Life goes on as usual in Merida and Campeche while millions flood to resort areas on the nearby Caribbean coast each year. These two colonial cities in the Yucatan state—one perched over the Gulf of Mexico, one inland about 40 miles—are destinations for those who have had enough of sitting on the beach with planeloads of other tourists. Life moves slower, everything is a better value, and you are surrounded by buildings that went up hundreds of years ago. You can get to many of the Yucatan's fantastic Mayan ruins sites on a day trip from here, as well as interesting towns like Valladolid and Izamal.
Mérida is "the other Yucatan," better known by expatriates than by short-term visitors. Surrounding it are spectacular Maya ruins, cenotes, and grand haciendas. Campeche is even less visited, even though it has many similar attractions and is in a dramatic fort setting over the sea.
Most of the luxury hotels in this part of the Yucatan Peninsula are former sisal haciendas that were converted to hotels. While these are evocative and romantic, some tend to be way off the beaten path and under-occupied. Visit these to get a feel for being lords of the manor, Spanish-style for a couple nights. The two best hotels in Merida proper are well-run boutique hotels: one a former hacienda, the other a glorious mansion on the main boulevard that was converted to a luxury property. We've also highlighted the best large chain hotel for those who want more facilities.
Some travelers choose to hit both Merida and Campeche on one trip while touring Mayan sites like Uxmal, Calakmal, or Edzna. Each presents several options with a strong sense of place while you vacation away from the resort crowds.
Campeche Luxury Hotels
Merida Luxury Hotels
Chablé Resort & Spa — Chocholá
Diez Diez Collection — Merida
Hacienda San Jose — Tixkokob
Hacienda Temozon — Abala (between Merida and Uxmal)