15 BEST Merida Tours in 2024 According to a Local

Taking a Merida walking tour can be a great way to get your bearings when you first arrive in the Yucatan’s capital city. It is a good idea to do a tour early on in your trip so that you have an initial lay of the land. 

Exploring with a Yucatecan means that you have a Merida expert on hand to ask for recommendations on the best things to see and do, where to eat, where to hang out, etc. The knowledge that they share can really help to enrich the rest of your trip. 

Merida is rich in history and culture and was first founded by the Spanish conquistador Francisco de Montejo y Leon in 1542. 

You should spend at least two or three days here as part of a wider trip to the Yucatan but if your schedule allows, you could easily spend several weeks in Merida and feel that you have barely scratched the surface in terms of all the things you can do here. 

Best Merida Walking Tours in 2024

Best Merida tours to take in 2023
Best Merida tours to take in 2024

Various reputable local tour companies operate in Merida. A selection of their best Merida tours is detailed below. 

Most are available for booking via Viator, Get Your Guide or other smaller tour platforms. This article has been written by a British Travel Writer based in Merida (Me!) 

I know the city like the back of my hand and have personally reviewed each of the below tours. Different Merida tours are available depending on your personal interests – i.e. whether you are looking for a historical tour, a food-tasting tour, etc. 

It is hard to choose the best of the best as there are many great tours here and the “best” is subjective. But if you can only do one tour, I would recommend the guided 3-hour Merida food tour or the Cantinas Walking Tour. 

Merida 3-Hour Food Walking Tour 

Sampling the local food is as much of a highlight of any Merida itinerary as seeing the sights and Mayan ruins. Yucatecan food is distinctly different from food found in other parts of Mexico. 

Many of the dishes that you can sample here are only found in this part of the country. And many follow recipes and cooking methods that were invented by the Ancient Maya. 

This guided 3-hour Merida food tour is the perfect choice for foodie travelers. With the aid of a local guide, you will visit off-the-beaten-path marketplaces and eateries that tourists don’t even know about. 

Come hungry as you will try a ton of local delicacies and Yucatecan street food eats – like Poc Chuc, a sumptuous grilled pork dish that is cooked in a citrus marinade. Stuff yourself with salbutes, tacos, and marquesitas, and learn about cochinita pibil – the most famous regional dish of the Yucatan. 

This tour starts from $48 per person. Book your place online in advance to avoid disappointment! 

Cantinas Walking Tour of Merida 

Mexican cantinas are old-fashioned saloon-style bars that have been a part of Mexican culture for centuries. Pass through a set of wooden, swinging saloon doors and enter into what feels like a time warp. 

Cantinas are bars that were traditionally men-only hang-out spots, but which today are enjoyed by local men, women, and tourists alike. Banda and Mexican classic folk music plays out over the jukeboxes and although a diverse selection of Mexican drinks are available, beers and micheladas are the drinks of choice for most patrons. 

Micheladas are Mexican beer cocktails. They sound questionable, but they are something you should try at least once during your Yucatan itinerary. 

Locally, they are known as “ojo rojos” (red eyes). To make them, beer is mixed with soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and tomato juice. 

When you order a drink in most cantinas, you are served a selection of complimentary botanas. These are bite-sized snacks like chopped sausage, chips and guac, and pickled beets. 

They keep coming as long as you keep drinking. This Merida cantina tour is not to be missed and takes you to some of the best and most historic cantinas in Merida 

Save your spot here. 

Merida Cooking Class: Taste of Yucatan

What could be a better souvenir from your trip to Mexico than learning completely new recipes that were invented by the Ancient Maya? This Merida cooking class sees you shop and barter for fresh local ingredients in the markets of central Merida. 

Explore the winding passageways of the bustling Lucas de Gálvez market – Merida’s largest and oldest covered marketplace. Your guide will teach you some useful Spanish phrases to help you haggle and tell you about regional spices and ingredients that are only available here. (Like achiote, xcatic chiles and habaneros). 

Mercado Lucas de Gálvez provides some great photo and people-watching opportunities. With your fruits, veggies, herbs, and meats procured, you head to a local home to learn how to cook Yucatan food. 

