Some interesting to see in Merida

Ease into your first day in the ‘white city’ (known as such because it once had predominantly white limestone buildings) with some tasty eats atWayan’e, one of Mérida’s premier breakfast spots. Take your time over the immensely popular castacán torta (fried pork belly sandwich), or try one of their savory vegetarian options, such as tacos filled with huevo, chayo and xcatic (egg, tree spinach and native chili pepper).

Midday: take in Maya culture

With a belly full of pork belly, head north of town to the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya, a world-class museum celebrating all things Maya, the civilization that once dominated the Yucatán and southern Mexico. The museum houses an impressive collection of remarkably well-preserved artifacts, including an iconic chac-mool sculpture from Chichén Itzá (a reclining figure believed to honor rain god Chaac). For background on Maya culture and history before visiting nearby sites such as Chichén Itzá, this is the place to go.

When leaving the museum, have a gander at the building’s peculiar exterior design, which takes the form of a sacred ceiba tree – said by the Maya to connect the living with the underworld and the heavens above. Buses running along Calle 60 will leave you at the museum’s entrance.

Brush up on Mexico’s pre-Spanish history at the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya © Gerald Marella/Shutterstock

Late-afternoon: siesta time

Totally optional of course, but let’s just say Mérida’s steamy hot weather makes it all too easy to plop into a hammock and drift into a blissful snooze. And you wouldn’t want to buck a time-honored tradition now, would you?

Evening: regional cuisine and mighty mezcal

Come nighttime, hit downtown for dinner and drinks. For wonderfully delicious Yucatecan fare, swing by La Chaya Maya. Yes, the place is perpetually packed, but when you try the regional dishes such as recado negro (black turkey stew) or sopa de lima (lime soup), you’ll know why. It occupies La Casona, a lovely hacienda-style colonial building.

After dinner, mosey over to Fundación Mezcalería for mezcal (an alcoholic agave drink, like a smoky tequila) and music. Housed in a retro-styled bicyclists’ hangout, Mérida’s best mezcal bar features local bands and DJs playing everything from hip-shaking cumbia beats to indie rock and electronica sets. If the music doesn’t help you find your groove, the potent mezcal will.

Morning: early ruins run

Now that you’ve got to grips with Maya history, head out to Chichén Itzá, the best restored of the Yucatán’s archaeological sites. Many mysteries of the Maya astronomical calendar become clear when one understands the design behind the ‘time temples’ here, especially the iconic El Castillo pyramid. The pyramid’s four stairways have 91 steps each; add the top platform and the total comes to 365, the number of days in a year.