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The capital of the Yucatán is all charm and the secret's out: Mérida, a cultural hub that retains its Mayan roots and flavor, has become a favorite of cosmopolitan expats who are methodically buying houses in the colonial core and restoring them into dream homes. While such a trend is potentially ruinous (look at parts of Costa Rica, the "51st State"), what differentiates Mérida's foreigner community is its artistic bent — many new arrivals are artists, gallery owners, or writers — and genuine respect for local culture (even if few speak Spanish). Who knows what will follow, but for now, Mérida is enchanting. Life ...

The capital of the Yucatán is all charm and the secret's out: Mérida, a cultural hub that retains its Mayan roots and flavor, has become a favorite of cosmopolitan expats who are methodically buying houses in the colonial core and restoring them into dream homes. While such a trend is potentially ruinous (look at parts of Costa Rica, the "51st State"), what differentiates Mérida's foreigner community is its artistic bent — many new arrivals are artists, gallery owners, or writers — and genuine respect for local culture (even if few speak Spanish). Who knows what will follow, but for now, Mérida is enchanting. Life here revolves around the shady parks and plazas strewn throughout the city, with neighbors meeting to enjoy a concert and dine on the delicious Yucatecan food sold at plaza markets. On Sundays, the city center is closed to traffic and entire families take to the streets on bikes before heading to the Plaza Principal for dance recitals and salsa concerts until the wee hours. Culture vultures will love Mérida for its museums, theater, intimate music clubs, colonial architecture, and gourmet restaurants, but the heart and soul of the city comes from the Mayan hospitality everywhere in evidence. The city is also perfectly located for day trips to Chichén Itzá, Uxmal, and off-the-beaten track Puuc sites. El Progreso and the beaches beyond are less than an hour away and the flamingo colonies at the Ría Celestún Biosphere Reserve are within close proximity, too. Mérida is also wonderfully gay friendly.

Conner Gorry
About the Expert

Conner Gorry is a contributor to more than a dozen Lonely Planet guidebooks and is the lead writer for Lonely Planet's Yucatan, Belize, and Guatemala guides.

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Conner Gorry for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Merida is the capital and largest city of the Mexican state of Yucatán and the Yucatán Peninsula. It is located in the northwest part of the state, about 35 km (22 miles) from the Gulf of Mexico coast.
  • Language: Spanish
  • Currency: Mexican Peso
  • Research: Wikipedia | Wikitravel
  • Weather: Rainfall | Daylight

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    February-March for Carnaval