Going further west from the Riviera Maya, one can find more and more archeological sites, and each is unique in its own way, given the fact they were at their best in different times. Also both of the capitals of their respective states, Merida and Campeche have both a lot to offer.
Merida, the capital of Yucatan state, is a beautiful colonial city, with a walkable centre. Full of nice places to have a drink or meal, little parks that provide shade now and then, and an impressive cathedral which was the first cathedral to be finished on the mainland of the Americas. Be sure to go for a walk on Avenida Paseo Montejo, where the wealthy people had their colonial villas. One of the Casas Gemelas was recently opened as a museum and is worth visiting. If you are looking for good food, go to Voltacafé for a tasty breakfast (we tried toast with avocado, goat cheese and cherry tomatoes), La Chaya Maya for a traditional Mexican lunch and MUGY (Museo gastronomico de Yucatan) for a local dinner and nicely done exhibition about spices and how do they use them, reservation recommended. And if you want a change from the Mexican food, go to the German La Bierhaus, complete with draft beer, which is quite rare in Mexico.
The biggest complex of Mayan ruins near Merida is the Uxmal. It has several very well preserved pyramids with beautiful decorations and one of them has the jaguar head as the entrance to its upper part, still very well visible. Other complexes on the Puuc route were closed during the time of our visit.
Another beautiful site is Edzná, closer to Campeche. It is a medium sized complex with a very well preserved main pyramid, unfortunately not possible to climb, but still impressive to look at. At the rear of the complex, there is a structure with astonishingly preserved sculptures of the God of Sun, representing the sunrise and sunset, with colours still visible.
San Francisco de Campeche, or simply Campeche, as everyone calls it, sits by the Mexican Gulf, and has a beautiful city centre still enclosed in city walls. These used to extend even into the sea. Now, a part of them is walkable and so one can see the city from above. Get lost in the streets full of one-storey colourful houses and an occasional bar with an inner courtyard, where locals gather to spend some nice lively evening. There is also a cathedral on the main square, looking particularly beautiful at night, and a calm promenade alongside the sea. A Mayan history museum about the could be found a bit south from the city, showcasing objects found in various archaeological sites, with a very interesting yet short description. We also learned quite a lot about the Mayas, as we didn’t know almost anything about their way of life, customs or science.