Discovering Merida MX on Tropic Air Belize
Saturday, March 22nd, 2014
On Monday, March 3rd Tropic Air inaugurated their new flight service to Mérida, Mexico. Originating from Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport in Ladyville, the one hour fifteen minute direct flight arrives at the Manuel Crescencio Rejón International Airport in Mérida. While many Belizeans may be familiar with nearby Chetumal where some take advantage of the shopping opportunities, medical facilities and variety of entertainment choices, Mérida offers these same conveniences, but on a grander scale. Mérida is the capital of the Mexican state of Yucatan and is also the largest city in the Yucatan Peninsula, with a population of over one million people. Very much a vacation destination where culture, architecture, museums, and top-notch restaurants are in abundance, getting there couldn’t be easier now that Tropic Air offers this new flight.
As part of promoting the new air service to Mérida, Tropic Air invited The San Pedro Sun, along with other Belizean media houses, travel writers and travel agents on the inaugural flight to experience the colonial culture and contemporary comforts this historic city has to offer. For two days we were accommodated by the Yucatan Tourism Board, and their public relations coordinator Josué Carmona Tapia was a very amiable and resourceful host. As guests at the centrally located El Castellano Hotel and Club, we were delighted to discover their well known ‘all you can eat’ breakfast/brunch buffet. Popular with locals as well as hotel guests, the very affordable spread of delicious foods ranging from fresh fruit, baked good, roasted meats, omelets and local specialty dishes was the perfect complement to their comfortable rooms.
With many sights to see within walking distance of the downtown hotel, we enjoyed visiting the picturesque Plaza Grande, which is bordered by impressive colonial buildings. The oldest cathedral on the continent is located across from the plaza and the gothic structure resembles a fortress, which is what it was designed to be when it was first built between 1561 and 1598. We also explored the historic Palacio de Gobierno (State Government building) where large murals created by renowned artist Fernando Castro Pacheco depicting scenes from Maya and Mexican history powerfully portraying the struggles of these early societies graced the walls. Just within the radius of the Plaza Grande are enough sights to see, restaurants to sample and shops to peruse one could easily spend a day never leaving the block. But on a tight itinerary we were, and Josué had much in store for us!
From exploring beautiful colonial homes restored by the well-known architect Henry Ponce Miranda, to visiting the super swanky Yucatan Country Club complete with golf course, tennis courts and glimmering pools, to walking around the mega Altabrisa Mall or discovering that the Galerias Mall sports an ice skating rink of all things, we were a busy and very entertained group! With U.S. favorite stores such as The Gap to check out, to sipping on hot, frothy Starbucks coffee or indulging in Häagen-Dazs ice cream, we did it all. Not to mention the fantastic restaurants where we had some of the best chicken molé and margaritas…ever! The Gran Museo del Mundo Maya was an impressive display of Mexico’s natural history and the fascinating Maya culture and people who are the heart and soul of the area. The state-of-the-art museum is so extensive it would take a whole day to properly discover the contents within.
Perhaps one of the more interesting twists on tourism in Mérida is their world-renowned medical facilities. Medical tourism is a fast growing industry and people from around the world, including many Belizeans travel there for top notch medical care at affordable prices. Of course the added appeal of recuperating in a laidback Mexican environment, while sunning by some delicious pool is equally alluring. We were given a tour of the Clincia de Mérida and were impressed to learn that the 82 bed hospital specializes in 120 different fields of medicine. There are many outstanding medical facilities in Mérida and flying there on Tropic Air is a lot more civilized than enduring a six hour bus ride from Chetumal, especially if you are in need of medical attention.
After the two day experience with the Yucatan Tourism Board we opted to stay another two nights and we thoroughly enjoyed our accommodations at Casa del David rental home. Super affordable and centrally located, the charming two bedroom two bath casita with a plunge-pool courtyard was the perfect respite after a long day of walking and sightseeing. A great way to see the city and scope out places you don’t want to miss is by taking the two hour Carnavalito City Tour Bus ride. The tour is narrated in Spanish and English, as most tours are in the area. It’s hard to pick a favorite ‘must do’ while visiting Mérida, but the day trip we took to the coastal wetland and wildlife refuge, Celestun Biosphere Reserve to see huge flocks of pink flamingoes was simply amazing.
According to Tropic Air not only can Belizeans finally fly directly to Mérida, but this opens up many new opportunities for the archaeological and eco-tourism markets. Flights are scheduled to leave from Belize to Mérida three times per week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Tropic Air is currently offering a special introductory rate of just $99US each way. The offer is good until the 31st of March and some restrictions apply. The new service is bookable via the web at www.tropicair.com, via e-mail at [email protected], by phone at (501) 226-2012 or through a travel professional.
Visit The San Pedro Sun’s travel website My Beautiful Belize at www.mybeautifulbelize.com for more stories about Mérida in the near future.
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