5 Days Trip To Merida, Mexico
In December 2017, I received my US citizenship and I got my new passport. I have been thinking of traveling but waiting to get my passport. I decided to take a solo trip to Mexico. This was an exciting and scary decision for me since I didn’t know a single Spanish word. Instead of picking the famous tourist places in Mexico, I wanted to explore the real Mexico and chose to spend my time in Merida, Yucatan. Merida is the capital of the Mexican state Yucatan and has a rich Mayan heritage.
Getting to Merida, Yucatan
I booked my flight from Atlanta, GA to Cancun and I good a good deal on flights which cost me a return flight of $185. I also made a bold decision of getting a rental car and exploring Mexico at my own pace and not depending on anyone else. I booked a rental car online and the deal was too good to be true. I did my research before going there and I read all the stories of rental scams and mentally prepared. I will write about my car rental and driving in Mexico in a separate post. After landing in Cancun, I took shuttle to car rental location which was off the airport. I picked my car and set on my journey to Merida.
Staying In Merida
I was staying in Hilton Garden Inn, Merida located at the edge of Uptown Merida. The hotel is located inside a plaza with a lot of dining and shopping options. I rented the hotel using points earned through my Amex Card and ended up staying for free. I got a nice room with a view. Booking with points get you 5th night free. So it was the best deal for me.
Activities / Attractions
After a good night’s sleep in my hotel, I decided to explore Dzibichaltun, which is a Mayan archeological sight approximately 10 miles from Merida. I drove there early in the morning and parked outside. I paid a small entrance fee of $5 – 10. It is a huge site to explore and get lost in the Mayan history. My favorite part of this historical site was Cenote Xlacah and the museum. It was my first time seeing a cenote, which is a natural pit or sinkhole resulting from collapse of limestone bedrock exposing the underground water. I dived into the cenote to refresh myself and live the Mayan glory. After swimming in cenote, I explored other parts of the site, which displays good explanation of historical significance for public to understand Mayan culture. The museum displays a large collection of Mayan cultural heritage.
On my 2nd day, I decided to explore the capital city of Yucatan and the main square of Merida. It is referred as Zocalo which translates to main square. My trip was in December, so the main center was decorated beautifully and was busting with people enjoying live street arts and performances. The zocalo is home to some historical architectural buildings. see this beautiful area. I highly recommend visiting Cathedral, Casa Montejo, Palcio Municipal, Palacio de Gobierno, Convento de Las Monjas, Iglesia de Jesus and Paseo Montejo. I parked my rental car in one of the publicly run parking places and explored the city on foot as all these spots are at walking distance from each other.
On my 3rd day in Merida, I decided to explore Celestun, which was 1.5hrs from my hotel. Celestin is a fishing village and home to flocks of flamingos and also has a unique biosphere reserve. The best way to explore this town and see flamingos is to take a boat tour which costs about 1500 – 2000 Mexican Pesos and lasts for 2 hours. The boat can accommodate 4-6 people. I decided to share the boat with a family of 5 and pitch in my share of 400 pesos. They were really nice people. The boat took us to a small island of flamingos and other birds. They also stopped at hidden cenote for 15 minutes. The water was extremely cold but it is once in a life time opportunity and should never be missed to jump into this freshness. The cenote is small and all the boat tours make a 15 minutes stop, so usually it is crowded. Boat tour is a must if you plan to visit Celestun. After the boat, I enjoyed the beach and tried some good food and drinks.
Chichen Itza and Ik Kil Cenote
On my 4th day, I went to see Chichen Itza and Ik Kil Cenote. My first stop was Chichen Itza, which is a complex of Mayan ruins. It was 1.5hrs drive from my hotel. It is a tourist hub and the best time to avoid crowds is early morning before tourist buses starts arriving. I paid a general admission of about 400 Mexican Pesos and decided to explore the complex at my own due to my budget constraints but you can also hire tour guides. My favorite part of the complex was the central pyramid and local art and crafts displayed for purchase. You can always bargain to get better prices of what you are comfortable of paying. After spending several hours exploring this Mayan complex, it was time to relax and enjoy a cool swim in Ik Kil Cenote, which is 10 minutes from Chichen Itza. It has to be one of the best cenote in Mexico and because it is so famous amount tourists, it is always crowded. After a fun day of exploring Chichen Itza and enjoying Ik Kil, I headed back to my hotel.
On my final day in Merida, I decided to explore the yellow city of Izamal. It was an hour drive from my hotel and when you enter Izamal, you will see almost every wall of the city painted in yellow. My favorite part of the city was exploring Convento de San Antonio. After that I took a horse cart ride around the city. It was an hour tour with multiple stops at historical Mayan sites. I paid 150 pesos for the tour and I highly recommend the tour. I enjoyed some good tacos lunch and returned to my hotel in the afternoon.
After spending 5 days in Merida and exploring the beautiful state of Yucatan, I fell in love with Mexico and decided to return soon to explore other magical cities. During my stay, I enjoyed some of the best Mexican food and tried street tacos. I felt very safe throughout my stay and never felt any danger. The best way to keep yourself safe is to stay low key and travel during day time. I made some good friends who helped my alot to explore this beautiful state. After staying five nights in Merida, I checked out early morning and drove back to Cancun airport to drop off the rental car and got on the plan back home to Atlanta with memories for life.