Chichen Itza, located inland of the Yucatan Peninsula, about 200 km East of Cancun, is one of the most visited archaeological sites in Mexico with over 2.6 million tourists in 2017.
Do the math… .That’s on average over 7000 visitors a day. Even though the site is not limited to the iconic Kukulcàn pyramid (photo 1) and covers a very large area (over 300 hectares), that is a lot of human flesh roaming around! Especialy when one considers that the most popular way to visit the Unesco world heritage site is via tour operators organizing day trips from Cancun or Merida, creating a huge influx of fully loaded buses arriving around 11 AM or so every day. Arriving with the sun at its hottest among hordes of tourists had always been a deterring idea to me. I had sacrificed the visit of wholly site during my passed 3 visits of Yucatan, favoring the ruins of Tulum and Cuba, less crowded and still awesome examples of the might and splendor of the Mayan civilization. For this fourth visit this last spring, I was determined to visit the legendary Chichen Itza in the best way possible. Staying overnight at the Hacienda Chichen revealed to be the smartest answer possible. Smart because by staying overnight in this historic hotel located a few hundred feet from the archeological site enables to start exploring the grounds as early as 8 AM, before the arrival of the crowds. Smart, because the hotel combines genuine elegance and great service while respecting authenticity and ecological responsibility. Follow me, let me show you the way…When I arrived from Tulum around noon at the Chichen Itza bus terminal, I was left at the main entrance of the site in one of the largest parking lots I have ever seen: hundreds of buses still unloading their loads of tourists from every continent. The line to the ticket booth was long, the heat dreadful. Instead of joining the frenzy, I hopped in a cab and 10 minutes later, I was discovering the old-world charm of the Hacienda Chichen. The check in was a breeze and the welcoming cocktail made of pineapple and Chaya leaf juice refreshing as heaven (pic 3). I was later to learn that it had been freshly made from the organic garden of the property, providing a lot of the fruits, vegetables and herbs used by the kitchen
The front desk offered to arrange the purchase of my ticket to visit the site the next morning, without any surcharge, avoiding the hassle to wait in line. They also offered the possibility to have a legitimate private guide for the visit, but as usual, I declined in order to feel totally free and visit at my own pace. The afternoon was mine to relax and enjoy what the Hacienda had to offer. The 28 rooms set in a total of 12 cottages spread out on the lush grounds were originally built to host archeologists who helped excavate the site. Now they are opened to all offering soothing air conditioning, large bed, beautiful sheets, large bathrooms, fresh flowers and hammocks on the front porch for those eager to adopt the Mayan way to take a nap at the sound of singing birds
Another way to relax in a horizontal way is to indulge in one of the treatments at the Yaxkin spa. And that’s exactly what I did, with the 45-minute Pakal treatment, a Maya healing ritual focusing on the head and the upper body. The soul is also soothed by an initial prayer in Mayan language by my charming therapist.
I loved the fact that the room was very large, not one of those cubicles where on feels locked up. The outside garden was present in the room with the use of various herbs and plants, including a refreshing aloe vera jelly applied on the face.Totally relaxed, I finished the afternoon by lingering by the superb swimming pool, large and square as I like them to do laps at length. .Recycled and chemical-free water added a guilt free sensation to the overall pleasure. Time went by and before I knew it was time to meet the general manager for a grand tour of the property, including the restored church where weddings can be organized, surrounded by the beautifully maintained vegetation).
No wedding the evening of my stay, but I still felt like a very special person, enjoying an evening drink on the beautiful front patio at the sound of a traditional trio singing deep from the heart local ballads.
For dinner, I ventured across the street to the humbler Villas Areological hotel (http://www.villasarqueologicas.com.mx/chichen-itza.html)
that I wanted to check out for its restaurant serving a variety of traditional dishes from Yucatan. The best, by far, was the cream of Chaya soup and I appreciated the selection of Mexican wines. The night was young, but the day had been long, so I was eager to return to my beautiful room for a good night sleep. At 8:20 Am, I recuperated my ticket to visit the site and was guided to the private entrance specific to the Hacienda. I was alone when I crossed the gate and after a ten-minute walk, I was facing the beautiful Mayan pyramid with the company of a couple of iguanas, but not another human soul.
The morning air was cool, and the silence only broken by singing birds. All the merchants on the way were focused on unpacking their things, leaving me unburdened. Besides the famous pyramid, I loved walking through the gigantic ball game field practically alone
As well as discovering the sacred cenote (sinkhole) and the perfectly aligned columns without the eye sore of groups of tourists ruining the geometry of the monuments. After three hours of walking at my own pace, I went back to the Hacienda, walking against the growing flow of visitors and the solicitations of the souvenir vendors, they were in full swing mode, trying to sell their T-shirts and miniature statues probably made in China!
The heat had risen and a last dip in the pool after a refreshing outdoor shower felt like pure bliss. At noon I was packed and ready to leave this magical place.
A short taxi ride took me to the small town of Piste where I tasted a delicious and original pozole de coco, lightly sweetened and perfectly chilled (pic 20), then hopped on a collective to reach Valladolid after 24 hours of total serenity, visiting the most famous Mayan site in the best way possible…
the nontouristytourist way!
Text and photos by Philip Sinsheimer
HACIENDA CHICHEN RESORT AND YAXKIN SPA
Tel: +52 999 920 8407