Research is a key ingredient for any trip. It’s one thing to get a good deal on tickets. But then you need a place to stay and an overview of what to do and where to find the best coffee.
On a recent trip to Merida, on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, we actually brought our own coffee (from Kaladi Brothers). But the research didn’t quite add up to the real experience: a mash-up of European colonization, the ruins of an ancient civilization and a massive meteorite that made some beautiful swimming holes.
To get a quick start on the history of the region, take the free walking tour that leaves each weekday morning at 10 a.m from Santa Lucia Park. It’s a two-hour stroll through the historic central district. Our guide, Ivan, grew up in Merida and was a good resource on the economy, the politics, the architecture and history of the area. One stop is the Cathedral of San Ildefonso. Construction of the cathedral started in 1562, making it one of the oldest cathedrals in the Americas. The city itself was founded by Spanish invaders in 1542, well before settlements at Jamestown or Plymouth Rock.
By the time the Spanish arrived around 1518, the Mayan empire was in decline in the Yucatan. Although there still was a large population of Mayans in the area, the giant Mayan pyramids were not uncovered until 1841.
It’s possible to rent a car and strike out on your own to see the pyramids. We opted for a guide, Franck Taleghani, who we found through Airbnb.