– Day 1 –
Landing in Mexico …
We landed at the Cancùn International airport at 1 p.m. Going through immigration and customs took us no more than 10 minutes and the process was quite smooth. The arrival hall was crowded. The fact that it was high season became very clear from that moment.
It took us around 20 minutes to understand how to get to the Mex Rent a Car counter (which apparently is also called Fox). After a lot of confusion, we managed to find the shuttle that drove us there (5 minutes away from the arrival hall). About 45 minutes later (they are quite slow), we were in the car and ready to explore the peninsula.
Reaching Merida (our target destination of the day) takes a while. Besides, the drive is rather boring and not scenic at all. Therefore, we had programmed to stop in Izamal, known as the yellow city, on our way to Merida.
On the road…
At the outset, things were not looking too good!
Yet, we managed to escape the deluge. After all, we were driving west towards the light…
After two long hours on the highway, we took the exit and started driving north to Izamal. On this part of the road, we had our first contact with the real Mexico, as we crossed many small (and poor) villages. We saw some kids playing on the road, teenagers on bikes or scooters, adults gathered on the side of the street, some poultry and dogs going around freely. Be careful when driving in that area and slow down. In fact, you won’t have the choice! There are so many dangerous speed bumps that if you don’t want to wreck your car, you have to go extremely slowly.
A first teaser before Izamal
Fun fact: if you want a fun game for the car, you can play “Spot the Coca-Cola sign”. They are everywhere in Mexico. In fact, I would be curious to know why so if you do, please fill me in!
One example of the many…
Izamal: the yellow city
I am not sure I need to explain the city’s nickname!!!
The city center is VERY yellow! We managed to park easily around the main square and took a stroll around. Of course, we couldn’t miss the San Antonio de Padua convent, built in the 16th century on a mayan site by the Spanish. Although the lower part of the main church was under renovation, it was totally worth the detour!
See for yourself…
Lucky us! We even got to see a procession with the infamous Izamal virgin
First contact with Merida
From Izamal, it took about 1 hour to reach the city center of Merida. It’s not that far but what takes time is getting through the suburbs of the town (many traffic lights and speed bumps). These suburbs had really got me worried for a bit but the center, the oldest part of Merida, is actually nice.
Our hotel: Hotel Hacienda Merida
As I mentioned in the recap post “Our Mexican journey in the Yucatan peninsula: itinerary and takeaways”, we really liked this small boutique hotel. It’s calm and ideally located (close to everything). The staff is very nice and the room well-decorated and equipped. We recommend this hotel that has a lot of charm and a good price/quality ratio.
After checking in at the hotel Hacienda Merida, we had dinner at la Chaya Maya. According to many blogs and guides, this restaurant is THE go-to place in Merida. It is conveniently located a few steps from the Parque Santa Lucia, which is beautiful at night. Maybe we were just tired but the fact is that we didn’t fall in love with la Chaya Maya. The place itself (the part that is outside) is very dark. It was good but nothing extraordinary.
The first day on the map
– Day 1 –
Izamal is very photogenic and totally worth an excursion or a detour. In one hour, you will see everything there is to see. We rushed a bit because of the heat and spent 45 minutes there.
Practical aspects – Day 1
Distance: 200 miles
Time spent driving: Between 3.5 and 4 hours
Hotel: Hotel Hacienda Merida, Calle 60 between 51 and 53 – Merida
Dinner: La Chaya Maya, Calle 55 between 60 and 62 – Merida
Plan to have cash to pay for tolls
Be careful while driving from the highway to Izamal: dangerous speed bumps.