Date of stay: Oct 2011
Where you stayed: Hotel Las Arecas
Travelled with: Wife
Tour or pre planned: Pre-planned
I must admit, there is not a whole lot to see and do in Merida, but it is a perfect stop off point to see the ruins of Uxmal and Chichen Itza.
The hotel we stayed in was called Las Arecas. A rather decent place, with crazy cheap rates (280pesos p/n), great location, good air con (which you’ll need) and helpful friendly staff. It wasn’t the best place we’d stayed in, but it did us nicely. Note: if you’re going to stay here, there isn’t a sign on the street for the hotel so just press the buzzer on no. 541 (Calle 59).
Merida town is nice enough, with the Zocalo being the most happening place. There are several good markets around and many places selling quality hammocks. If you want to buy a hammock, then this is the place.
I can highly recommend a restaurant called Panchos to eat at. They have fantastic food (get the guacamole, it’s all made right in front of you) and the surroundings are quite pleasant indeed.
Most nights of the week from 9pm there are free live music and dancing shows in several squares in the neighbourhood. One such great spot is in Santa Lucia Square.
As mentioned before, there isn’t much else to do in Merida, but the following two sites make your reason to stay here a damn good one:
UXMAL & THE RUTA PUUC
Uxmal is a real highlight, and perhaps a little underrated when compared with Chichen Itza.
When we went there were hardly any tourists around, which made it a little more personal. The grounds contain several impressive pyramids and many other ruins set in a forest with a vast area to explore. Giant lizards and iguanas rule the grounds here (with more lizards than even people), providing many good photo opportunities.
The sun will beat down on you so make sure to bring a hat, plenty of sunscreen and also strong Deet as the mossies love to taste foreign blood on a regular basis.
A little tip: There is a hotel near the entrance with a pool which you can use for free, so bring your swimmers to go for the most relieving swim you’ll ever have. If you don’t, just jump in partially clothed anyway (as we did). Trust me, after walking around in that kind of heat for several hours you’ll be desperate for a dip too. Afterwards, grab a corona and sip it by the pool.
Getting to Uxmal is easy. Just jump on a bus from Merida, which will take about an hour and set you back 44pesos each way. Be sure to get a return ticket though. Buses usually leave every hour to and from Uxmal.
If you want to visit other sites along the Ruta Puuc you can grab a cab from Uxmal that will take you to the other sites and back.
Chichen Itza doesn’t really need any introductions as it is one of the new 7 wonders of the world. It is very impressive, but maybe not quite as impressive as we were expecting; this is probably due to the fact that there were many other amazing sites we’d seen already and that there were far more tourists roaming around, making you feel like you’re just another tourist being churned through the money-making turnstiles.
I’m certainly not saying that it isn’t worth visiting, because it definitely is, but personally Uxmal left more of a lasting impression on me.
Incredibly we stumbled on yet another hotel swimming pool, which was even more of a godsend than before. It’s located at the east end of the ruins; follow the path through the thatched roof houses and you’ll see a hotel/restaurant along with the pool which, to you, will seem like an oasis in the desert. As before, dive in and let all your heat worries wash away..
If you’re travelling through Mexico East to West or vice versa, then a one-way Chichen Itza tour is highly recommended. We took a one-way tour from Merida which included a stop in Chichen Itza, buffet lunch, a swim in a nearby Cenote (sink hole) and then onward to drop us off in Playa Del Carmen. This saved us time having to back track on buses to/from Chichen Itza as we had to make it to Playa by bus anyway. You can do this from Cancun or Playa also if you are planning on travelling West towards Mexico City.
The Cenote swim was a highlight, with an amazingly fresh water pool set amongst stunning scenery making for a very cool experience. The whole one-way tour will cost you around 700pesos.
If you have any questions about Merida, drop a comment below and I’d be happy to answer.
Points to highlight:
The rating below is not so high purely because of the fact that there isn’t a lot to see and do in Merida. But as mentioned before, it is a perfect base to venture further out to see the impressive ruins of Uxmal and Chichen Itza.
Would you recommend this destination: Yes
Would you recommend your accommodation: Yes
Overall rating: 3.5/5