You will prepare three courses – a starter, a main, and a dessert. If you have any dietary requirements (e.g. you are vegan, vegetarian, etc), you can communicate these with the tour company in advance and they will come up with some recipe options accordingly. 

When everything is ready, sit down to enjoy the fruits of your labor with your guide. You can wash it all down with some jamaica (hibiscus tea) poured over ice or some agua frescas. 

The Merida cooking class and market tour starts from around $70. It often sells out so be sure to save your spot in advance. 

Merida: Full-Day Instagram City Tour 

If you only have a day or two to spend in Merida, there are a couple of “must-see” sights that you should try to get to. These places are quite spread out around town and it can be tricky to navigate when you don’t know the city well. 

This Merida Full-Day Instagram City Tour takes you to some of the most important and impressive churches, squares, streets, and monuments in the city. Each spot is perfect for capturing travel photos and your knowledgeable guide will help you to take incredible pictures on your phone camera or DSLR. 

Stop by the Monument a la Patria – an incredible sculpture of an indigenous man created by the Colombian sculptor Rómulo Rozo between 1945 and 1956. The sculpture sits in the center of a busy roundabout on the Paseo Montejo and is perfect for taking timelapse photos. 

At its rear, are sculptures and images depicting Mexico’s history through the ages – from the days of the Ancient Maya and Aztecs to the Mexican Revolution and the present day.  Walk down the leafy boulevard of the Paseo Montejo to see the gorgeous pastel yellow church of Santa Ana, before passing towards the Parque Santa Lucia, the Zocalo, and the impressive Merida cathedral. 

Calle 58 and its surrounding side streets are some of the most picturesque streets in Merida. They are known for their cobbled roads and colored buildings. 

If you’ve seen any Instagram/Tiktok reels and photos of people wandering down roads filled with colorful buildings, this is where they were taken. Now is your chance to get shots that are just as breathtaking. 

Reserve your spot on the Merida Full-Day Instagram City Tour here. 

Merida Street Food Walking Tour

Street food is a huge part of Mexican culture and it can be a fast, easy, and affordable way to have a light lunch or a small snack between meals. In central Merida, you will find street food vendors on virtually every corner. 

But there are certain areas that only locals know about, where you need to go to sample the best of the best. The Merida Street Food Walking Tour takes you to those such places. 

Sample seasonal Mexican fruits, salbutes, elotes, panuchos, breakfast tacos, and many other local delicacies. Learn about the most famous street food dishes in the Yucatan and in wider Mexico, and witness scenes of local life that most tourists don’t see. 

After sampling a number of light bites, it’s time to head to a beloved Merida seafood restaurant to enjoy fresh ceviche, fish tacos, or shrimp. Wash it all down with an ice-cold cerveza (beer).

Finally, head to a famous local gelato shop for dessert. This space isn’t “just” another ice cream store. 

It crafts helados (ice creams) in obscure flavors like pork with beans, bitter chocolate, sweet corn, etc. They shouldn’t work, but somehow they just do. 

Reserve your spot on this tour with free cancellation up to 24 hours before departure.

One Day Haciendas and Cenotes Tour 

Yucatan haciendas are fantastic historic properties that are scattered around the cities and rural areas of the Mexican Yucatan. Today, many of them have been converted into luxury hotels, restaurants, or living museums. 

But what exactly is a hacienda? Haciendas were working homesteads that were built by the Spanish colonizers in Mexico. 

Many date back as far as the 1500s. They were essentially ranches whereby some of the buildings served as a living space and others were factories. 

Haciendas particularly thrived during the henequen boom of the 1800 and 1900s when a local plant called sisal was cultivated and exported around the world to make bags, hammocks, and other fiber products. 

If you won’t have the opportunity to stay in a hacienda hotel, the next best thing you can do is take a tour. This One Day Haciendas and Cenotes Tour takes you to the gorgeous 17th-century Yaxcopoil henequen hacienda where you can learn the history of the site and of haciendas in Mexico. 

When your history lesson is complete, cool down in the cenotes of San Antonio Mulix, before visiting Hacienda Ochil and admiring its Moorish arches and then heading back to Merida. 

Click here to reserve your spot on the tour. 

