Mérida Mexico Things to Do: Yucatecan Excursions

A trip to Hacienda Petac will surely include a visit to Mayan ruins, a swim (or several) in a local cenote and, of course, plenty of time dedicated to poolside relaxation. Between morning yoga and lessons on how to cook with the traditional Yucatecan oven, a pibil, it’s easy to forget just how much there is to do in bustling, nearby Mérida. Below, find a list of excursions and activities in our favorite city. And when you’re exhausted from exploring? A massage and a cocktail will be waiting for you.

 

1. If you plan on being here for an extended period of time, consider taking some Spanish classes. Immersion is a tried and true method. The Centro de Idiomas del Sureste offers Spanish language courses at any level and can be a great group or solo endeavor. We can also arrange group lessons here in the luxury of the Hacienda.

 

2. Mérida is a city of romantic inclinations. Every Thursday for the past 40 years, the city’s beloved Serenata Yucateca has been performed outdoors at Parque de Santa Lucia. Be sure to see the serenade; it will be the soundtrack to the remainder of your trip.

 

 

3. On vacation with your kids? Take them on a walk through a giant aviary at the Centenario Zoo’s bird exhibit or ride the trolley through the park to catch glimpses of the animals of the Yucatan. Thursdays at the Zoo feature live music and dancing and the special show “To Remember is to Live,” which starts at 4 pm.

Just one of the animals you’ll witness aboard the zoo’s trolley.

4. Who doesn’t want to explore the lavish henequen-era mansions of downtown Mérida? The Mérida English Library offers architectural tours of both renovated and to-be-renovated private homes and their gardens every Tuesday during the busy months. Bonus: every week’s tour is different.

Take a tour of Mérida’s most appealing homes and gardens.

5. In need of a pick me up between museums? Swing by Fe y Esperanza, a hole in the wall snack shack that has been popularized for its tacos, tortas, and agua fresca fruit juice. Or, visit Dulcería y Sorbetería Colon, which was founded in 1907 and features tropical sorbets and drinks. They have so many flavors to choose from, it’s hard to pick only one.

 

For a taste of the city’s favorite sweets, visit La Dulcería.

6. Sundays in Mérida are the most exciting day of the week. The Plaza Grande transforms to become one part marketplace one part concert venue. Roads are closed to traffic and opened up in the morning to bicyclists and seekers of crafts, antiques, food and drink, then to dancers and singers in the evening still partying from Saturday night.

 

Saturdays nights that bleed into Sunday mornings are the best part of the week.

7. Learn a few dance moves from the locals every Tuesday evening at Santiago Park as a local group plays big band music of the ‘40s.

 

8. Go cheer for Los Leones, the Yucatan’s baseball team at their baseball stadium, Parque Kukulkan.

Home to the Yucatan nine, Los Leones, the stadium in Mérida is full of spirit.

9. Eat some botanas, traditional appetizers meant to accompany cocktails. Most local cantinas have their own specialties (as well as their own house bands) but definitely order empanadas and ceviche, and try siquilpac, a dip made of roasted calabaza seeds and tomatoes.

 

10. Particularly if you’re on holiday with the kids, consider a visit to “Miniaturas,” an aptly named shop that sells the traditional Mexican folk art form. From dollhouse furniture to satirical masks, this fun little shop is perfect for souvenirs that you’ll actually keep. Next, take a visit to the Fonart 100% Mexico store in the Casa San Angel Hotel to see their high quality crafts for sale that come from all over the country.

A wonderful shop which is practically a museum in itself.

11.  Mérida’s busy Market District, just a few blocks from the Plaza Grande is where you can measure the pulse of the city. From adobo to hand-woven hats to fresh flowers to live chickens, you can find everything here, and people watch as well.

You can find anything you can think of in Mérida’s market district.

12. Is your Spanish improving? Catch a flick at the Cairo Cinema Café, an independent movie theater and coffee shop where a ticket price includes popcorn and you can bring your own wine.

 

13. Drink up! The popularized horchata, made with rice and cinnamon, is a wonderfully refreshing drink. But Mérida is all about fresh juices. Sit along the Plaza Grande with an agua fresca made from hibiscus jamaica, limon, sandia (watermelon), cantaloupe, guayaba, pineapple, barley, or chaya (leafy green vegetable with lots of vitamins).

Mérida has the best fresh fruit juices and horchatas around.

