4 Days in Merida, Mexico

A perfect 4 days in a new destination means finding culture, great food and authentic experiences. Merida, and its picturesque surroundings with ancient archeological sites, delivered way beyond my expectations. There’s so much beauty there, and there’s so much more to be discovered that I can’t wait to come back. This place is still off the beaten path and selfishly I hope it stays that way a little longer...

On Thursday nights, there’s one place to be in Merida: the Plaza Parque Santa Lucía with a free weekly performance of music, dancing, and poetry, all emceed in rapid fire Spanish to much laughter and some hackling by the locals. Apoala Restaurant is a fantastic place to eat, people watch and wait for the 9pm spectacle to start. Make sure you reserve a spot outside on the terrace, with a perfect view of the stage. Apoala serves delicious Oaxacan dishes– traditional, and contemporary with a fresh take on preparation and ingredients. Many dishes are geared towards carnivores, but vegetarians won’t be disappointed either. Apoala takes mezcal very serious, and it is a great place to learn more about it, and most importantly, taste a number of them. Ask Arni Murillo, the GM and hipster ‘mescalier’ for a suggestion, commit to a flight, or just opt for one of their mezcal cocktails. You can’t go wrong. My favorite drink, the Mayahuel, is made with sour orange juice, agave syrup and possibly a few other ingredients I forgot to write down after I had the second (or was it the third?). If you’re not into mezcal, you’ll enjoy working your way through Apoala’s wine list, which focuses on small, interesting wineries in Ensenada, Baja. Don’t forget to make a reservation for dinner ahead of time, the place is humming. Parque Santa Lucía, Centro Tel. 999 923 1979 www.apoala.mx Monday to Saturday 1 pm – 12 am Sunday 2 pm – 11 pm Friday and Saturday the bar closes at 2:30 am Note on the side: Apoala also has a hidden, absolutely gorgeous bar, behind a regular, unmarked door, accessible–glamourosly–through the car park behind the restaurant. It is worth checking out for a night-cap, or two and it serves (surprise!!) mezcal-inspired cocktails, and a few other drinks. >>>A heartfelt thank you to Yucatan Tourism for an unforgettable 4 days in the Yucatan, my new favorite place in Mexico! @YucatanTourism #TravelYucatan
Pok-Ta–Pok is an ancient Mayan ball game, that was played thousands of years ago as part of a sacred, sacrificial ceremony, pitting good against evil. The general belief is that the ball, five pounds of solid rubber, could only be hit with forearms and thighs. The goal of the game was to maneuver the ball through a stone hoop extending from a wall. The winner (yes, winner!) of the game was sacrificed, which was then the highest honor bestowed on a Mayan player. Pok-Ta-Pok ball courts, which must have been inspiration for Harry Potter’s Quidditch, can still be found at Mayan archeological sites, such as Chichen Itza, and Uxmal. Friday nights the ancient sport is reenacted in front of Merida Cathedral–luckily though, sans sacrifice. It’s fun to watch and it gets pretty crazy towards the end, when the ball is literally ON FIRE, prompting faster passes, for sure. Get there a little early to grab close-up seats, or a position close to the rails. It is good to be near the action. >>>A heartfelt thank you to Yucatan Tourism for an unforgettable 4 days in the Yucatan, my new favorite place in Mexico! @YucatanTourism #TravelYucatan
Merida has a handful of restaurants that focus on authentic, old-school Yucatean food; cooking that is influenced by Mayan, Caribbean, Spanish, African, and Middle Eastern cultures. I was lucky to eat at one of the best: Chef David Cetina’s ‘La Tradición’. David Cetina is passionate, energetic and charming. He’s also a bit of a local celebrity and a spokesperson for the preservation of the traditional dishes of the Yucatan. His food preparations are authentic and unpretentious. Although he’s bit shy to speak English, he loves to share his knowledge and works with a translator when he takes people to the market, or when he conducts his cooking classes. Spending time with David is fun and educational. The restaurant may feel a bit old-fashioned, but don’t let that get in the way. The food that you’ll experience here explodes with flavors and will blow your mind. There’s also a refreshing, delicious and ‘healthy’ alcoholic drink (shocker, I know!)–the Cocktail de Chaya, a must-have when you’re at La Tradición. Touring the Mercado Lucas de Galvéz, and lunch at La Tradición, can be organized for $100/ per person (minimum 2 people). Lunch can be interactive cooking in a–please note–commercial, and very hot (!!) kitchen, or–my choice, a seated experience. I believe there was talk about building an additional, more leisure focused kitchen specifically for cooking lessons, so you may want to inquire about that. To book, please contact the restaurant directly: +52 (999) 925-2526, or chef.david@latradicionmerida.com >>>A heartfelt thank you to Yucatan Tourism for an unforgettable 4 days in the Yucatan, my new favorite place in Mexico! @YucatanTourism #TravelYucatan
Calle 56 & Calle 47, Jardines de Pensiones, 97219 Mérida, Yuc., Mexico
