By Nils Bernstein
Photos by Luis Garcia
Originally appeared in March 2015 issue of Virtuoso Life
This balmy city – the largest on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula – is an enticing escape from cold climates in spring. Its enduring Mayan traditions and distinctive architecture, which draws on Renaissance, baroque, Moorish, and Gothic styles, evoke Mexico’s colonial towns, while the large student population lends the town a vibrant urban energy. Mérida is also a great base from which to explore the ruins of Chichén Itzá, Uxmal, and Dzibilchaltún, or the quiet beaches of the Flamingo Coast, named for the pink flamingos that inhabit its lagoons.
Acclaimed K’u’uk (313 Calle 30; 52-999/944-3377) serves up creations such as a mock “fossil” made of ginkgo leaf, bee pollen, cactus paddle, seaweed, and dried smelt – all ancient ingredients meant to evoke the asteroid strike on the peninsula millions of years ago, which some think killed off the dinosaurs. Rosas & Xocolate (480 Paseo de Montejo; 52-999/924-2992) puts local ingredients to unexpected use in dishes such as octopus ceviche with habanero sorbet, and duck with chorizo, corn, melon, and xcatic pepper. Sample Yucatecan specialties such as papadzules (egg-stuffed tortillas in tomato and pumpkinseed sauces) and relleno negro (a turkey stew with charred chilies) at La Chaya Maya (481 Calle 62; 52-999/928-4780) or from food stands at bustling Mercado Lucas de Gálvez (enter where Calle 67 meets Calle 56a).
Querreke (66 Calle 30; 52-999/913-8290) bills itself as the first Mexican gastrobar in Mérida and is the hippest spot to try local drinks such as the anise-flavored xtabentún, a liqueur made with honey from the stingless Melipona bee, and local craft beers Cerveza Rústica and Cerveza Ceiba. Tucked inside a restored mansion, Casa Lecanda Wine & Tequila Bar (471 Calle 47; 52-999/928-0112) spills onto a patio and has a surprisingly large selection of Mexican and international wines.
Visit the nearby town of Tixkokob for Mexico’s best hammocks or find them in Mérida at Hamacas el Aguacate (604 Calle 58 at Calle 73; 52-999/285-0574). Look for models made from sisal fiber with the tightest weave. Elegant pleated guayabera shirts are a Mexican wedding must; find high-quality styles at Guayaberas Jack (507a Calle 59; 52-999/928-5999) and JK Guayaberas (319d Calle 60 between Avenidas Colón and Cupules; 52-999/920-4571). Government-run Casa de las Artesanías (513 Calle 63; 52-999/928-6676) is a reliable one-stop-shop for crafts such as hand-embroidered blouses and panama hats, or jipis.
A Virtuoso travel advisor can connect you to opportunities like those above (or different ones more suited to your Mexican vacation tastes). To connect, click below.