Adventure in the Yucatan

 

Our Ride to the Cenote
Our Ride to the Cenote

Our Yucatan adventure started a few weeks before our departure when it came to my attention that American Airlines still did not have approval to fly to Merida. Luckily, even though it was a prime holiday travel week I was able to find two seats in Business Class on AeroMexico.

This was my third trip to the interior of the Yucatan, and my primary goal was to see Uxmal. The other goal was to stay in one hotel for the duration of the trip, so we booked the centrally located Hacienda Temozon, a part of Starwood’s Luxury Collection (yes, I can get you VIP perks here too!).

Hacienda Temozon
Hacienda Temozon

Our Junior Suite was located near the main entrance, and was appointed with all of the creature comforts that one would expect at this level of hotel. I appreciated the cold air-conditioning, crisp clean sheets, abundance of bottled water, and last but not least, the adorable towel art.

Towel Art Elephant
Towel Art Elephant

For our first full day we toured some of the Puuc Route visiting Uxmal, Kabah, Sayil, and had lunch at the beautiful Hacienda Xocnaceh. Uxmal exceeded my expectations, and is quite different in comparison to the other Mayan ruins in the Yucatan.

Our lunch at Hacienda Xocnaceh was amazing. A beautiful setting with more food than we could ever hope to eat, although we gave it our best try. Plus, impeccable service from Juan Carlos who never let our glasses go empty.

Lunch was followed by a swim in the former water tank that has been converted into a pool. There’s nothing better after a hot day of exploring ruins than taking a cold refreshing dip.

The next day we went to Celestun Biospehere Reserve to take a boat ride to see the pink flamingos. Another nice break from seeing ruins. It was refreshing to be out on the water, ans interesting to get to go into the mangroves.

Day Four was where the adventure truly began. Our journey back in time to see what Mayan ruins looked like before they were excavated and reassembled. The first stop was the parking lot at Labna where we met our archaeologist guide, an assistant, and Juan Carlos. We all smushed into a small well-loved pickup truck and barreled down some dirt roads into the jungle. What fun!

Our first stop was Huntichmul, a largely unexcavated site. We hiked up a hill, or what appeared to be a hill. Upon closer inspection everywhere you looked there were piles of stones, rubble, from ruins that had collapsed.

Huntichmul
Huntichmul

Of course, Juan Carlos was waiting for us with comfy chairs and refreshments after we hiked back down to the truck.

 

We got back in the truck and bounced down the roads toward our final destination of the day, Kiuic. The site is surrounded by the Kaxil Kiuic the Millsaps Biocultural Reserve, operated by an international organization that carries out archaeological and biological research.

It was interesting and sobering to see ruins that had never or only partially been excavated. To be able to picture in your mind how this carries through the entire Yucatan peninsula. There were so many people living here and now there are so few, and so much of their culture has been lost.

Beyond that, the amount of effort and skill that goes into creating sites like Uxmal and Chichen Itza, and how much more money is needed to maintain, preserve, and continue exploration. And to whose benefit? We had lots to think about on our way back to Hacienda Temozon that evening.

Day Five was purposefully planned as a free day, since it would be the last day of our vacation. We slept in and had a leisurely breakfast. Took a ride on the old rialway to the cenote for a swim. Participated in a cooking class, ate a delicious lunch, had a couples massage, and lazed by the pool for a couple of hours.

The perfect end to another amazing trip to the Yucatan with Catherwood Travels.

Interested in having your own adventure in the Yucatan? Contact me via email or phone at 508-485-3061.

PS: Stayed tuned for our next adventure in Mexico when we visit Chiapas later this year!

Trip Report: Hacienda Chichen, Cenote Xocempich, and Villa Vidorra

Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza

I had such an amazing time in the fall with Catherwood Travels that I decided to tack on a mini-trip before our scheduled vacation so that my husband could have a similar experience. Plus, Chichen Itza is something that he has always wanted to see.

After much debate we decided to fly roundtrip into Cancun. It would have been more convenient and more fun to start in Merida, but it just wasn’t worth it to deal with having two one way tickets, or worse yet, having a two stop itinerary. Merida is not the easiest place to reach from Boston. So we flew into Cancun and were greeted upon arrival by our driver and guide.

It was around two and half to three hours to get from the Cancun airport to Hacienda Chichen. There was water, soda, and snacks in the van and we could have stopped for lunch in Valladolid, but decided to just soldier on to the hotel. The highways in the Yucatan are flat and straight, and not overly scenic, except when passing through small towns. It was a nice, relaxing drive.

Hacienda Chichen

We had the Merle Greene Cottage (Master Suite #25) which was clean, spacious, and comfortable. The only thing lacking was wifi, but it was kind of nice to unplug while in the room.

We went to the lobby for a celebratory margarita (or two) and to soak in the scenery. We then had a very early dinner which was absolutely delicious.

Huitlacoche

We met back up with our driver and guide after breakfast, dropped off our luggage in the van, and walked to Chichen Itza for an educational and fascinating three hour tour.

Las Monjas

Once we had explored most of the site it was time to walk back to Hacienda Chichen, meet up with our driver and head to Cenote Xocempich.

We were greeted with a refreshing limeade and cold towels. We relaxed in the shade for a little while, munching on crudités and sipping Coronitas.

Snack time

Once we acclimated it was time head to the changing room, put on our swimsuits, and cool off with a swim in Cenote Xocempich. Amazing!

Cenote Xocempich

We floated around on noodles, relaxing and checking out all of the features of the cenote. We spent about a half hour swimming before we headed back up to change for lunch.

Lunch

This truly was one of the best meals of my entire life. Multiple course served on a simple, yet elegant table runner in crisp white dishes. Seated at a bench at a long table big enough for twenty, but just for the two of use. Cool in the shade under a tree, on a hill with a view of the grounds.

