Wondering about your options for day trips from Merida, Mexico?
While there’s certainly no shortage of amazing things to do in Merida itself, there is an equal amount of wonderful day trip options! With Merida’s central location in the Yucatan Peninsula, it makes for an ideal place to use as a travel home base to access all the amazing day trip destinations.
From Mayan ruins to colonial cities, cenotes (for swimming) to UNESCO World Heritage Sites — and even a Wonder of the World — there’s so much to explore within just a few hours of Merida.
Day Trips from Merida
How to travel within the Yucatan Peninsula
As far as transportation to your destination goes, you have several options for day trips from Merida. These include taking your own rental car, going by bus, or using a colectivo (shared van).
SPLURGE: RENTAL CAR
Renting a Car in Merida
What’s the most convenient and easiest way to do a Merida day trip? Driving your own rental car, of course. Yucatan state is generally known as one of the safest states in Mexico, and the same applies to drive within the state.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when driving:
- Please do not drive at night!
- When available, use the Couta, or toll, roads. (Keep cash for these roads.)
- Speed limit signs are in kilometers per hour, not miles per hour.
- Don’t use your phone while driving. In Mexico, this is illegal, as well as unsafe.
- Make sure to download an offline map from Maps.Me or Google Maps before your trip as your cell signal will get spotty in rural areas.
- Mexican roads are famous for their topes (speed bumps). Always remain alert because there’s not always signs alerting drivers to the topes!
- Stopping for gas: An attendant will pump the gas for you and also take the payment, as a courtesy. It’s customary to tip them at least $10 pesos.
- Stoplights: In Mexico, the stoplights go from the color green to yellow to flashing yellow, and finally, to red.
If you do plan to rent a car, the easiest pickup point is Merida’s airport (MID). There are a few rental companies scattered throughout downtown Merida and on Paseo de Montejo, but the airport tends to have the most options.
Many of Merida’s Airbnbs, hotels, and hostels will offer onsite parking. However, make sure you’re clear about their parking availability and cost (if any) before you book.
MEDIUM BUDGET: BUSSES
Taking a Bus in Merida
Not planning on driving? Not a problem! Mexico has some great and efficient public transportation options. From large, comfy buses to colectivos (smaller shared vans), you can still travel to every place on this list — even if you’re not driving there!
Mexico’s biggest bus company is ADO, though you can also opt for Autobuses de Oriente and Autobuses del Noreste. ADO will have multiple daily trips to/from all of the places listed here in this blog. ADO’s luxury/first-class buses have large, comfy, recliner-style seats with power outlets available for your gadgets.
You can opt to buy tickets online, or buy them up at the bus station 30-45 minutes before your departure time.
BUDGET OPTION: COLECTIVOS
Taking a Colectivo in Merida
Colectivos (small, shared vans) are a cost-effective way to explore. As a general rule, tickets cost half as much as buses, however, the trip takes 25% longer because colectivos make more stops.
Colectivos are commonly 10- to 12-passenger vans, like a Toyota Hiace or a Nissan Urvan. For the most part, they are comfortable, however, they offer less personal space than the bus.
Please note colectivos are not available for all of the day trips from Merida listed on this blog! When the colectivo opinion is available, information for it has been included.
5 Awesome Day Trips from Merida
Now that you have a better understanding of your transportation options, let’s examine the 5 best Merida day trip destinations.
Chichen Itza likely needs no introduction, as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988, Chichen Itza is one of the most important archeological sites, in both Mexico and in the world. It ties Teotihuacan in Mexico City for the country’s most visited site.
With its large size of 740 acres (300 hectares), and extreme historical importance, you should consider hiring a tour guide. Once you arrive, you’ll see accredited Chichen Itza tour guides waiting by the ticket/entrance gate that you can hire.
Once inside, the iconic El Castillo (The Castle AKA the Temple of Kukulcan) greets you. Walking around the site, don’t miss the Group of a Thousand Columns, Wall of the Skulls, Temple of the Warriors, Sacred Cenote, and Grand Ball Court.
Chichen Itza Tips:
Plan to arrive at right 8 am when they open, or as close to 8 am as you can. This serves two functions: The first is beating the crowds, and the second is beating the heat!
Much like other Mexico archeological sites, the majority of trees at Chichen Itza have been cleared so historians can easily study the area. While ideal for historians, this means less shady areas for visitors.
