Haciendas, Henequen, and Hammocks - Page 2

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Hacienda Temozon in the Yucatan, Mexico
THE SPLENDOR OF ERAS: Hacienda Temozon is one of the oldest, most luxurious, haciendas in the Yucatan, built in the 16th century  (Ellen Clark.)

Built in Spanish Colonial style, the haciendas of the Yucatan are a combination of simple, solid construction and Baroque ornamentation imported from Spain. These graceful structures now provide tourists with a way to relax while also glimpsing the history of the area. One provides tours of its working sisal producing enterprise, while another is an ecologically-themed hotel and spa just minutes from Yucatan's most famous archeological attraction, Chichen Itza.

The most luxurious, and predictably most expensive ($230 to $510 per night), refurbished hacienda hotels near Merida are the three Starwood properties. The largest and most impressive, Hacienda Temozon started raising livestock and maize in 1665 and turned to rope-making in the 19th century. With the death of the henequen market, the hacienda passed through various hands until 1996 when its restoration began. Original buildings were adapted into 28 unique rooms. You might be staying in what was once the stable, pharmacy, or school, but 19th-century workers would no doubt be astounded by the huge bedrooms and bathrooms big enough to accommodate a small cocktail party. You can choose to sleep Maya-style if you'd like, swinging softly in a handmade hammock strung across the room.

Hacienda Santa Rosa has all the amenities, superb service, and attention to detail of its sister hotels but with only 11 rooms, providing a more intimate atmosphere than the others. Its walls are painted a deep sky blue and brick red, the rooms tucked in amongst lush tropical foliage, some with 23-foot ceilings. There's a pool, spa, and a 2.5-acre botanical garden with 211 documented species.

The third Starwood property in the area, Hacienda San Jose has all the luxurious touches and excellent service of the other two with a true, hacienda-meets-modern-era addition: the authentic "Mayan Palapa"—a swinging bed that hang from enormous poles stretching from wall to wall.

If these five star properties are out of the budget, Hacienda San Pedro Nohpat offers a more reasonably priced alternative. Built in the 16th century and later transformed into a privately owned hotel, its ten suites differ in style and price ($95 to $195) and have most of the amenities of the more expensive hacienda hotels. Another benefit is the location, as most of the haciendas are a substantial distance from town, making renting a car almost a necessity, while San Pedro Nohpat is on the outskirts of Merida, easily accessible by city bus and taxi service.

If a visit to the Yucatan's most famous attractions is a priority, incorporate a hacienda stay within minutes of the Chichen Itza ruins. Hacienda Chichen Resort, founded in 1523, claims to be the first hacienda built in the Yucatan, initially established as a center for Spanish rule over the Maya and later functioned as a cattle ranch. In 1923, the Carnegie Institute established its Maya Archaeological Expedition headquarters at Hacienda Chichen and began excavating and reconstructing Chichen Itza. Today the hacienda is an environmentally-friendly hotel and spa committed to sustainable tourism. Organic vegetables and fruits grown on the property are incorporated into the menus and traditional Maya rituals are practiced in the spa.

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