by Philippa Bradbury, The Telegraph, March 26, 2019
Lovers of history will be bewitched by Mexico's exquisite haciendas with their Matisse-like blocks of colour, Mayan arts and crafts and antique wooden furniture. From luxury boutique hotels found deep in the Yucatán jungle to palatial erstwhile henequen estates, here's our pick of some of the most historic places to stay.
1. Hacienda Xcanatun, Yucatán
Yucatán is an impenetrable green lung hemmed in by vast beaches with emerald blue waters on one side, and deep jungle punctured by cenotes and ancient Mayan ruins on the other. Hacienda Xcanatun is found in the latter, an 18th-century hacienda that relied on the production of henequen, a cactus-like plant grown in the area with myriad uses, not least the production of tequila. A luxury boutique hotel, it is a retreat from modern madness. The 18 suites have no televisions and all have unique interiors that keep the spirit of the erstwhile hacienda alive with adobe exposed beams, heavy wooden furnishings and decorative Mexican tiling. The gourmet restaurant, sprawling gardens and spa (complete with traditional Mayan treatments) only serve to further enhance the idea that this a spot to escape to.
2. Hacienda Santa Cruz, Mérida
With its high arches, rust-red exterior and terraced accommodation, Hacienda Santa Cruz is a unique bolthole resembling the Mayan ruins the area is renowned for. Indeed one of the main draws of this 23-room boutique hotel is its proximity to Uxmal, a towering stone confection on three levels and a Unesco world heritage site. Hacienda Santa Cruz delights with true Mexican cuisine, creatively conjured up by chef Peter May, a Yucatán native, and can be taken on the vast terrace surrounding the hotel in the company of bright orange flamboyant trees and fragrant peach trees.
3. Hacienda San Gabriel de las Palmas, Morelos
Built in 1529 as a Franciscan monastery, later turned into a sugar mill, and now a luxury hacienda housing more than 600 pieces of art, this barrel-vaulted hotel shrouded in swirling ivy and tangerine coloured walls with patches of exposed brick, is an eclectic nod to its contrasting histories. Rooms and suites at Hacienda San Gabriel de las Palmas are located down stone warrens of brick and white-washed walls, lined with various collections of art and heavy, dark-wood furniture. The restaurant prides itself on a menu focused on recipes inherited from the colonial hacienda. The real draw here though is the La Cascada bar, the ruins it is housed in made famous as the headquarters of Emiliano Zapata, a leader of the Mexican revolution. Cocooned amongst the tendrils of the vast centenarian trees and a free-flowing waterfall, this is magical spot to enjoy a tipple of tequila.
4. Hacienda el Carmen Hotel and Spa, Jalisco
Hacienda el Carmen Hotel and Spa is a true traditional hacienda revelling in bright colours that have come to denote the plantation-style Mexican dwellings. The burnt-pink exterior with white-lined arches strewn with green creepers, and the mustard-yellow walls occasionally giving way to cobalt blue provide a colourful landscape in which to explore this luxury retreat. There are a range of suites available, from general to master, and tastefully decorated with antique furniture. While the hotel does not provide a large variety of services and experiences for its guests, the reason to visit this hotel is for its spa. It offers a vast assortment of treatments of which the most interesting is wine therapy. While sadly the idea is not to imbibe it yourself, the treatment involves an extensive massage using essential oils, Cabernet-Sauvignon or Merlot wine to rejuvenate the skin.
5. Hacienda Labor de Rivera, Jalisco
People travel to this boutique hotel for one main reason: location. Hacienda Labor de Rivera is only an hour from Guadalajara airport and is found in Teuchitlán, Jalisco, an area best-known for its production of blue tequila and also the site of the Guachimontones, an ancient Mayan settlement made famous for its large, circular pyramids. The individually designed rustic rooms look out onto the lake and magnificent gardens and are done up in an earthy colour palette with the distinctive talavera mexican ceramic tiling lining the walls of the large bathrooms. Guests are encouraged to roam the verdant gardens, to kayak on the lake or even take a picnic to its shores (complete with hammocks). The hotel has also become well-known for its equestrian stables where guests can not only hop on a horse but also learn all aspects of equine care, thus this hacienda is a great spot for families with children.
