If you’ve never visited a Yucatán hacienda, you should know that you are missing out. Due to their history as agricultural production centers before the invention of electricity, they are designed to be bright, breezy spaces, with thick stone walls, high ceilings, and infinite vegetation. You don’t need anything more to feel like you’ve been transported to a parallel universe, where there is nothing but you and the present moment.
That’s the case, for example, with the property gracing our cover this month: Hacienda Tamchén. Once a livestock and honey production center, it is now a wonderful oasis that impeccably combines the beauty of its original construction (which resembles a small fortress) with the modern design devised by five Yucatecan architects (Javier Muñoz, Jorge Carlos Zoreda, Alejandro Vales, Augusto Quijano, and Mario Peniche), all of them internationally recognized, both individually and collectively for their work on this hacienda.
Hacienda Tamchén is just one of the 17 properties that Private Haciendas and its sister company, Catherwood Travels, offer to travelers seeking a truly different hospitality experience. Catherwood Travels specializes in exploring Yucatán from a deeper perspective, away from the crowds. For example, they offer guided tours of archaeological sites at special times and in the company of resident archaeologists. It’s hard to imagine a more thorough way of getting to know these wonders of the world. Just like that one, the potential of every other experience that Catherwood Travels might create especially for you seems to have no limits: do you want to explore the Yucatecan jungle by helicopter? Or take a gastronomic tour that covers Yucatán’s past and present? How about a destination wedding beyond all expectations? Private Haciendas and Catherwood Travels take care of everything.
But let’s get back to the haciendas. The properties that Private Haciendas offers are perfect for comfortably accommodating parties of one to 40 people. During your stay (with a two-night minimum, depending on the season), the hacienda will become a more welcoming place than your own home. Every property includes full service by a team passionate about hospitality, who will take care of making your stay an unforgettable memory and an invitation to return, enriched with experiences such as traditional cooking classes or Maya ceremonies to watch the sunrise surrounded by hectares of jungle.
However, the experiences you can get through Private Haciendas and Catherwood Travels are about much more than just staying in dreamlike facilities. These companies know well that Yucatán’s haciendas, removed from the culture and history that surround them, are nothing but buildings. That’s why their business “family” also includes the foundations Baktún Pueblo Maya, Transformación Arte y Educación, and Haciendas del Mundo Maya, which work in rural communities providing education and promoting the conservation of local practices and traditions, such as herbal medicine, agriculture, calligraphy, and Maya language. This social involvement is far from a response to recent trends; since its foundation in the 1990s, Catherwood Travels began with the commitment to rescue the abandoned haciendas of Yucatán in recognition not only of their historical and architectural cultural heritage, but the unmistakable value they’ve been provided by the Maya people, to whom all of these constructions owe an enormous debt.
Therefore, a significant part of the immersive tourism experiences provided by Private Haciendas and Catherwood Travels involves an honest approach to Mayan communities: visits to family homes and backyard vegetable gardens, culinary experiences, craft and ancestral wisdom workshops, and anything you can imagine (or can’t). The goal is for you, at the end of the day, to take with you not only a brush with the Maya past (pre-Hispanic and colonial), but also their very much alive present-day culture, which breathes and beats everywhere in our Península.
Don’t think twice: escape to a hacienda and discover a more intimate side of Yucatán, which you will carry with you forever!
By Alicia Navarrete
Communicologist born circumstantially in México City, but who says “uay” since 1985. Life has allowed me to see the world, which in turn has allowed me to discover how much I love the place where I live.
Photography by Catherwood Travels, for use in Yucatán Today.
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