It’s the sights, sounds and smells that stay with you long after you leave Mexico. I fell in love with this vibrant county over a decade ago, wandering around the ruins of Teotihuacán Mexico City, soaking up the culture of San Miguel and admiring the architecture of Monterey.
Heading back, this time I choose to explore roads less travelled and head to the picturesque Yucatan Peninsula- “once a year go someplace you’ve never been before” said the Dalai Lama
Travelling solo, I opt to fly from Mexico City directly into Merida, the cultural capital of the Yucatan. A quick (friendly) taxi ride from the airport, and I’m welcomed by an eclectic mix of street food, textile markets and live music.
As welcoming as it is safe, Merida is steeped in tradition and has become a popular tourist destination, known for its local agriculture and artisans, historical buildings and world class museums. The city itself is like an open-air museum full of relics and age-old haciendas, there are over 16 actual Museums to explore in and around the city.
I choose the Casa Montejo- Plaza Grande, a restored 16th century stately home, where there are free walking tours. I jump on the tour of the buildings facades and history of the architecture dating back to the mid 15th century. Afterwards I wander around the gallery, which consists of four rooms showcasing the exquisite Victorian furnishings of a bygone era.
Stay at La Mision de Fray a charming boutique hotel, which was converted from a (400-year-old) convent in the heart of the downtown. With an art deco theatre house and central food markets just around the corner-it’s the ideal location.
Vibrant Mexican colours like pink, blue and orange adorn the building facades and ‘day of the dead’ like sculptures greet you at every turn.
Stopping for lunch at a local favourite ‘La Chaya Maya’ (a tastefully restored hacienda) where traditional Mayan murals adorn the piazza walls. The wait staff are dressed Frida Kahlo style and I’m offered a refreshing local dish Sopa de Lima, a tangy chicken, avocado, lime and crushed tortilla soup.
Merida is the type of place you can walk around without a plan; the streets are alive day and night. After dinner I grab a Dulce de Papaya (Papaya marinated in cinnamon, vanilla and sugar syrup) and a hibiscus water, wandering the bustling streets and narrow laneways after dark.
The Yucatan is a thriving peninsula, full of colour, life and an array of fresh regional food to delight.
Here’s our pick for breakfast, lunch and dinner in the Yucatan….
Breakfast-The traditional Yucatan breakfast is the Huevos Motulenos, eggs baked on tortillas, with black beans, cheese, ham and peas topped off with salsa picante-so good I eat it every day.
Lunch-Codzitos- leftover tortillas, rolled and stuffed with shredded meats, fried and served with tomato salsa, affordable and delicious.
Dinner– Cochinita Pibil, slow roasted pork wrapped in banana leaf and marinated citrus juice and annatto seeds, a traditional Yucatan dish.