Merida is the capital of Yucatan in Mexico, and the main working city in the peninsula. An old colonial town, the beautiful 19th century Spanish style buildings are separated by bustling streets filled with Mexicans off to work and some tourists, particularly around the central town square and surrounding restaurants. I thought the prices for the hotels in Merida were a bit high and so opted for an AirBnB about 5-10 minutes walk from the centre of town. This turned out to be quite a find; a beautifully decorated, recently renovated, two story penthouse-style apartment with walk in shower, spiral staircase and a private pool on the secluded roof terrace. It was no surprise to find out the owner of the building is an architect, she has done a fabulous job modernising it.
In Merida it’s fun to wander the streets and people watch. Every morning at about 0745 the police parade the Mexican flag in and raise it up the town square flag pole, accompanied by a band of about 10. A 1st floor cafe with little private balconies was the perfect place to watch this ceremony from. In the evenings there was raucous entertainment on the streets and plenty of pop-up places to eat, at very cheap prices.
A few people we met recommended an authentic Yucatan restaurant called Chaya Maya. This turned out to be a beautiful restaurant with it’s own courtyard. Chaya Maya was also the only restaurant we found in Merida with a queue for dinner. It was certainly the best food I had had in Merida, with an authentic atmosphere and lovely (and strong!) margaritas.
One of the main reasons for going to Merida was for the day trip to Celestun, a small beach side town about an hour away. Here you can see one of the most popular colonies of flamingos in the world. The are also the brightest pink bread due to their diet. We booked this trip online beforehand, and the minibus picked us up from a nearby hotel just after nine. At Celestun groups of eight are put together in boats and the five minute ride towards the flamingoes begins. You can see the large pink mass as it approaches. It’s fantastic to see so many birds happily quacking away in their natural habitat. They are such large birds and quite comical when they take off and land. We floated about for a long time, moving between the different groups of birds. Afterwards we went to a small island and travelled through a mangrove swamp where enormous termite nests and sultry pelicans could be seen just metres away. The beach at Celestun was beautiful and really quiet, with some cheap places to eat and drink local food and beer, so we stayed there for a few hours after the boat tour.
Merida was a lovely place to spend a few days and the flamingos were a real highlight of the holiday. If you are a fan of exotic animals or just pink things in general, then this part of Mexico is for you!
More from Mexico…. Playa Del Carmen & Cozumel