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
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
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
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
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
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.