Catherwood Travels is a luxury destination management company created to help people explore the interior of the Yucatan. It has exclusive access to Private Haciendas, a collection of restored, centuries-old haciendas built when the fabulously wealthy Yucatan produced 90% of the rope made in the world.
The haciendas retain their historic beauty, but offer very real modern comforts including spacious guest rooms with beautiful bathrooms. The haciendas are fully staffed with cooks trained to the highest standards in regional cuisine, along with gardeners, housekeepers, waiters and a resident manager.
Catherwood Travels has exclusive access to the Private Haciendas and arranges unusual experiences.
Luxury travelers are already spending time on the beach at Riviera Maya and Cancun. Simply by taking an easy three-hour drive inland and extending their trip, clients can visit 2,500-year-old ruins off-hours with an archeologist...go on horseback rides through the jungle...watch great flocks of pink flamingos with an ornithologist...and dine on local specialties cooked by highly trained staff.
Non-stop flights from Houston, Dallas and Miami to Merida are making this culture-rich trip to the Yucatan even easier. Everything Catherwood does is tailor-made, but here are a few possibilities laid out in three-day, five-day and seven-day itineraries.
Four-bedroom Casa de la Madera is in a quiet residential neighborhood near the center of Izamal.
The fascinating story of these two companies began in 1990, when Roberto Hernandez Ramirez and his wife, Claudia Madrazo de Hernandez, traveled to the Yucatan and fell in love with the once-splendid haciendas scattered throughout the interior. Becoming pioneers in sustainable tourism, they decided to rescue these abandoned treasures.
The first five restorations became part of a group called The Haciendas, which offers a traditional hotel experience through Starwood's Luxury Collection. Nine are in the Private Haciendas group that Rebecca Recommends represents.
Offered exclusively through Catherwood Travels, the Private Haciendas range from a romantic one-bedroom townhome in colonial Izamal to a 14-bedroom country property with its own enchanting Maya pyramid, which you access from a staircase hidden by jungle foliage.
The ancient Maya staircase at 14-bedroom Hacienda Itzincab Camara, left, and an opportunity to interact with the Maya's living descendents, right.
Catherwood Travels was started in 2008 and is named after Frederick Catherwood, an English artist and explorer best remembered for his evocative mid-19th century drawings of Maya ruins. Catherwood is exclusively devoted to the Maya regions of Yucatan and Chiapas and is the only high-end travel specialist in those areas.
Their intention is to help travelers feel like explorers, with access to the unknown. Catherwood not only holds the keys to the Private Haciendas, it has ownership of unique assets such as reserves, unrestored haciendas, archaeological sites and contemporary artistic projects including a James Turrell amphitheater. It owns two private cenotes, the mineral-rich waters where clients can swim in isolated wonder.
Catherwood's private cenote Xocempich.
The cultural, archeological and culinary riches of this remarkable destination : Ek Balam, one of the best-preserved archaeological sites in the Yucatan, and the city of Izamal, a mesmerizing small city that has been occupied since pre-Columbian times.
Three of Catherwood's Private Haciendas are located in Izamal: the romantic one-bedroom townhome Casa Azul at the heart of the town's colonial center; the atmospheric four-bedroom Casa de Madera in a quiet residential neighborhood; and the cheerful six-bedroom Casa de los Artistas just one block from the cathedral.
Casa de los Artistas is painted yellow, like much of Izamal.
Merida, the largest city in the Yucatan, where I was captivated by Hacienda Tamchen. The ancient walls, outdoor pools with water lillies and soothing modern interiors were just what I needed. Southeast of Merida, Hacienda Itzincab Camara is built on an ancient Maya site, complete with an enchanting pyramid. This property's 14 bedrooms make it perfect for family reunions, wellness retreats, or immersion cooking classes. The surrounding town of Itzincab features four artisans' workshops.
With 14 bedrooms, Hacienda Itzincab Cámara is perfect for family reunions.
For me, visiting the Yucatan Peninsula was like stepping through a door or walking through a passage to a place where the past and present co-exist. The pyramids and temples of the ancient Mayas that we saw, as old as 500 B.C., mingle with the structures built in the last few hundred years because many of the churches, sisal factories and haciendas used the stone foundations of crumbled pyramids or stones from them for their buildings and surrounding properties.
It is the presence of these ancient stones that give the Yucatan a very spiritual, serene feeling. As we walked through the grounds of the haciendas we visited, it was impossible not to feel their timelessness.
I fell in love with Hacienda Tamchen, a four-bedroom property in Merida with two suites in the main house and two villas with private plunge pools.
Tourists often look at the ancient temples and ask "what happened to the Maya?" Catherwood helped us see that the Maya people are still here. In fact, the haciendas are 98% staffed with local Maya. It's a living culture, and one of the main reasons to travel to the Yucatan is the opportunity to interact with Maya and have an experience of their culture.
Catherwood and Private Haciendas' sister non-profit, Foundation Haciendas del Mundo Maya, helps promote the socio-economic development of Maya communities with craft workshops where visitors can engage with the local Mayas. We bought beautifully hand-woven bags, containers, hammocks as well as finely woven silver and seed jewelry, hand-crafted soaps, salts and honey. What fun!
Catherwood builds in opportunities to get to know the Maya people and their traditional crafts.
Looking ahead, we are coming up on the Yucatan's peak season. The weather in November is ideal. The sun is gentle and provides perfect warmth that allows you to explore, swim and enjoy outdoor dining. November is also the month when pink flamingos are seen in great flocks in the Celestun Reserve. For a warm weather Christmas and New Year's, the four-suite Hacienda Tixnuk is still available.
The Celestun Reserve is best known for its flamingos, but more than 300 species of birds can be seen there.
I just returned from the Yucatan and I can't wait to go back. I also can't wait to help people discover how incredible this destination is
Romantics, artists, history buffs, archaeologists, birders and seekers of true cultural experiences will love what we can arrange in the Yucatan. What a fantastic place to celebrate a milestone birthday or Anniversary, a proposal or wedding. . .
I truly believe that once travelers experience the Yucatan's un-commercialized magic and realize how close it is, they will go back, and back again.
Please contact me. We love to hear from you.
Theresa - Camelot Journeys