Visiting haciendas throughout the Yucatan offers a glimpse into another part of the region’s past, an era of splendor and elegance dating from the 17th century.
Spanish plantation owners practiced cattle ranching, produced sugar cane or manufactured sisal rope from henequen plants. Their lavish estates styled in Spanish Colonial architecture were filled with the finest furnishings.
Today many of the haciendas have been turned into luxury hotels, restaurants, or museums. The largest hacienda in the region, Yaxcopoil, once covered 22,000 acres during its prime henequen production. It is the first hacienda on the Hacienda Route south of Merida open to tourists.
Driving south of Merida on Highway 261, exit 35 minutes later at the 187km marker and look for the yellow Moorish entrance arch. Although Yaxcopoil Hacienda dates from the 17th century, it prospered in the 19th century as one the most prominent henequen plantations in the Yucatan. Oil paintings and original furnishings fill the hacienda from the lounges, drawing room, bedrooms, kitchen and chapel. Orchards, gardens, pool, and outer buildings can be explored in addition to the large machine house that displays a massive henequen shredding machine.
Continuing south on Hwy 261, consider stopping for a gourmet lunch at Hacienda Temozon, a lavish hacienda turned luxury hotel.
Otherwise, keep driving until marker 176 for the turn off to Hacienda Ochil. Lunch here is more casual, with peacocks that often wander among the guests. Artisan workshops and little shops line the trail to the restaurant. Beyond the outdoor seating area explore the rail carts, machinery, sisal rope, and further the henequen fields.