IT Travels with Norie Quintos
Senior editor Norie Quintos has just returned from a hacienda-hunting trip. She reports:
Mérida, in the heart of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, is not a museum relic from the 16th century. It’s a modern city, completely comfortable in its colonial dressings and deep Maya roots. Mérida lacks a beach (the nearest one is 30 minutes away by car), which has probably saved it from turning into a manufactured funland like Cancún.
What Mérida does have is true Mexican cuisine (not dumbed down for the American palate), non-touristy opportunities to encounter Maya culture (ancient and living), and a surfeit of historic buildings, many of which have been converted into hotels and restaurants.
With all the colonial architecture, it would be a sin to stay at a chain hotel (the town has several, including a Holiday Inn and a Hyatt, clustered at the edge of the historical city center). Choose, instead, one of several meticulously restored haciendas outside the city or in colonial homes in town. Closest to town is Hacienda Xcanatun, where I stayed for four nights (rates start at $235 per room). It’s an old sisal plantation turned small luxury hotel, set amongst a profusion of palms and bougainvillea. There’s nothing better to put you in a Mexican state of mind than to lie in your hammock on the iron-grillwork balcony and listen to the call of the motmot birds.
Five more luxury haciendas are run by Starwood Hotels (from $212), including Temozon and Santa Rosa. Too fancy? Try a modest bed-and-breakfast hacienda such as Santa Cruz ($140 and up), San Pedro Nohpat (from $85), or Yaxcopoil, a museum with guest accommodations ($60).
IT likes the sound of the last option. We just hope it isn’t a couch in the curator’s office.
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