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Merida is the capital of the Yucatan province in Mexico. If you plan a Mexico Yucatan road trip itinerary, I highly recommend adding a stop in Merida for 3 days. You’ll have one day for the best cenotes in Yucatan & henequen plantation Sotuta de Peón which I already covered before in a blog post. The other day you’ll have time to explore Merida and do a Dzibilchaltún mayan ruins tour. I’ll cover here all the places of interest for a day in Merida.
Merida day trip itinerary
For a Merida day trip you don’t need to plan anything in advance. If you’re with car, which you probably are if you follow my Yucatan road trip itinerary then you can simply drive to the Dzibilchaltún Mayan ruins. Otherwise a taxi will do as well as the taxi will wait for you and take you back. Go early morning so that you’ll finish late morning and be back in Merida for lunch and a city tour. For the Merida city tour, you can simply walk around town, take a horse carriage or the sightseeing bus. Now, lets have a look at all the must-see places and things to do in Merida.
Exploring Yucatan: An amazing 10 day Yucatan itinerary
Dzibilchaltún Mayan ruins tour
A Dzibilchaltún Mayan ruins tour takes about 2-3 hours depending how fast you walk but also if you go swim in the cenote or not. The opening time of Dzibilchaltún is 8AM and I recommend being there around 8:30AM. The entrance fee for Dzibilchaltún is just 10 USD and includes the option to swim. I recommend to start at the museum to understand the history. Then the Temple of the Seven Dolls and finish at the cenote. This is the most efficient way to walk around and understand the site.
Make sure to visit the museum first to learn about the history of Dzibilchaltún. First settlers probably settled 3 centuries BC. The ancient Mayan city of Dzibilchaltún wasn’t the largest but it was of great importance. It did grow during the 6th-9th century to a population of over 20000. The location is interesting as it’s close to the sea but still on fertile lands. It’s believed that the economy was based not only on agriculture but also on a marine and coastal economy. The town size is 9 square kilometers but the central area which you’ll visit was just 3 square kilometers. Remaining buildings include temples and administrative buildings as houses were mainly constructed from wood and long gone.
Dzibilchaltún tour: Temple of the Seven Dolls
After exploring the museum walk along the sacbe, or main road, towards the Temple of the Seven Dolls. It’s a beautiful and complete temple and for sure the highlight of a Dzibilchaltún mayan ruins tour and maybe even the complete Merida day trip. It got its name from 7 offering dolls that were found in the interior. On top of a stepped pyramid is a building with openings and windows on each side. It looks like an astronomical observatory and you can experience the equinox there. There is however no proof that it was used this way. Now, backtrack your steps and just follow the signs to the Cenota called Xlakah.
Swim at the Dzibilchaltún Xlakah cenote
Before you reach the Dzibilchaltún Xlakah cenote you pass a church, pyramid temple and ruins of offices with stairs. The church isn’t Mayan but built later during Spanish colonial rule. Many of the pottery you have seen in the Dzibilchaltún museum was found in the cenote. A cenote is a sinkhole (collapsed earth) and often filled with water. The Mayans used the cenote probably as a source of fresh water for the city. You can go swim in it so take your swimsuit if you plan to do so. Make sure to finish your Dzibilchaltún Mayan ruins tour at the end of the morning and return to Merida for lunch.
Merida city tour: Central Square
Start your Merida city trip at the main square with a delicious lunch. There are plenty of places to have a meal. After lunch explore the city central square called Plaza Grande. Check out the various buildings around the square including the Merida cathedral and Museo Macay (contemporary art) in the east. Then visit Casa de Montejo, the 1549 palace of Montejo the Conquistadorn. Continue west to the old city hall Ayuntamiento and clock tower. Last visit the Governor’s Palace and make sure to visit the interior as well. Now, you can choose how to continue to El Paseo Montejo with its many Spanish colonial buildings.
Exploring Yucatan: An amazing 10 day Yucatan itinerary
Merdia city tour: El Paseo Montejo
El Paseo Montejo is the old main street with large Spanish colonial buildings which are also very nice restored. They date to the 19th century when the henequen plantations flourished. As you cannot really visit the interiors, I decided to take the sightseeing bus around town. It was too hot to walk, and I didn’t want to sit alone in a horse carriage. Seemed a bit weird to me. You can get out at various place and explore but I decided to just do the whole round and end again at the main square. You can visit Palácio Canton which has rotating exhibitions and Quinta Montes Molina which still has its colonial interior. I called it a day around 5PM and went back to my hotel.
I really enjoyed the half day Dzibilchaltún Mayan ruins tour and half day Merida city trip. It’s a perfect Merida itinerary and especially if you’re on a schedule you don’t need to add more time on a Yucatan itinerary in Merida. Make sure to read my Yucatan itinerary to see what I did more and check the best cenotes in Yucatan & henequen plantation Sotuta de Peón which is a great day trip from Merida.
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Did you visit Merida and the Dzibilchaltún ruins too or do you have questions? Please leave a comment at the bottom of the page. Love to hear from you!
Gallery Merida day trip
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