To show you all of the 392 remaining Yucatan Haciendas would be almost impossible, but I will show you several that are closest to Merida or on the way to Cancun or Campeche and could be explored in one day.
I will take as my starting point the city of Merida capital of the state of Yucatan, although it is a tour that can also be done from Cancun or any other Mexican Caribbean island or city, it might take you a little longer than a day but it’s feasible.
HACIENDAS OF YUCATAN
I will assume that you are driving. Doing the hacienda route in one day is not something that can be done by bus, I would suggest you either rent a car or take a guided tour from a travel agency.
All right, Let us begin our tour........
When we have friends visiting us from another part of Mexico or the United States, we start our tour on the road to Progreso (the beach town) which is closer to our home, only a 15 to 20 minute drive, but of course you should start wherever is more convenient for you.
There really isn’t an established hacienda route, due to the fact that they are scattered all over the state in different directions, but they are not too far away one from the other.
On the road to Progreso Yucatan we have 3 haciendas that you might like to visit, they are Hacienda Xcanatun (sh-kah-nah-TOON) - Hacienda San Ignacio ( sahn - eeg-NAH-seeo) - Hacienda Xcunya (sh-koon-YAH).
Our first Yucatan hacienda is Xcanatun, this hacienda was originally built in the 18th century as a farm and horse ranch, and it switched into a sisal plantation in the mid - 19th century.
After many years of being abandoned and hidden in the jungle, it was completely restored by Mayan and Colonial architectural experts, it reopened its doors as a luxury (boutique) hotel in January 2000.
This Yucatan Hacienda is located a few miles (kilometers) from the city of Merida, on the road to Progreso Beach.
HACIENDA SAN IGNACIO
This hacienda is part of the city of Progreso, it is located about 21 Km (14 miles) from Merida on the Road to Progreso Mexico
It was built in the 17th century, originally as a cattle ranch, in mid 19th century it joined the henequen growers.
Currently only the main house and the chapel are standing. Only one wall of the machine house is standing, but it is in deplorable condition.
Usually the main house (casco) is the most elaborate and most beautiful structure of a hacienda. In this case, what is worth seeing is the 100 year old chapel, built in Neo - Gothic architectural style, which is still in use.
It was built in honor of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. (San Ignacio de Loyola - hence the name of the hacienda). It was restored and renovated in the late 20th century when this hacienda became a camping site for boy scouts.
There are a few other Neo-Gothic style churches in the state, one is in Hacienda Xcunya which is on the other side of the highway to Progreso a few kilometers from hacienda San Ignacio.
Another one is located in Hacienda Eknakan, and still another one belongs to the Quintero family, located in their private home in Merida.
This 17th century hacienda is located in the little town of Xcunya 15 kilometers from the city of Merida, half way between Merida and Progreso, it started out just like the others as a farm and cattle ranch.
What is worth seeing here is the small Neo-Gothic chapel which is still used by the people of the town. The rest of the hacienda including the main house are in ruins.
On this route there are other Yucatan haciendas worth visiting. They are Hacienda Teya (TEH-yah) - Hacienda Chichen (chee-CHEN), the oldest hacienda in Yucatan, which became a luxury hotel and it’s next door to Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins - Hacienda San Jose Cholul (sahn - hoSEH - choh - LOOL)
Hacienda San Ildefonso Teya was one of Yucatan Haciendas which was originally founded in 1683 as a cattle ranch, switching to henequen in the 19th century, years later it was abandoned like many other haciendas, to be renovated and brought back to life in 1995.
At the present time it operates as a well known restaurant whose specialty is traditional, authentic finger lickin’ Mayan / Yucatecan food.
It is also a location for special events (weddings, banquets etc.)
The hacienda has six spacious and comfortable rooms for overnight guests.
Breakfast is served in your room. If you celebrate your wedding here, you can stay overnight and leave on your honeymoon the next day. It is well worth a visit.
This is one of the oldest Yucatan haciendas, it was built in 1523, by the first Spaniards who arrived in Yucatan.
The hacienda´s main structures were built from stones that had once been part of Chichen Itza´s Mayan pyramids.
Hacienda Chichen is well known due to the fact that it is right next door to Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins.
It is currently a boutique hotel, and one of the best Green - Spa - Resorts in Mexico.
Hacienda Chichen offers Maya holistic experiences, Ancient healing traditions, Eco-cultural activities such as bird watching (birding), Maya cooking classes, Archaeological tours and many other recreational programs.
As I mentioned before, Yucatan Haciendas were built as feudal power centers for the Spanish crown, and Hacienda Chichen was no exception.
For several centuries this plantation raised cattle like many other Yucatan haciendas, but unlike the others, did not switch to henequen, it became headquarters to Maya studies.
In the early 20th century, Mr Edward Thompson who was Vice-Consul of the United States in Yucatan at the time, acquired Hacienda Chichen.
