is a beautiful city with a rich Mayan and colonial heritage. There are busy squares and markets surrounding old churches and plenty of shops, bars and restaurants to keep you entertained.
It’s safe to walk around at night; the parks are full of families enjoying the cooler evenings, mariachi bands serenading couples and tourists trying to photograph it all. It’s the perfect place to sit back and people watch!
The centre of it all is the Plaza de la Independencia, with the pink Municipal Palace to the west, the grand House of Montejo to the south which houses a free art gallery, and the hugeCathedral to the east.
We stayed at the Santa Lucia Hostel, only a 5-minute walk from the main square. It was the cheapest option, with AC, shared bathrooms and really helpful staff!
The Puuc Route
As there were 4 of us we hired a car for the day to drive this famous route. It was relatively cheap, even with the mandatory insurance that can put the price up quite a lot. I think we paid US$40 for the day, so $10 each, plus gas. It’s also possible to do this route with a tour group if you ask around.
We checked out a lot of car rentals and they all offer basically the same packages, so go with whichever one can give you a little something extra, whether it’s a free upgrade or just a few dollars off.
The full route includes Loltun Caves and the Mayan ruins of Labna, X-Lapak, Sayil, Kabah and Uxmal. It’s a 350km round trip, around 5 – 6 hours of driving, but if you just want to visit the main attractions of Loltun, Kabah and Uxmal you can cut it down to 288km and 4 hours. You’ll need to fill up before heading back, there is a gas station in the town of Ticul.
The only problem we had was getting pulled over at a roadblock while the police searched us, our bags, and the car, inch by inch. I think they were desperate to find something so they could bribe us for money… but when they realised they had nothing they begrudgingly let us go.
Pronounced “Oosh-mal”, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most important archaeological sites of Mayan culture. It’s not as huge as Chichen Itza but there is still a lot to see, and the best part is you can walk on to most of the ruins to get a much closer look!
We made this the first stop on our road trip so we could get there early to avoid the crowds, and it worked. We pretty much had the entire park to ourselves and had a couple of hours to enjoy it before moving on. Entrance costs Mex$188 (£7.40) and is well worth it.
This is one of the largest cave systems in all of Mexico, and can only be visited with a guide, tours run almost every hour from 9:30am to 4pm. Entrance costs Mex$108 (£4.25) and you’ll be expected to tip your guide at least Mex$125 (£5) each.
Your guide will tell you all about the history of the caves and what the Mayans used them for. As you enter the huge, well-lit caverns you’ll be shown the stalagmites, stalactites and cave paintings from the Mayan people.
It’s one of the more expensive activities I did in Mexico, but it’s very cool and you get to learn a lot more about the history of the Mayans. 10/10, would recommend!
The second largest Mayan temple in the area is Kabah, famous for the intricate carvings of the “Palace of the Masks”, decorated with hundreds of stone masks of the rain god Chaac.
It was really quiet here even though we arrived in the middle of the day, so it’s a really peaceful place to explore at your own pace without having to rush. Entrance costs only Mex$43 (£1.70) so it’s definitely worth stopping.
After touring the Puuc Route for most of the day, we still had a few hours of daylight left. So we made our way back towards Merida and drove the extra 45km to the beach.
We got there just in time to have a swim while the sun was setting. It looks like it would be a great place to spend a few days if you have the time!
It was a 45-minute drive back into the city of Merida, dropping the rental car off without any problems. It was an amazing day, having our own transport gave us the freedom to do what we wanted, and it’s something everyone should experience!
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