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9 delicious ice-cold treats to keep you cool in Yucatán

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.

If you have ever been to Yucatán between the months of April and August you don’t need us to tell you how hot it can get.

During this time of year temperatures in Mérida routinely exceed 40 degrees celsius with 100% humidity. Needless to say, things in Yucatán can get a little sticky.

No amount of air conditioning or lounging in the pool will keep you cool at all times, but folks in Yucatán have long learned to cope with the worst of the Peninsula’s heat.

Hand-held fans are popular in Yucatán but are simply not enough to keep the heat at bay. Photo: Courtesy

One of the best ways to keep cool — and even more importantly, hydrated — is to always carry a cold bottle of water when you leave the house. But let’s face it, after a while you are likely to want something else, maybe something a little sweeter or zesty to help keep you cool.

Well, you are in luck, because people in Yucatán are experts at cool treats. Here are some local favorites!

Well, this one is obvious, but ice cream or helado is everywhere in Yucatán. Some people prefer to buy their ice cream from vendors pushing carts down Paseo de Montejo or in one of the city’s many parks or plazas, while others are regulars at ice cream parlors or gelaterias. Whatever your preference there sure are plenty of choices.

Ice cream vendors are common sight across all of Mexico. Photo: Courtesy

Most ice cream vendors carry the types of flavors you would expect to see anywhere in the world, such as chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. But in Yucatán, you can also find more exotic flavors such as mamey, melon, or even spicy ice cream — yes, Yuatecos will add heat to just about anything.

Sorbetes are a refreshing treat made of fruit and sugar, but no dairy. Popular flavors include lime, melon, and coconut. They tend to be much lighter than ice cream and make for a fantastic palate cleanser after a big meal. There are several great spots to get sorbetes in Mérida, but one of the most popular is Impala, near the Remate on Paseo de Montejo. Give the sorbete de lima a shot, it’s quite nice but very sweet.

Sorbetes are delicious, but they melt fast, so don´t let them sit for too long. Photo: Courtesy

Bolis are a type of frozen juice bar that is very popular in Yucatán, especially with children. Because they are frozen solid when you buy them — or at least they are supposed to be — they stay cold longer than just about any other treat. Many bolis are made out of natural fruit juices or other popular beverages such as jamaica, but others are made using artificial flavoring and color. They can be bought individually or in packages of 10 or more. Bolis also keep great in the freezer as they don’t take up much room. In recent years, alcohol-infused bolis have entered the market… boli de Mezcal anyone?

Ice cold bolis are one of the most inexpensive treats you can find in Yucatán, often costing around 5 pesos. Photo: Courtesy

Granizados are made of flavored shaved ice, most often served in a plastic cup. Vendors often load up a large sheet of ice on a kart from which they shave off tiny flakes with a special “raspador.” The flavoring is poured over the ice after it is put in the cup and is usually artificial, but a few places do use natural juices.

Granizados are often topped with an acidic chili powder to add a little heat to the chill. Photo: Courtesy.

Paletas heladas are a Mexican type of frozen popsicle that can be found in just about any public plaza or square. They can be made out of just about any liquid that will freeze and often contain chunks of fruit, chocolate, or nuts. Again, as with just about all of the items in this article, they also come in spicy flavors.

Paletas heladas are great, just watch out for brain freeze. Photo: Courtesy

Aguas Frescas is an umbrella term literally meaning fresh drinks. They are extremely popular and a healthier option to carbonated soda drinks. If you have spent any time in Mexico you have likely noticed several shops called “La Michoacana” that specialize in Aguas Frescas and other cold treats. Although la Michocana is an actual franchise, most of the businesses that go by this name — or one of its many variations — are in fact independently owned and operated. Popular flavours include horchata, jamaica, lima and Chaya. Most vendors will also allow you to mix and match flavours to create your very own concoction.

May I recommend mixing piña (pineapple) with chaya and a dash of lima? Very refreshing. Photo: Courtesy

Agua de coco is exactly what you think it is, fresh coconut water. The refreshing beverage can be purchased bottled, but why on earth would you choose to drink bottled coconut water if drinking it straight from the coconut is a choice?. This is likely the healthiest of all the options presented in this article, as coconut water is rich in nutrients, antioxidants and is great to combat diabetes and help prevent kidney stones. Coconuts themselves are pretty good at insulating their juice inside from the heat, but if you can get one that has been chilled, all the better. Fresh coconuts can be found for sale at just about every beach boardwalk in Yucatán.

You can of course enjoy coconut water just about anywhere, but it always tastes best at the beach. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht.

Gelato is of course a creamier type of Italian ice cream. When I was growing up in the 1980s and 90s I did not even know what gelato was, but now it seems new shops are opening up every week. This Italian import is particularly popular with the younger crowd, as well as tourists.

Gelato shops in Yucatán tend to have a wide variety of flavors on offer, some of which may sound a little exotic. Photo: Courtesy

One of the most unusual gelato flavors can be found at Pola, just down the street from Plaza de Santa Lucía, where they serve “helado de frijol con puerco” complete with pork, rice, and bean flavoring. This unique flavor is only available on Mondays when eating frijol con puerco is traditional in Mérida. Having tried it before, let me just say it is not my top choice.

Frijo con puerco ice cream from Pola Gelateria. Photo: Couresy.

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