Things To Do In Mérida On Your Next Trip

An Insider Reveals The Vibrant City Of Mérida, Ancient Mayan Sites, And Natural Wonders
Sayil Torrez meets with resort guests.
Sayil Torrez
Concierge, Chablé Resort And Spa

For Sayil Torrez, her position at Chablé Yucatan is ideal in every way imaginable. As a Yucatecan—a resident of the Yucatán—her background provides a unique perspective on the resort’s special blending of modern design, alongside elements of Mayan culture and colonial heritage. At every corner, whether the millennia-old cenote or the remnants of a sisal factory, guests encounter something whose allure seems palpable. Torrez aims to enhance such experiences through expertise, and above all, by the attentive service that characterizes Chablé and the special warmth of the Yucatecos.

Sayil was born in the state of Michoacán in western Mexico, celebrated as a winter habitat of the monarch butterfly. But she grew up in Mérida on the Yucatán peninsula and considers herself a Yucatecan. Before coming to the Chablé Yucatan, work in a hotel awakened her love for the hospitality industry and for visitors to Mexico. At Chablé, where she is a concierge, Torrez takes pleasure in introducing guests to the resort’s many features, including its spa, set uncommonly by a cenote.

Enjoy the tranquility of a private terraces in a casita surrounded by lush greenery.
Chablé Yucatan

Chablé is a magical place. Twenty-five minutes away from Mérida, the historic city and capital of Yucatán state, the resort is set within the heart of the Mayan forest and spread amply across 750 acres of the Yucatán peninsula. It is imbued with a special quality. Accommodations are built on the grounds of the 200-year-old San Antonio hacienda, a former cattle ranch, later a factory for the production of sisal, the natural fiber once used in the making of rope. Chablé’s signature and award-winning spa is built beside a cenote, a type of subterranean pool found throughout the Yucatán and since ancient times considered sacred by the Maya.

Local Recommendations

Explore the Yucatán with Sayil Torrez

The Yucatán is both a Mexican state and the name of the peninsula of which it forms a part. Mérida, its capital, a city that dates to the 16th-century, has a rich history, distinguished by architecture, traditional Yucatecan cuisine and culinary innovation, contemporary Mexican fashion and design together with centuries-old hand craft or artesanía. A visit to the city—a convenient 25 minutes from Chablé—is essential, according to Torrez, who spent her childhood there. She shares her guide to Mérida, her favorite Mayan archaeological site, and a wondrous nature reserve, renowned for the annual—and spectacular—nesting of flamingos.

Architecture And Museums

Visions of Mérida Past And Present

Established in 1542 by the Spanish, Mérida has a special claim among Mexican cities. Handsome colonial buildings—San Ildefonso Cathedral and 16th-century mansions—grace the perimeter of its central plaza and define much of the city’s historic center. Known as the “white city”—in part because of the predominant use of limestone which endows Mérida with a luminous appearance—this is Mexico, where some façades are embellished in an array of vivid colors: peach, lime green, periwinkle blue. Striking, too, are the grand residences and Beaux Arts palaces that line the leafy boulevard Pasejo Montejo, built in the late 18th and 19th centuries. Among them is Palacio Cantón, constructed at the turn of the 20th century for a former governor of Yucatán. It now houses the Regional Museum of Anthropology of Yucatán (485 Paseo de Montejo; +52-999-923-0557), with extensive holdings of Mayan artifacts, and an overview of the history and culture of the Yucatán, including colonial and independent Mexico. Complimenting this collection is that of the spectacular Gran Museo del Mundo Maya (299E Calle 60 Norte; +52-999-341-0435). Opened in 2012, it considers the Maya civilization along a broad panorama—pre-Hispanic, colonial, and present day—which is made vivid by interactive displays and the latest in digital technology.

A Beaux Arts palace along Mérida's Paseo Montejo. Photo courtesy of the Yucatán Tourist Board.