 14. Once you’ve experienced true relaxation here at Petac, you’ll want a way to bring the feeling home with you. Hamacas El Aguacate offers traditional hammocks that will help you do just that.

 

15. Want a traditional Yucatecan outfit to wear on the plane home? Consider a visit to Camisería or Guayabera Jack’s where you can find traditional guayaberas and huipiles and have them custom tailored to fit you.

 

If you think you’ve seen all that Mérida has to offer and want to explore outside city limits, here are a few day excursions that, while requiring a car and a map, promise adventures in their own right.

 

1. The Celestún Biosphere Reserve lies west of Mérida in the fishing village of Celestún and is famous for its pink flamingos. The estuary here as the river mixes with the Gulf of Mexico’s saltwater creates the perfect environment for the beautiful birds. You can also take a boat ride to the nearby petrified wood forest.

Famous for the gorgeous flamingos that call it home, Celestún is worth the trip.

2. What’s more exciting than exploring Yucatecan caves in which the earliest Mayans lived worshiped, and even left hand prints? If you’re looking for an adventure, about an hour and 40 minutes south of Mérida are the hard-to-find Loltun Caves, used during the mid 1800s as a hideaway during the War of the Castes.

The Loltun Caves are believed to be the original temples of the Maya.

3. There are a number of wonderful museums in Mérida, but one of the most fun is the EcoMuseo del Cacao, about an hour and twenty minutes from downtown Mérida, a museum dedicated to the history, cultivation and uses of cocoa by the Maya. Depending on when you go you can catch reenactments of a traditional Mayan ceremonies and, of course, enjoy some samples.

At the EcoMuseo del Cacao, learn about the place of cocao in Mayan history and its modern cultivation.

4. For an overnight trek outside of Mérida, a worthwhile trip is one to Isla Holbox, the island village off the northeastern tip of the Peninsula. Known for its beautiful stretches of beach, it is the only port in Mexico where visitors are allowed to swim with the incredible (and peaceful) whale sharks.

Make the trek for the beautiful waters and the peaceful whale sharks.

 

 

 

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Mérida Events— Celebrating 471 Years of Yucatecan Arts and Culture

Merida Birthday—Hacienda Petac

 

January 6th marks the birthday of our favorite capital city! Founded in 1542 on what was once the famous Mayan city of T’ho, Mérida, the cultural and artistic epicenter of the Yucatan region, is 471 years old this year.

 

The celebrations begin on the evening of the 5th and continue throughout the month until the 26th during what is known as the Festival de la Ciudad. The Festival kicks off on the eve of the city’s birthday with the traditional “Alborada,” a serenade performed by hundreds of the area’s singers. Songs and dances continue throughout the evening until the stroke of midnight, when a ringing of bells celebrates officially the birth of the beautiful city.

 

In proper Catholic tradition, January 6th also marks the Epiphany, or “Los Reyes Magos” as it’s known in Mexico, the feast day that marks the revelation of the Son of God in the form of Jesus Christ. Mexican children are given presents to acknowledge the gifts of the Magi to the baby Jesus and masses are held throughout the day.

 

Throughout the following weeks, throughout the Festival de la Ciudad, more than 1,000 artists will gather in every neighborhood of Mérida to honor it.  More than 250,000 people are expected to attend the musical events, theatrical performances and artist exhibitions.

 

Photo by http://www.merida.gob.mx

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Museums in Merida—A Visitors Guide

Merida Museums Map

 

As the capital of the Mexican state of Yucatán and home to over 970,000 people, the city of Mérida, just half an hour from Hacienda Petac, is the peninsula’s cultural fulcrum. Long time home to museums, galleries and theaters, the city’s denotation as “Cultural Capital of the Americas” in 2000 worked to further encourage the celebration of Yucatecan history and culture. Below find our guide to some of the most impressive cultural attractions that Mérida has to offer.

 

1. MACAY (The Contemporary Art Museum Ateneo of Yucatán)

 

Housed in what was once the city’s armory, this post-colonial collection of art features the permanent exhibits of three local artists, temporary exhibits that change every 3-4 months, and an outdoor sculpture garden. Considered a cultural nucleus of the city, MACAY publishes a newsletter, features both a radio and a television program, and hosts educational workshops for kids throughout the year.

Free Admission

Location: Pasaje de la Revolución entre 58 y 60. Mérida

 

2. Galería Mérida

 

The largest private gallery in the city, Galería Mérida was founded by two artists –a Mérida local and an American ex-pat – and is dedicated exclusively to showcasing local contemporary and fine artists.