6. Hacienda Katanchel, Mérida
Hacienda Katanchel is the epitome of Yucatán elegance and culture. The 17th-century hotel is easy to get to but retains a sense of idyllic isolation set amongst 740 acres of tropical jungle which incorporates the remains of an old Mayan site. This palatial hotel has 40 suites simply furnished but with some offering private plunge pools filled with fresh spring water. Much of the area surrounding the hotel is farmed for organic fruit and vegetables, which are incorporated into a diverse menu brimming with Yucatán influences and served in a chic dining room stuffed with European antiques. Mérida, Mexico’s second city, is only 16 miles from the hotel which, should things become just a bit too quiet, provides a refreshing change of pace.
7. Rosas & Xocolate Boutique Hotel & Spa, Mérida
Although not strictly an old hacienda, this hotel is too lovely to leave off the list. It is found on Avenida Montejo, a popular road in the trendy city of Merida where henequen moguls built their grandiose abodes. Two mansions were brought together and restored by architect Salvador Reyes Rios and designer, Josefina Larrain who are well known in the renovation of erstwhile haciendas. With 17 rooms creatively curated in a bright pink and chocolate brown, the hotel may seem far removed from its hacienda roots, but the earth-toned walls done in traditional Mayan style, the cedarwood furniture and open-air plunge pools retain a sense of the history from whence it came. Combined with a sophisticated menu, fitness centre and spa (complete with chocolate treatments providing the ultimate nod to Mayan culture), Rosas & Xocolate is a force to be reckoned with.
8. Hacienda Uayamon, Yucatán
12 luxurious suites are found in this vibrant 17th-century hacienda enveloped in jungle foliage. Treading the line between modern and historical, Hacienda Uayamon comes up trumps with service, facilities and décor. All the rooms have mahogany beds and glass walkways leading towards the bathrooms, the diamond-shaped tiled floors have a warm palette which complements the hotel’s ochre yellow and rust-red exterior. The walls have been artfully designed to retain a sense of ‘ruin’ and the beguiling walkways throughout the hotel allow for a peek back in time and a glimpse of the unique wildlife found in the area. The hotel's restaurant features an eclectic menu of Mexican and European influences.
Read the full review: Hacienda Uayamon, Yucatán, Mexico
9. Hacienda Chichen, Yucatán
What this resort lacks in luxury, it makes up for in location and personality. Built in the 16th-century, Hacienda Chichen prides itself not only on its eco-friendly practices but also on its links and knowledge of Mayan culture. The hotel lies on the Mayan site of Chichen-Itza, a vast archaeological location hosting the prolific El Castillo or Temple of Kukulcan, and provides a ‘backdoor’ entrance to the site. The 28 guest rooms dotted around the hotel’s gardens are simply furnished with exposed adobe beams, the requisite dark, antique furniture and Mayan crafts. With a variety of experiences on offer that include nature walking, birding and perhaps an indulgent visit to the spa, the hotel is a simple and practical stay in which to explore the area.
Read the full review: Hacienda Chichen, Yucatán, Mexico
10. Chablé Resort & Spa, Yucatán
This former henequen factory is the ultimate stop for a luxurious hotel stay. The award-winning design (think cool cream limestone floors, dark wooden beams, plunge-pools looking onto nearly-untamed jungle and myriad walkways winding invitingly throughout the hotel) balances beautifully with cool modernity in true-hacienda style. Vibrant splashes of colour remind you of the hotel’s history while a delicious menu captures the best of the area. The 40 stand-alone casitas seem almost to have been reclaimed by nature and have private plunge-pools, hammocks, indoor/outdoor showers and modern fixings. However, the luxury doesn’t stop there. The sybaritic spa on a hand is built over a natural cenote and is a triumph of tranquility, providing holistic ‘spa journeys’ as the ultimate indulgence.
Read the full review: Chablé Resort & Spa, Chocholá, Yucatán, Mexico