For a wonderful getaway, consider spending a couple of days at Hacienda Chichen Resort and Yaxkin Spa. This is a very special place, with easy access to the site and nearby cenotes. National Geographic Traveler Magazine included the resort on its Stay List for 2009. This lovely hacienda is a five-star boutique hotel with a unique mission. Their geo-vision and mission statement: “working together to serve guests with caring hearts, sharing our Maya traditions and values…uniting hospitality, communities, conservation and sustainable travel choices.”
Almost all the staff is Maya, from local villages. They are lovingly and carefully trained on the job, and treated as family. The resort owners feel confident that their level of service and high standards will be maintained by their staff, because they all feel like an important part of a team.
When we arrived at the hacienda at midday, we received a warm welcome in the cool reception area of the main building. We were escorted to our suite amidst the tropical gardens. The gardens are truly exuberant, with flowers and birds in abundance. We had no sooner entered our suite when there was a knock at the door, and a waiter appeared with a tray with two delicious-looking drinks to welcome us. This special beverage was made from home-grown, organic chaya (similar to spinach) blended with ice and pineapple juice. Just heavenly, and so delicious after our highway drive from Mérida.
After we unpacked in our beautiful suite, we walked to the main hacienda house to find the dining room and have some lunch. There are tables inside, but we opted for the terrace, where our table overlooked the gardens and we could feast our eyes on the tropical foliage and listen to all the birds.
For an appetizer we chose crepes of huitlacoche, a truffle which grows on corn. If you can imagine a soft, creamy corn-tasting mushroom, this is it. The crepes were served as little bundles tied with grass. This was a delicate, flavorful way to begin what turned out to be a weekend of culinary delights.
For the main course we had salads: One with grilled chicken served over organic greens with a balsamic vinaigrette; the other a selection of organic greens with pecans and a honey vinaigrette. We accompanied all of this with delicious freshly-baked warm bread. A perfect midday meal.
After our leisurely lunch, I went to the Yaxkin Spa for my massage experience. Beatriz Correa, the director of Yaxkin Spa, is the only non-Maya who has a degree as a Maya Holistic Therapist from the Universidad Internacional de Ciencia y Tecnología Maya. She personally prepares all the herbal treatments for every spa visitor, from organic ingredients grown at the hacienda. She blesses the ingredients and asks the gods to allow the herbs to be effective for the person who is about to receive their healing powers. Knowing that Yaxkin Spa is on Conde Nast Traveler’s list of the World’s Ten Best Eco-Spas, and National Geographic Traveler’s Top Ten Wellness Destinations in North America, I knew I was in for a treat. I was not disappointed.
The purpose of the various treatments available at Yaxkin Spa is to release stress. We live in a hurried world, and the Maya teach us to sit still and observe nature. Your spa visit allows you to have a moment of peace, while extracting the toxins from your body. It allows you to think and create in a better way.
I opted for the Yatsil massage, a 50-minute refreshing treatment which is perfect at this hot time of the year. My massage healer’s name was Marcela, who, together with Beatriz, began my session with a Maya blessing of the water and other elements. I was invited to select some stones to keep as a memento of my visit, and to always remind me that “everything is inside us”. I took a few moments to look at my surroundings: a room with two massage tables, and flowers, herbs, and candles everywhere. The soft music helped to create a relaxing ambience. I was invited to hold some beautiful, fragrant yellow flowers, and make a wish for something that could affect me throughout my life.
When it was time to begin my massage, I went into the changing area and chose a red sarong. I lay face down on the massage table, and Marcela began my massage. My feet, legs, back, shoulders, and arms were treated first with an invigorating massage with rosemary-infused grape oil. Then a cool coating of freshly crushed aloe vera was applied, excellent therapy for sunburned or sensitive skin, and then my skin was covered in large, spongy leaves. After this, the leaves were removed and I was cleansed with a warm herbal tea. I then turned over on my back, and again my legs, hands, and arms were treated to the same rituals. My chest, neck and face received an additional treat: a coating of thick, warm honey as a cleanser, moisturizer, and detoxifier. At the end, my feet were sprayed with a cool, fragrant essence of orchid, and my scalp was massaged with an essence made from a local tree bark. After dressing, I left the spa feeling rejuvenated and relaxed, taking my stones and flowers with me.
After a relaxing siesta, we went to the dining room for dinner. We chose a cream of chaya soup and a sopa de lima; both were simply perfect. For the main course we had a breast of chicken stuffed with organic veggies and served with a chipotle honey sauce; and the classic poc chuc. Both were full of flavor and exquisite. For dessert we had a chocolate cake with coconut ice cream, and a layered ice cream cake with chocolate, vanilla, and coconut ice creams. Out of this world!
The next morning we went for breakfast early so that we could be at the archaeological site before it got hot. My cappuccino was one of the best I have ever had. We both had fresh, organic fruits, and a glass of organic freshly squeezed orange juice. We followed this with huevos motuleños, and an omelet made with mushrooms, chaya, and cheese. This was served with a crispy potato and goat cheese croquette. Needless to say, we were ready for the day after this heavenly breakfast. Hacienda Chichen Resort is only a five-minute walk from the Chichén Itzá archaeological site, so off we went. We had an experience unlike anyone we have known who has visited the site: there were no more than 20 people at the site. Without the usual crowds, it was easy to transport ourselves into the past and imagine life as it was hundreds of years ago. We encountered a nine-year-old girl selling hand-embroidered handkerchiefs near one of the temples at the site. She was a pretty girl, but seemed tired…she had the demeanor and voice of an elderly person. We bought 2 of her handkerchiefs. She was quite happy to pose for a photo.
After our visit to the archaeological site, we hopped in the car and set out on our visit to two cenotes. We began at Cenote Yokdzonot, about 15 km. west of Chichén Itzá. This is an incredible success story: As Doña Antonia explained, in 2005, about 60 local residents decided to form a co-op and clean up their cenote and prepare it for visitors, with walkways and stairways providing access to the cenote, and a small restaurant and even some camping facilities. It was brutal work: many of the co-op members dropped out. But when they opened in January of 2007, with a reduced co-op membership of 17, they proudly invited visitors to their special place. Today, these 17 members of the co-op, 12 women and five men, take turns staffing all the different jobs: the entry gate, the cleaning of the cenote, and the cooking and serving in the restaurant. We had a swim, and had the cenote all to ourselves. This is a very magical place, simple and rustic, and it was an incredible experience.
After that, we drove to another nearby cenote, Ik-Kil. This is a very different experience: equally beautiful, but with deluxe amenities. If you want to swim in a cenote with a lovely waterfall over your head, where you can find change rooms, a handcrafts store, and a Yucatecan buffet lunch in a lovely restaurant, this is the place for you.
Our last stop during this peaceful weekend was the lovely crafts store back at the Hacienda Chichen. Breathtaking jewelry, handbags, clothing, and pottery are available here, but it is not the usual. Local Maya artisans have lovingly created every piece, and the display of the objects is like you would find in a gallery of fine art. Making a purchase here helps the local residents. We chose a replica of a Maya vase to take home with us, to always remind us of our perfect visit to Chichén Itzá.
Editorial by Juanita Stein
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