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Destination inspiration: Mérida, Mexico

The old streets of Mérida

The old streets of Mérida

Why go?

Life is about as colourful as it gets in the capital of México’s Yucatán state. Mérida was founded by the Spanish in 1542 on the site of a key Maya settlement. Today, this thriving city blends cosmopolitan with colonial in its historic buildings, modern shops, and open-air restaurants. Culture lovers will be captivated by pastel-hued façades and centuries-old churches, while thrill-seekers can explore the ruins of temples in the surrounding jungle. At weekends, the central Plaza Grande hosts a bustling craft market, along with live music and traditional dancing.

Cochinita pibil, a delicious dish of pork, beans and rice

Cochinita pibil, a delicious dish of pork, beans and rice

The tropical climate means Mérida is magnet for sun seekers. As temperatures soar, the city’s pace slows. Stroll along shaded tree-lined avenues during the peak afternoon heat, or escape to the nearby Gulf Coast to join locals on the low-key beaches around Progreso. In the evenings, streets and squares burst back into life, and terraces along Paseo Montejo fill with diners. Foodies shouldn’t miss the chance to try typical Yucatecan cuisine, a fusion of Mexican, Mayan and Mediterranean influences. Mérida’s signature dish is melt-in-your-mouth ‘cochinita pibil’ – pit-roasted pulled pork served with pickled red onion and fiery habanero sauce.

Folk dancers performing a traditional dance

Folk dancers performing a traditional dance

When to go?

For the best chance of dry weather, plan your trip between November and April. January’s relatively mild average of 24 °C makes it ideal for those who can’t stand the heat. Try to avoid visiting in May and June, when afternoon temperatures soar to 40 °C and tropical downpours mark the start of rainy season.

Where to stay?

Fiesta Americana Merida – Mérida, Mexico

This landmark hotel stands on the corner of Mérida’s main avenues, Paseo Montejo and Avenida Colón. The Fiesta Americana’s grand façade hides a central courtyard with an open-air pool, while its elegant rooms feature flat-screen TVs and balconies. You can sample authentic Yucatecan dishes at the two on-site restaurants, or eat alongside locals on Paseo Montejo.

Hotel Hacienda Mérida VIP – Mérida, Mexico

This restored hacienda blends authentic colonial architecture with modern amenities. The airy rooms open onto a traditional courtyard with a swimming pool and garden. Guests rave about the attentive service and the central location, just a few steps from Paseo Montejo and Mérida Cathedral.

Hotel Montejo – Mérida, Mexico

Hotel Montejo gives a true taste of the city’s colonial history, with beamed ceilings, stone archways and a peaceful courtyard. You’ll find traditional furnishings and cooling tiled floors in the spacious, air-conditioned rooms. The hotel is highly rated by guests for its central location, within a few minutes’ walk of Mérida’s restaurants, markets and museums.