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How to Spend The Perfect 3 days in Merida Itinerary

Last Updated on 3rd March 2023 by Sophie Nadeau

Looking to spend 3 days in Merida? This itinerary is packed with tips and tricks to help plan the perfect stay in this Mexican city. With cobblestone streets lined with colourful buildings, a dramatic cathedral sitting at the top of a large central square, with charismatic markets and fascinating museums, you’ll love exploring the highlights of Merida. 

merida city center
Merida city center/ phortun/ Shutterstock

While the city is awash with charm and opportunities to enjoy local life, it’s not as commonly visited as other Mexican locations – tourists often spend their time in Mexico at the beach (in destinations like Tulum or Cancun) or visit the cities with stand-out attractions (like Mexico City). 

However, Merida has charm and charisma, and you could spend a lifetime soaking in its vibe and authentic Mayan culture. But if you only have three days in Merida, here’s how to make them count! 

Merida/ mehdi33300/ Shutterstock

How to spend three days in Merida

From eating traditional Yucatecan food to absorbing Merida’s wonderful history, you’ll love exploring Merida in three days! 

Your Merida itinerary will include experiencing history and culture in the city centre, visiting ancient ruins just outside of the city and taking trips to the nearby Yucatan coastline. 

merida sign
Merida/ mehdi33300/ Shutterstock

Day 1: Explore the City Centre

On your first day in Merida, begin in the city centre! If you want to get to know the city like a local, reserve a free walking tour on the Free Tour website

With a knowledgeable, bilingual guide, you’ll explore Merida’s city centre, taking in attractions like the Catedral de San Ildefonso, a stunning baroque-style church that was constructed in the 16th century.

It was the first completed cathedral in the Americas, and while the exterior is grand, the interior is quite sparse, due to being ransacked in the Mexican Revolution. 

Merida San Ildefonso cathedral
Merida San Ildefonso cathedral/ lunamarina/ Shutterstock

Whether you’re on a tour or not, visit the Palacio de Gobierno, an impressive building that was built in the 19th century and was the state of Yucatan’s government offices. You’ll also find murals, completed in 1970, that depict the history of the Mayan people. 

There are lots of fantastic cafes in town: try the authentic coffee at Manifesto, take in the trendy vibes at El Apapacho (half cafe, half library!) and enjoy the brunches at Pan & Koffee. 

Once you’ve had lunch, go museum-hopping! Merida’s best include:

  • The Museum of the City of Merida, which details the story of the city and its ancient and colonial history
  • MACAY art museum which acts as the city’s art gallery 
  • The Mayan World Museum of Mérida (located a 25 minute drive outside of the city centre) where you can learn all about Mayan history

Also, don’t miss the Casa de Montejo, a magnificent mansion that was built in the 16th century, and has since turned into a museum. 

In the evening, head to Parque Santa Lucia, which is known for weekly dancing and two huge white chairs facing each other! 

You’ll find these white chairs all over the city, known as “sillas tu y yo”. The chairs were supposedly made to stop young men and women from getting too close when sitting together on a bench! The supersized version in Parque Lucia is known as a Merida landmark. 

For dinner, head to Apoala restaurant, serving deliciously cooked Mexican fare in a fine dining atmosphere.

If it’s a Saturday, head to the cathedral for 8pm. A weekly traditional pok-ta-pok game takes place here, where locals demonstrate the ancient sport that their Mayan ancestors used to play.

It’s a ball game where players must use their hips to hit a ball into a net; and the skills that these sportspeople have are seriously impressive! 

Day 2: See Merida’s ruins

Soak in ancient history on your second day in Merida, by taking a trip to the nearby Maya ruins of Uxmal and Kabah. They’re about 20 minutes from each other, but both are about an hour’s drive south of the city.

Uxmal is an impressive Maya archaeological city, featuring some of the most well-preserved structures from the ancient civilization. 

The site includes the Pyramid of the Magician, the Governor’s Palace which is placed on the top of a hill and is ornately decorated by snakes and gods like Chac and the Nunnery Quadrangle which dates back to 900 and was thought to resemble a convent. 

After exploring Uxmal, head to Kabah. Kabah’s a little smaller than Uxmal but is renowned for its stunning sculptures and mosaics. The site includes the El Palacio de los Mascarones (Palace of the Masks), which is adorned with over 300 stone masks that depict Chaac, the rain god. 

Once you make it back to the city, either enjoy some drinks and dinner in town (you could spend all evening in La Negrita cantina, or enjoy Yucatan dinner at La Chaya Maya), or head to Progreso to catch the sunset! 

