I went to Yucatan in March to shoot the 6th segment of Quest for Beauty. As usual I was there with a mission: getting some beautiful portraits, spend time with the locals and experience and learn about their culture, which didn’t leave much room for touristy stuff. While working though I still got to see and do some really cool things and I met some truly amazing people that showed me the best of this state.
Here’s a quick guide to this beautiful Mayan land.
WHERE TO STAY: There are hotels and hostels all over the state.
WEATHER: Amazing! It was nice and warm during the day and slightly chilly at night. March is definitely a great month to visit weather-wise but in late April it starts being scorching hot already.
LANGUAGE: Spanish and Mayan(in the villages especially ). A lot of people speak english.
CURRENCY & BANKS: Mexican Peso [ 1.00 USD = 18.65 MXN]. There are lots of ATMs around but cards are not accepted everywhere so make sure to carry some cash with you.
HOW TO GET AROUND: Rent a car, it’s SO damn cheap! For $15 a day you can have your own car and cruise around as you wish(gas is cheap too). In case you don’t like driving your best bet is ADO, the main bus company , their busses go all around Mexico [if you take one of those make sure to have warm clothes on, it’s freezing on those busses].
AIRPORT: The most convenient airport is Cancun International Airport (CUN). It’s about 4 hours away from Merida.
Merida is a modern, young, vibrant city. Downtown Merida is by far my favorite part of the city because is colorful busy and authentic (I was a bit disappointed of the look od the rest of the city as it looked very americanized.). Plaza Grande, is a beautiful square worth checking out and if you need to do some touristy shopping there are stores all over near by.
My favorite activity in Merida was…eating like a pig, of course! The food was beyond delicious pretty much everywhere I went and the only reason I didn’t become obese is because it was also actually pretty healthy (more on food later!).
I strongly suggest to take a tour of the markets—the best one for me was Lucas De Galvez Mercado—and buy some fresh products…I never had avocados as good as the ones I got there!
CHICHEN ITZA & OTHER RUINS
I got incredibly lucky and, thanks to Dana, the beautiful girl I was shooting for QFB, I had the opportunity to visit Chichen Itza after hours when no one else was there, just us, silence and mayan magic! It was one of the most dauntingly beautiful experiences of my life. We stayed there for dinner and watch the light show at night, it was awesome!
There are many other ruins and temples around Merida, some are easier to get then others, some are more jaw dropping than others. I unfortunately only had time to check out another site called Dzibilchaltun, only 15 minutes away from Merida.
Izamal is a pretty yellow town about 30 minutes away from merida. On the drive there you’ll pass many henequen fields, worth stopping for a quick instagram pic 😉 . You can visit the whole town in a few hours.
RIO LAGARTO or CELESTUN
These two small towns, located in opposite sides of the state, both share two pretty amazing things: Pink water and TONS of Pink flamingos! I didn’t make it there unfortunately but you definitely should!
TULUM, PLAYA DEL CARMEN & OTHER BEACHES
Tulum has some of the most beautiful beaches and ruins, must stop!
Playa del Carmen is a small town along the coast. It’s the perfect place for people that are looking to either relax or to party their asses of! After a month of work-adventures I desperately needed a day off— like we say in italian— “dolce far niente” (literally “sweet doing nothing’!). With my usual perfect timing though I ended up in playa del carmen during spring brake and hoards of wasted college kids were running around everywhere…great! So i took my car and drove up the cost until I found a calm empty beach and hung out there all day. The color of the water in the Yucatan peninsula is an awe inducing drug, i couldn’t get enough of it!
There are lots of activities to do here, snorkeling, swim with whale sharks and turtles, scuba-diving, or explore the cenotes (underwater caves and rivers spread all around the region).
VISIT THE VILLAGES
Take a drive outside the city and visit the local villages, I think the most beautiful part of traveling is not the ordinary touristy crap (which sometimes is still amazing though!) but to get to see how people live their everyday life. There’s so much we can learn from it!
I thought I knew mexican food before this trip…I was wrong! I can say with unshakable conviction that I had some of the best meals of my life in yucatan. You think you know what a taco taste like…trust me, you don’t know shit! Not until you come here! 😵
Summer clothes, swimsuits, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, books… you can find pretty much everything you need there so pack light!
SAFETY: Yucatan gained the reputation of safest state in Mexico. I felt very comfortable and safe everywhere, although my local friends told me the south part of the city is best to be avoided.
FOR GIRLS: the usual catcalling annoyances will follow you through out all south america. Take a deep breath, keep walking, let it go for now!
LIFE COST: cheaper than the US and Europe.
EASY TO GET AROUND: yes but seriously though, just rent a car!
ADVENTURES: Lots of ruins exploring and swimming related activities.
Overall a beautiful place! What made me love it though is not just the mayan magic in the air but the kindness of the people I cross path with, I was stunned by how many people went out of their way to help me, I feel incredibly thankful for it!