Fly to Mérida, capital of the Yucatán Peninsula. The city was founded by the Mayan Indians and named Tiho. In 1542 it was conquered by the Spanish conquistadores who dismantled the Mayan pyramids and used the stones as foundations for the cathedral. Mérida then became an immensely wealthy city, described as ‘the Paris of the New World’. Its money came mainly from the production of sisal, cactus fibres that are used to make rope, and it was culturally and geographically isolated from the rest of the country until transport infrastructure reached it in the 1950s.
Today, Mérida retains a lovely colonial centre, with a mix of opulent and crumbly buildings but it is a modern, bustling, thriving city, with lots of local character, some excellent places to eat and good shops and markets. The inhabitants, descendants of the Mayans and the colonists, love a good fiesta, and you may well find one going on, with live music and market stalls, while you are there.