They made Cochinita pibil, a traditional Mayan pork dish the old-fashioned way, cooking it underground using buried hot coals. A woman made us fresh hot tortillas. Dessert was homemade coconut ice cream. Simply above and beyond delicious.

Cochinita pibil

Sadly we had to leave for Tulum, which was another two and a half hour drive.

Villa Vidorra

We met up with family and friends and spent seven nights at Villa Vidorra on Soliman Bay, just north of Tulum. It is a fully staffed beachfront villa with two chefs, a bartender, daily maid service, and a maintenance person / gardener. The villa also comes with kayaks, paddle boards, snorkel gear, and beach toys. Plus it has plenty of shady spots to relax, both at the pool and the beach.

Villa Vidorra Pool

However, once again, one of our favorite aspects was the cuisine. Felipe wowed us at every meal, from Huevos Rancheros to Chicken Mole (or in my case cheese enchiladas with mole), everything was delicious. We also loved the morning fruit platters.

Fruit Platter

Let me show you a side of the Yucatan that you have never experienced. I promise to make your next trip to Mexico special and beyond amazing. Are you ready to go?

 

 

Trip Report: The Yucatan with Catherwood Travels

Lunch at Cenote Xchen

Lunch at Cenote Xchen

Travel is always interesting, most often enjoyable, and sometimes simply magical. I came home from my trip in the Yucatan with Catherwood Travels and almost immediately contacted them to book another trip. It was that good.

Our trip began at the Fairmont Mayakoba where we were picked up by our guide and driver. We headed out on a brand new highway to the first stop on our tour, Ek Balam. This is one of many archaeological sites, Mayan ruins, that you can visit throughout the Yucatan. It is known for it’s beautiful preserved plaster work. To have an English speaking guide who is also an archaeologist was absolutely invaluable. Thank you Julia!

Ek Balam

After a touring the ruins we went back to our van where were greeted by our driver with cold towels and water. Much needed after a couple of hours out in the sweltering September heat. Our next item on the itinerary was the privately owned Cenote Xchen. On our way we drove through small Mayan villages and the surrounding farmland. It was interesting to see the main crops (corn, beans, and squash) planted together symbiotically in the fields.

Corn

Cenote Xchen was a fun stop. We had the most amazing lunch cooked on site with fresh handmade tortillas. But not only was the food delicious (coconut ice cream for dessert!), the setting was spectacular. We had menu cards, cloth napkins, palm frond chargers, and real glassware. This was not your average picnic lunch.

Lunch at cenote Xchen

After lunch we went swimming in the cool cenote and it was truly an otherworldly experience! You walk down a tight spiral staircase and into an ethereal landscape. The water was refreshing and dark, punctuated by long vines descending from the ceiling. My camera did not do the experience justice.

Cenote Xchen

Our evening was spent at Hacienda San Jose Cholul, one of the Starwood Luxury Collection Haciendas. This former henequen plantation has been lovingly revised and restored and has all the amenities needed for a wonderful stay. I would especially recommend it for couples as it the setting is quite romantic. Hacienda San Jose Cholul is part of the Starwood Luxury Collection, and therefore as an exclusive member of their Starwood Luxury Privileges program I am able to offer my clients the following amenities:

  • Upgrade on arrival if available
  • Early check-in if available
  • Daily full breakfast for two guests
  • One 100 USD food and beverage credit per room, per stay (valid in the Hacienda restaurant only and excludes alcohol, taxes and gratuities)
  • Late check-out if available

The next morning we headed out for a visit to Izamal, one of Mexico’s Magical Towns. It is a beautiful town that is also known as the Yellow City as most of the buildings are painted a cheery goldenrod color.

Izamal

Here we rode a buggy around town, visited the cathedral, toured the art museum, and shopped for jewelry at the must-visit La Flor de Cocoyol. Here they craft jewelry out of local plants, including henequen.

Art Museum in Izamal

Lunch was enjoyed leisurely at Casa de Madera. This is a spacious four bedroom luxury villa rental tucked away on a side street in the heart of Izamal. In addition to the usual amenities it also has a lily pond, small swimming pool, and comes with daily cooking staff. Speaking of which, the highlight for me was the fresh handmade tamale appetizer. Delicious!

Tamales

Next we had a quick tour of Merida, the capital city of the Yucatan. This is another colonial Mexican city with great architecture and a large central square. We toured La Quinta Montes Molina, formerly a home and now a museum of fine European antiques and artifacts. An example of how nobility lived in Merida at the turn of the 20th Century.

After the tour we stopped for ice cream. I chose Elote, which is made from corn. If you like corn casserole, you will love elote ice cream!

Elote ice cream

That evening we were treated to a magical pre-columbian music and light show at Amphitheater Ochil. This was followed by a wonderful private dinner with traditional Mexican music and a tour of the museum at Hacienda Ochil.

Our night, although not much was left of it, was spent at another Starwood Luxury Collection Hacienda, Hacienda Temozon. It is another former henequen plantation that has been lovingly repurposed and brought back to life as a luxury hotel. They even have tennis! The Starwood Luxury Privileges amenities are as follows:

  • Upgrade on arrival if available
  • Early check-in if available
  • Daily full breakfast for two guests
  • One 100 food and beverage credit per room, per stay (valid in the Hacienda restaurant only and excludes alcohol, taxes and gratuities)
  • Late check-out if available

Once again, thank you very much to everyone at Catherwood Travels! I had such a great time in the Yucatan and cannot wait for my next trip with you in April.

If you would like to see more photos of my trip, please visit my Flickr page. If you have questions or are interested in booking a stay in the Yucatan, or a day trip, please call me at 508-485-3061 or send me an email.