Mérida, the capital of the Yucatán state in Mexico, is a fascinating city known for its rich history, culture, and architecture. But while there is plenty to see and do in Mérida, there are also many exciting day trip destinations within a few hours drive from the city. From ancient Mayan ruins to natural wonders and charming colonial towns, the Yucatán has something for everyone. 

1. Chichen Itza (just under 2 hours)

One of the most famous and impressive Mayan archaeological sites in the world, Chichen Itza is a must-see destination for anyone visiting the Yucatán. Located just two hours from Mérida, this ancient city is home to the iconic El Castillo pyramid, the Great Ball Court, the Temple of the Warriors, and other stunning structures that offer a glimpse into the fascinating Mayan civilization.

Visitors can also explore the nearby cenote (a natural swimming hole) of Ik Kil, which is located just a short distance from the ruins. With its crystal-clear waters and lush greenery, this natural wonder is the perfect place to cool off after a hot day exploring the ruins.

2. Uxmal and Choco Story (just over 1 hour)

Another impressive Mayan archaeological site near Mérida is Uxmal, which is located about an hour and a half from the city. This ancient city is known for its well-preserved buildings, intricate carvings, and impressive architecture, including the Governor’s Palace and the Pyramid of the Magician.

Choco-Story is a newer museum in the area, essentially across the highway from Uxmal.  This is a partially self guided tour where you can learn about the history of chocolate and how it is made.  There are demonstrations and taste tests as well.

Visitors can also explore nearby towns, such as Santa Elena, which is known for its colonial architecture, vibrant markets, and delicious food. Here, you can sample traditional Yucatecan dishes like cochinita pibil (slow-roasted pork) and papadzules (tortillas filled with boiled eggs and pumpkin seed sauce).

3. Celestun (approx 1.25 hours)

Located about an hour and a half from Mérida, Celestun is a tranquil fishing village known for its pristine beaches and natural beauty. The main attraction here is the Ría Celestún Biosphere Reserve, a protected wetland area that is home to a variety of bird species, including the iconic pink flamingos.

Visitors can take a boat tour of the reserve to see the birds up close and explore the mangroves, lagoons, and other ecosystems that make up this unique environment. Celestun is also known for its delicious seafood, with local restaurants serving up fresh catches like ceviche, shrimp tacos, and grilled fish.

4. Izamal (just over 1 hour)

Known as the “Yellow City” due to its distinctive yellow buildings, Izamal is a charming colonial town located just an hour from Mérida. This town is home to several impressive historical landmarks, including the Convent of San Antonio de Padua, which is one of the largest Franciscan convents in the Americas.

Visitors can also explore the nearby Mayan ruins of Kinich Kak Moo, which offer stunning views of the surrounding countryside. And if you’re feeling adventurous, you can climb to the top of the Izamal Pyramid for an even more breathtaking view.

5. Valladolid (2 hours 45 minutes)

Located about two hours from Mérida, Valladolid is another charming colonial town that is well worth a day trip. This town is known for its colorful buildings, vibrant markets, and rich cultural heritage. The main attraction here is the Convent of San Bernardino de Siena, which is one of the oldest colonial-era buildings in the Americas.

6. Salinas Rosas Salt Flats (just under 1 hour)

Los Coloradas salt flats are impressive, but quite a distance from Merida (3 hours or more).  The Salinas Rosas Salt Flats are under an hour from Merida.  And while it is a simple, somewhat small area, it is neat to explore and check out the scenery.  It is not only an interesting science behind the pink salt flats, it is also a neat place to take pictures.

7. Raccoon Preserve (just under 1 hour)

Just under an hour is the Reserva Ecológica El Corchito (Raccoon Reserve) Progreso, Mexico, which is a fun place to visit especially if you are looking for family-friendly activities. This area is a nature reserve with pools, cenotes & mangrove swamps, and is home to many animals in addition to raccoons (corchitos), including coatis, turtles & crocodiles.

8. Homun Cenotes (just over 1 hour)

The area of Homun is known for having numerous cenotes to explore.  You can spend the day in town, checking out a variety of different cenotes and having a bite to eat. You can hire a guide to bring you to numerous locations and different kinds of interesting cenotes.  Many of these are small and unlike the larger more commercial locations you may see in larger towns (such as Tulum or Playa del Carmen). Some of these cenotes include Cenote Canunchen, Cenote Chel-Paak, and Cenote Hool Kosom.

Check out our other Yucatan, Mexico posts: https://anationofmoms.com/travel/mexico