Richly restored haciendas of the Yucatan Peninsula are attracting luxury travelers with their grace and elegance of a bygone era. These centuries-old estates, of which many have been sitting in ruins for decades, are being bought and reconstructed to their former glory by foreigners who have been cast under the romantic spell of colonial Mexico. The age-old histories of these estates are as fascinating as their grand facades.
When the Spanish were settling the continent in the 1700’s the haciendas were built as livestock ranches that later became henequen farms during the sisal boom over the next 100 years. Hacienda owners made fortunes from the sisal production. It was said that at the beginning of the 19th Century some of the wealthiest families in the world lived in the Yucatan. Villages grew up around these haciendas where work was available creating towns with churches, schools, hospitals and stores. Haciendas played a key role in the peninsula’s growth.
Renovations include luxurious amenities like Jacuzzi tubs, fine dining restaurants and lavish spas, blended tastefully with antique furniture and classic design. Some of these heirlooms are faithfully reproduced in every detail to their original turn of the century style, like Hacienda Xcanatun.
While other design inspirations, like this master suite at Hacienda Sacnicte in Izamal, stem from European influences.
Some restorations have retained distress walls and pock-marked columns to retain their ancient appearance.
Once the private homes of Spanish aristocrats, Haciendas of the Yucatan are now the exclusive getaways for elite travelers because they offer something different than the busy, glitzy hotels and resorts. Nestled in the jungle amongst cenotes, nature reserves and ancient Mayan ruins, the hacienda experience is one that, upon arrival, evokes a sense of tranquility, inviting its guests to lie in a hammock and do nothing all day. Activities include birdwatching, strolls through exotic gardens, luxuriating spa treatments, touring ruins, floating in a natural, fresh water pool, gourmet meals inspired by Yucatecan flavors, tequila tastings… there are no high-end shopping malls or night clubs here, the hacienda is for those looking to unplug.
The pueblos that surround these estates have much to offer if you do find yourself ready to step out of the lazy hacienda life. The towns often have historic buildings with colonial architecture like convents or cathedrals, and local mercados for an authentic, Mexican shopping experience. The zocalo, or town center, on the weekends is usually alive with musicians, local artists and street vendors.
With double rooms staring at $385 per night, for some of us, staying in a hacienda would be a once in a lifetime experience. Hacienda day trip tours are another way to step inside this privileged world. But if money is no object, entire haciendas can be rented for private parties, weddings, family reunions, or company retreats. These architectural and cultural treasures are just one more reason to make your way to the Yucatan.