Visit Uxmal - one of the only Mayan ruins that you can still climb!

15 years ago, if you mentioned the name “Merida” to travelers, most wouldn’t know where you were talking.

Fast forward to today, and it’s a rising travel destination. Everybody’s heard of Cancún, Tulum, and Cozumel. Merida is the new kid on the block in Mexico.

“Why is Merida quickly becoming a tourist hotspot?”

Well, how much time do you have?

The Maya influenced the cuisine in Yucatán today, which results in a spicy, but delectable set of dishes. There is also an abundance of Mayan ruins near Merida that you can easily visit on a day trip. And, it’s easy to access nearby areas to immerse yourself in the city and its surroundings.

This leads us to the best day trips from Merida Mexico. To be honest, this list could be much longer. But, for brevity, I kept it to 10.

So, without further ado.

Visit the Uxmal Ruins near Merida

Chichen Itza is the first image that comes to most people’s minds when you mention Mayan ruins near Merida. But, only an hour from Merida is another remarkable set of ruins (and a UNESCO World Heritage Site) named Uxmal (pronounced oosh-mawl). 

And, best of all, no crowds or pesky vendors! As you hike your way around the area (which is larger than expected), the only other visitors will be the plethora of iguanas.

Visit Uxmal - one of the few Mayan ruins that you can still climb!

Visit Uxmal – one of the few Mayan ruins that you can still climb!

Even better, you can climb the ruins at Uxmal! No other day trip from Merida offers this one! 

Try doing that at Chichen Itza, and the police will haul you away. So, if you’ve ever had a dream of being a Mayan King, Uxmal is your best chance to play out your vision.

Explore Dzibilchaltún Ruins, then Swim in a Cenote

Is one set of Mayan ruins not enough for you? That’s alright; there are plenty of ruins near Merida throughout the Yucatán Peninsula. Dzibilchaltún may not look like a lot on its face, but there’s a lot more than meets the eye.

If you’re visiting for the Spring or Fall Equinox, you can witness a rare spectacle when the sun rises perfectly between the Temple of the Seven Dolls. It’s a testament to the mathematical and building skills of the Maya.

After you check out the ruins, head to Cenote Xlacah — located right next to the ruins — for a refreshing dip in a natural pool.

You’ll see many Mexican families gather here on the weekend to spend time with their families, so it’s an excellent local experience as well.

For a short trip, Dzibilchaltún is one of the best day trips from Merida.

Sunbathe at Progreso Beach

Progreso Beach is an ideal day trip from Merida for those who want sun and sand on their trip. Under an hour to the north of Merida is this gorgeous white-sanded beach.

Park yourself under an umbrella, order some ceviche and micheladas and stay put. Unless it’s to take a dip in the turquoise waters that fill the Gulf of Mexico.

Visit Progreso Beach on a short day trip from Merida

Visit Progreso Beach on a short day trip from Merida

If you get tired of sunbathing, check out some surrounding activities, including:

  • Check out Progreso Pier (The world’s longest pier)
  • Visit El Corchito Ecological Reserve
  • Go fishing near Scorpion Reef

Get a Dose of Culture in Valladolid

Buses of tourists fly past this overlooked town every day, missing out on all Valladolid offers and one of the best day trips from Merida. If you want a real piece of genuine Mexican culture? This is the place for you.

Colonial architecture in Valladolid at the Iglesia de San Servacio

Colonial architecture in Valladolid at the Iglesia de San Servacio

You can spend hours roaming the unique museums and colorful markets and streets. You’ll catch one of Valladolid’s traditional dances if you’re lucky. There isn’t a lack of options here.

If you visit, be sure to check out:

  • Casa de los Venados
  • Mercado Municipal
  • Convent of San Bernardo
  • Cenote Zaci

See the Rainbows in Campeche

Tucked on the inner coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, this undersized UNESCO World Heritage is about two hours from Merida by car.

But, if culture and history are your passions, that’s two and a half hours of worth it.

Campeche was used as a Caribbean port from the 1600-to-1700s. But, it was a port often under siege from pirate raids. In response, the citizens constructed large walls and fortifications around the city as a shield to keep themselves safe.