Because of this, don’t forget your hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, and a reusable water bottle. Wear light, airy, breathable clothing, and your most comfortable walking shoes.
How do you get to Chichen Itza:
Distance from Merida: 75 miles or 120 km
Approximate Travel Time: 1.5 hours by car or 2 hours by bus
Driving: Take Highway 180 (Costera del Golfo de Mexico) east, and look for the Chichen Itza signs.
By Bus: Take an ADO bus from the TAME (Terminal de Autobuses de Merida) in downtown Merida. Round-trip tickets average about $350 pesos ($17USD/€14).
Designated as one of Mexico’s 120 Pueblos Mágicos (Magic Towns), and also a UNESCO World Heritage site, Izamal is one of the most popular day trips from Merida. Exactly what is a “Magic Town?”
Pueblo Mágico is an honorary designation from Mexico’s Tourism Secretary to pueblos (smaller towns) in Mexico recognized for interesting folklore, gorgeous natural beauty, abundant cultural history, etc. In the case of the colonial pueblo of Izamal, its magico (magic) comes from a single color! Commonly referred to as simply the “Yellow Town,” Izamal is just that; yellow! It might be hard to believe until you see it, but all downtown buildings are painted bright yellow.
However, as soon as you exit the 20 or so square blocks of downtown, Izamal’s buildings resume a conventional color palette. Downtown Izamal’s quaint size means you’ll easily explore the entire area in 1-2 hours. Start your day exploring the Convent of San Antonio de Padua in the center of town, and wander from there.
If you get tired of walking, take a horse-drawn carriage tour to see anywhere you didn’t get to on foot. You can hire one just outside the convent. Enjoy traditional Yucatan food at Izamal’s well known Kinich Restaurant, or at the main mercado (market). At the Mercado Municipal De Izamal, sample the dzik de venado (marinated, shredded venison meat), a Yucatecan delicacy.
If time permits, check out Izamal’s Mayan archeological sites — the Zona Arqueológica de Izamal and Kinich Kakmó Pyramid — located on the outskirts of downtown.
How do you get to Izamal:
Distance from Merida: 70 miles or 55 km
Approximate Travel Time: 1 hour by car, 1.5 hours by bus, or 2 hours by colectivo
Driving: Take Highway 180 (Costera del Golfo de Mexico) east, to Highway 11 north, and look for the Izamal signs.
By Bus: Take an ADO bus from the TAME (Terminal de Autobuses de Merida) in downtown Merida. Round-trip tickets average about $300 pesos ($15USD/€10).
By Colectivo: Take a colectivo from the Terminal Noreste (Northeast Terminal) in downtown Merida. Round-trip tickets average about $100 pesos/$5USD/€3.
One Yucatan state’s other Pueblos Mágicos, Valladolid is an increasingly popular Merida day trip destination! Known as one of the prettiest colonial cities in all of Mexico, Valladolid would also make a great overnight trip.
Stroll downtown Valladolid to see its near-countless gorgeous that makes great photo backdrops. Don’t miss the town’s prettiest streets, Calle de los Frailes and Calle 50. Head to some of Valladolid’s other iconic photo spots including the giant, colorful letters spelling out the town’s name; a common feature in many Mexican cities.
After a nice meal at the famous La Casona de Valladolid restaurant, walk to the back to see and photograph their large talavera tile fountain.
Located in the Zocalo (Main Square), don’t miss the first of Valladolid’s two gorgeous colonial churches, the Iglesia de San Servacio. The Convent de San Bernardino de Siena is right next to the previously-mentioned Valladolid letter sign.
If you arrive early enough, head to Casa de los Venados (casadelosvenados.com) for their 10am tour. The private home of Dorianne and John Venator, the two graciously open their doors to the public to see their 3,000-plus piece collection of folk art.
Hoping to acquire some Mexican art? Head to Kuxtal Cafe and Mexican Art to shop their many styles of iconic, hand-made folk art, created by artisans from all over Mexico.
BEST CENOTES NEAR VALLADOLID
Want to swim in a cenote on your trip?
Many of the Yucatan Peninsula’s most iconic cenotes all happen to be located within 30 minutes of Valladolid. These cenotes include Zaci, Suytun, Ik-Kil, and Oxman, but there are many others.
