Yucatán and Campeche States: Places to Explore

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Mérida

Bustling streets, lively parks, a tropical version of the Champs-Elysées, endless cultural activities, and a varied nightlife: Mérida is the beating urban heart of the Yucatán. The hubbub of the city can seem frustrating—especially if you've just spent a peaceful few days on the coast or visiting Mayan sites—but as the cultural and intellectual hub of the peninsula, Mérida is rich in art, history, and tradition.

Most streets are one-way and the bus routes are not all that direct, so you're better of parking your car near the downtown main plaza and walking to the local sites and attractions. Most are located around the zócalo (main plaza), bordered by Calles 60-63. Using this as your starting point is a great way to get to know the layout of the city.

If you need extra orientation, be sure to stop in at the tourism offices, where you'll find friendly, helpful staff. After recent scandals involving scam artists who hang official-looking "tourist guide" badges around their necks, the tourism office staff warns tourists not to trust people offering themselves as guides. A two- to three-hour group tour of the city, including museums, parks, public buildings, and monuments, costs $20 to $35 per person. Free guided tours are offered daily by the Municipal Tourism Department. These last about an hour and 45 minutes and depart from City Hall, on the main plaza, at 9:30 am Monday through Saturday. Or you can rent gear for a four-hour audio-guide tour for about $7. More information is available at 999/942-0000.

There have also been recent reports of vendors increasing the prices of their art and crafts by the hundreds, claiming that the value of their wares is far greater than it really is. Most vendors are honest, so just be sure to shop around and acquaint yourself with the kinds of crafts, and the levels of quality, that are available. Once you have an idea of what's out there, you'll be much better able to spot fraud, and you may even have some fun bargaining.

Most streets in Mérida are numbered, not named, and most run one-way. North–south streets have even numbers, which descend from west to east, east–west streets have odd numbers, which ascend from north to south. Street addresses are confusing because they don't progress in even increments by blocks, for example, the 600s may occupy two or more blocks. A particular location is therefore usually identified by indicating the street number and the nearest cross street, as in "Calle 64 and Calle 61," or "Calle 64 between Calles 61 and 63," which is written "Calle 64 x 61 y 63."

Mérida at a Glance

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