Tour to Cenotes Santa Barbara and Mayapan Ruins 

Having the chance to swim in cenotes is a major highlight of visiting the Yucatan. Cenotes are natural sinkholes filled with water that were formed when the Chicxulub meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs crashed into the earth’s surface some 66 million years ago. 

Cenotes are only found in this part of southern Mexico and make great places to go swimming. Some are closed, and tucked inside caves, while others are more open and are found in incredible jungle settings. 

The Santa Barbara cenotes in Homun are without a doubt, some of the best in the Yucatan. Spend a few hours swimming and marveling at the natural scenery here, before continuing on to the magnificent ancient Mayan city of Mayapan.

King Kukulkan II and his people relocated to Mayapan from Chichen Itza after its downfall. It is considered the “last great” Mayan city. 

The Pyramid of Kukulkan here is an exact replica of the famous pyramid at Chichen Itza and it’s possible to climb the pyramid here. Mayapan is underrated, yet is certainly one of the best Mayan ruins in Mexico. 

Click here to reserve your spot on this tour. Lunch is also included. 

Tour to Uxmal, Cenote, and Kabah from Merida 

It is tricky to get to the magnificent ruins at Uxmal from Merida so opting to take a tour takes a lot of stress out of managing the logistics of your trip. The UNESCO world heritage site of Uxmal dates back to 700AD and was once home to over 25,000 people. 

The site is huge and deserves at least a couple of hours of your time. One of the most important structures here is the impressive Pyramid of the Magician which you will see on your right-hand side immediately after you enter the complex. 

On this tour, you will learn the mysterious local legend behind the complex and why it is affectionately known as the “House of the Dwarf”. Explore the Nunnery Quadrangle, the Palace of the Govenor, the Pok a Tok ball courts, and other famous sites at Uxmal before cooling off at a local cenote and then exploring Kabah, one of the least visited sites along the Ruta Puuc. 

This tour is one of the best day trips you can take from Merida. It’s tiring, but well worth it. 

Click here to reserve your spot.

Chichen Itza, Cenote, and Buffet Lunch from Merida 

As one of the “new” seven wonders of the world, Chichen Itza needs no introduction. If you only have a chance to visit one ruin during your time in Mexico, make it this one. 

There are only a limited amount of buses that run from Merida to Chichen Itza each day, so opting to take a tour like this one can make your life a lot easier. The complex sprawls across 4 square miles and contains a lot of interesting shrines and pyramids beside the famous temple of Kukulkan.

Look out for the Temple of the Warriors – a grand colonnaded building that has a statue of Chac Mool at the top, the observatory (El Caracol), and the Tzompantli platform where the Ancient Maya would stack the skulls of their dead enemies to scare off other tribes.  

Grab a spot of lunch in the nearby village of Piste, cool down in a cenote, and then return safely back to Merida. This tour costs around $60 per person including a buffet lunch. 

Make sure you save your spot to avoid disappointment. 

Rio Lagartos, Coloradas, and Cancunito Beach from Merida 

This Rio Lagartos, Coloradas, and Cancunito Beach tour from Merida takes you to some of the most naturally gorgeous places in the Northern Yucatan. Although the pink lakes of Las Coloradas have become sought-after destinations thanks to social media, Rio Lagartos and Cancuninto Beach are unknown as far as most international tourists are concerned. 

Rio Lagartos is a little fishing village perched on the edge of a sleepy lagoon. It is home to less than 4,000 residents and was recognized as a UNESCO site in 2004.

Various endangered and exotic species call the lagoon their home – including the Hawksbill sea turtle, the green sea turtle, and more than 300 species of birds. Take a boat cruise along the lagoon to see crocodiles in their natural habitats and other natural wanders. 

Then, drive to the pink lakes of Coloradas, learn why they are such a vibrant shade of pink, and hopefully, see some American flamingos in their natural habitat. Relax at Cancunito Beach before embarking on the journey back to Merida. 

Book your spot here. 

Celestun Beach and Mangroves Boat Ride from Merida 

If you enjoy getting back to nature and admiring local wildlife, you will love this Celestun Beach and Mangroves Boat Ride from Merida. Celestun is a gorgeous coastal area that sits in the northwestern part of the Yucatan some 107km west of Merida, close to the border with Campeche state. 

