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Maps of Mexico, Merida and Yucatan

Merida Zocalo in Google EarthAfter many years of living on the planet, it’s obvious to us that maps can both clarify and obfuscate. There’s nothing more frustrating than an out of date map, but newcomers need them… we noticed when we first traveled here that we spent a lot of time with our maps. Now that we have lived here for a while, we use maps more as a “rule of thumb” when driving through the Yucatan countryside. The magic of traveling in the Yucatan is easier to find when the maps are left folded up in the back seat.

It used to be that there wasn’t much in the way of maps here. When we left California to drive to the Yucatan (it took us ten days of driving from 8 am until dark), we took with us very detailed guides that had been given to us by the company that sold us Mexican car insurance. These guides laid out routes (Guanajuato to Mexico City, for instance, or San Miguel Allende to Puebla). And they told you every single turn you needed to make at every single tree or gas station. The guide told you where the signs were or were not. But while these guides were thorough, they were not always accurate because even then, things were changing rapidly.

When we finally arrived in Merida, we were given a large map with all the place names of every little pueblito in Yucatan. We were told this was a very precious document, and if we wanted another, we’d have to go to the INEGI office, something local Yucatecos seemed to know how to do but very few gringos had yet accomplished.

Guia RojiThen maps started showing up more often in the local Dante bookstores. Good maps, then better maps. We “discovered” the Guia Roji for driving anywhere in Mexico. Guia Roji is published yearly as an 8×10 book. It is only sold in Mexico, but it is sold in many places. We’ve seen them in Dante Bookstores, Sanborn’s and WalMart. Guia Roji also has a comprehensive website, with both paper maps and maps on CD for sale. With the most recent Guia Roji, you can drive anywhere in Mexico with assurance. But don’t think last year’s Guia Roji will give you the same warm fuzzies. Mexican roads are being built at a rapid rate, and it helps to have the newest information. This is *especially* true in the Yucatan, where the local government has prided itself on the kilometers of new road it has laid down every year for the last few years, and has erected billboards to tell us about it.

MapquestWhen maps started showing up as useful tools on the Internet, those of us who lived here were disappointed to find that none of them included the Yucatan (or much of Mexico for that matter). It didn’t surprise us and we wrote off the whole idea of Internet maps. When Google Earth was launched, Merida was a big white blur.

But in the last few years, Merida has started to show up very nicely, thank you very much. Google Earth now has high resolution photos with street overlays of Merida. And just like that out of the blue, MapQuest had all of Merida completely mapped! What a find! No longer does anyone have to rely on outdated maps of this area. We now have the same tools available to us as anyone in New York City or Paris.

So when it comes to the Internet, we can say Merida is finally on the map!


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14 Responses to “Maps of Mexico, Merida and Yucatan”

  1. I love the online satellite maps, but I just wanted to let those who still need a hard-copy map that the best one I’ve found of the Yucatan so far is published by a German company called Borch. I write travel guides about the Yucatan, and am constantly in search of accurate maps. This isn’t flawless, but it’s way ahead of anything else (including the newest Roji) that I’ve found.

    Oh, embarrassing–I just clicked over to MapsGoneTomorrow.com, the online shop I know that sells it, and I see they’re already quoting me on how great the map is. So this now seems like some kind of shady cross-promotion, but I swear it’s not! This is just a solid map, and the world needs to know.

  2. We believe you :-) ! Thanks for the tip, Zora! (Now register yourself on our map!!)

  3. What on Earth is a Birdnose?

  4. I agree with Zora about the Borch map. It used to be the Berndtson and Berndtson map. Looks like the company has changed names, but the map is nearly the same – actually a bit better. These laminated maps have long been my favorite maps of Yucatan. They hold up under the humidity, occasional splashes of a cold drink or whatever.

    The Rough Guides maps are plastic — not laminated but actually made of plastic. The main deficiency is that they are only one sided, so much more material could have been added to the other side. Still, they are durable and accurate.

    The INEGI maps are super — just like the US Geological Survey maps in the USA. The topographic maps have physical features like altitude (not much in Yucatan!), terrain contours (not much in Yucatan!), power lines, pipelines, wells, buildings (in small villages), etc. A variety of scales is available, but you must speak Spanish to define exactly which of their 100′s of maps you’d like. The INEGI folks have always been very friendly and as helpful as possible on my visits. An online store sells them in the USA, but they are much less expensive at the INEGI office in Merida. http://www.omnimap.com

    I’d like to mention one other that I really like – the SPV Yucatan State map that is sometimes available a the main office just south (is it south? I think so…) of the Airport entrance road in Merida. Those maps have some interesting notations that are not always carried elsewhere. The supply goes in and out of print so you may have to come back in six months or a year. There’s a better supply – it has seemed – at the beginning of a governor’s term than at the end. The cost is minimal.

    (I am a total map freak. If anyone knows where some ancient maps of Merida can be found: from the earliest Mayan settlements to the Spanish occupation, to the 1600s, 1700s, 1800s street maps of Merida, that would be totally cool. I’ve looked and found some… not too much though. A very pleasant librarian at the UADY main building en Centro was helpful one time, but the maps we found were about 4 inches square. Pretty small.)

  5. I will have to get ahold of some of those INEGI maps–I have heard good things.

    I like the Rough Guides map (hey, the people who pay me make it!), but I have to warn people that it has not been updated since it was published in 2003, maybe? They did a second print run of it last year, I think it was, but didn’t do any major corrections–a shame, as the general format is clear, and I do love the plastic-paper stuff. It’s the only map that survives a three-week car ride. One of these years, they’ll actually pay someone (me? that would be nice…) to update it.

  6. Love this article. I, too, am a “map freak.” It was most helpful as I’d never heard of the “Guia Roji” map. Chris will love it.

    The banner of pictures rocks!! I love being entertained and educated at the same time. You all do it so well!!
    Thanks so much.
    Abrasitos.
    Karen

  7. A few people have written to us to say:

    - Guia Roji is now available through Amazon (good to know!)

    and

    -the maps in Yucatan Today are very handy for navigating around Merida and the surrounding Peninsula (thank you Judy!)

    Duly noted.

  8. What I’m waiting for is a downloadable interactive Yucatan map program for our GPS. My husband found a map of the area to download, but alas, the dominatrix of the GPS remains silent. You can’t request directions to a destination – it’s just a map. If anyone knows different, I’d love to hear about it. We have a Garmin GPS.

  9. We have a several choices of GPS maps for the Yucatan and all of Mexico.

  10. Hola CasiYucateco and other map freaks,

    I was just browsing on the US Library of Congress website and they have a collection of old maps that you can view online. My search did not return any results for Merida, but there were 20 items for ‘Yucatan’. Here is the link to the map collection page – http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/browse/ListSome.php?category=Maps .

    Enjoy,
    -Jeff

  11. Hey Jeff, Thank you for the link! Really cool maps!

  12. Anyone know of where in Cancun I could buy or find a map of the Yucatan? I’m somewhat afraid that if I order one online it won’t arrive in time for my trip.

    Thanks!

  13. A Dante bookstore or a Sanborns (cross between a drug store and bookstore + music + televisions + cellphones + cameras) will have maps. Any taxi driver should know where those places are. They are common names in Mexico.

  14. Quick Question, Anyone aware of where U.S. counsulate to Yucatan is located and is there still a guy with the last name Keiswetter in office, plan on visit to Cancun Thanksgiving week and plan to look up,( he’s a cousin )
    THANKS

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