The Yucatán Peninsula is rightly a favorite among American travelers throughout the year, especially in winter.
With vibrant and beautiful coastal resorts to choose from, including Chetumal, Tulum, Playa del Carmen, and Cancún, this part of Mexico is hard to beat.
But away from the sun-kissed shores, there are some fascinating destinations in the interior of this region that are absolutely worth exploring, and one of those is Mérida.
Rich in colonial history, this picturesque destination is an epicenter of culture in the region. It’s not only a great launchpad to explore the whole peninsula from, but is a captivating place to see in its own right too.
Here are six reasons why you shouldn’t miss Mérida during a trip to the Yucatán Peninsula:
Close To Big Attractions
Mérida lies in the northwest corner of Yucatán state, close to the north coast of this peninsula.
Whether it’s pristine beaches or ancient ruins that take your fancy, Mérida’s location is an ideal base to explore the wide range of attractions in this amazing region of Mexico.
Mérida is about 75 miles east of the iconic Maya ruins at Chichen Itza and 50 miles north of the ancient city of Uxmal.
It’s also very close to many different cenotes (natural sinkholes, many of which you can swim in) – one of the closest being Cenote Xlacah.
Learn More About History
There’s no shortage of interesting historical sites in Mérida; even the main square – Plaza Grande – has hallmarks of both ancient and colonial history.
The Catedral de San Ildefonso is perhaps one of the most striking buildings – this cathedral was built on the site of a former Maya temple and even used some of the temple’s stone in its construction.
Elsewhere, buildings such as the Palacio Cantón, Casa de Montejo, and Teatro Peón Contreras give more insight into the history of this city.
The main attraction you should not miss is the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya – one of the best museums on Maya culture in the world with more than 1,000 different artifacts. If you want to immerse yourself, this is the place.
Live Like A Local
Mérida is one of those towns where it’s easy to feel like a local simply by being there for a few days.
Walk around the lively markets, take in the almost-nightly free music and entertainment in the plazas, or enjoy the hum of the city center crowds on the car-free Sunday mornings.
Despite its size and stature as the capital city of the Yucatán state, Mérida manages to maintain a small-town atmosphere with friendly folks and a strong sense of community.
Fantastic For Foodies
Mérida is one of the best places to sample the delicious food of the Yucatán, with plenty of restaurants and food vendors catering to all budgets.
One of the most iconic dishes is cochinita pibil, which is a barbecued pulled pork dish that has a deep and earthy flavor with varying degrees of spiciness.
Another highlight is sopa de lime (literally lime soup). It’s kind of what the name suggests, but usually has some meat such as chicken or turkey in it too.
The refreshing citrus flavor of this one comes from the Yucatecan limes of the region.
More Flights Being Added
While Cancún is the most obvious airport to fly into this part of Mexico, there is also an airport in Mérida, which is currently expanding its offering of flights with help from the local tourism organization.
It was recently reported that the airport here will soon have direct flights from Miami, Orlando, and Atlanta via Mexican airline Viva Aerobus and U.S. airline Delta.
This extends the list of American cities from which you can fly directly to Mérida, which already includes Houston, Denver, Dallas, Los Angeles, and New York (Newark).
Good Transport Links
There are multiple reliable and affordable bus services that connect Mérida with Campeche in the west, and Cancún, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and Chetumal in the east.
The city and wider area are also well serviced by taxis or other hired vehicles. You can even find ride apps such as Uber or Ryde & Go in operation.
If you are planning to visit an attraction that is a couple of hours drive away from Mérida, then a bus is usually a good option – that or hiring a driver between a group.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com