If your idea of a Yucatán vacation doesn’t extend beyond the beaches of Playa del Carmen and Tulum, you’re missing out on the Mayan heritage, colonial history, and appealing creative enclaves found west of the chaotic coast. Fly in to the capital city of Mérida rather than Cancún and rent a car for a quick trip of the area, which still remains largely free of tour buses..
Behind every stucco façade there seemed to be another enterprise reflecting the city’s increasingly contemporary tastes. Such as a popular cultural center with Mérida’s artists and intellectuals, in Barrio de Santiago, a neighborhood with indigenous roots. Its amenities include a yoga studio and a cinema where patrons can watch films from handwoven hammocks. Sip an agua fresca in the cheerful patio café before heading to the adjoining mercantile to buy hand-carved walking sticks.
The Mercado Lucas de Gálvez is four square blocks of stalls where vendors hawk Gulf fish caught off Campeche, bunches of green chiles, hand-stitched huipiles (traditional Mayan dresses), and stacks of woven baskets.
A favorite restaurant “Yerba Buena” near the Parque de Sisal is cazuela, a clay pot containing egg, cheese, and plantains topped with a mole sauce that the chef’s family ships up regularly from Oaxaca. 217 Calle 54A; 52-985-856-1406; entrées $12–$15.
This article is an excerpt from Travel and Leisure Magazine