The Quiet Magic of Merida

Home to advanced civilizations for thousands of years, the Yucatan Peninsula is a fascinating stretch of land reaching out into the Gulf of Mexico. It's also home to three incredibly popular destinations - Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum - making it easy to forget there's plenty more of this region to explore. Take the Yucatan state capital of Merida, for example; this spirited colonial city possesses a rich Mayan culture, but is often absent from travel itineraries. Here's how to experience the best of Merida and its surroundings, hidden gems of the Yucatan that hide in plain sight.

Merida's origins date back to 2600 B.C. with the Mayans, and was later influenced by Spanish conquistadors who colonized the area in the 16th century. In size, its historic city center is second only to Mexico City, and it's widely known as La Ciudad Blanca (The White City) thanks to a predominance of white limestone used in its architecture. These bright buildings highlight the cleanliness of the city, which is also one of the country's safest to visit. Enjoy strolling Merida's narrow streets with charming, sherbet-colored facades and learn about the region's fascinating history at the Mayan World Museum of Merida.

Day trips to the area's ancient ruins are a must. Dating back well over a thousand years, sites near Merida include the 150 acres of Uxmal, meaning "thrice built" in Mayan, and Dzibilchaltun, both of which are far less crowded than the impressive-but-busy Chichen Itza. For a truly tranquil experience, head to the ruins of Mayapan, which were home to the last thriving Mayan civilization before the arrival of the Spanish. Like Merida, Mayapan has managed to fly under the radar and is a great place to escape the crowds.


The area's indigenous influence extends far beyond archaeology, however; a significant portion of Merida's population is of Mayan heritage, making for a unique cuisine not found in other parts of Mexico. There are plenty of bustling local markets with a diversity of local offerings, including citrus fruits that are foundational to Yucatecan cuisine. Salbutes - savory fried tortillas piled high with shredded turkey, avocado and other toppings - are a must-try street food, while the enchilada-adjacent papadzules are smothered in the region's famous pumpkin seed sauce. When you're in need of something sweet, crispy and crepe-like marquesitas can be found on just about every corner.

When you're not seeking (yet another) marquesita, you can get some exercise with a swim in one of the region's magical cenotes. These subterranean groundwater pools were revered as sacred wells by the Mayans, and it's thought there are at least 6000 scattered over the peninsula. Some of the best are just a short journey from Merida, including Dzonbacal and Chacsinicche.

In addition to Merida's charismatic offerings, you may also be in search of some middle-of-nowhere downtime on your trip to Mexico. A stay at Chable Yucatun will give you the best of both worlds; although just 25 minutes from the Merida International Airport, this hotel invites visitors to find tranquility in the heart of the Mayan jungle.

Chable Yucatun is built around a traditional 18th-century hacienda, and is a wellness resort that focuses on sustaining the health of the land surrounding it and creating one-of-a-kind experiences for guests. There's yoga next to the property's very own cenote, Mayan renewal ceremonies, and an exceptional culinary program led by the internationally-renowned chef Jorge Vallejo.

So, on your next trip to the Yucatan, remember just how large the region is. Consider verging from the more well-trodden paths towards the elegant city of Merida, as well as the quiet ancient ruins and undiscovered cenotes that await you.

Internova SELECT Hotels & Resorts
The following hotel is an ideal place to find wellness in the Mayan jungle, and from which to explore Merida and its surroundings. While there, enjoy special bonus amenities made available to you through Internova SELECT Hotels & Resorts.

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