Mexican culture is alive in Merida

October 26, 2018
lively street scene in Merida dancing

My family has a deep connection to Mexican culture – my dad has spent a lot of time in Mexico and owned a few different houses in Mérida. Mérida is the capital of the Yucatan and about four hours drive from Cancún. It’s a city filled with vibrant people, food and art. It’s also not too difficult to access many Mayan ruins like Chichen Itza and Uxmal. Mérida is a fairly safe area of Mexico and home to many expats. I was able to spend a month there and get by with broken Spanish.

street in Merida Mexico with horse drawn carriage

lively street in Merida Mexico dancing

The ruins are my favorite part of Mexico. Chichen Itza, one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, is definitely worth a visit. But if you really want to explore uninhibited I recommend Uxmal. These ruins are more off the beaten path and you can still climb a lot of the buildings. The climb up the Great Pyramid is not for the faint of heart. The stairs were built for tiny Mayan feet so they are very narrow and steep. Several times on the way up I looked down and saw a straight drop to the very far away ground. Once you make it the views are spectacular and you’re high above the trees. To get down I swallowed my pride, sat down, and slowly scooted down on my butt. I’m not afraid of heights and my stomach dropped several times so I tried to keep my gaze level with the sky and not look down.

Another bucket list spot in the Yucatan is Las Coloradas, Mexico’s pink lakes. It’s definitely on my itinerary for my next trip!

ruins of Uxmal in Mexico

Uxmal’s Pyramid of the Magician

ruins of Uxmal in Mexico

The stairs are narrow and steep

Don’t look down!

View from the top of the Great Pyramid in Uxmal

Mayan symbols Uxmal ruins

Mayan symbols (my ring is the Venus)

girl in front of ruins in Uxmal Mexico

ruins in Uxmal Mexico

The Pyramid of the Magician (I’m 5’7″ for comparison)

Mexico is often hot and it’s important to choose carefully when you visit. I spent a few days there in April and it was already a sweltering 108*F. It’s extremely important to stay hydrated and bottled water is a must. When I was there I also ate very lightly as I became sick when trying to eat the savory food I was so looking forward to (your digestion sort of shuts down when it’s that hot and you aren’t used to it).

Merida Mexico food and Chaya juice

Food in Mérida is excellent, but not always similar to the Mexican food served in American restaurants. There are many small restaurants, or cocinas economicas, along the street that are a fast and easy option for lunch. I got a quesadilla filled with nopales (cactus). Pancho’s restaurant is good for evening meals and very American-friendly. Get the guacamole! They make it fresh for you tableside. Chaya juice is a bright-green dose of vitamins and supposed health benefits made from the namesake plant’s leaves. Our accomodation, Hotel MedioMundo, has a vegan restaurant I also recommend. If you’d like to try making a popular mexican street food at home I suggest these delicious mexican tortas.

Mérida is filled with galleries and vivid artwork. There are also lots of shops selling fine silver jewelry, many of the designs are from Mayan symbols. I have a ring featuring the symbol of Venus.

Hotel MedioMundo’s balcony

For my next trip to Mexico I am hoping to visit the dreamy Tulum and see more ruins!

girl in front of colorful building

  • Reply
    July 31, 2019 at 5:27 pm

    Chichen Itza is on my bucket list but I’m not sure I’ll be brave enough to climb those steps. They look very steep indeed. I think it would be marvellous to be able to spend a month somewhere like this and really absorb the local culture.

  • Reply
    July 31, 2019 at 9:41 pm

    Ooh thanks for putting Uxmal on my radar! I feel like people talk about Chichen Itza all the time, but I don’t really hear about Uxmal. I know what you mean with those steps though – they do look steep! I felt that way a little when I was at Teotihuacan trying to go down the stairs of the pyramids with my short little legs (I’m only 5’2″)!

  • Reply
    Bhushavali N
    August 1, 2019 at 5:26 pm

    OMG! Mexico is high up in my wishlist for its Mayan Civilization sites. Good to know Merida is a safe and friendly place to base the travels from.
    Big thanks for introducing Uxmal to me! I hadn’t known of the place. Indeed Uxmal is off the beaten track and looks much less crowded than Chichen Itza. Indeed its steep and that photo of your shoes is just scary! As much as I’d love to do it, I’m gonna take a few more years to head here as I don’t think I can do it with babywearing! I’m gonna wait till my toddler grows a bit more!
    I don’t think I’ve ever tried eating cactus! I’d love to try that!

  • Reply
    Mijia Eggers
    August 1, 2019 at 6:09 pm

    I would like that staircases if the pyramids! I wonder if I could climb all the way up without any breaks. This place is on my list when I finally am able to master some basic Spanish.

  • Reply
    August 2, 2019 at 9:33 pm

    I always thought you have to hike or walk more if you want to get spectacular views, and I never thought climbing a pyramid is one of them. But it’s so worth it just by reading your story and looking at your pictures. I think I will do the same, scooted down on my butt going down. Haha… And it’s the first time I heard that Merida is an expat town, so it helps a lot I guess for overseas visitors.

  • Reply
    Kristy Bullard
    August 3, 2019 at 3:48 pm

    We have been to Mexico a few times, but have yet to visit Merida. Your post make me want to fly there today – just to eat authentic Mexican food! I would also love to soak up some of the Mexican culture, see the artwork, and climb the ruins. Sounds like the perfect trip!

  • Reply
    Ami Bhat
    August 4, 2019 at 12:46 pm

    The climb does seem arduous but am glad that you attempted it. I would too, I mean…you never know what you find atop that pyramid. And a hearty Mexican meal after all that sound like a deal sealer. Loved reading about your adventure.

  • Reply
    Yukti Agrawal
    August 4, 2019 at 8:11 pm

    As I read more about Mayan civilization, I get more curious about it and want to see these ruins in person. I loved the vibrant and colorful Mexican culture still alive in Merida. I would surely go for Uxmal as recommended by you. That Venus symbol ring looks fabulous and I would also love to have one when I visit this interesting place.

Leave a Reply

LET'S JETKeep up with my adventures.

Do you want to know how I found a roundtrip flight to Europe for $200?

What about the tricks I used to spend months in Australia and New Zealand with only a backpack?

Or my complete guide to 12 days in Italy covering all the major destinations?

Sign up for all my exclusive newsletter tips below!