Land of Eternal Spring

The hotels of Morelos are waiting to be discovered

By: Laurel Delp

Long before it was immortalized by Malcolm Lowry in “Under the Volcano,” Cuernavaca, the capital of Morelos, one of Mexico’s smallest states, was the vacation home of kings. Known as the land of “eternal spring,” it’s been the summer home for everyone from Moctezuma to Hernan Cortez, to Maximilian and Carlotta. Few travelers are aware that all of Morelos like Cuernavaca is renowned for its mansions, gardens, museums and language schools. And as Cuernavaca grows, the attraction of jewel-like hotels in less-traveled areas is rising.

Morelos is the point where several mountain ranges converge, dwarfed by the mystic volcanoes, Popocatepetl and Ixaccohuatl. Spectacular valleys hold colonial cities marked by convents, monasteries and churches in the ornate Churrigueresque-style of 17th-century Spain. Thousands of pre-Columbian ruins have been found, the most important of which is Xochicalco, a rich mountain-top city that reached its peak around 800 A.D.

Clients may choose to rent a car, as the state can be easily driven from end to end in two hours, providing opportunities for sightseeing, river rafting, golfing, hiking and mountain biking. Cuernavaca is only 90 minutes south of Mexico City’s airport (also easily reached via first-class bus from the airport). Traffic in Cuernavaca itself can be a nightmare, as streets are winding and narrow, but taxis are inexpensive and easy to find. Once outside the city, traffic is no longer a problem unless you hit a festival.

Where to Stay

In the middle of traffic-clogged downtown Cuernavaca, high stone walls surround an oasis of tranquil, old-world gentility. Las Mananitas, a Relais & Chateau property, is a rambling series of sweeping lawns, lush gardens and colonial-style buildings. Rooms are warmed on winter nights by fireplaces, and gourmet dinners in the restaurant are followed by dessert and liqueurs in the plush couches and armchairs at the bar. Peacocks wander the lawns and police the terraces in search of breakfast crumbs. In the rear of the immense property, next to a small villa, is a pink playhouse, where dolls wait for visiting children in a mock kitchen and living area.

The town of Tepoztlan, a renowned center for healing, lies in a high hidden valley north of Cuernavaca. It’s a place where many students converge to study shamanic traditions, and powerful curanderos (healers) share their knowledge. High on a hill overlooking the church-studded colonial town is the Posada del Tepozteco, once the summer home of the present owner’s grandfather. Celebrities from Angelina Jolie to Jim Caveziel have stayed here, taking breakfast on the sunny terrace or under a bougainvillea-draped arbor with views of a pre-Columbian temple, high on the mountainside above.

The Posada has no spa, but in-room treatments from massages to wraps are provided by Tepoztlan’s best teachers. The 20 rooms are very simple, but include all the amenities, like coffee-makers, Internet connections and Jacuzzi tubs in the suites.

Not far from Tepoztlan, deep in another hidden valley near the village of Amatlan, is the Hostal de la Luz, a destination spa with treatment rooms atop a hill, two swimming pools, a rounded restaurant with mountain views and a terrace guarded by a large statue of Shiva. The hilltop also has a round yoga and meditation room, complete with Tibetan bells and drums. A white-garbed French osteopath is on-duty constantly. Along with yoga, tai chi, guided meditations and a temazcal (traditional Mexican sweat lodge), Hostal de la Luz also has a maze and a flotarium.

Tucked away as it is, Hostal de la Luz is only 20 minutes east from Tepoztlan and the rest of Morelos’ attractions are easy to reach.

Hacienda San Gabriel de las Palmas, one of the richest of many former sugar haciendas in Morelos, has been transformed into one of the most romantic hotels in Mexico. Built in the 16th century as a monastery, the grounds include a church, wild Amate trees with sinuous twisting roots and the hacienda’s aqueduct, still splashing down in a mighty waterfall that once powered the machinery for the refinery.

In the main house, rooms have been meticulously restored with antiques and spacious bathrooms. But for clients who prefer a more modern ambience, the sky-lit rooms are stunning mixes of modern decor with antique touches. The spa is open-air, with billowing white curtains for privacy, and the large meandering swimming pool provides plenty of private sitting areas. In the rear are stables.

In the land of enternal springs, these locales will likely help clients feel like kings.


Las Mananitas Hotel Garden & Restaurant
Rooms start at $210. Agent commission is 10 percent.

Posada del Tepozteco
Rooms start at $130. Agentcommission is 10 percent.

Hostal de la Luz
Rooms start at $200.

Hacienda San Gabriel de las Palmas
Rooms start at $190.