal here.