A great way to relax and soak up some history is to stay at one of Mexico’s stately old haciendas turned luxury hotels.
by Pola Sáenz
The cinema photographer Gabriel Figueroa captured magnificent Mexican skies, skies that reflect the surface of lakes, age-old trees and active volcanoes, the elongated shadow of archways on the dusty ground, the faces of beautiful women framed by shawls, horsemen galloping across the fields. Through his lens we get a sense of a bygone Mexico lingering on in the sturdy walls of haciendas that have featured in more than one Golden Age film.
There are some 4,000 surviving haciendas in Mexico, a number of which have been renovated or restored to their former glory, reemerging as boutique hotels offering world-class amenities. Here, guests are guaranteed an unforgettable experience, steeped in authentic Mexican history and set against breathtaking natural backdrops.
Hacienda San Antonio
Luxury is waking up in the morning to a steaming cup of freshly ground and brewed coffee as you admire the tropical forest and mountains that envelop Hacienda San Antonio in the municipality of Comala, Colima.
The hacienda was built in 1890 by a German called Arnoldo Voguel, who discovered here the perfect coffee-growing conditions. The Fuego and Nevado de Colima volcanoes stand guard on either side of the estate, whose main building is made primarily of volcanic rock and houses 25 comfortable, well-lit guestrooms, decorated with handicrafts that pay homage to Mexico’s rich and diverse artistic traditions.
Guests are welcomed by a beautiful, sprawling garden that merges with the outlying mountains and volcanoes.
As far as pastimes go, the options are endless: enjoy a refreshing drink at the Yellow Bar or in the garden as you watch the sun go down, read a novel in the Mirador Lounge, explore the foothills of the volcanos by bicycle or visit the nearby town of Comala.
Coriander soup and caramelized pears doused in tequila are just some of the dishes on Hacienda San Antonio’s delectable menu, which, like all the others, are prepared with fresh, local ingredients.
Hacienda Santa Cruz
Under a serene sky, concealed by the long branches of leafy peacock flower shrubs, sits a fiery red estate surrounded by exotic gardens. Located in the very heart of Mérida, Hacienda Santa Cruz began life in the 17th Century as a Franciscan monastery and in the late 19th century produced henequen, a type of fiber made from the maguey plant, often referred to as the “green gold” of the Yucatán.
In 2007, this southern belle metamorphosed once again, this time into a luxury, colonial-style hotel with every conceivable modern-day convenience.
Past and present brought together under a cloak of palm, orange, flamboyant and other ancient trees.
Take a dip in one of the hotel’s two pools, enjoy a revitalizing or therapeutic massage or maybe a facial or honey and chocolate exfoliating treatment at the spa or in the privacy of your own room. If you want to get out and about, visit one of the nearby cenotes or Santa Cruz, where we recommend you visit the Cuxtal nature reserve, a refuge for migratory birds and native plants.
And if you fancy sampling the local cuisine, the hotel restaurant, Creóle, serves up dishes like lime gazpacho and tuna panuchos marinated in annatto.
Lagos de Moreno, Jalisco
Hacienda Sepúlveda stands on the old silver route to Zacatecas in northeast Jalisco. It was built in the late 17th Century and is named after its original owner, Juan de Sepúlveda of Spain, who was given the land as a gift.
Today it is a fabulous boutique hotel with 23 guestrooms.
Historic figures like Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla and Pancho Villa have seen the inside of this hacienda, whose decoration remits us to the past with hand carved wooden and tin sculptures, candelabras, antique stoves and radios.
Fresh air and clear skies made this the perfect place to sit back and take in the view or relax with a good book.
The hotel spa is housed in “El Aventadero,” originally an old winnowing barn dating from 1890. Here, guests can pamper body and soul with a relaxing hot stone massage, wine therapy and holistic treatments or a Reiki session.
Horse riding, barbecues in the garden and bonfires by the light of the moon are some of the other activities guests at Hacienda Sepúlveda can enjoy.
Hacienda Santa Rosa
Santa Rosa, Yucatán
A path lined with palm trees leads to a blue façade with elegant archways illuminated by candles. In the distance, the last rays of sun disappear behind violet tinged clouds.
This 19th Century hacienda was meticulously restored using Maya construction techniques for the floors and walls. High ceilings and wooden beams add character to spacious guestrooms bathed in warm light, while elegant pools that reflect the sky and fairytale gardens are just some of the amenities guests at thisluxury hotel can expect.
What better way to start the day than to wake to the sound of birdsong and enjoy breakfast in the botanical garden?
Come afternoon, how about a leisurely stroll through the courtyards and gardens or a trip to the community workshops that produce arts and crafts made of silver, henequen fiber and other materials found locally?
Bring the day to a close with an intimate dinner at the foot of an ancient tree as you commune with the sounds and smells of the night.
And if you have some time to spare, we suggest you join an excursion by bicycle or on horseback to other haciendas in the region, like Granada, Santo Domingo and Chunchucmil.