Planner’s Travel Series
About the series: Welcome to our ongoing travel series. These are all posts written by planning students and professionals about what to do in a given city when looking for Brunch, a Brew, or a good idea on a Budget. To cap it all off, we include a fun planning fact!
By Lance Gloss
About the visit: The Yucatán peninsula features tourism hotspots like Cancún and Tulum. By comparison, Mérida is an after-thought for the average American vacationer. Lucky for me, several of my friends had recently visited Mérida. They came back singing its praises. They were right! Those that continue to overlook Mérida miss out on the beating heart of the Mayan culture and the economic center of southern Mexico.
It’s brunch, not breakfast when you’ve stayed up all night salsa dancing at any of the city’s many dance venues. It’s hard to go wrong, but the best food in town can be found at La Chaya Maya. It’s a bit more upscale than your average Yucatecan restaurant. Still, the quality far exceeds the price. For best results, ask for something you don’t know anything about and eat whatever ends up in front of you!
By the time you get out of the restaurant, marquesita makers will be out on the street with their bicycle-drawn carts. These delicious snacks are crunchy crepes, roll and stuffed with the filling of your choice. The optimal contents (I wouldn’t mislead you) are the combination of Nutella and gouda.
Mérida doesn’t have much of a reputation for beer or wine. That doesn’t mean that the buck stops with tequila! When the heat reflecting off the street becomes too much to bear, chase down Chaya in one of its many forms.
Yucatán residents use the leaves of the Chaya (Cnidoscolus aconitifolius) in Agua de Chaya (Chaya water). This drink blends crushed Chaya leaves with fruit juices and ice. The green drink effectively soothes on a sweltering day.
Bars and cafes also serve cocktails of Chaya and tequila—but these won’t contribute to your hydration. You can even find Chaya soup in most Yucatecan restaurants. In all its forms, Chaya delivers a powerful flavor, as well as more protein and iron than spinach.
For a traveler with Euros or US Dollars, Mérida’s prices on food and transportation will be a welcome reprieve from the ongoing inflation at home. If you’re looking to save a little on accommodations, the choice is clear: stay at one of the city’s growing number of hostels. Prices hover around 35 USD for a private room and go as low as 10 USD for a bunk bed in a multi-traveler room.
This buys you much more than a pillow and a shower. Hostels in the Yucatan capture the flow of international and domestic travelers, attracting adventurers, remote workers, and self-seekers who want a shared experience. Have a laugh, go on an impromptu adventure, and practice the language of your choosing!
Fun Planning Fact
Like many cities founded by the Spanish in Central America, Mérida’s consists of a tightly gridded colonial core area with a more sprawling periphery of high- and low-income barrios. Merida’s most famous design feature is micro, not macro. It’s a chair. Really, it’s two chairs put together.
This whitewashed double chair goes by many names, including sillas tú y yo (you-and-me chairs) and sillas de los enamorados (lovers’ chairs). These sillas are found in nearly every public space throughout the city center. Their subtle design speaks to traditions of courtship, as they allow a balance of eye contact with modesty. Legend has it that the first one was installed by a concerned father. He sought a way for his daughter to meet her potential husband in public without compromising her decency and so created the first sillas tú y yo in the city.
Featured Image: La Piñateria Photo Credit: Lance Gloss
Lance is a second-generation urban planner with a passion for economic development strategies that center natural resource conservation and community uplift. He served as Managing Editor of the Urban Journal at Brown University, Section Editor at the College Hill Independent, and Senior Planner for the City of Grand Junction. Hailing from sunny Colorado, he earned his BA in Urban Studies at Brown and will earn his Master in City and Regional Planning at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2023. Outside of work, he can be found on his bicycle, in the woods, or on the rugby pitch.