Progreso is a 45 minute drive from Merida, and there are plenty of beach bars serving fresh seafood – try Almadia and Sliver Beach Club. 

Day 3: Take a day trip

On your third day in Merida, head out from the city! The city’s advantageous position means that there’s a multitude of day trips to enjoy. Here are two of the best: 

Chichen Itza – Cenote Saamal – Valladolid 

There are few places as historically significant as Chichen Itza; you can take a direct ADO bus from Merida to here. One of the new wonders of the world, Chichen Itza was once the largest and strongest Mayan city. 

Harking back 1,500 years, Chichen Itza is a vast complex, with El Castillo pyramid being the most well-known structure. There’s also Temple of the Warriors which was where festivities used to be held and The Great Ball Court where city dwellers played Pok te Pok. 

Then, take a collectivo to Valladolid, stopping at Cenote Saamal on the way (it’s just outside of town). This is one of the most impressive cenotes – which are dramatic azure underground pools – in Yucatan, along with a Mexican restaurant and cultural space. 

Once you’ve cooled down in the cenote, hop into another collectivo to Valladolid. This brightly coloured city is renowned for its cobbled streets and historic square. 

Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza/ Leon Rafael/ Shutterstock


If you want to explore more of Merida’s coastline, head to Celestun! The beach here is nowhere near as impressive as further down in Quintana Roo, but it’s a lovely stop if you want to see the beach and dine at a seafood restaurant – La Palapa has tables and chairs right on the sand itself! 

However, most people visit Celestun for another water-based activity. The town sits on an island, and there’s a lagoon on the other side. Jump in a boat and head onto the mangrove forests, where you can spot flamingos and crocodiles (stay firmly in the boat!).  

Where to stay in Merida 

Nomadas Hostel is located in the historic center of Merida, offering private and shared rooms. There’s a swimming pool if you need to cool off in the Merida heat, or you can just chill out in the beautiful courtyard. 

The four-star Hotel Boutique Casa San Angel is situated in a lovingly restored colonial mansion with individually decorated bedrooms, comfortable beds, a swimming pool with tropical plants around and high ceilings. 

Situated just north of the city in a historic hacienda, Hacienda Xcanatun is situated in an 18th century building, with four-poster beds, brightly coloured walls and a deep blue swimming pool. It’s the ultimate place to stay if you want somewhere authentic to relax! 

How to get to Merida

Being a large city of close to 900,000 residents, Merida does have its own airport, although it doesn’t have many international connections. 

If you’re flying from outside Mexico, you’ll want to fly to Cancun and take a bus from there to Merida (a couple per day depart from the airport directly to Merida, or you can hop on a bus to central Cancun where ADO buses leave regularly throughout the day). 

However, you can fly to Merida from Mexico City and a few other Mexican cities. 

Merida is also connected to Tulum, Playa del Carmen, Valladolid, Campeche and Chetumal by ADO bus. These buses are comfortable, spacious and safe and provide a useful way to get around Southern Mexico. 

How to get around Merida

Merida is a walkable city, and if you’re staying in the centre of town most places are in easy reach. There’s also a bus network. With this being said, you’ll want to wear comfortable shoes as you’ll be on your feet a lot during this itinerary!

Uber is operational throughout Merida, and taxis are hail-able on virtually any street corner. These must be paid for with cash. 

Is Merida safe? 

Mexico as a whole is generally much safer than how it’s depicted in the media and Merida in particular is among the safest cities in the country. It has a very low crime rate and virtually no cartel activity. In this regard, it’s much safer than tourist hotspots Cancun and Playa del Carmen. 

Personally, I’ve found Merida to be much safer in terms of street harassment too; when walking around on my own there, I never experienced any catcalling, which is unfortunately quite common in cities like Oaxaca. 

Are you ready to visit Merida? 

With long, leafy boulevards, the consistent fresh smell of delicious Yucatecan cuisine, welcoming buildings and plenty of Mayan activities to enjoy, Merida’s a city that entrances.

This three day itinerary covers the highlights, but you’ll undoubtedly be planning your next sojourn to Yucatan’s capital the second you leave! For more Mexico inspiration, be sure to check out our suggestions for 2 weeks in Mexico.

merida mexico
merida mexico

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Claire Martin is a travel blogger and freelance writer who specialises in overland adventures. She’s drove around Australia, travelled from Bali to London without flying, lived in Mexico and has spent many months exploring Europe. You can follow her adventures on her blog, Claire’s Footsteps

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