Mérida’s theater and amphitheater were nothing short of amazing. Carefully preserved and wonderfully presented, this gem far exceeded my expectations. Why don’t more people visit Mérida?
Wandering around the perimeter of Mérida’s amphitheater, we wondered how long it would take us to find the ticket office–this place was much bigger than we had imagined. A few buses and guided tour groups told us we were headed in the right direction. Finally, we saw it–the entrance to our last spot of the day!
A statue inside the theater gardens
This site is actually composed of two different areas: the amphitheater and the theater. Walking around immediately brings to mind the grandeur of Rome’s famous Colosseum. However, Mérida’s smaller version had no lines and shockingly few tourists. These sites, along with a handful of others, give the city UNESCO World Heritage site cred.
Descending into the amphitheater
Another advantage to Mérida’s theater? There is a lot of information along the way, allowing you to appreciate the history in detail. (This is one of my complaints with Rome’s Colosseum–you must provide your own information, and even then it’s easy to lose track of which spot you are standing in.) Some of the translations were smile-worthy–one sign describing how the stone seats were made with “lime” surely meant to read “limestone.”
The visit begins in the amphitheater, where battles took place with animals and gladiators. These warriors often fought among themselves, and to bring this aspect to life, the museum had set up signs and images depicting 14 different gladiators. It was fascinating to see how the gladiators varied in costume, weapon, and motive.
Next, you wind your way through a maze of seats and descend one of the tunnels. Ready to fight? You’re now inside the amphitheater, where the combat took place.
Continuing the visit, you’ll walk through some gardens and see a few statues
This arch leads you to….
The Roman theater!
Note how few tourists there were in all of these shots. This is not to say that there weren’t tourists–there were. (Indeed, a particularly funny tour group arrived in style in a bus that read “GLAM TOUR.”) As we were relaxing on the steps of the theater, we noticed a small boy who was fiddling with a play bow and arrow. His family was deep in conversation, and he was free to toss around a few arrows here and there. As our group started to ascend the theater steps, the boy let loose his arrow and shot one of our crew squarely on the back. We joked that was a Cupid in our midst–not bad for a trip with mythical Latin flare!
I would love to go back to Mérida some day for a night tour or to see a play in the amphitheater. If there is ever a place let your imagination slip back to ancient times, this is it.
– Check out this cool Google Map of the Roman amphitheater
– Lauren has also visited Mérida and shares her praise for the city in this post