Merida Mixes Surprising Adventures Spiked with Ancient Maya Culture

Hacienda Xcanatun’s Specialty – Creative Extras & Affordable
Luxury

MERIDA, Mexico – Two hundred miles due east and light years from
the buzz of Cancun, life flows gently in the Yucatan’s colonial
capital, Merida. Best known as the jumping off point for
exploring ancient Maya ceremonial centers, the Merida area offers
a surprising number of experiences ranging from weekly street
fairs, to eco-adventures; golf on world-class fairways to
swimming in underground cenotes. Additional options include a
journey along the Convent Route to discover extraordinary
religious art in the church fortresses built after the Conquest,
and the Yucatan’s great gastronomic traditions blending Maya,
European, and Caribbean influences.

See more images by John Mitchell

The Palacio Canton on Paseo de Montejo in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. This mansion dates back to the early 1900's. It now houses a regional archaeological museum, the Museo Regional de Antropologia, which has artifacts from Chichen Itza and other sites in the Yucatan.
The Palacio Canton on Paseo de Montejo in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. This mansion dates back to the early 1900's. It now houses a regional archaeological museum, the Museo Regional de Antropologia.

Getting Started:

Hacienda Xcanatun (ssh-KANA-toon), a boutique hotel fashioned
from a former sisal plantation, on the outskirts of Merida, is a
top choice for an insider’s look at the area. The elegant
hacienda offers guests affordable luxury and sophistication
throughout its 18 suites and superior rooms, plus one of the top
50 restaurants in Mexico. Rates start at $265 per night, single
or double occupancy and include a welcome cocktail and
continental breakfast.

Located just 20 minutes from the historic center of Merida,
Hacienda Xcanatun’s owner, Jorge Ruz, a native of the Yucatan, is
the son of one of Mexico’s most famous archaeologists. He and
his American-born wife, Cristina Baker, have created here a
unique brand of affordable luxury. Their luxury is based on
extraordinary service, superb accommodations and creative
Yucatecan experiences. Utilizing their insiders’ knowledge, Jorge
and Cristina designed a series of exclusive, off-the-beaten-path,
specialty day trips for their guests. Each is personalized to fit
individual preferences and is led by a hand-picked, expert guide.

Customized Itineraries — Full day, guided excursions start at
$180 for 1 – 3 passengers in an air-conditioned sedan
* Nature Adventures to eco-biospheres in small costal fishing
village such as Celestun, famous for huge flocks of flamingos and
a variety water birds; or kayaking through the calm canals at Rio
Lagartos for exceptional birding, followed by a visit to an
ancient-but-still-actively used coastal salt repository.
* Snorkeling & Swimming in Freshwater Cenotes. Similar to sunken
or underground lagoons, cenotes are found only in the Yucatan the
result of rainwater sppeing through porous soil and forming
underground rivers, cavern and caves. The ancient Maya considered
them entrances to the underworld. A visit to Cuzama cenote
allows adventures to explore three separate cenotes.
* Along the Convent Route – Mexican art lovers admire important
Franciscan churches/convents in a half-dozen Maya villages
showcasing the ornate wood carving and frescoes unique to the
Yucatan.

Shorter Expeditions:

Culinary Adventuring is newly trendy thanks to Merida’s local
Slow Food chapter dedicated to preserving traditional and
regional foods. Visit several women ranchers who have recently
started raising red deer and black criollo pigs, favorites of the
ancient Maya. Village markets in both Merida and Cholul crammed
with spices and recados unique to the area. In Cholul a local
agronomist, who restored gardens planted with fruits, vegetables
thought to be extinct, has opened her orchards and home to
foodies. After visiting the orchards, step into her kitchen to
prepare a succulent Yucatecan lunch, departing with a book of her
favorite recipes. Price: From $95 per person.

Jack Nicklaus Made To Merida with The Snazzy, New El Jaguar, his
first Yucatecan 18-hole championship course. Located five minutes
from Hacienda Xcanatun, the challenging layout weaves around
remnants of the ancient Maya city, Dzibilchaltun. Price: From
$180 for 18 holes (electric golf cart with GPS, forecaddy,
practice facilities and roundtrip transfers included.).

On Your Own:

Merida is a fine walking city. Snap up well-priced colorful
hammocks, handsome pin-tucked men’s shirts called guayaberas,
women’s finely embroidered hipiles, colorful basketry and
“Panama-style” hats. On Sundays, when the historic downtown is
closed to traffic, a gigantic street fair fills the parks and
plaza with dance exhibitions, music, craft displays, flea markets
and more.

Soak up the sun on miles of pristine beaches. 20 minutes from
Hacienda Xcanatun lie miles of broad empty beaches, perfect for
sunning or a horseback ride. Try the local antojitos, tasty
Yucatecan snacks, sold in small restaurants dotting the
coastline.

Guest Benefits

Bought in 1993 and opened in 2000 after extensive restorations,
Hacienda Xcanatun’s 18 spacious suites and superior rooms are
steeped in colonial architectural detail. All accommodations
feature coral stone and marble mosaic floors, hand-carved
furnishings, antiques, marble-wrapped bathrooms and private
patios slung with hammocks. Two freshwaters swimming pools are
set deep in the gardens. At the intimate spa, holistic Maya and
beauty/wellness treatments are offered. Most cost $60 per hour or
less. Xcanatun’s head Maya therapist uses pampering treatments
based on ancient Maya rituals to reduce stress and revive the
soul. Xcanatun’s gourmet restaurant, Casa de Piedra (Stone
House), specializing in Fusion Yucatecan cuisine, is the”hottest”
reservation in town. It is also a great value with three-course
dinners running approximately $38 per person. Innovative
appetizers, main courses and indulgent desserts combine with the
finest area wine cellar to ensure each visit is memorable!

For more information about Hacienda Xcanatun and help in planning
a visit contact hacienda@xcanatun.com; or call 1-888-883-3633.
The website is www.xcanatun.com

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