I’m back from my amazing trip to Merida, Mexico! Named the cultural capital of the Americas twice, Merida was the perfect choice for my solo trip. I spent a lot of time exploring the city and touring other parts of the Yucatan. Merida has everything I love about travel: great people, fantastic food, a thriving arts and cultural scene, and a dynamic nightlife! For pictures, please visity my instagram – @nichelleappleby.
The People – I love the Spanish language, but I am not fluent, and so I tested my Spanish which also tested the patience of the Meridians (many also speak the native tongue of their Myan ancestors as well). Everyone was extremely kind and easy to engage with. They entertained my broken Spanish and praised me for my ability to understand the language. I had a chance to meet local Meridians (a sweet couple in the tiny and secret speakeasy Malahat, expats (retirees that moved away from the hustle and expense of the States), entrepreneurs (a Belgian bar owner’s girlfriend), as well as some solo travelers (hi @galilivantsandrants) enjoying all the city had to offer. All and all, the people of Merida and the tourists are wonderful to be around.
Ancient Maya – My draw to Merida was its Myan history. Merida was once a Mayan city and is close to a host of beautiful ancient pyramids still standing around the Yucatan Peninsula. I visited Uxmal, Kabah, and Kinich Kakmo, all pyramids and areas where the Mayans performed ceremonies, played games, received visitors, and housed priests and royals. It was wonderful to see these structures that are over 1,000 years old. The Yucatan has done a great job of preserving and restoring these sites. I did not visit Chichen Itza, a world wonder, as it was further away, but I will return to Merida it is next on my list :).
The food – The Mayans of time past believed the first man was made from corn, so you can imagine how important corn is to the cuisine of Merida today. There aregreat traditional dishes; conchinita pibil, panuchos, lime soup and of course wonderfully fresh tortillas. Mexico is much cheaper to eat in than the States (even an upscale dinner is half the price) and so I was able to eat a lot of great food at extremely reasonable prices. Below are some of my favorite restaurants:
La Chaya Maya – one of the most well known and best places to get Yucatecan food. The tortillas are made by hand in front of you.
Tratto – Located in the upscale Santa Lucia square. No traditional Mexican food here, but their Argentinian steak is to die for!
Pola Gelato – Very unique flavors! I had the Cardamom and Lime gelato. Yum!
Chilakilers – Chilaquelia anyone?! A traditional Mexican breakfast, this spot puts a spin on the dish with different toppings as well as fresh blended juices. I liked it so much I went twice :).
Arts/Culture – Engaging with the local culture is important for me when I travel. Tourist traps are always a concern as I want to get to know the city and its people. Unlike Cancun, or other party towns, Merida is a place where culture can truly be explored. The city appreciates the arts and its rich culture. Sunday evenings the main square has a ‘dance’ party for the locals (tourists are invited). A live band plays and locals dance in the streets. Salsa, bachata and meringue are on display and everyone can really dance! I was also able to see ‘Noche Mexicana’ where songs and traditional Mexcian dance are performed. Most of the attendees were Meridians which removed the ‘tourist’ feeling from the event. From the beauty of the Cathedral in the Parque Grande to Soho Galleries, the city and its residents keep art and art culture alive by showcasing their best. I even had a chance to watch a free screening of the classic La Dolce Vita (in Italian, subtitled in Spanish) at the Olimpo cultural center.
Nightlife (Daylife) – “Today there is a party,” was what I heard almost every day on my trip, but the parties are not just at night. They start during the day. Merida has cantinas and bars. Cantinas open around lunch and close before midnight; bars open around dinner time and close after midnight. Most locations have a stage for live music, and almost everyone in Merida can sing, play an instrument and dance. I love live music so this was one of the highlights of my trip. My favorite spots were places that I found while exploring or suggestions from Meridians. Below are a few of the hot spots:
Pipiripau was one of the first bars I visited. A self-professed ‘dive bar’, the open space with older table and chairs makes the atmosphere just right for having a cerveza, and dancing the evening away. I was taken there by a local my first weekend and then brought a couple of solo travelers I met during the week. We had a blast!
La Negrita Cantina is my favorite cantina! Characterized by the beautiful ‘negrita’ on the far left wall when first walking in, and the ‘hipsters’ that gather to have drinks, it is a great spot to meet friends before dinner, or right before heading out for a night out on the town.
La Fundacion Mezcaleria – Serving a variety of mezcals and copious amounts of pre-mixed mezcal cocktails, the Mezcaleria is one of the hottest bars to drink and dance. I love dancing the night away, and on my last night that is exactly what I did!
Merida is a wonderful city and I look forward to making another trip to explore more of the Yucatan!