Merida, Mexico is located only about three hours from the bigger-name destinations of Cancun, Tulum and Playa del Carmen — though it feels like it's a world away! Here are a few things you should know about visiting Mexico's Ciudad Blanca (The White City), from a longtime Merida resident.
Known as the Cultural Capital of the Yucatan Peninsula, Merida is a great place to visit for those seeking a Mexico trip that's infused with authentic Mayan culture. Besides the numerous Mayan Ruins within 1-2 hours of the city, there's so many things to do in Merida itself to experience culture.
For those who can't make it out to actual ruins, there's the Mayan World Museum of Merida, which houses the largest collection of pre-Colombian artifacts in the city. Merida is also known for weekly, outdoor festivals all year long, like Merida en Domingo (Merida Sundays), held in the Zocalo (Town Square) with traditional dancing, street food and Mayan craft vendors.
Merida has a tropical climate — which means it's hot all year-long. For the most pleasant weather, you'll want to come in winter. During these months, it will still be warm, but there won't be humidity or mosquitoes.
Hanal Pixan: For a real treat, head to Merida the last few days in October for Hanal Pixan (pronounced haa-nal pick-shawn). This is the Mayan Day of the Dead celebration, and a very lively time in the city with elaborate parades and ofrendas (altars) set up in the streets.
Food in the Yucatan Peninsula isn't what many know as "Mexican food." As this is Mexico, you can get tacos everywhere, but they aren't exactly traditional to this part of the country.
For authentic Yucatecan cuisine, you'll want to try cochinita pibil, the most important dish. This is a suckling pig that's marinated in local fruits and spices and slow cooked underground in an oven called a pib. To eat it like a real Yucatecan, opt for panuchos or salbubtes over regular tortillas.
Merida has a big cantina culture — meaning that day drinking is totally acceptable here. Much like tapas in Southern Spain, when enjoying drinks in a Merida cantina, you'll be served complimentary botanas, which are essentially small plates with local favorites, like brazo de reina, a type of tamal.
Merida is quite walkable — though the walks are only pleasant in the cooler winter months. The public transportation isn't great, but the main part of town visitors flock to, Centro Historico (Historic Downtown) is on the smaller side, so walking and using Ubers or taxis will suffice.
The only real reason to have a rental car is because there are so many great day trips near Merida.
Of the can't miss sites, there's Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. For swimming, head to Puerto Progreso Beach, the closest beach to Merida, and the numerous Yucatan cenotes, natural freshwater pools in the jungle.