The Best Restaurants In Mérida

Experiences The Flavors Of Mexico

Dining in Mérida is as varied as one would expect in a city that has welcomed French, Lebanese, Korean, and Caribbean immigrants. It is also a showcase for Mexican cuisine from other regions throughout the country. Nectár (A. García Lavín, Plaza Jardín; +52-999-938-0838) offers Yucatecan classics like cochinita pibil—roasted suckling pig—as well as fresh interpretations of traditional food. Emblematic dishes include queso relleno, cheese stuffed with seasoned beef, raisins, and nuts, and venison with a charred corn sauce. Eating at a place named Museo de la Gastronomía Yucateca (466 Calle 62; +52-999-518-1645) might sound earnest but the experience is far from it. Tables are set around a central patio and in the adjacent rooms of a gracious casona. One should not miss the caldo de lima, a finely seasoned broth, with chicken, avocado, and lime juice, its essential ingredient. Apoala (471 Calle 60; +52-999-923-1979) is a fine dining spot on the Parque Lucía, which in addition to Yucatecan-inspired food, has dishes inspired by Oaxaca, one of Mexico’s great regional cuisines. Brother and sister Carlos Arnaud García and Sara María preserve their Oaxacan grandmother’s recipes fused with by contemporary taste. Here, Oaxacan black mole sauce bathes house-made tortillas filled with quinoa and amaranth.

The lime soup, a specialty at the restaurant Museo de la Gastronomía Yucateca. Photo courtesy of the Yucatán Tourist Board.

Where To Shop

Where To Find Fashion Forward Apparel And Traditional Crafts

Few of the mansions along Paseo Montejo are still family residences—some are corporate or private offices, house museums—but the more intimately-scaled Casa T’hō (498 Paseo Montejo; +52-999-923-2350)—a Mayan name for Mérida—gives a sense of a type of house built in the early 19th-century. The architectural style is eclectic. Palm trees fill its patio around which is the restaurant Guillermina, an art gallery, and 11 boutiques with an array of fashion for women and men by Yucatecan and Mexican designers (Carla Fernández, Daniela Bustos Maya, Yucabanas), plus botanical fragrances, jewelry, and housewares. For traditional crafts, the Casa de las Artesanías del Estado de Yucatán (503A Calle 63; +52-999-928-6676) has embroidered textiles, sisal bags and basketry, decorative bowls made from calabash gourds, and guayabera shirts.

The courtyard of Casa T'hō, a collection of shops showcasing Yucatecan and Mexican designers. Photo courtesy of the Yucatán Tourist Board.

Archaeological Sites

Visit Uxmal, A Singular Mayan City

Of the Mayan archaeological sites in Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula, Uxmal ( is one of most important and best-preserved, known for the Puuc-style of architecture. Like Chichén Itzá, Uxmal is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Unlike other Maya cities, it was not laid out geometrically but rather organized in relation to astronomical observation, the planetary movement of Venus. Wide, open spaces and plazas characterize Uxmal. Construction suggests a period within the 8th and 10th centuries A.D., although the site was likely inhabited by the mid-6th century and its population grew to 15,000 or 20,000. Among its notable buildings, crafted in soft pink and yellow stone, are the sweeping Pyramid of the Soothsayer, the Governor’s Palace, the House of the Tortoises, which are enhanced at night by an evocative sight-and-sound show.

The grand pyramid of the Soothsayer at Uxmal. Photo courtesy of the Yucatán Tourist Board.

Nature Preserves

Aviary Biospheres

While the Yucatán is a year-round destination, a special claim can be made for visiting in December. Every year, more than 23,000 American flamingos arrive to nest in the Celestún and Lagartos estuaries (, both of which represent Special Biosphere Reserves in Yucatán. Celestún is on the northwest coast, very close to the adjacent state of Campeche, and the closer to Chablé. If the collective noun for the bird is a flamboyance of flamingos, these numbers suggests a riot of color. As a natural wetland encompassing both salt and freshwater lagoons, Celestún and Lagartos attracts more than 300 migratory and resident birds, including herons, ducks, geese, gulls, and plovers. This nature reserve is a birder’s paradise, but it is also an important nesting area for the hawksbill and loggerhead sea turtles, and among mammals, the jaguar and ocelot.

American flamingos during the annual migration to the north coast of the Yucatán. Photo courtesy of the Yucatán Tourist Board.