Perhaps the most well-known vacation destination in the Yucatán Peninsula is Cancun, conjuring images of white sandy beaches and the heavenly turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. Whilst I am very much a tropical coast lover, I found that during my recent trip to this part of Mexico, it was the interior of the peninsula; its history and renovated haciendas, that I fell for.
The haciendas of the Yucatán were fully functioning estates and plantations a century ago, producing henequen or sisal as the fibre became commonly known outside of Mexico. However between the 1940s and 90s many lay derelict, until some were selected for thoughtful renovation into luxury accommodation.
Each time I arrived at a hacienda I had my own journey of discovery, never disappointed as my feelings of intrigue were met with a new peaceful and tropical retreat. Despite their secluded and off-the-beaten-track locations, there is plenty to occupy guests and many sites to take day trips to, before escaping once more to their jungle enveloped estates. During my whistle-stop trip to the Yucatán I explored the Mayan archaeological sites of Ek Balam, Uxmal, the famous Chichén Itzá and the colonial cities of Mérida, Valladolid and Campeche.
My love began when I arrived at Hacienda Temozon, an estate with a magnificent red Casa Principal complete with Patron Suite that both Bill Clinton and Shakira have stayed in (separately of course!). The service was exemplary from arrival to departure and my room, located in a renovated outbuilding, was furnished in the typical charming style adopted by many haciendas – high ceilings, dark woods, white linens, fresh flowers and the preservation of original features. I even had my own hammock!
As with most haciendas, there are also a few surprises on the estate. The Hol Be spa uses a candle-lit cave for some Mayan treatments and a donkey-pulled cart can transport you to the Hacienda’s very own cenote (naturally occurring groundwater pools found all over the Yucatán Peninsula – all stunning places to swim).
My next hacienda was something of a wild-card, a city hotel. Conveniently located in the fortified and vibrant city of Campeche, Hacienda Puerta Campeche retains the style and tranquillity of its more rural friends. My highlight was the novelty of swimming through the doorways in its unique pool.
Flanked by a large lawn, the drive up to Hacienda Uayamon was impressive and the rest of the grounds did not disappoint. Whilst most of the buildings have been converted into luxurious bedrooms and suites (the two largest located in the hacienda’s old hospital), some remain ruined and surrendered to the jungle. In true restored hacienda style, the swimming pool has been constructed within original walls and magnificent pillars rising from its waters – spectacular.
Finally I reached Hacienda San Jose, boasting an in-bathroom tree for a real novelty jungle experience. There is an air of romanticism here with a Mayan Casita complete with hanging bed and thatched roof and the option of a candle-lit dinner anywhere in the grounds.
Each hacienda’s estate and rooms are steeped in a fascinating history and surrounded by stunning gardens, intriguing jungle landscape and the most delicious Yucatecan cuisine, a truly unique retreat. For me, these extraordinary converted properties were as much a highlight of the trip as taking in the majestic Mayan ruins.
Hacienda hopping take your fancy? Find out more information by calling one of our Latin America specialists on 0203 603 3555 or visit scottdunn.com.