With its abundance of luxury resorts, decadent spas and cultural must-sees, the Mayan coastline of Mexico is a beautiful, tropical destination just waiting to be explored.
If last December’s prevailing wisdom had held true, you wouldn’t be reading this. The storied Mayan calendar was famously closing in on the winter solstice and the end of its 144,000-day cycle. Interpreters of the calendar – and a host of New Age conspiracy theorists – predicted the date would coincide with a global cataclysm. Good thing nobody held their breath, because the Maya believed in the cyclical nature of things. The end of the calendar didn’t presage the end of the world; it marked a new beginning. Call it a transition or period of renewal, but the Maya believed in the necessity of an epochal timeout before moving forward. Spanish conquistadors might have brought about that break sooner than expected – subjugating the people by the end of the 17th century – yet descendants of the Maya continue to form sizable populations throughout Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula. Plus, many of their cities and ceremonial sites still remain. The wisdom of these ancient Americans hasn’t been lost. It’s laying patiently in wait for a Mayan journey of rediscovery.
STAY: HACIENDA UAYAMON
One of the most important estates in the Yucatán since it was built at the end of the 16th century, Hacienda Uayamon makes a perfect starting point to visit the Mayan archaeological sites of Balamku, Calakmul and the ancient cemetery on nearby Jaina Island. Restored and inaugurated as a luxury hotel, the plantation has kept the original colonial structure of its buildings and added twelve separate villas spread along serene forest paths – all with both private terraces and gardens. Sink into a woven hammock over the soothing waters of the outdoor pool for a mid-afternoon nap. Secluded, you can totally surrender. www.haciendauayamon.com
SAVOUR: HACIENDA UAYAMON SPA
One of the traditional massages offered at the on-site spa is the Ying & Yang, which balances energies in various parts of the body. And while the name doesn’t exactly invoke thoughts of ancient Mesoamericans, the treatment applies traditional Mayan massage techniques with the healing properties of the Ix-Canan flower and aspects of the Trager Approach to create something entirely new, inspired by an authentic Mayan experience and the surrounding architecture.
SEE: JAINA ISLAND
A small limestone island on the Gulf coast, Jaina Island was once an elite Maya burial site. Dating to 300 AD, it’s estimated to hold 20,000 graves, of which only about 1,000 have been excavated, and is notable for the realistic ceramic figurines found in the graves. Revealing glimpses of the daily life of the Maya, they are considered some of the finest figurine art of the ancient Americas. While Jaina is technically closed to the public, a permit to visit can be obtained from the local travel agency, which can also arrangeboat transportation – the best way to arrive – and a guide to take you to the pyramids and ceremonial centre.