Location: Calle 59 #452A x 54 y 52, El Centro Histórico, Mérida

 

3. Mérida City Museum

 

A beautifully curated, three story museum in what was once the Federal Post Office, the Museo de la Ciudad de Mérida, has four official historians – elected for life – on staff to help guide visitors. Permanent exhibitions, and galleries such as the “Mayan Room” and the “Spanish Conquest Room” display artifacts from throughout the city’s history.

Location: Calle 56 entre Calles 65 & 67, El Centro, Mérida

 

4. Governor’s Palace

 

Featuring the work of celebrated Mérida artist Fernando Castro Pacheco, this turn of the century palace tells the often harrowing story of the city’s history through a series of the artist’s murals. 

Free Admission

Location: Palacio Gobierno, 61, Centro, Mérida

 

5. The Yucatan Music Museum

 

Music, an ever-important part of Yucatecan culture, is celebrated in the Museum de la Canción, through exhibitions, instruments, workshops, and outdoor concerts in the courtyard. The museum is not particularly English-speaking tourist friendly, but when have language barriers ever impeded a person’s love for music?

Location: 57 468, Centro, 97000 Mérida

 

6. Yucatan Museum of Anthropology

 Not only a stunning nod to Baroque-Mannerist architecture from the turn of the century, this museum showcases jewelry, pottery, masks, stone carvings, bones and skulls from the history of man on the Yucatan Peninsula.

Location: Paseo de Montejo and Calle 43, Mérida

 

7. La Perifería

 

A little gallery and performance space founded and run by young Yucatecan artists, “The Periphery” is dedicated to the documentation, investigation and promotion of the area’s burgeoning art scene. 

Location: Calle 54 #468 entre 53 y 55, Mérida

 

8. Olimpo Cultural Center

 

The city’s cultural center, the Olimpo is one part theater, one part museum, and one part planetarium. The historic building – in and of itself a destination – features film festivals, concerts, conferences, and dance performances throughout the year.

Location: Corner of Calle 62 & 61 Centro Historico, Mérida 

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The Convent Route: Map, Photos and Travel Tips

Convent Route Map of Yucatan

 

The Convent Route is a day trip that reveals both the history and soul of the Yucatan. Visit centuries-old churches, cathedrals, convents and Mayan villages. 

 

The churches featured in this route were built after the arrival of the Franciscans in 1524. Many of the original Mayan buildings were destroyed or built on top of (which you’ll get a glimpse of in the route).

 

The following piece outlines the nine stops in the Convent Route. Make sure to get an early start the morning of your trip so you get to as many open churches as possible. Start on Route 18 (look for the signs that say Kanasin) and follow the road to the first stop, Acanceh.

 

 

Stop 1: Acanceh

 

Palace of the Stuccoes, Acanceh

 

The main attraction in Acanceh is The Plaza de las Tres Culturas (The Square of the Three Cultures). The plaza brings together the Grand Pyramid, a colonial church, and a modern day church in the same place.

 

Don’t miss these sites:

1. Temple of the Stuccoes aka “Stucco Palace”

2. Chapel and convent of the Virgin of Guadalupe (both from the XVI century)

 

Stop 2: Tecoh

 

Tecoh Church

 

Discover an ornate church with beautiful paintings as well as a convent dedicated to the Virgin of the Assumption (1751).

 

Interesting Fact:  Although this church appears to have been built on a hill, it really sits atop a large Mayan Pyramid.

 

Stop 3: Telchaquillo

 

Telchaquillo Chapel

 

Telchaquillo is a small village with a beautiful, quiet chapel.

 

Interesting Fact:  A gorgeous cenote can be found near the chapel in this village.

(Find out more about Cenotes of the World and The Yucatan)

 

Stop 4: Mayapan

 

Archaeological Site in Mayapan Yucatan

 

The Mayapan archeological site is about the size of Chichen Itza. There are approximately 4,000 mounds, many of which are still in their original state, so you may find archeologists working on them during your visit!

 

Interesting Fact:  There are actually replicas of buildings from Chichen Itza, including Castillo de Kukulcán.

 

Stop 5: Tekit

 

Church of San Antonio de Padua, Tekit

 

San Antonio de Padua was built in 1591. The temple holds very elaborate statues of Saints; the convent next door houses paintings from the XVI century.

