This Mexican State Offers Powdery Beaches, Mayan Ruins, and a Stunning Flamingo Preserve.
From the beautiful beaches to the ancient ruins, here’s why you should plan a visit to Mexico’s Yucatan state.
This could have been a story about anywhere. What I mean by that is that this love affair had little to do with the place itself, but more of what it represented. That’s how it goes with many first loves, doesn’t it? It really could have been anyone, but there’s always something about someone who was a “first.”
I first visited the state of Yucatan as a 20-something on a solo backpacking trip around Mexico. The four-month adventure was built around discovering wild, windswept beaches, filling my belly with salsa-drenched street food late at night underneath fluorescent lights, plunging into thick jungles to climb centuries-old ruins, and meeting other digital nomads over strong mezcal and swapped stories. So, yes, this could have been a story about anywhere as I took these first steps into falling in love with Mexico. Fortunately, for me, it started in Yucatan.
I hopped the bus from Playa del Carmen, where I had just attended the BPM music festival (the last one held in Playa del Carmen, actually, after a tragic shooting at the Blue Parrot nightclub shuttered the event in its home base forever. You can still see the abandoned skeleton of the club, which stands in the city.)
As a travel writer with a focus on Mexico, I had experienced Cancun and Playa del Carmen dozens of times. The all-inclusive resorts, trendy restaurants, and complete lack of need for any Spanish language were old hat to me. This bus journey marked my first foray into the unknown. How could I say I was a haughtily self-proclaimed “Mexpert” if all I did was stick to the tourist trail? So, I headed north to the city of Mérida, the capital of the Yucatan state. Back in 2017, Mérida was beyond a rising destination, but it was a far cry from the popularity of places like Cancun and Puerto Vallarta.
Mérida is the doorway to the Yucatan. This centuries-old colonial city was an important stronghold for the Mayan people, as well as the Spanish, who built over that history and started their own. Dating back between 1562 and 1599, the Catedral de Mérida, the oldest church in the continental Americas, was built here. It sits just off the Plaza Grande. But the Yucatan’s history stretches back even further — millions of years — as it was just off the shores of the peninsula where the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs struck.
Today, Mérida is a vibrant, dynamic destination peppered with plazas and veined with broad, tree-lined boulevards like Paseo de Montejo. A trip to Mérida should begin here, as it’s one of the most prominent and important avenues in the city. Inspired by the Champs-Elysees, it features several roundabouts and is flanked by ornately decorated 19th-century mansions. Some of the city’s best museums, including the Museum of Anthropology and Casa Museo Quinta Montes Molina, can be found here. And many of the homes are open for history tours as well.
The Yucatan Times
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