How do you get to Valladolid:
Distance from Merida: 100 miles or 160 km
Approximate Travel Time: 2 hours by car or 2.5 hours by bus
Driving: Take Highway 180D (Kantunil-Cancun Highway) east, and look for the Valladolid signs.
By Bus: Take an ADO bus from the TAME (Terminal de Autobuses de Merida) in downtown Merida. Round-trip tickets average about $500 pesos ($25USD/€20).
Though not as widely known as Chichen Itza, Uxmal is just as impressive — though some would say, it’s even more impressive!
With just 275,000 annual visitors versus Chichen Itza’s 2.75 million, Uxmal is also less crowded and less touristy. Besides the smaller crowds and a more relaxed atmosphere overall, you also won’t be approached by hordes of souvenir vendors! There’s one other important reason you’d elect to opt for Uxmal over Chichen Itza…
You’re allowed to actually climb the structures, as well as one of Uxmal’s pyramids. While you can’t climb El Adivino (Pyramid of the Magician), the tallest pyramid, you can climb Uxmal’s second tallest. At the top, you’ll get some epic views of the entire site.
You can also get up close and personal with Uxmal’s intricate stone carvings at the Nunnery Quadrangle building and see some of the beautiful Mayan design esthetics the Puuc sites are famous for.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Uxmal’s buildings have amazing Mayan architectural and design elements in the Puuc style — but it’s not the only Puuc site. While certainly the most famous, Uxmal, along with four other sites, make up the Ruta Puuc (Puuc Route). Along this 19-mile (30 km) drive, check out Labna, Kabah, Sayil, and Xlapak, all showcasing the similar stone carvings and Puuc elements at Uxmal.
Please note that the only way to do the Ruta Puuc is in your rental car.
Distance from Merida: 55 miles or 85 km
Approximate Travel Time: 1.5 hours by car or 2 hours by bus
Driving: Take Highway 180 (Costera del Golfo de Mexico) southwest, to Highway 261 south, and look for the Uxmal signs.
By Bus: Take an ADO bus from the TAME (Terminal de Autobuses de Merida) in downtown Merida. Round-trip tickets average about $200 pesos ($10USD/€8).
The walls of UNESCO World Heritage Site, Campeche City, hide a virtual rainbow of colored buildings inside.
Located right on the Gulf of Mexico, Campeche City was once vulnerable to pirate attacks. The citizens from centuries past had to place walls around the city to create a line of defense from incoming attacks.
Now that pirates pose less of a threat, you can walk along the top walls of the Fuerte de San Miguel (Saint Miguel’s Fort) and see the historic cannons pointing right towards the Gulf of Mexico. It costs about $25 pesos ($1/€0.50) to climb up, but it’s worth it. Don’t miss the small Museo de Arqueología Subacuática museum at the entry to the fort’s stairs.
Besides its walls, Campeche is also known for being one of Mexico’s most colorful towns. The bright buildings in its downtown have been painted in every color of the rainbow! At only about 20 square blocks, you can spend a few hours leisurely walking around downtown Campeche City and photographing the colorful buildings. If you feel like a snack, grab one at the cute Altagracia Café.
For a more sizable meal, head to Marganzo Restaurante or grab a seat outdoors at La Parrilla Colonial Campeche. Try Campeche’s local delicacies, like pan de cazon, at El Bastión de Campeche, located at the Zocalo (Main Square). After you eat, take the tranvia (tram) tour to see any sites you’ve missed. The trams are parked at the Zocalo, so just hop on, sit back and relax as you head to see the Ex-Templo de San José and Fuerte de San José, among others.
For some gorgeous sunset views, head all the way west to the Malecon (walkway) on the Gulf of Mexico.
Getting to Campeche:
Distance from Merida: 110 miles or 177 km
Approximate Travel Time: 2.5 hours by car or 3 hours by bus
Driving: Take Highway 180 (Costera del Golfo de Mexico) south, and look for the Campeche signs.
By Bus: Take an ADO bus from the TAME (Terminal de Autobuses de Merida) in downtown Merida. Round-trip tickets average about $600 pesos ($30USD/€25).
Shelley is a former Miami travel magazine editor who ditched the office for the world! After traveling solo to 14 states in Mexico, she now calls Mérida home. She created the Travel Mexico Solo blog and Dream To Destination podcast to help women cross Solo Travel & Mexico Travel off their bucket list.