Friday, June 14, 2024

Best attractions along Mérida’s electric IE-Tram Route

The historic colonial city of Mérida has quickly become a top destination for tourists – and is about to become even more enticing as the new cutting-edge electric tram system prepares to boost tourist and transport infrastructure in the Yucatán capital.

Over three million people visited Mérida in 2022 – a record-breaking year – and the Federal Government has responded with significant investment. Construction of the new system is in overdrive, ahead of the grand opening of the Maya Train, scheduled for December 2023.

An IE-Tram electric bus.
An IE-Tram electric bus. Irizar e-mobility

The ambitious project required a total investment of 149.6 million USD, with 61% of the funding contributed by the Government of Yucatán, 23% by Banobras (Mexico’s state-owned development fund) and 16% by private investors.

The IE-Tram in Mérida will closely resemble Mexico City’s all-electric Metrobus system and traverse 129 kilometers and 137 neighborhoods. With a fleet of 32 buses, it will serve three primary routes encompassing Kanasín, Umán, and Mérida, while two additional routes will connect the system to the Maya Train stations in Teya and Umán. 

So, where can visitors to Mexico’s third oldest city expect when they ride the tram? Here is a list of the top attractions to visit along the route:

Kanasín (Line One)

Those interested in Yucatecan delicacies need look no further than the “Panucho Capital,” Kanasín. This place is well-known across the state for having the best fried tortillas, containing refried beans and fillings like local classic “cochinita pibil”. Many travel far and wide to find these tasty treats that are a great source of regional pride.

The town, located within the Mérida Eastern Metropolitan Area, saw recent government investment to modernize its local market and create three new commercial centers. The improvements will include parks for children, sports facilities and over 100 public spaces and amenities.

Teya (Line Two and Maya Station connection) 

Famous for hosting royalty as recently as the 1990s, with the presence of Queen Sofia of Spain, the restored San Ildefonso colonial estate in Teya is a popular choice. Originally a livestock ranch opened in 1683, it was converted into a henequén plantation in the 19th century for the once-thriving fiber industry. Today, it is commonly known as Hacienda Teya and serves as a restaurant, hotel and popular wedding venue.

Teya, Yucatán.

The Teya Maya Train station – the final stop on Line Two – will offer a large garden plaza and be fully wheelchair accessible with elevators, escalators and ramps. It will also connect to Section Three of the Maya Train. 

UADY (Line Three)

Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán.

Anyone with an academic interest in Mérida should consider this route, which takes you to the heart of the Autonomous University of Yucatán. Several museums, including the Maya World Museum of Mérida and the Van Gogh Exhibition, line the way.

Line Three also takes you to Mérida’s Main Street, the Paseo de Montejo, which has protected cycle lanes and large trees on both sides. Despite being a main artery to the historic city center, it is a pleasant walk or cycle, with various restaurants serving local and international cuisine.

Poxilá (Line Five and Maya Station connection)

This stop boasts both a beautiful colonial estate with a similar history to Hacienda Teya and a significant archaeological site at Poxilá. Researchers at the ancient Maya city believe it was developed during the Middle Preclassic period (800-350 BC) and grew to an area covering four kilometers square. Interestingly, jade and basalt axes found during excavations indicate links with ancient local tribes from regions as remote as the Olmecs of the Gulf Coast.

Poxilá, Yucatán.

Apart from serving as the final destination for the second Maya Train Station on the southwestern side of the city, Line Five also stops at Mérida International Airport. Located just outside the city center, the airport has received substantial government investment to modernize facilities in anticipation of the completion of the Maya Train later this year. 

La Plancha (All Lines)

Constructed in New York’s Central Park style, the jewel in Mérida’s crown is perhaps the biggest attraction on this list. La Plancha offers more than just a green area for picnics, children’s play, and nature enthusiasts. It boasts a wide array of amenities catering to both tourists and residents. The park has four distinct sections, with amenities strategically distributed throughout.

One section is dedicated to concessions and an outdoor gym, providing a space for refreshments and fitness activities. Another section is devoted to children’s activities and features a charming fountain. The third section is home to restaurants and a skate park. Lastly, the fourth section encompasses a serene lake, an assortment of children’s games, and a remarkable 10,000-person capacity amphitheater.

The December due date for the Maya Train and IE-Tram projects coincides perfectly with a warm winter holiday to end 2023 on a high note. High-speed connections from Cancun, which is approximately 189 miles away from Mérida, open up plenty of new attractions along the way, including much-improved access to the internationally acclaimed Chichen Itzá Maya Capital. 

A hotspot of activity with 3,000 daily commuters, the IE-Tram aims to alleviate traffic by providing a safe and eco-friendly alternative for travelers. New investment in Mérida also includes planting 1,500 trees along the IE-Tram routes and another 800,000 state-wide.

Mark Viales writes for Mexico News Daily.

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