Chichén Itzá is a world-famous complex of Mayan ruins on Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula. A massive step pyramid known as El Castillo dominates the 6.5-sq.-km. ancient city, which thrived from around 600 A.D. to the 1200s. Graphic stone carvings survive at structures like the ball court, Temple of the Warriors and the Wall of the Skulls. Nightly sound-and-light shows illuminate the buildings' sophisticated geometry. Take a day trip just outside of Merida to see one of the seven wonders of the world!
A world-class museum celebrating Maya culture, the Gran Museo houses a permanent collection of more than 1100 remarkably well-preserved artifacts, including a reclining chac-mool sculpture from Chichén Itzá and an underworld figure unearthed at Ek' Balam (check out his skull belt and reptile headdress). If you're planning on visiting the area's ruins, drop by here first for some context and an up-close look at some of the fascinating pieces found at the sites.
Uxmal is an ancient Maya city of the classical period in present-day Mexico. It is considered one of the most important archaeological sites of Maya culture. It has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in recognition of its significance.
It is located 62 km south of Mérida, capital of Yucatán state in Mexico. Its buildings are noted for their size and decoration. The buildings take advantage of the terrain to gain height and acquire important volumes, including the Pyramid of the Magician, with five levels, and the Governor's Palace, which covers an area of more than 1,200 m2 (12,917 sq ft).
The massive Palacio Cantón houses the Museo Regional de Antropología, an anthropology museum with temporary exhibits focusing primarily on culture and history in the Yucatán, although some exhibits will occasionally offer a broader look at other regions of Mexico. Construction of the mansion lasted from 1909 to 1911.
Its owner, General Francisco Cantón Rosado (1833–1917), lived here for only six years before his death. The Palacio’s splendor and pretension make it a fitting symbol of the grand aspirations of Mérida’s elite during the last years of the Porfiriato – the period from 1876 to 1911 when Porfirio Díaz held despotic sway over Mexico.
Sotuta de Peón is the restoration project of a landmark located in the heart of the Yucatan state, and gives a true glimpse of what was once a fully operational Henequen Hacienda.
When touring Sotuta de Peon, visitors are transported on wooden platforms which are pulled by mules over Cauville rails, as were originally used by the workers. Sotuta de Peon showcases the step-by-step process of the transformation of the Henequen (or Green Gold as it was known throughout the region), from plant to fiber and from fiber to finished product. In addition to the historic plantations, Sotuta Peon has unique beautiful underground rivers of crystal clear alkaline waters (called cenotes) that visitors can take a swim in.
On the site of a former Maya temple is Mérida’s hulking, severe cathedral, begun in 1561 and completed in 1598. Some of the stone from the Maya temple was used in its construction. The massive crucifix behind the altar is Cristo de la Unidad (Christ of Unity), a symbol of reconciliation between those of Spanish and Maya heritage.
The cathedral’s interior is largely plain, its rich decoration having been stripped away by angry peasants at the height of anticlerical fervor during the Mexican Revolution.
The pretty little Parque Santa Lucía has arcades on the north and west sides; this was where travelers would get on or off the stagecoaches that linked towns and villages with the provincial capital. Today it's a popular restaurant area and venue for Serenatas Yucatecas (Yucatecan Serenades), a free weekly concert on Thursday at 9pm.