Our trip to Merida!
While visiting our favorite condo in the entire world, Casa de Sueno at the Rosa Blanca condominium complex in wonderful Playa del Carmen, Mexico, we decided to take a “trip within a trip" to the capital of the Yucatan Peninsula, the city of Merida!
Merida is rich in history, culture and art. From the many exquisite churches to the historical palaces and homes of very influential members of Mexican and Mayan history...Merida has it all! The city of Merida boasts a population of well over 800,000 people. With both car and foot traffic, the city is bustling 24/7. This factor sets Merida apart from the quiet atmosphere offered by Playa del Carmen….
Merida was once the stronghold of Spanish colonialism in the Yucatan Peninsula. You will find restaurants, museums and markets along with beautiful mansions, churches and buildings that recall the city's peak of success as the wealthiest capital in all of Mexico.
The city is full of colourful streets!
The easiest way to get around Mexico is the ADO bus! Although there was a lot of apprehension about using the bus, it turned out to be a very pleasant experience. The ADO schedule from Playa to Merida can be access at www.ado.com.mx. Please note that this site will provide you with a general idea of the places and times the ADO runs to and from but the best thing to do is to go to the bus station on Juarez or 20th Avenue in Playa and look at the schedule posted on the board. Schedules change frequently apparently so be sure to verify your information at a bus station and do not rely on the website.
There are two bus stations in Playa del Carmen. There is one downtown at the corner of Juarez and 5th Avenue. It is apparently called “Playa del Carmen Alterna, Qro”. The second station is located at 20th Avenue and Calle 12. It is apparently called “Playa del Carmen, Qroo”. These buses are well maintained “coaches” complete with bathrooms and air conditioning. The high-backed, generously cushioned seats are very comfortable and clean. There are various levels of ADO buses with respect to comfort but all are great for travel around Mexico. As the “luxury” of the coach increases, so does the price! We took the lowest level coach and were very pleased. The cost for this level was $334 pesos per person one-way to Merida.
The buses to Merida fill up quickly so be sure to purchase your tickets ahead of time. We planned to travel on the 18th but were advised to purchase early. We went to the station on Juarez on the 16th and the bus we wanted to take was already 80% full! On the day we travelled, the bus was completely booked.
Here is another very important piece of information that you need to be aware of. We can thank the Playa Forum (www.playa.info/playa-del-carmen-forum) for assisting us with this….the bus to Merida departs from the 20th Ave station only! We misunderstood originally and were under the impression that we could purchase our tickets and depart from the Juarez station. This is not the case! Had we not been made aware of this critical piece of info prior to our trip, we would have been at the wrong place and missed our bus! You can purchase your tickets at either station but ensure you know which station your coach leaves from!
It is important that you understand that there are 3 bus stations in Merida. They are as follows: Merida, Yuc. CAME, Merida Fiesta Americana, Yuc., and Merida Altabrisa, Yuc.
We chose to arrive at the Merida, Yuc. CAME station because it is right downtown, it was close to the Gran Hotel where we stayed and, most importantly, arriving at this station offered us the best choice of times to leave Playa! We chose to take the 10:30am coach that offered the quickest direct trip, 4 hours and 15 minutes, to Merida. The station you choose will depend on your circumstances!
Once we arrived at the CAME station, we took a 5 minute taxi ride to the Gran Hotel. The day we departed, we asked the hotel staff to arrange for a taxi to pick us up and take us back to the CAME station. It was quick and easy!
If you plan to use a taxi, write down the address you want to go to in Spanish if at all possible. The taxi drivers do not understand a lot of English, spoken or written. Ask the hotel staff to help you with this or…use Google Translate!! It was a great help to us! www.translate.google.com.
One thing to remember, all the even number streets run one direction while the odd numbered streets run the other direction. Ie: The Gran Hotel is on Calle 60 near the intersection of Calle 60 and Calle 59. All even numbers intersect with odd numbers. Ask your hotel staff if they have maps available to assist you.
Where to stay:
We stayed at the Gran Hotel, which is located on Parque Hidalgo. This legendary hotel was built in1901. It boasts high ceilings and wrought iron balconies and ornately patterned tile floors. The decor is so classic you expect to see a Spanish Señorita appear and grace the grand staircase wearing a beautiful floor length gown. If you are a true history buff, this is the place for you! They have tried to keep things as original as possible!
