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Why Go Now: Mérida, Mexico

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The Yucatán Peninsula, a region known for its rich Mayan history, white-sand beaches and breezy seaside villages, has long beckoned visitors in search of a laid-back coastal getaway. But the inland Mérida, the Yucatán’s capital and a low-key, colonial­­ city, is now coming into the travel spotlight. Here, in this colorful metropolis famous for its gorgeous architecture and delicious food, visitors can soak up Mexican culture in a city that is just hitting its stride. And, with the recent opening of Chablé Resort, a luxurious wellness retreat 25 minutes from the city, the small but proud town is gaining international recognition. Here are five compelling reasons to plan a trip there now.

Contact Indagare for assistance in planning a trip to Mérida. Our specialists can plan a customized itinerary with great meals and activities.

The region boasts a rich history.

Offering a curious mashup of Mayan, Spanish and French-colonial influences, Mérida was once one of the wealthiest cities in Mexico. The city’s trade industry boomed during the early 20th century but later lost its sparkle when economic decline and the Mexican revolution threatened infrastructure. However, Mérida’s cosmopolitan charm remains and is evident in the gorgeous architecture and diverse food scene. In addition, due to the city’s isolated location on a peninsula, the presence of Mayan culture—the lifeblood of the Yucatàn—is alive and well here. Many locals still speak the ancient language and embrace old customs (including sleeping in hammocks and wearing traditional dress), which makes for a fascinating and multi-layered identity.

Related: Mexico’s Best Beach Resorts

It makes for a great home base.

With gorgeous beaches and storied ruins within driving distance, Mérida is an ideal jumping off point for day trips. While there are no true five-star hotels in the city, the exquisite Chablé Resort is only a 25-minute drive away and is a destination in and of itself (read Indagare’s First Look). In addition to exploring Mérida, travelers should visit Uxmal, a preserved Mayan temple and one of the most significant archeological sites in Mexico, and the beachside village of Celestún. There, visitors can charter a boat to a nearby lagoon to see hundreds of flamingoes grace the sky. Indagare members may contact the Bookings Team to arrange guided tours and boat charters.

Related: Indagare Favorites: Wellness Escapes

There is a wonderful food scene.

Mexico is practically synonymous with mouthwatering cuisine, but Mérida boasts some of the greatest restaurants around, including many international eateries. La Chaya Maya is a charming alfresco café where traditional Yucatàn dishes like tikin xic (a mix of seafood wrapped in banana leaves) populate the menu (Calle 55 No.510). Oliva, a local favorite for Italian cuisine, serves delicious updates of classic pasta dishes (Corner of Calle 56 and 49). Foodies should not miss Chablé’s fine dining restaurant, Ixi’Im, which is open to non-guests. Headed by Chef Jorge Vallejo (recently named the best chef in Mexico), the eatery elevates farm-to-table cuisine and will impress even the most sophisticated of gourmands. 

Related: Mexico City Dining

It’s known for its beautiful architecture…

Nicknamed the ‘White City,’ Mérida is famous for its colonial-style architecture. Visitors will be wowed by the city’s stately mansions lining the boulevards (reminiscent of a tropical Champs-Elysées) and pastel-colored buildings. Be sure to visit Palacio Canton, one of the oldest cathedrals in Latin America, located on the central Paseo Montejo avenue.

Related: The Top 10: Hotels for Design Lovers

…and authentic culture.

Day and night, the streets of Mérida are buzzing with the sound of mariachi music and the smell of freshly ground tortillas. The city’s lively scene is evident at first glance, and locals are happy to welcome visitors to the party. Walk through the historic Parque de Santa Lucía plaza on a Thursday night for the city’s weekly festival of poetry, music and dance, then head to Dulcería y Sorbetería Colón, a local favorite for sorbet (Calle 56A, 47A). You’ll feel a bit like an explorer here, as Mérida’s delightfully untouched atmosphere means visitors can meander the streets for hours without encountering other tourists.

Related: Get Inspired: Spring Break Favorites

Contact Indagare for assistance in planning a vacation to Mérida. Our specialists can plan a customized itinerary with great meals and activities.

– Blair West on September 15, 2017

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