I went to the capital of Yucatán in the mexican peninsula almost 2 years ago for a medical convention. Lest to say, even though it was merely February the city was dreadfully hot. It makes Cancún seem like a temperate forest. I can only imagine how miserable the city becomes in August.
Lest to say, I wasn't impressed with the airport. Hard to imagine Merida's airport is international because it's so tiny and unimpressive. There aren't a lot of places to eat and to make matters even worse, insufficient places to sit down.
Travel to the city is pretty straightforward, the airport is close to the city in the south side. I've heard there are inexpensive city buses but I arrived almost at midnight and had to settle for a ridiculously priced shuttle. Normally they'd split the cost between 8 people, but everyone on my flight either left on taxis or they had private hotel cabs awaiting them.
Merida has more than it's share of small churches. I was in a rush to visit Izamal and didn't spend any time entering the lesser churches. I don't really understand why such a small city has 3 different bus terminals but it is confusing. Mérida has a lot of tourist help booths and I thinbk they should give tourist a pamplet with the different bus comapnies/routes of each terminal. I wasted a lot of time walking to the right terminal.
I ended up riding a Mayab which is pretty much a chicken bus. I guess Izamal is so off the beaten track despite it's "Pueblo Mágico" status that ADO doesn't go there. However, after an uneventful 45 minute trip I reached Izamal all right and was greeted by a pleasant sleepy town with buildings that are decorated with the Vatican heraldic colors: gold & white.
Izamal was visited by Pope John Paul II in the 1990's and the locals began to paint everything gold & white to conmemorate the village. It surely gives the village a nice vibe.
Hard to believe such a picturesque little town isn't on the itinerary of most tourists. I think Izamal is far prettier than Valladolid.
Izamal's insignia church in itself is this fantasyland of amazing architecture with a heavy inspiration on Vatican symbols. I simply loved snapping pictures of the church.
If any tourist that stops by didn't know this tidbit already, there is a really nice John Paul II statue right outside of the church.
Izamal's main church is rather large and it's divided into two separate parts. The Virgin of Izamal has a smaller and more private room. This photo s of the main church on the inside.
Wandering the many halls of this large and empty church are colorful facades that are being invaded by the relentless humid weather.
I don't include photos of the small staircase that reaches the private room, but after paying a very modest 10 mxn fee to a church volunteer you have access to a spiffy museum that includes a lot of interesting things. There were a handful of tourists wandering in the lower parts of the church, but nobody wanted to pay the 10 pesos and I had erverything all to myself.
If you are wondering, Pope John Paul II sat on that chair during his visit in 1990. It's really amazing to be able to stand right in front of a piece of history and had everything all to myself. Hard to believe Izamal doesn't get tourists if the place is so awesome.
This is the private upper room where the Virgin of Izamal is located. If you visit the main church you will notice Izamal's figure is right on the top of the photo. The church staff can turn her face around to face the main room or the private red room in the back. I believe the day I visited she was facing the main room. The private room has a stack of papers with letters from visitors. I myself wrote something and she did respond. ;)
Izamal church is an entire maze although I personally liked this oddly shaped staircase going back to one of the plazas. I wasn't however all that pleased that tourist carriage horses were just standing in the 80 F heat without some shade or water.
Izamal isn't just famous for it's church and odd spanish Vatican inspired architecture, it used to have a strong Post Classical era Maya presence and has a total of 9 pyramids scattered all over town, many of them in ode to a different animal. Kinich Kachi-koo is the largest pyramid in the town. Maybe it isn't nearly as impressive as Chichen-Itzá, but you can climb the pyramid to the top and pretty much have it all to yourself. It's a shame by the time I climbed to the top the sun was at it's most merciless. The view from the top is okay, Izamal isn't a large town.
The next day I went to downtown Mérida and took some photos. Mérida's main church is really impressive. It's very hard to take a clear shot of the entire building up close because it's so large.
The inside of Mérida's main church is quite nice with elegant pillars and a ciircular conical structure on top.
Being the oldest Catholic church as such in the entire continent (near Holbox is an even older catholic parish in ruins) means a lot of people have died during it's more than 500 year history. At some point in time they started burying people right beneath the building. Stepping on tombstones everywhere is a sort of disturbing experience. Reminded me of the 3rd Indiana Jones film.
Right next to the main church is a very ancient house that was owned by the Montejo Family. A mexican bank purchased the house at some point of time but they turned it into a museum with free entry. Luckily I showed up when there weren't a horde of tourists on Mérida's official bus tour and had the house almost to myself.
That particular room with pink walls and angel statues gave me the creeps. I think I had a nightmare with that room at one point of time.
The Casa Montejo also has a very pleasant garden but tourists aren't allowed to walk on it.
While there are some thing that I disliked about Mérida overall it's a nice city. It's such a shame I was there for less than 2 days and didn't get to see much. I have been stalling going back in part because plane tickets are so pricey but I might go see it someday. I'm starting to miss their bacon stews.