Have you dreamed of waking up to the sound of birds chirping in your personal tropical paradise? What if I told you, it is possible, and often for less than what you would spend for a hotel. Scattered throughout Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula are beautiful haciendas, welcoming you with open arms. A type of secret garden oasis with textures of architecture and history weaving the fabric of each of their unique stories.
Hacienda is the Spanish word for estate. The haciendas of the Yucatán were working henequen farms, providing the world with the rope nicknamed sisal, due to the port of Sisal stamp on its shipping container. From the moment you see the smokestack or gate you can’t help wishing the walls would come alive and whisper the decades of stories witnessed.
Each Yucatán hacienda was the breath of life in 19th century colonial city of Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico. At the height of the henequen (“sisal”) boom, the capital of the Yucatán was the richest city in the world. Today, remnants of the palaces and ruins provide deep romantic stories reflecting the culture, history, and archeological impact both the Mayans and Spaniards had on Mérida, the Yucatán, and the world.
Many of the haciendas have been purchased, revitalized and transformed into personalized accommodations for visitors to the area. Some are designed for weddings, events, or may adorn the cover of international travel magazines or clothing catalogs. The history of both the land and artifacts are each one-of-a-kind, having a poetic style all their own.
Life at a hacienda is in fact, dreamy. Every romance is not a fairytale, yet a longing for and desire to dance together as one for a period of time. If you ask Richard and Lena Nichols of Hacienda Dzibikak, it was the idea of waking up to the sound of birds chirping and the sun shining that drew them in.
Their hacienda is their permanent home, and they open up the doors to those who want to share a hacienda experience. The grounds at Dzibikak are wonderfully designed and influenced with a western cowboy feel, and set apart with an Oxford Bible gracing a small chapel. It’s their secret garden of love and a romance they share with couples desiring to get married, or families wishing for an authentic Yucatecan experience.
Some haciendas are not open to the public, such as Hacienda Itzincab Cámara. Part of a private collection of haciendas, this estate is built upon the stone of an ancient Mayan pyramid. The entire hacienda must be rented out to stay here.
As it is not open to the public, I wonder how few people in the world have experienced sunrise coffee overlooking the jungle from atop the ruin. It’s historical elegance is the perfect backdrop for a black tie champagne affair, with twin pools made for the most luxurious pool parties anyone could imagine.
Today, a working henequen farm still exists, and is open to the public. Hacienda Satuta de Peón is an incredible experience that places into perspective the love and labor put into these majestic palaces. A tour of the hacienda, working farm, and onsite cenoté is a cultural phenomenon and easy day trip from Mérida.
With newly built bungalows available for rent, it is possible to stay overnight. The agave plants will amaze and the mule drawn carriages are unlike any other experience in the Yucatán.
If you love Restoration Hardware and the idea of making old things new, Hacienda Sac Chich will catch your eye. Architect Reyes Rios, who also designed Rosas & Xocolate, has reclaimed the old unique flavor of the hacienda and added a modern touch. The landscape embraces with ponds, lily pads, and a beautiful oasis of trees.
Owners Howard and Cindy Berger have added Casa Sisal to the adjoining property. The 2 bedrooms of this home are connected by a family room and kitchen with walls of pocket doors welcoming the fresh air, a pool and palm-tree-lined yard indoors. Enjoy an early afternoon cocktail or late evening star gazing and firefly show on the rooftop lounge.
Explore the Alluring Secrets Hidden Within the Ancient Haciendas
Each of the estates engulf a sense of mystical magic. With over two hundred to explore, I can’t imagine the carousel of stories to be told. Standing silent in amazement, as words can’t explain the moment, the ancient archetypes of the Yucatán will leave portraits on your soul. Perhaps the most intoxicating grasp of the haciendas is the feeling that you were meant to stay.
Hacienda owners, each with a handful of dreams, have opened the gates and invited you to their sanctuary. Will you R.S.V.P.?
Written for Huffington Post
Miranda Allfrey is a travel & lifestyle writer, marketing consultant and cancer survivor. Her captivating story-telling adds magic to descriptions of destinations, cuisine, experiences, and products. And her passion for writing is as contagious as her passion for life and cloud surfing (aka flying). To learn how she can help your company surf to the top, click here: Work with Miranda.