The hotel has undergone some renovations as recently as 2004. The Gran Hotel has WiFi and televisions. Since it is located right in the centre of town, it is right in the middle of all the hustle and bustle of Merida. It is close to everything you want to see and do. There is a restaurant on site that is operated independently. The food is very good and reasonably priced for a "tourist" city. The two nights we were there they had live entertainment that was absolutely awesome. Say “Hola” to Carlos for us if he is playing when you visit!
There are no elevators in this hotel. If stairs are a concern, this may not be the right place to stay. All guest rooms are on the second and third floors. There is no pool at this hotel.
We tried to call and reserve a room on our own but no one spoke English. It would be wise to have your concierge call and make inquiries for you and then make your reservations to ensure there are no misunderstandings. Try to get a confirmation number or an email stating that you are booked.
Hotel info is as follows:
Calle 60 No. 496, Centro
Calle 60 y Calle 59
We took a city tour with La Gua Gua Tours. There are many tours available but this company offered convenient times and the tour guide spoke both Spanish and English. Other tour companies only offer their services in Spanish. Be sure you find out what language your tour is offered in before you book anything!
The La Gua Gua tour took just over 2 hours and covered a large portion of the city. The cost was very reasonable. Only $90 pesos per person for adults and $50 pesos per child!
The tour company’s information is as follows:
La Gua Gua
Calle 55, Num. 506
Between Calle 60 & 62
Across from Santa Lucia’s Park
Merida Centro Historico
La Gua Gua Tour times:
10am, 1pm, 4pm, 7pm
Cathedral de San Ildefonso. Apparently this beautiful church began in 1545 and is believed to be the oldest cathedral on the mainland in the Americas. Several hundred Mayan labourers worked with stones from the pyramids to create this church over a 36 year period. There are many items inside that warrant a visit! The church is only open for certain periods during the day. We went at 4pm on the day we arrived and were fortunate to meet a very interesting gentleman who was happy to show us around and explain the many wonders housed within this amazing cathedral. Be sure to visit with the “Cristo de las Ampollas” (Christ of the Blisters) and learn the history of this amazing statue. The enormous crucifix within the altar is the “Cristo de la Unidad” (Christ of Unity), a symbol of reconciliation between those of Spanish and Maya heritage. The carving is just over 7 meters or 23 feet long!
Independencia or the Plaza Principal. This spot even has free WiFi!! It was originally laid out in 1542 on the ruins of T'ho, the Mayan city demolished to make way for the city of Merida.
Gran Hotel. If you are not staying at this hotel, at least stop by and see it. It is beautifully kept and deserves a look. Refer to the pictures above!
Government Palace. (Palacio de Gobierno) This structure was built in 1892 on the site of the palace of the colonial governors. On the walls there are murals painted by local artist Fernando Castro Pacheco. Completed in 1978, they were 25 years in the making and portray a symbolic history of the Maya and their interaction with the Spaniards. The structure is absolutely beautiful.
There are many more points of interest to see in Merida but we had another adventure to take so that was all we were able to see in 1.5 days!
From here we left on another ADO bus and headed to Chichen Itza to meet with our tour buddy, Mitch, owner of Yucatreks! We met up with Mitch and 16 other wonderful people and toured the amazing ruins at Chichen Itza. The tour also included a stop at a great cenote, lunch at a wonderful authentic Yucatan restaurant and finally a visit to the fascinating city of Valladolid. Visit Mitch’s website for all the details! http://yucatreks.com
We travelled back to Playa del Carmen with Mitch that evening in his tour van.
It was a wonderful 3 day trip. We highly recommend it! Mexico has so much to see and do. Do not hesitate to use the ADO bus. Plan your trips and go! Using the condo as your home base for all sorts of adventures is a perfect way to see all the magnificent sights in Mexico.
We hope this story will encourage you to travel to Merida and other parts of Mexico!
Enjoy your stay at Casa de Sueno! We will be back for a third year in a row in 2014!
Thanks Laurie & Mark!
Doug & Lori M