Merida is the thriving capital of the Yucatan State in the Gulf of Mexico and boasts a historic center filled with pastel mansions and line-tree promenades that expats from US and Canada have found very appealing for decades. Beyond its borders, the city is an ideal home base from where to explore the Mayan sites that pepper the Yucatan region such as Chichen Itza and Uxmal or to simply enjoy a more authentic Mexico holiday away from the crowds on the Eastern side of the Gulf.
The closest beach is in Progreso, about 30 miles north in the Gulf coast and privy to this area is the wildlife reserve at Celestun, where eco-lovers flock to admire the biggest community of pink flamingos in the world. Out of the million residents in the “White City”, Merida’s nickname, 4000 are American expats who have been snapping up the most gorgeous mansions in the 3’5 square miles around the Plaza Grande that has become the Gringo Gulch. These settlers, who know each other by name, have been renovating properties and converting them into chic hotels with the highest standards.
Why has Merida become the new hot destination in the tropics with even the NYT publishing special features about it? Merida has been attracting those who look for a genuine immersion experience in a Mexican town that is a haven for Mayan culture, while at the same time offering a variety of quality services (health, shopping, dining, cultural and art scene) and a great level of security.
If we add to this the world-class golf retreats along the Caribbean coastline, the folkloric cultural life and artisan markets, the lower living costs, the slow tropical pace of the city and the baroque colonial architectural gems that take you back to the mid 19th century, we think you have a winner. How can you make the most of your stay in Merida? That depends if your stay is of a couple of days, a couple of weeks or a couple of months. Hurried travelers will spend their stay walking about the Plaza Grande to admire the XVII century architectonic jewels in place before rushing to take a picture at Chichen Itza.
With a couple of weeks you already give Merida the chance to slow you down to its pace. This way you can enjoy the Sunday markets when the busy central streets turn pedestrian and hundreds of stalls fill your eyes with the most attractive crafts. You can take the ADO bus that visits all the major Mayan sites of Chichen Itza, Uxmal, Dzibilchaltún and Mayapan in a day trip. You can take a day trip to Izamal, an iconic town famous for its architectural beauty. Or you can pay a visit to the Great Museum of the Mayan World, an emblematic building well worth your time before losing yourself in the Lucas de Galvez Market between shoes, roses, turkeys and suitcases.
For those who can stay for a few months, there are different opportunities to volunteer through the Patronato Peninsular and the AFAD. Learning Spanish can be a good idea if you plan to stick around. There are several Spanish schools that provide expats with a great social scene besides their language tuition.
Whatever you choose to do in Merida, the city will grow on you like a good friend that you will keep returning to for many years.