So I spent too much time enjoying myself in Merida to actually keep a track of it. So I’ve tried to remember the best bits!
I was fortunate enough in my Masters degree to meet a lovely girl who came from Merida and she, and her family, kindly let me live with them for almost a month. Essentially I became the (very pale, very ginger, quite clearly adopted) fourth daughter.
On the first weekend of arrival, the Saturday entailed us road tripping to lots of nearby sites. First up, the pink lagoons close to Xcambo. The water here has a huge amount of plankton, algae and brine shrimp due to such a high salt content that the water appears pink.
I thought considering the salt quantities that there would be no other wildlife living there. However, there were plenty of fish swimming about in the shallows and more importantly there were (rightly-fitting) pink birds.
I love flamingos because they always seem like a made up animal. They are pretty much on the same level as unicorns.
Following this, we hopped back in the car for a quick ride to Xcambo. Xcambo is another set of smaller, but less well known Mayan ruins and so it was essentially tourist-free.
Plenty more Iguanas were seen whilst there and it was nice to explore some ruins without crowds of people swarming around. You were even allowed to climb up them here which is not normally allowed at the more popular sites.
After sweating immensely in the midday heat, the next plan was to cool off at some cenotes in a nearby nature reserve called El Corchito. We caught a mini boat across a lagoon and upon arrival to the park, were greeted by these cute little things.
Just look at this little guy having a siesta in the tree! Pretty much posing for photos.
Within the nature reserve there were about three different cenotes you could visit and the surroundings were beautiful.
It was easy to spend a few hours cooling down there.
Following this, we were all very hungry (why are humans always so hungry after swimming?!). So to fill our stomachs we drove to Progresso, a beautiful port city not far from Merida.
The atmosphere there was great. Everyone seemed so happy, people were playing music and dancing in the streets and I got free tasters of Cuban rum. I was taken to a restaurant at the end of the beach which was absolutely buzzing with people.
The reason for the popularity was explained to me. You only pay for your drinks at the restaurant and all the food bought to you is free. No complaints really?!
After plentyyyy of food we headed back.
The next day we planned to visit Uxmal, another set of Mayan ruins (they are everywhere).
Upon entering you are greeted by a huge temple.
There was so much to see and every corner you turned there was another temple or ruin.
The sun was so strong though and was beating down on us making for some very sweaty sight seeing.
When we eventually finished wandering round, my friends family took me to a nearby restaurant which sold solely food from the Yucatan region. I tried Poc-chuc, a really tasty pork marinaded in different spices.
For dessert I tried a variety of local fruits which had been soaked in water and sugar. All I can say is they were not for me.
On the drive back there was a huge thunderstorm with many of the roads flooding.
When we eventually made it back to the house it was clear that the flooding had caused the electricity to cut out. We then had to experience 24 hours with no electricity and no water in temperatures over 30 degrees. It was an experience to say the least.
My week was then filled with Spanish lessons in the mornings and afternoons visiting shopping centres, the cinema, supermarkets and watching various films with Spanish subtitles.
I attended a Spanish school named ‘Calle 55‘ located very close to centre of Merida. I highly recommend it, the teachers are lovely, in three weeks I’ve gone from saying ‘hola!’ to being able to almost maintain a simple conversation (a vast improvement) and every Friday they buy croissants!
This was my brightly coloured classroom where I studied hard!
On the second Saturday of my visit to Merida, we all crammed in the car for my chance to see one of the seven wonders of the world.
We were going to Chichen Itza!
After a long two hour drive where I could barely keep my eyes open (an overworked brain from learning Spanish), we arrived.
Chichen Itza is a little bit pricey for Mexico (248 pesos, approximately £11) but what did I expect?! It was huge!
A wide path with plenty of local Mayan and Mexican people selling souvenirs and gifts leads you straight to the main attraction.
But there was plenty more to see.
We wandered around for nearly two hours.
One of the final things we saw was the cenote into which the Mayan people of Chichen Itza used to sacrifice people. Here I am waiting to be sacrificed.
It was very deep and had a very morbid feel to it.
With Chichen Itza located close to Valladolid we took a visit to the nearby town.
It was extremely pretty with lots of bright colours catching your eye at every corner.
I can’t promise the cute dog will be there if you visit.
We ate a delicious lunch where I had Panuchos, a traditional Yucatan dish, and of course, Agua Fresca. Afterwards we decided to visit a cenote located just a few streets from the city centre.
Its hard to believe that so many of these limestone caverns sit just below the surface of Mexicos Yucatan region.
They are the perfect way to cool down in the intense heat of the day.
After a long day exploring I inevitably fell asleep in the car on the drive home.
The next day we travelled to a nearby municipality called Homun to visit the quieter, less well known cenotes.
Unfortunately I didn’t take many pictures as I was too busy splashing about but it was a very quaint place with lots of cenotes managed by the people of the town.
Very reasonably priced, around 20 pesos each (just under £1), there were plenty of options as long as you searched for them.
Possibly my favourite cenote I visited was Santa Rosa which was lit by lots of coloured lights as the only sunlight present was through a very small hole in the roof. It had a diving board of about 5m high which you could jump from into the deep blue depths below.
The facilities were also very clean with a restaurant in which we ate afterwards.
After plenty of swimming and food we ventured home.
Although these were the main activities of my trip in Merida there were plenty more activities which I did/ you could do whilst there.
I attended a (very glamorous!) wedding where I tried Chapulines (Crickets) covered in chilli and a traditional Mexican drink called Mezcal.
There were several visits to malls, often more expensive than the shops in the centre but with plenty of interesting things such as chilli covered pic n mix (what else did you expect?!).
On Friday nights in the centre of Merida they hold a show of Pok-ta-tok, a traditional Mayan game which involves getting a heavy ball through a tall hoop using only your hips. Not sure where the logic is in this game but it was interesting to watch and I highly recommend it.
Fortunately nobody was sacrificed either.
The centre of Merida is also well-worth a wander with the Cathedral being the main highlight
Eating a variety of weird and wonderful foods, including this interesting ice cream which I’m pretty sure isn’t Mexican but still made my tummy very happy. Mexicos Yucatan region has so much to try!
And putting my new Spanish skills to the ultimate test by playing Spanish scrabble. I definitely didn’t win.
I absolutely loved my time in Merida! It is the ideal location for experiencing the real South of Mexico, trying plenty of amazing food (my favourite is Relleno Negro), hearing lots of upbeat reggaeton music and being central to many incredible tourist sites!
I am very grateful to my wonderful friend and her family for allowing me to intrude on their life and I hope one day to return to Merida as there are so many more opportunities in the Yucatan peninsula.