A Women's Guide To Merida, Yucatan
Claudette Elizondo's top suggestions for a girlfriend's weekend in the Yucatan
There is nothing like visiting a new place when you have a friend that knows the destination well. Claudette Elizondo of MexicaChica Getaways is that friend. She runs and operates a group travel company that caters exclusively to women and is based out of the Yucatan region of Mexico. The capital city of Merida has become an increasingly popular destination for women travelers and for good reason.
Mérida is the cultural center of the Yucatan state in Mexico, renowned as the most peaceful city in Mexico, Mérida contains a sophisticated and cosmopolitan blend with theaters, concerts, museums, parks and numerous cultural events occurring throughout the city each week. Mérida's convenient location in the Gulf state of the Yucatan enhances its appeal: only thirty minutes to the Gulf Coast beaches, Mérida is regularly served by flights on Continental Airlines that connect to major cities in the United States. Merida is a short, three hour drive from the beaches of the Riviera Maya, and within an easy drive of major Mayan ruins, including Chichen Itza, recently named one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Below are some of Claudette's top suggestions for a girlfriend's weekend in the Yucatan.
Learn to cook Yucatecan food like a pro
Many are surprised to learn that the food in this region of Mexico is a fusion of Spanish, Mayan and Caribbean influences. Its VERY different from the cuisine in the rest of the country and miles away from the food you will find at that Tex Mex restaurant you love so much back home. Take your expertise to a whole other level by joining in on a fun cooking class with Remixto's Chef Brent Marsh. His informative and fun class begins at the local food market where you will be learning about and purchasing your in season and freshest ingredients possible. Chef Brent will have you impressing your friends in no time with dishes like the famous cochinita pibil, a pork cooked in banana leaves, pit roast style.
Climb a Mayan pyramid
Cultural and thrill seekers alike will enjoy the many archeological wonders found all over the penisula including the famed Chichen Itza site, Uxmal, Coba and Tulum. If exploring the ancient cities is your cup of tea, then you should consider embarking on a Ruta Puuc tour. Many local travel operators offer this several day tour of the Mayan world's most notable sites.
Afternoon at Xcanatun Hacienda
Xcanatun is an hacienda that sits just outside of Merida. It was once a sisal producing plantation back in the 'Green Gold' booming days of the late 1800's. Lucky for us, it is today a luxury hotel, restaurant and spa. Experience an ancient Mayan treatment using local plants, fruits and honey or one of their many stress reduction therapies. Its total bliss in paradise! While you are there, dont pass up an opportunity to enjoy some regional favorites at their restaurant. It is truly one of the best meals you will have in the city.
Art Museum and Gallery Hopping
Yucatan Living, is a useful online guide for those living, working or visiting the Yucatan. They have printed a great self guided tour map of museums and galleries in Merida's historical center. Be sure to visit their site to learn about current art events in the city. A not to be missed gallery on their map, is the Nahualli studio, which displays work by the two artists that live and teach there.
Merida en Domingo
There is always a fiesta in this city. Each night of the week there is live music, poetry and food at any one of its parks but the Sunday celebration takes the cake. Its a full day event that closes off portions of the downtown historical center to allow for pedestrians and families on bikes. The impressive main square is filled with food vendors and artisans of all kinds. Don t miss the performers that take you through each region of Mexico with their mesmerizing dances and costumes.
Where to Stay
You can find everything from five star luxury hacienda hotels to homey hostels in this city. There is a place for every budget and style. For those gals interested in luxurious comfort then Casa San Angel is ideal. This family owned boutique hotel sits at the bottom of the city's most important avenue and houses a fantastic restaurant and bakery, two beautiful gift shops and a central courtyard that will make your jaw drop. Each room has its own hammock, perfect for those afternoon siestas.
Need I say more? Casa San Angel on Montejo #1 and 49th street. www.casasanangel.com
Merida is in the tropics, so be sure to pack comfortable light weight fabrics that breath. With the second largest historical center in all of Mexico, Merida is a city you want to experience on foot, so be sure to bring the comfiest flip flops you own and a pair of sneakers for any off the beaten path tours. If your footsies need a break, taxis are cheap and abundant. Dont forget lots of sunscreen and your sense of adventure!