Café Latte | Quattro Sette is a great find if you’re in need for caffeine, tea, or a snack. It’s a fairly new addition to Merida, frequented by tons of expats, natives, and the occasional traveler. The coffee is delicious and strong, and the service super charming...as long as you play by the house rules below : ) REGALES DE LA CASA – House Rules No se permite hablar por teléfono dentro del Café. (No phone calls inside the Café.) El café Illy es elmejor del mundo: Si le gustaría un descafeinado, tome agua. (Illy coffee is the best in the world: if you’d like a decaf, drink water.) Los niños bien portados son bienvenidos. Los demás los convertimos en postres. (Well behaved children are welcome. The rest will be made into pies.) Hablando de postres: la gente flaca es mas fácil de secuestrar,acompag˜e su café con un pan. (Speaking of pies: skinny people are easier to kidnap, have a pastry.) Don’t bring anyone to Latte | Quattro Sette that you wouldn’t bring to your mother’s house on Sunday. (No triage a nadir a Latte | Quattro Sette que no traería a casa de su mamá el domingo.) OPEN: 8:00AM - 4:00PM +52 999 924 8895 >>>A heartfelt thank you to Yucatan Tourism for an unforgettable 4 days in the Yucatan, my new favorite place in Mexico! @YucatanTourism #TravelYucatan
por 65 y 67, Mercado Lucas De Galvéz, Calle 56 Local 15, Centro, 97000 Mérida, Yuc., Mexico
Merida’s main market, Lucas de Galvez, covers 156,000 square feet and has over 2000 vendors that sell fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, seasonings, pots, baskets, animals, shoes, clothes...the list goes on and on. Roughly 100,000 visitors flock to the colorful stalls on a daily basis. It’s a great market to explore on your own, but if you’re curious about some of the unusual fruits, vegetables, herbs, ingredients and prepared foods you’ll likely find here, and may not be familiar with, sign up for a market (and cooking) tour with a chef like David Cetina. It is fun to walk the different food halls with a local-in-the-know. We got to see, smell, and taste tons of things, and we got a good inkling of what makes the Ycatean cuisine so darn delicious. MARKET HOURS: –everyday from 8am-6pm >>>A heartfelt thank you to Yucatan Tourism for an unforgettable 4 days in the Yucatan, my new favorite place in Mexico! @YucatanTourism #TravelYucatan
Antigua Carretera Campeche Km. 78, Uxmal, Yuc., Mexico
Choco–Story is located just 5 mins from the archeological site of Uxmal, so we decided to check it out on our way back to Merida. It looks a bit touristy (disney-ish) from the outside, but it turned out to be a well-executed, interactive museum, that is built around the Mayan culture and history of chocolate. A self-guided tour took us through various smaller huts chronicling the history of chocolate within the Mayan culture, and the best part? A delicious hot chocolate tasting at the end of it! Of course you can taste and buy hot chocolate powder and chocolate bars afterwards at their pretty gift store. My personal highlight though was a powerful demonstration of a Mayan rain ceremony in the forest, in honor of the god Chaac. It began with distinctive, booming sounds, alternating from different directions, from deep within the trees. It slowly traveled closer, until we saw 3 men walking towards the altar in front of us, while they continued to blow into conch shells. It was moving and allowed us a small glimpse into the mystical and majestic Mayan culture. There is also a small wildlife refuge there, with rescued Jaguars, deers, and spider monkeys, that can be fed through the chain link enclosure. OPEN EVERYDAY: 9am – 7:30pm ENTRY FEES (at time of publishing) Adults: $120.00 pesos Seniors(65+) / Students / Children (6-12 years) $90.00 pesos Children less than 6 years: free >>>A heartfelt thank you to Yucatan Tourism for an unforgettable 4 days in the Yucatan, my new favorite place in Mexico! @YucatanTourism #TravelYucatan
Calle 47 & Esquina con 54 S/N, Centro, 97000 Mérida, Yuc., Mexico
It’s a little strange to find yourself in an Italian restaurant in Merida, when your focus should be the local Yucatean cuisine. But when a young, and talented chef like Stefano Marcelletti decides to cook for you at his brand new restaurant, it’s 100% worth the detour. We had the best seats in the house, right in front of the kitchen, which is separated by a large glass wall from the dining room. The flurry of activity inside was infectious, and the incredible dishes they churned out for us, one after the other, left our rambunctious crowd speechless and in awe. It was a real journey for the senses. Simple plates, such as a caprese salad, made our taste buds explode. At the end we all felt it was a good break from our intense foray into Yucatean food over the past few days. The restaurant’s interios is modern, perhaps even a little bit industrial in style. It looked like mostly locals ate here, as we didn’t spot a other tourists. If you’re ready to take a break from Mexican food, or simply in the mood for some scrumptious Italian fare, this is your place. OPEN MON–SAT: 7pm-11pm Oliva Enoteca only takes reservations for 8 and more people. All other will be seated on a first come first serve basis. Calle 47 & Esquina con 54 Colonia Centro, Merida, YUC, MX. Tel. 999.923.3081 >>>A heartfelt thank you to Yucatan Tourism for an unforgettable 4 days in the Yucatan, my new favorite place in Mexico! @YucatanTourism #TravelYucatan
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