Merida is the capital and main city of Yucatan; it is also the most populated city in the state. It is been exponentially growing as a tourist destination over the years, as it is famed for its colonial cities and Mayan villages, gastronomy and its proximity to the coast and archeological sites like Chichen Itza.
Merida was founded by Spanish conquistadors on January 6, 1542 over the vestiges of an abandoned Mayan city named Th’o. They named the City “Merida” as some of them were born in a city with the same name in Extremadura, Spain. More on the history of Merida here.
The climate in Merida is warm and humid with an overall temperature of 26°C (78.8°). Rain season runs from May to October and it has an altitude of just 8 meters (26.2 feet) over the sea level.
The prevailing language in Yucatan is Spanish, however Mayan is still spoken in neighboring rural communities, it is common that people that come from say communities and work in the city speak to each other in Mayan.
The city is famed for its rich culture, with many museums, art galleries, free concerts and performances held daily, and have one of the largest historical districts in the Americas, where colonial homes still line the streets in various states of disrepair and renovation.
Paseo de Montejo is the main avenue in Merida, the layout and design are inspired by the French boulevards, flanked by large trees, and monuments. On both sides of this avenue you can see beautiful mansions from the 19th that are now museums or banks, some of them are still homes for the descendants of the wealthy characters who built those houses.
You can many restaurants and hotels in Paseo de Montejo and downtown which is where the historic buildings and most cultural events happen in the city. In downtown, most services are within a walking distance.
The wealthy part of the city is located in the north; there you’ll find many shopping malls, cinemas and nightclubs. You can head north just by following the extension of Paseo de Montejo Avenue, called Prolongación Montejo; which ends on the exit road leading to the coast, where Progreso and other beaches are.
Progreso is a small coastal city located just 36 km (22.3 miles) from Merida; you can get there by bus or by car. There are many restaurants and hotels and it is a great place for a day trip.
There are other less touristic beaches on the coast like Chelem, Chuburna and Chicxulub. Those towns located just minutes away from Progreso, are now popular destinations for expats looking to settle down.
Other destinations near Merida are the archeological sites like Chichen Itza, Uxmal and many others just a couple hours away from the city. There are also natural attractions such as the cenotes (sink holes) where locals and visitors go to dip in the crystal clear waters and refresh them selves from the hot weather.
Merida is famous not just for its cultural heritage but for its proximity to many other attractions, yet it still preserves a non-touristic feel to it. If you want a local experience this is where you want to be.