During his stay in Yucatan, he became captivated by the Mayan culture, particularly the Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza.
It was through his connections, that in 1923, the Carnegie Institute founded the first Maya Archaeological Expedition Headquarters at Hacienda Chichen.
Excavating and restoration of the temples at Chichen Itza began that same year.
In the 1930’s Mr. Fernando Barbachano Peon bought Hacienda Chichen from Mr. Thompson, and in the 1940’s he restored this hacienda, opening its doors as a hotel.
When Hotel Hacienda Chichen first opened its doors, there were no paved roads, it took five hours by train plus three more hours in a horse drawn carriage to get there from Merida. It currently takes only one hour by car or bus.
HACIENDA SAN JOSE
Hacienda San Jose, is one of Yucatan haciendas located on the road to Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins, it is a beautiful, secluded, colonial hacienda, that was recently brought back to life, regaining its original splendor, it is surrounded by the dense tropical jungle, only 45 minutes away from Merida the capital of Yucatan state.
It opened its doors as a luxury hotel with beautiful landscaped gardens and gorgeous blue facades.
It only has 15 rooms furnished in a blend of contemporary and traditional styles. The Mayan Villas are authentic Mayan Huts with all the modern conveniences.
On this route you will find among other Yucatan Haciendas Hacienda Yaxcopoil - Hacienda Temozon Sur and Hacienda Ochil, all three worth visiting.
This plantation dates back to the 17th century. It is located on the road to Uxmal Mayan Pyramids. The Mayan word “Yaxcopoil” (yahsh - koh - poh - EEL) means “The Place of the Green Alamo”.
It used to be one of the most important rural estates in Yucatan due to its enormous size (22,000 acres) and grandeur.
It started as a cattle ranch and later became a henequen plantation. Today its size has been reduced to less than 3% of what it used to be.
When driving on the road Merida - Uxmal, you will be able to recognize Hacienda Yaxcopoil, by its huge “Moorish double arch” which is a typical structure of colonial times.
This plantation is one of the few Yucatan haciendas that has been preserved, there has been no remodeling or restoring, they have simply tried to maintain it, in its original condition.
As you enter the estate you will feel transported back in time, it has the remaining original European furnishings, machinery and other typical items used in the late 19th century, during the hacienda’s period of splendor.
The large machine house or engine room is kept in good condition, this is where the shredding and other machines were kept running day and night.
Currently it houses a 100 HP German diesel motor made by Körting (Hannover) in 1913. The engine was used until 1984 when the production of henequen fiber in the hacienda ended.
This hacienda has been the scenic background for several movies and television shows.
It is open daily for tours ($ 70.00 pesos per person entrance fee) and it also offers one private guest house, in case you would like to spend a night there. It also offers a gift shop and snack bar.
HACIENDA TEMOZON SUR
Located 40 minutes south of Merida, Temozon Sur is the most imposing of all the restored haciendas. Its name means “Place of the Whirlwind”.
It opened its doors as a horse and cattle ranch in the 17th century (1655). In the 19th century it joined in the henequen / sisal boom.
In the early 1900’s it was one of the most productive and largest henequen haciendas in Yucatan (16,412 acres). It was actually a small village with a population of 637 people.
On April 25th 1908 a fire totally destroyed the henequen fields, tragedy from which it never completely recovered.
It continued to work in the sisal industry until 1987 when it finally closed its doors.
It was abandoned for some years until it was completely restored to its original magnificence in 1995, it reopened its doors in 1997 as a 5 star luxury hotel
In 1999 it was selected as the place for a summit meeting between U.S. President Bill Clinton and President of Mexico Ernesto Zedillo.
Then again for U.S. President George Bush and Mexican President Felipe Calderon in 2007.
Hence the helipad that was built in the hacienda grounds. It seems it is still sometimes used for movie stars, rock stars and politicians that are seeking privacy.
Currently the hacienda sits on only 91 acres of land, this beautiful hotel offers an ambiance and lifestyle of early 19th century. Some of the buildings still have the original floors, doors, window and door frames.
Ochil is a lovely and charming small hacienda that probably wasn’t big enough to become a hotel, it is as historically interesting as hacienda Yaxcopoil.
It reopened its doors in 1999.
It was restored and became a restaurant with a small museum, a small henequen field, gift shop and artisan workshops which are not always open, but when they are, you can see the local Mayan people carving stone, embroidering huipiles, weaving hammocks and making place mats and rugs from henequen fiber.
It has rail tracks for the little steam engine, the ochil train which takes you on a short tour around the hacienda.
The Mayan / Yucatecan food is excellent, great service and lovely surroundings. It is a great place to stop for lunch and be on your way to Uxmal or to explore other haciendas.
I almost forgot, it has a cenote and pool, don’t forget to bring your bathing suits, a dip in these waters will come as a blessing in the warm season.
Photos Courtesy of Emilio Segura Lopez Flickr
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