Celestun is home to one of the most beautiful beaches in the Yucatan. But its main draw for a lot of travelers is the Ria Celestun Biosphere Reserve. 

On this tour, you will take a wooden boat through the mangroves and admire the various bird species and other animals that inhabit it. If you travel between December and April, you will be able to see the American flamingoes nesting. 

(The boats get close enough to see while maintaining a respectful distance from the birds). There will be time to stop and swim and explore the woodlands, and your guide will explain everything about all the living things that call Celestun home. 

Book your spot online in advance. 

Magical Towns and Chichen Itza from Merida 

This Magical Towns and Chichen Itza tour from Merida will allow you to learn the history of one of the seven wonders of the world, while also falling in love with two of the best pueblo magicos in the Yucatan. Magico towns or pueblo magicos are particularly charming towns and villages that have been recognized by the Mexican tourism board for their appeal. 

Generally, when somewhere has been designated as a magic town, you know it is somewhere that is worth visiting. Start in the fabulous yellow city of Izamal. 

All of the buildings, houses, and churches here have been painted in the same uniform shade of yellow. There are numerous theories as to why this is, but the most common one is that this was done in honor of Kinich Kak Mo, the Mayan sun god. 

An old Mayan pyramid built in honor of Kinich Kak Mo still stands in central Izamal today and is one of the only pyramids in Southern Mexico that was not torn down by the Spanish. The Convento de San Antonio de Padua (1561) in the center of Izamal is one of the oldest in the Americas. 

After your morning in lovely Izamal, explore the ruins of Chichen Itza before rounding off your day with a trip to charming Valladolid. 

Click here to reserve your space on this tour. 

ATV Ghost Town Excursion and Beach Club Access

If you want to do something a little out of the ordinary during your trip to Merida, and perhaps a little spooky and macabre, you will love this ATV Ghost Town Excursion. It is important to note that the tour starts from the beachtown of Progreso so you will need to get there first. 

The tour takes you to the “pueblo fantasma” (ghost town) of Misnebalam. The little settlement sits on a country lane that veers off from the road between Merida and Progreso. 

At one point it was a thriving hacienda town that was home to over 170 people. But as residents started to report paranormal activity, people slowly started to move out one by one. 

The final residents left Misnebalam in 2005 and the area has been abandoned ever since. Today, you can walk around the remnants of a ghostly, abandoned hacienda, an overgrown graveyard, and a roofless church, and whizz down dirt trails that lead to nowhere on your ATV. 

Merida Sightseeing Bus Tour with 2 Routes

If you want to do a Merida walking tour without a ton of walking, you have options. This Merida panoramic sightseeing bus tour is a nice option if you don’t want to spend a lot of time on your feet. 

(And that’s understandable since the Yucatan does get very hot.) The North circuit takes you to some parts of town that most tourists don’t see.

For instance, the red church of Itzimna, Las Americas Park, and Plaza Paseo 60. It’s a good route to take if you want to get a feel for what the “real” Merida is like. 

Meanwhile, the Barrios Circuit focuses more on the Spanish and Mayan architectural marvels around the historic center. You will pass by Merida Cathedral, San Juan, Ermita church, San Sebastian, Merida Zoo, Paseo Montejo, and the Monumento a la Patria. 

This is also a great option if you are on a budget as tickets cost less than $10. Book yours online today!

Final thoughts on the best Merida tours 

These Merida tours can really help you make the most of your time in Merida. This is particularly true if you only have a day or two to spend here and you want to see as much as possible in a short space of time, or you want to learn about Mexican traditions and culture. 

Are you interested in learning more about Merida? I’ve been living here for the past 2 years and have gotten to know the city extremely well in that time. 

Here are some other Merida travel articles that you may find useful. For anything else, you are more than welcome to reach out to me on Facebook or Instagram. 

Safe travels and enjoy Mexico! Buen Viaje! Xo 

Melissa Douglas

Melissa Douglas is a British Travel Writer based in Merida, Mexico and the Editor-in-Chief of Mexico Travel Secrets. She has over seven years worth of experience in working in travel media and has travelled to 57 countries, mostly solo. Throughout her career, Melissa has produced written content for several high-profile publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, the Huffington Post, Rough Guides, and Matador Network.

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