10 Amazing Facts About Mérida, Mexico

We thought we were wholly familiar with Mexico after traveling around the country for several months. Then we arrived in Merida. It wasn’t what we expected, and there were many things that surprised us about this amazing city. We learned so much about this city and we want to share what we learned about the city with you. Here are 10 amazing facts about Merida, Mexico.

(If you prefer to watch a video with the same information then click this link: 10 Amazing Facts About Merida, Mexico)

Fact #1: Mérida is the safest city in Mexico (and the second safest city in the Americas)

Merida is the 21st safest large city in the world.

This cathedral was built in the 16th century, and it was built on the site of some Mayan ruins. They even used some of the stones from those ruins to build the cathedral itself. One key feature of this cathedral is the coat of arms on the structure, which originally contained a representation of the royal crown of Spain. But then, to protest against Spain, the crown was removed and it was replaced with the eagle as seen on the modern Mexican flag.

This is the fact that surprised us the most. Mexico gets a bad reputation for crime. But we have traveled to 11 states in Mexico so far and have not been in a situation where we have felt unsafe. And Merida feels safer than other Mexican cities. But in the Americas, according to CEOWorld Magazine, only Quebec City was rated safer, and Merida was rated the 21st safest city in the world. Not bad if you ask me. The security situation anywhere in the world can change quickly, so you always want to research the latest security information before going somewhere.

Fact #2: The oldest cathedral in Mexico is in Mérida

Merida’s San Ildefonso Cathedral.

This cathedral was built in the 16th century, and it was built on the site of some Mayan ruins. They even used some of the stones from those ruins to build the cathedral itself. One key feature of this cathedral is the coat of arms on the structure, which originally contained a representation of the royal crown of Spain. But then, to protest against Spain, the crown was removed and it was replaced with the eagle as seen on the modern Mexican flag.

Fact #3: The neighborhoods in the northern part of Mérida are relatively wealthy

Merida has some pretty spiffy neighborhoods.

Of course every city in Mexico (and the world for that matter) is going to have certain sections that are better off than others. And here in Merida it happens to be the northern part of the city where you are going to find the modern and high end housing. When we booked our apartment it had an address we thought was going to be on one area of the city. But there are different streets with the same name around the city, and it turns out that our apartment was actually in a completely different area. It ended up being in one of the city’s wealthiest areas.

Fact #4: Mérida’s cost of living is reasonable

Our spending in Merida.

I was just telling you about the wealth we have seen in Merida, and when we arrived we assumed that this meant the prices would also be higher. But we were surprised. Our apartment was on the expensive side at $832 per month, but again it was located in an upscale neighborhood. And we could have rented a similar apartment for about half the price if we rented directly through the owner on a one year lease instead of through Airbnb. Our food budget was lower than the previous month, mainly because we did more of our own cooking and went to eat out only a couple of times per week. Our activity spending was higher than usual (more on that later). And we both had dental cleanings at $25 each. So our total for the month came to $1902.

Fact #5: Mérida is one of Mexico’s hottest cities

Prepare to sweat.

I’m referring to temperature here. The northern part of Mexico has some desert areas that get very hot. But Merida is very hot and very humid. When you factor in the humidity it feels like it’s around 110 Fahrenheit or around 45 Celsius for a big chunk of the year. We were in Merida in November, which is when it starts to cool off a little. But cooling off here just means very slightly less hot. Temperatures, even in the cooler months, are in the 90’s. But we did have some pleasant days here.

Fact #6: Mérida was once the henequen capital of the world

Henequen plants were used to produce rope.

Henequen is an agave plant and it was cultivated around Merida mainly to use in the manufacturing of rope. We visited one of the many large and very beautiful haciendas built in the area surrounding Merida where this industry flourished. We met a man who began working at the hacienda when he was eleven years old. He continued working here until the industry eventually faded out due to the increased use of synthetic rope.

Fact #7: Mérida has unique food that is different from the rest of Mexico

We ate cochinita pibil almost every time we went out to eat.

My favorite Yucatan dish was cochinita pibil. This is a pork dish, where the pork is wrapped in banana leaves and roasted underground. I wish I could have seen the process, but it’s the flavor that counts the most. And it is truly delicious, having been marinated with citrus juices. Another great dish is sopa de lima, or lime soup. This soup, as you would expect from the name, has lime juice, mixed with chicken or turkey broth, and then some oregano, cloves, and other seasonings.

Fact #8: Mérida is surrounded by hundreds of cenotes

Find a cenote if you want a cool, refreshing swim.

A cenote is a giant sink hole or cave that typically contains ground water. They are popular places to swim and cool off in the heat. The cenote we went to was located just a little bit south of Merida, and the water absolutely crystal clear and beautiful.

Fact #9: Some of Mexico’s best archeological sites are near Mérida

Uxmal is less crowded than Chichen Itza.

Let’s start with Uxmal, just south of Merida. The buildings in Uxmal are noted for their size and decoration. The most dominate structure is the Pyramid of the Magician, but there are many other interesting structures around the site. This Mayan city was home to around 25,000 inhabitants and flourished for about 400 years beginning around the year 600 AD.

The next archeological site near Merida, and one of the most famous sites in Mexico if not the entire world, is of course Chichen Itza. I know everybody has seen pictures of this place. But it’s just not the same as actually coming here. And yes, the architecture of the temples and ruins is impressive. But what is just absolutely amazing is learning about the lifestyle of the Mayan people who inhabited this city. This civilization was so advanced for it’s time: in it’s economy, in it’s academic knowledge especially in the field of astronomy, in athletics, in city planning. When I came here in 1989 it was still permitted to climb the structures. Even though climbing is no longer allowed, and even though there is a little bit of a theme park atmosphere here, the site retains its magnificence.

Fact #10: The world’s longest pier is near Mérida, Mexico

This pier was expanded in the 1990s and became the world’s longest.

The beach town of Progresso is just about an hour north of central Merida. Progreso has, by one measure, the world’s longest pier that stretches out 4 miles into the ocean. Our day trip to Progreso was pleasant and very relaxing.

Final Thoughts About Mérida

We really liked Merida! We liked that there is the traditional, authentic Mexico mixed with the modern and contemporary lifestyle, all together in one place. But could we actually live here in Merida? Yeah, I think we really could. The only downside that we see to living in Merida is the heat. It’s so hot here. But we really enjoyed our time in Merida. We appreciate the safety and security of the city, the numerous activities, and now we understand why people come to live here.

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