Yucátan’s multi-hued capital is also Mexico’s unsung cultural jewel
There are a lot of cliches in travel writing, chief among them being so-called “hidden gems.” Well, welcome to Mérida, the capital of the Yucatán, a shimmering post-colonial metropolis of colorful buildings, art, and archaeological wonder. (Yucatán, by the way, is not the same as the Yucatán peninsula. Three states make up the Yucatán peninsula: Quintana Roo, home to Cancún, Campeche, and Yucatán. Tucked between the other two, Yucatán holds prime real estate between pristine beaches and colonial Mexican culture.)
The city was built on the site of the ancient Mayan city, T’ho, founded by Spaniards in the 16th century. The main thoroughfare of Mérida is its Calle 60, a straight artery that cruises past the major historical sites of the city (Plaza de Independencia, cathedral, Parque de Santa Lucia), as well as some of the best eats and cantinas that spark with live music on the weekends. One minute, you’ll be wandering the streets and marveling at still-standing Spanish colonial architecture, and the next you’ll find yourself in a market like Mercado Lucas De Galvéz or Mercado Santiago snacking on local fruits like spiky-but-cute rambutan or huaya, a lime special to the Yucatán. From Mérida, it’s a quick hop to archaeological sites like Uxmal, which is Chichen Itza minus 30,000 other people, or find yourself on a stunning beach of soft, sugary sand just outside the city. It’s almost baffling why Mérida isn’t on more peoples’ radars, but that’s also part of its charm: There’s more for the rest of us.