Merida is an exciting and intriguing tourist destination for all kinds of travelers. The peaceful and very traditional colonial atmosphere that still surrounds this beautiful city can be felt from the moment of arrival. Anyone who has ever visited Merida knows that this city offers the traveler a delightful experience full of colors, aromas and tastes of ancient Mexico, spiced up with a touch of modernity and a pinch of European sensibility.
Merida's fascinating past can still be witnessed in each of the small towns, villages and archeological sites that surround it. This beautiful city is steeped in culture and located in an incredible region once inhabited by the ancient Mayas; one of the most important civilizations that ever flourished in the Americas. Merida is also one of Mexico's most important colonial cities, an architectural jewel traditionally known as "La Ciudad Blanca" (the white city).
Merida, capital of the state of Yucatan, is one of the most important cities in southeast Mexico; it is also considered to be one of the places with the highest standard of living in the whole country. Few places in the world are lucky enough to have an interesting history, an exotic cuisine and natural beauty, all mixed together. Even though Merida is all about tradition, it has found a way to renew itself and give way to modernity. Past, present and future have found a perfect way to coexist throughout this magic city.
Merida is the perfect starting point if you want to visit important Maya ruins, such as Chichen Itza (the most important city in the area between 750 and 1200 A.D.), Uxmal, and Dzibichaltun; the caves at Lot-Tun and Balancanche; as well as other beautiful cities such as Izamal and Valladolid. By night, the most impressive buildings in Chichen Itza and Uxmal are lit up and ancient Mayan stories are told during a light and sound show that enhances the beauty of these archeological sites.
Not everything in Merida is about archeology though; exceptional cuisine, romantic music and fantastic regional dances can be enjoyed at the restaurants and theaters of downtown Merida. El Paseo de Montejo is a beautiful avenue modeled on the Champs Elysees in Paris and year round, people can either walk or take a horse-drawn cart while admiring modern and unique sculptures created by local and foreign artists.
Spanish conqueror Francisco de Montejo founded Merida in 1542 directly on top of an old Mayan village, which he himself destroyed. Merida's original name was Tho' which means "five hills" in the Mayan language. It is said that this city looked very much like the remnants of an old Roman city of Merida in Spain, and such was its beauty that the conqueror decided to name it Merida. Nowadays one can still hear among the indigenous folk the name Tho' when they talk about Merida.
Merida was named a Cultural Heritage Site in 2000 by UNESCO, and during that very same year the OAS (Organization of American States) gave Merida the recognition of an American Cultural Capital, winning this prize over important cities such as: Arlington, Toronto, and Vina del Mar, among others.
In Merida, past and present blend with originality and grandeur. The traveler can find a whole range of possibilities walking the streets and visiting points of interest, such as museums, parks, markets, malls, boutiques and stores selling handcrafts and traditional clothing. In the evenings, Merida becomes a fascinating town to tour around open-air cafes, fine dining restaurants, concerts, night clubs and buggy rides.
Merida is the perfect place to experience the flavors of Yucatan's food; an exotic cuisine that has earned well deserved fame throughout Mexico. Yucatecan cuisine ranges from fresh seafood to traditional Mayan cuisine, featuring dishes like Cochinita Pibil and Papadzules.
Merida has many modern accommodations for all tastes and budgets and the tourist infrastructure is excellent. There are travel agencies, car and coach rentals, an international airport, restaurants, banks, malls and many other services all designed to provide visitors with a comfortable stay, while they enjoy this beautiful Mexican provincial city.
There are many reasons to visit Merida, but there are three main ones: sampling the delicious Yucatecan cuisine; using it as a base for touring Uxmal, Chichen Itza and other Maya ruins; and last but not least, to take part in "Sundays in Merida," when the streets of the old city are closed off to traffic, and the Zocalo fills with food booths and local craftspeople selling their wares for excellent prices. This is Merida, come and enjoy it!