Merida, Mexico – November 2014
We had a short stay in Merida after our week in Playa del Carmen. We underestimated the length of the bus ride there, so we ended up riding 4 hours each way for just a 2 day/2 night stay in Merida. Fortunately, ADO bus company is all over Mexico and has very modern, comfortable and relatively affordable bus connections (around 440 pesos or $31 USD each way). We found out too late as well that the large Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza are on the bus route from Cancun to Merida approximately half-way through. Were we to do it again, we would probably rent a car so we could stop along the way (as well as to see sites just outside of Merida like Uxmal and progreso beach).
We chose to visit Merida because we are big fans of the Travel Channel television show “House Hunters International”, and there were a surprising number of episodes with expats shopping for homes in Merida. It’s not a well-known city in the states but it has a lot going for it – affordability, safety, hospitality, good healthcare, beautiful old homes with central courtyards and high ceilings, and less than 1 hr from the beach. Prices seemed to be about the same as in Playa del Carmen, which is say slightly below or about on par with the US. Overall, the center city where we stayed seems to be hub of rejuvenation, and there are lots of neat, old and rundown buildings with fantastic iron doors next to freshly painted houses.
We stayed at a fantastic Airbnb location – the “Dos Loros” house – just 5 blocks or so from the center square in Merida, and within walking distance of all the major tourist sites. Our hosts happened to be originally from Tennessee, our home, and we had some very interesting conversations with them about the logistics of living in Mexico, the culture, and updates from the US. We had the guest bedroom in the house but our hosts were very welcoming and allowed us to use the rest of the house as well.
In terms of activities, the city of Merida has few big-ticket items. There are a number of museums and some pretty churches and squares, and almost everything is free. Just to see the city a couple days would do it. However, a longer stay could be nice as it seems like it would be a great base from which to explore the general area, which has many Mayan ruins, cenotes, and two beaches nearby. There is also a nature reserve where flocks of flamingos come to during certain times of the year. Walking around the streets is supposedly very safe and there are some very nice restaurants. We definitely recommend the free walking tour hosted by the Tourism Board.
We found what is possibly the best Italian restaurant we have ever eaten at in the restaurant “Oliva”. All the pasta is made fresh and the flavors were phenomenal. It’s a teeny place and early arrival is recommended. It was definitely worth the $30 we paid for two entrées and a couple drinks.
We something uniquely Merida, we also recommend La Dulceria y Sorbeteria Colon, which has at least two locations (on the main square and on Paseo de Montejo). We didn’t try the pastries but we really enjoyed the fresh fruit flavors of the sorbets. There were a bunch of flavors that our limited Spanish language skills couldn’t comprehend, so it’s probably worth asking a local for what’s best.
Overall, we enjoyed Merida for the quiet pace, very little tourism (no hawkers), and our friendly hosts. There are not a lot of big sights but we would return if we had a little more time in the area and could take some daytrips from Merida.
Here are some more of our pictures from Merida: