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Mexpert's Blog

Travel news and information on Mexico from Mexico.

Tag Archives: Starwood Luxury Collection

Baroque-era homes painted different candy colors line Campeche's Historic Center

 

Like people, some destinations are more romantic than others. Just as some people are naturally more expressive, more affectionate, more willing to make eye contact, some places possess that special combination of features that make them ideal honeymoon or anniversary getaways.

A location by the sea is an automatic romance booster. Deep, vast and mysterious, the ocean is a well-known aphrodisiac. Of course, even smaller bodies of water like rivers and lakes can amp up a city’s sex appeal — just look at Paris. Other key ingredients include picturesque streets and promenades that invite couples to stroll, hand in hand, discovering shops and cafes tucked among the narrow alleyways. A long and tumultuous history is a bonus, since few things are quite as sexy as tales of bold exploits and heroic deeds. A small luxury hotel that offers personalized service and pampering is a great mood enhancer. Add warm and welcoming locals with a strong sense of community and belonging and you have the makings of a truly romantic getaway, you have the makings of Campeche.

Located on Mexico’s gulf coast, Campeche makes the most of its seaside location with a long, winding malecon, or seafront promenade, that wends its way by the water’s edge for more than two miles. Residents of all ages come out to stroll or jog along this breezy stretch, but it’s most popular with couples, especially around sunset, when a fiery orange sky is sometimes intensified by its reflection in the usually placid baby-blue surface of the gulf. You can come out to watch the show, then as night falls head over to one of the many seafood shacks that line the opposite side of the malecon for a fresh ceviche cocktail.

Undeniably romantic by the water, Campeche is even more romantic when you head inland. The historic center, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999, is a checkerboard of cobblestone streets lined with almost a thousand historic baroque-era buildings, churches and plazas in near pristine condition, mostly thanks to the fact that the second most important city in the Gulf of Mexico, after Merida, was bypassed by the industrial boom.

There’s no other place like it in Mexico. In fact, Campeche has a sultry harbor town atmosphere that’s more reminiscent of Havana than any other destination along Mexico’s coasts. Campechanos seem happy to be living here and it’s easy to see why when walking past the colonial-era homes and businesses, each newly painted a different candy color. Walt Disney couldn’t have designed a prettier town. And, as if gift-wrapped, all of this colorful, ornately adorned loveliness is bordered by the remnants of a centuries-old fortification, its arching entry gates and imposing redoubts.

The main seaport for the Yucatan Peninsula in its day, Campeche was repeatedly sacked by the likes of John Hawkins, Francis Drake, Henry Morgan and Laurens de Graff (Lorenzillo). In his illustrated encyclopedia “Historic Cities of the Americas,” David Marley writes that, during one attack, as many as 13 vessels landed and 500 men swarmed ashore, led by Pie de Palo (the peglegged Captain Cornelis Jol) and Diego el Mulatto. During another looting spree, the brigands stayed for two months, demanding cattle as well as cash. When the townsfolk refused, the corsairs set fire to everything. To prevent more pillaging, a series of fortifications were built in the early 1700s, connected by an eight-foot thick and 18- to 24-foot high hexagonal stone wall that encircled the city. The last recorded sacking was in 1708. Today, the walls and bulwarks still standing are a vivid reminder of Campeche’s romantic, eventful past, full of tales of high adventure and buried treasure. The hilltop redoubts, even more so, since they have been converted into museums, including the Museum of Maya Culture (Museo de Cultura Maya) at the San Miguel Fort.

You don’t have to museum hop to soak up history in Campeche. Almost everywhere you go, you are surrounded by it. Right behind the Land Gate, or Puerta de Tierra, which once served as the main entrance to the city and territories farther south, like Guatemala, you’ll find the top hotel and dining spot in town. Member of Starwood’s Luxury Collection, the Hacienda Puerta Campeche is housed in adjoining 17th-century buildings with high wood-beam ceilings and terracotta tile floors. There’s alfresco dining overlooking the garden or rooftop dining with views of the historic center lit up at night. Everything on the menu is artisanaly made right on the premises, from the cochinita pibil to the fruit-flavored ice creams.

If you like to swim, check into suite No. 7. The hotel’s one-of-a-kind freeform pool will be right outside your door. With water that meanders through a series of unreconstructed rooms, it gives new meaning to the term indoor/outdoor pool. Honeymooners should reserve suite No. 1, the only one with a sunken tub for two and a semi-private sun deck. Next door, No. 16 is the hotel’s most secluded suite. But with just 15 guest rooms in all, the historic hideaway offers a romantic, intimate atmosphere no matter which corner of the hotel you’re in.

Enjoy the Campeche countryside — home to soaring Mayan ruins, handicraft villages, and abundant wildlife — at Puerta Campeche’s sister hotel, Hacienda Uayamon. Once the largest hacienda in the state, it is steeped in history and romance. A giant ceiba tree locked in an everlasting embrace greets guests as they arrive. What used to be the company store houses a spa equipped with twin massage beds for treatments for two. Best of all, each guest room, formerly the laborers’ quarters, is a stand-alone cottage surrounded by tropical greenery, creating an ultra private refuge you won’t ever want to leave, except maybe to climb the singular pyramids at nearby Edzna, buy hand-woven hats and jewelry in the village of Becal, or explore the underground caverns of X’tacumbilxuna’an.

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