I love when friends come to visit me as it gets me out exploring and playing a little bit of tourist. My friend Jules, from Goa, came to visit us a few weekends ago and we did a LOT over the weekend. On Friday, we made a pretty epic little day trip from Merida to Uxmal and I thought I’d share it with you in case you want to cover my tracks, as we stopped at a great look-out point and saw local handicrafts being made, saw Mayan ruins, swam in an empty cenote, and ate traditional food at a stunning ancient Hacienda.
It’s fantastic that if someone comes to visit for three days, one can be spent in culture at the ruins, haciendas, and cenote hopping, day two can be the beach, pink lakes, and flamingo spotting, then day three can be downtown Merida exploring the amazing architecture, local markets, and seeing shows. There is so much to take friends to do here!
Day Trip from Merida to Uxmal, Muna, Secret Cenote, and Hacienda Ochil
This trip is a very easy peasy one and doesn’t mean too much time in the car – about an hour out there and an hour back of actual driving. Luckily, there are SO many Mayan ruins, cenotes, and haciendas all over the Yucatan within a drive from Merida, so you have a lot of options. That can also mean TOO many options and it can be hard to narrow it down. Since I have unlimited time, I’m just trying to hit up as many places as I can and then eventually will be able to share my favorites. In this case, we chose Uxmal as they are the closest huge set of Mayan ruins to Merida. Many say they prefer these to the world wonder two hours away, Chichen Itza, which we visited last winter.
While reading up on this, I noticed there is a route PUUC RUTA, of the Pucc route. This goes to Uxmal on the same path but hits up more ruins, caves, and haciendas. You could certainly do this whole route in one day but for us, we found it would be a little too repetitive to keep seeing more sites all in one day and we’d rather drive back out – hitting up new lunch spots and cenotes each time.
We went to Muna lookout point where you can see the ruins from afar and see handicrafts being made. This is the highest point in the entire state – which is not very high ha! Yucatan is notoriously flat and low. From there, on to Uxmal. Next, to the Kankirixche cenote to swim, then lastly to lunch at Hacienda Ochil. I’ve mapped these all out for you below.
Visiting Uxmal Mayan Ruins from Merida on a Day Trip
When you first walk in, there are shops, snacks, and restrooms. Then you get your ticket and enter. Once you walk into the complex of the ruins, you’ll see straight away a huge pyramid – although small compared to Chichen Itza. As you walk around it and onward, you’ll find so much more to see – more ruins and the area where they played the ball games.
The price was 234 pesos per person, or around $12. It is a tiny bit less expensive if you are Mexican. I recommend hiring a guide here so you can learn about the history. You can stay as long as you like, but 1-2 hours would probably be the average. We went Friday afternoon and there were no crowds. We preferred Uxmal to Chichen Itza.
Stopping at Muna on the way out
You can avoid going to Muna as it’s an exit off the highway, but if you get off and go through Muna town it’s just about 5 minutes longer on your journey and you’ll go up and back down some winding roads. At the highest bit, is Muna lookout point. Online it looked like we’d see epic views of Uxmal, which is about a 10-minute drive further, but whoever had posted those must have had a serious zoom lens, as the ruins are a dot in the distance.
However, I recommend stopping here as it’s more about seeing the local handicrafts. I loved seeing the liquor, bees and honey (which is famous from Uxmal), the rain sticks (Jules bought us one as a present), and all the jewelry and carvings.
On the way back home from Uxmal, there is stop on the main road for Hacienda Ochil – from there you can take a road toward Kankirixche cenote or you could go another way to a couple more cenotes. We chose this one on a whim. You can choose to either eat first then go to the cenote or swim then eat. We chose to swim first, then head back to the main road to eat. It’s just 10 minutes to the cenote.
You’ll see the “here” point on the map, but wonder “umm… where is it!?”. You need to drive a bit further and you’ll see on your left a dirt road. Take it about 5 minutes until a man is there asking for 30 pesos per person to access the cenote.
It doesn’t look like much:
But then once you look inside, it’s magical.
There were a few people there but they were leaving as we go there so we ended up with the whole thing on our own. It’s really incredible and better than the famous ones we visited near Tulum as it was so secluded. When you first look down it, it looks kind of dark but once you’re inside, it’s bright blue light. Cenotes are really interesting and were said to be created from the meteorite that killed the dinosaurs – the whole of Merida is on top of a cenote. You can read more about them here. Most people think of Yucatan when they hear cenote as most are here but you’ll find them in some other places like Belize, Austrailia, and even the USA in Roswell.
PS there are a ton of horse flies here and they hurt so much when they bite! They aren’t down in the cenote thankfully but you wouldn’t want to pack a lunch and hang out here – just swim and go. The toilets were clean, but no toilet seat just a squatting situation. You can change there.
Lunch at Hacienda Ochil
Hacienda Ochil is completely beautiful. Haciendas are from when the Spanish came to Yucatan and colonized it – they built these. They are basically mansions. Around the Yucatan, you can go to them as hotels, spas, weekend getaways, or just pop in for lunch. Many have their own cenotes. We didn’t go in the cenote here, but just ate lunch and wondered around.
Yucatan food is unique to this part of Mexico and that is due to the Mayan influence. You’ll have things like salbutes, panuchos, kibis, cochinita pibil, poc chuc, queso relleno, and more. Tacos, empanadas, tamales, and other things you find around the rest of Mexico have a Yucatan twist. Haciendas are a great place to try the local food – not that you have a choice and it’s typically all they will serve. That means no making it “gringo” style on a flour tortilla. It’s going to be the Yucatan style all the way.
The food here was very affordable and tasty. The fish (which is freshwater, not sure the type) was the best dish. From here, we were stuffed and exhausted so headed home which was about 50 minutes back into town. For this trip, we didn’t have to wake up early. We watched a world cup game and didn’t head out until around 1130. We were home by 6 pm. We had a glass of wine at lunch and took things slowly – so you can definitely do it quicker or longer and add in more stops.
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