Inside this strong exterior is an Instagram hashtag in city form. Colorful buildings line every street. Yellows, greens, blues, oranges — every hue imaginable surrounds you.

Looking to fit a lot of Mexico into a short period? Campeche is one of the best day trips from Merida you can choose.

Play in the Water at Hacienda Muycuche

There are tons of cenotes near Merida. But, if you’re looking to get away from the masses of tourists, Hacienda Mucuyche is a fantastic option. You’ll have to earn it, though. And that’s by locating it.

You can message the place yourself to book a reservation if you want to make it easy for yourself. But, if you’re driving, know that this place can be tough to find for locals, too.

But the rewards are fantastic.

Crystal clear waters, Batman-like caves, and…a guided tour? That’s right. You have to book a guided tour for access. Still, it’s a pleasant tour, and the guides offer some intriguing information about the formation of the cenotes.

Don’t miss out on Hacienda Mucuyche if you’re inclined to get outside the typical tourist path.

See a World Wonder at Chichen Itza

It’s unthinkable to leave Chichen Itza off the list of the best day trips from Merida Mexico. Despite its popularity, the classic Mayan ruins are always a must-see if you’re visiting Merida. It’s not every day you get to see a world wonder.

The imposing Chichen Itza - a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the New 7 Wonders of the World

The imposing Chichen Itza – a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New 7 Wonders of the World

The site is only an hour and a half from Merida, so it’s an easy drive for a self-guided day trip. Or, you can book one of the many tour options that leave from Merida.

Either way, you should visit Chichen Itza if you haven’t yet. Otherwise, you should be looking up ticket prices now (around $27).

Take in the Pink Waters of Las Coloradas

Your eyes aren’t deceiving you when you see the bubble gum pink waters of Las Coloradas. These waters are abnormal, and they’ll have your friends thinking you photoshopped them.

But there’s no editing involved here. 

Algae and sea life thrive in the area due to the water’s high salt content. And, when sunlight hits the water, you get something akin to a giant Kool-Aid spill.

The location is private property, so you can only get so close to the waters for pictures.

Luckily, that’s not the only thing to see here, as Las Coloradas lies in the Río Lagartos Biosphere Reserve. This reserve is home to various wildlife, including flamingos, crocodiles, and jaguars.

Watch the World Go By in Celestún

Want more flamingos? Then Celestún is one of the best day trips from Merida you can take.

Watch the playful flamingos at Celestún, an easy day trip from Merida

Watch the playful flamingos at Celestún, an easy day trip from Merida

The city itself is charming enough — containing a small square and a few beautiful beaches.

But, most visit the Ría Celestún Biosphere Reserve to see the high concentration of flamingoes. There’s much more birdlife to witness throughout the reserve to make this a birdwatcher’s paradise.

Celestún is the perfect place for a day trip where you want to take it slow. The easy vibes of Celestún will help you settle right in.

Ride a Horse-Drawn Mining Cart to the Cuzamá Cenotes

Want a unique experience you won’t find anywhere else? How about a horse pulling you to three different cenotes?

If that sounds like your idea for a good day trip, then the hour drive to the Cuzamá Cenotes is well worth it.

Each cenote is fantastic, but the last one — Chelentun — is the best of them all. Steps lead down to a stone platform where you can ease yourself into the deep blue waters or jump straight in to get a head-start over your friends.

Enjoy your time in the cool waters here before heading back on the cart and into the Yucatán heat.

Day Trips from Merida – Final Thoughts

If Merida isn’t on your list of places to visit yet, you should add it immediately. The mixture of culture, history, and food is perfect for travelers looking to dive into a country.

Hopefully, these best day trips from Merida will help you experience every last bit of the area.

About the author

Kyle Cash - guest author at The Backpacking Site
Kyle Cash
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Kyle is the owner/author of the Travel Runner, where he writes about his two biggest passions: traveling and trail running. When he's not writing, he's usually found on the trails or in a plane seat figuring out if it’s actually possible to run around the world.

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