Get hands on with the region’s cuisine at chef David Sterling’s Los Dos Cooking School in Mérida. Because Yucatán was formerly a sovereign republic, and because it’s geographically isolated from the rest of the country, the food here is entirely unique from the rest of Mexico. It incorporates centuries-old Maya cooking methods such as underground pit roasting and features rare ingredients native to the area like achiote spice and the green, leafy chaya vegetable.

“It’s an incredibly diverse cuisine and people here take a huge amount of pride in it,” says Sterling. “It’s laced with history and legend and lore. It’s a bottomless pit of exploration.”

Begin with breakfast and a gastronomic history lesson at Sterling’s restored colonial downtown mansion. Then walk through the chaotic labyrinth that is the Lucas de Gálvez market to pick up ingredients like masa (ground maize dough). Learn to make handmade tortillas with local women, help Sterling make sikil p’aak (squash seed and tomato dip) and pollo pibil (smoked chicken) right in his home kitchen, then enjoy your lunch in his dining room adorned with a tile mural of Merida’s city centre.

Buen Provecho.

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Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the August 2016 issue of WestJet Magazine and has since been updated.