Mexico

Re-Discovering the Wonders of the Yucatan

written by | Posted on November 1st, 2010

“The Yucatan offers an exciting blend of active, outdoor adventure and authentic cultural interaction,” says Suzanne Teng, Abercrombie & Kent’s family holidays product manager. “Its close proximity to the U.S. makes for manageable plane rides for families with younger children—and no jet lag!”

The peninsula, she adds, is “…a limestone shelf—there are no rivers here. They are all underground, which creates underground pools of fresh water in caves called cenotes. The Peninsula is bordered by the Gulf of Mexico (around Campeche) and the Caribbean, which afford plenty of locations for relaxation and enjoying the water. There are so many Mayan ruins scattered about—just waiting to be explored.”

The sentiment of wondrous admiration for this stretch of land is echoed by Hacienda Xcanatun’s owner, Cristina Baker: “What can I say about a place…where many still live in villages; where Maya is spoken on a daily basis and know that their ancestors lived at Chichen Itza; a place that has the best hammocks in the world; a place where 18th century hacienda hotels have iPod docks on antique desks?”

It’s this endless bounty of possibilities that has given us notice and landed the Yucatan on our Editors’ Hot List, as it continues to “wow” us with culture and nature with one-two punches that are often overlooked by North American travelers in favor of flashier options.

all about variety One of the most wondrous things about the Yucatan Peninsula is the fact that it’s so diverse, any kind of traveler would find his pleasure here.

Should clients want to include the whole family, for instance, there’s Abercrombie & Kent’s A Yucatan Adventure, with stays at Fairmont Mayakoba, The Lodge at Chichen Itza and Hacienda Temozon, from Starwood’s Luxury Collection.

“The interior of the Yucatan Peninsula should not be missed and there really is no better way to stay than in one of the luxurious hacienda properties that can be found here,” says Teng. “These properties are from a different age and time and have been meticulously restored. My personal favorite is on the family program—Hacienda Temozon. It is completely grand and one feels transported into another era.”

Indeed, haciendas are one of the Yucatan’s calling cards—a grand collection of estates, some dating as far back as the 16th century that became micro-economic hubs for various productions. In this part of Mexico, they were mostly geared to henequen, a type of agave plant suitable for making rope. Some of these haciendas have been meticulously restored and turned into inimitable hotels that embrace their history while adding modern-day magic in the form of creature comforts.

This 8-day itinerary, adds Teng, is “…a wonderful blend of activities.” It starts off with visits to the Mayan archaeological site of Ek Balam and Valladolid, the first Spanish capital of the Yucatan, then a swim at a cenote. The visit to Chichen Itza includes its sound and light show and in-depth exploration of the ancient city. Once they arrive in Merida, they’ll enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride and visit a traditional Mayan village nearby, plus ride on a boat along the Celestun Biosphere Reserve to spot flamingos before a city tour of Merida. They’ll also visit the temples of Uxmal before hopping on a private flight to the Mexican Caribbean to discover Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve and its many Mayan relics, hidden amid mangroves, wetlands and flamingo colonies. Finally, it’s a beach day on the Riviera Maya aboard a private catamaran for snorkeling and swimming before heading home. A Yucatan Adventure starts at $5,715 pp dbl on a Feb. 26 departure date.

According to Teng, both the familiarity and the proximity of the Yucatan to the U.S. makes it ideal for “destination reunions”—the opportunity for family members to meet up and share exciting experiences. “These are often planned around milestone celebrations, such as anniversaries or birthdays, and involve multiple generations, which also means that different family members weigh in on the itinerary, making planning a trip together a challenge. Abercrombie & Kent simplifies the conversation with our recommended “Tailor Made” itinerary,” she says. “A ‘Destination Specialist’ is available to consult with individual family members who want to pursue a personal passion as part of a larger, multi-generational trip. ‘Local A&K’ guides, private airport transfers on arrival and departure and 24/7 support ensure everyone is well cared for from beginning to end.”