Hacienda Katanchel – Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico
Colonial Splendor Amid Ancient Mayan History
This masterfully restored 17th-century hacienda was built on the grounds of a pre-Classic Period Mayan settlement whose 3rd-century ruins can be toured with the hotel’s resident scholarly guides. Its ancient Mayan mystique is apparent even in its name: Katanchel translates to “Where one asks the arc in the sky” – a Mayan reference to the Milky Way, which confirms the site as an ancient astronomical observatory. The hacienda’s 740 acres were abandoned for decades after a cattle-ranch-turned-sisal-plantation reverted to jungle growth.
Today it is a sanctuary for exotic wildlife and a prolific bird population, one of the hacienda’s principal attractions. Katanchel’s strategic location offers more than a dozen different day-trip options to lesser-known Mayan ruins, colonial towns, and natural sites. Accommodations are in former workers’ dwellings scattered about the property, since restored and transformed into luxury pavilions surrounded by fragrant gardens. Most have private plunge pools filled with spring water from a mineral-rich underground source that’s pumped by silent turn-of-the-century windmills.
Traditional Yucatán dishes made from organically grown ingredients are reinterpreted and served in a palatial salon that was once a sisal-processing factory. Katanchel’s dynamic Mexican owners have brought ecotourism to new heights of luxury and excitement here; the hacienda is both their home and showcase.