 

Interesting Fact:  Tekit means “Place where there were rubber trees”

 

Stop 6: Mama

 

Mama Church of the Ascension

 

The Church of the Ascension, a beautiful bell-globed church, was built in the XVII century . It is believed to be the oldest church on the route.

 

Interesting Fact:  Mama Means “No, No” in English.

 

Stop 7: Chumayel

 

Temple of Immaculate Conception Chumayel

 

The Temple of Immaculate Conception was built in the XVI century and is a perfect example of the medieval architecture brought by the Spaniards.

 

Interesting Fact:  The renowned sacred book of the Mayas, the “Chilam Balam” was found here.

 

Stop 8: Teabo

 

Convent of Saint Peter and Saint Paul Teabo

 

The convent of Saint Peter and Saint Paul was formed in 1607 and almost six decades later, the Temple of Saint Peter the Apostle was constructed (1664.)

 

Interesting Fact:  Teabo is very famous for its embroidered textiles. Make sure to visit shops in the town during your visit!

 

Stop 9: Mani

 

Temple of the Convent of Saint Michael Archangel in Mani

 

The Temple of the Convent of Saint Michael Archangel (1549) & a museum are the key attractions in the small town of Mani.

 

Interesting Fact:  During the 1500’s, Friar Diego de Landa famously, in the “Auto de Fe”, burned and destroyed almost all written Mayan manuscripts in his attempt to help his mission of converting Mayas to Christianity. 

 

 

 

Interested in learning more about great day trips in the Yucatan?  We’ve outlined another route, called the Puuc Route, which leads you to archeological sites, caves, cenotes and Mayan Villages. Learn more about Puuc Route Map and Infographics.

 

 

 

 

Sources:

http://www.yucatantoday.com/en/topics/convent-route

http://www.luxuriousmexico.com/wwwluxuriousmexico/Luxurious%20Mexico/Products/EnglishProducts/YucatanConventRoute.html

 

Image Sources:

 http://archaeology.about.com/od/archaeologic7/ss/A-Photo-Essay-Of-Acanceh_5.htm

 http://www.amarse.net/UPDATES10/17UP10.html

 http://en.db-city.com/Mexico–Yucat%C3%A1n–Acanceh

 http://www.iglesiaenyucatan.org/perfil/parroquias_rectorias/nuestra-senora-de-la-natividad.php

 http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/5a171/e1bf4/

 http://www.flickr.com/photos/fritz_da_kat/480190912/sizes/z/in/photostream/

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mayapan_2.jpg, Author credit to Marie-Christine Ferland

 http://www.luxuriousmexico.com/wwwluxuriousmexico/Luxurious%20Mexico/Products/EnglishProducts/YucatanConventRoute.html

 http://en.db-city.com/Mexico–Yucat%C3%A1n–Mama

 http://en.db-city.com/Mexico–Yucat%C3%A1n–Mama

 http://www.mexicanarchitecture.org/glossary/index.php?building=31

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Puuc Route Map and Infographic

The Puuc Route, also known as Ruta Puuc, is a great day trip to make while visiting the Yucatan. (Many claim it’s an experience that you shouldn’t leave out of your itinerary!) We have developed a unique route that begins from either Hacienda Petac or Merida. While navigating the infographic below, you’ll find fun details and facts about each site we have included.

 

(click image to view full screen)

 

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A Celestún flamingo tour…why are people flocking there?

Less than two hours from Hacienda Petac you can find the small town of Celestún. The fishing village is well known for the Parque Natural del Flamenco Mexicano, (also known as the Celestun Biosphere) a 147,500-acre wetland reserve.

 

Although the reserve is better known for their colony of Greater Flamingo, it is home to over 300 other species of birds that pass through during migration or live there.

 

 

Greater Flamingo thrive in this region because they prefer warm environments like estauries and saline or alkaline lakes. These beautiful birds are considered to be the only tall, pink bird in any given locale. Their black-tipped bills help them to feed on small organisms in the water such as tiny fish or plankton.

 

Greater Flamingos are also known to breed while gathered in groups, one the key reasons why the best time to visit the flamingos is during the fall and winter months. They hold stunning “courtship rituals” in the mangroves.

 

Visitors can find a guided boat trip very easily from within town and spend 2-4 hours out on the wide saltwater estuary. Watch this video to get a glimpse of the experience:

 

 

 

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