The Concert of the Thousand Columns

Chichen Itza celebrates its anniversary as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World

By: By Michael Lowe


Placido Domingo at Chichen Itza 

Hacienda Xcanatun 

More stays at the steps of Chichen Itza:

Hacienda Chichen Resort
Hotel Mayaland
The Lodge at Chichen Itza


Scroll down to view a list of hotels near Chichen Itza 

On Oct. 4, Chichen Itza will celebrate its 20th anniversary as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and its first anniversary as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World by hosting world-renowned operatic tenor Placido Domingo.

Domingo will sing alongside Yucatecan composer and pianist, Armando Manzanero; Puerto Rican soprano Ana Maria Martinez; and the Yucatan Symphony Orchestra, led by American conductor Eugene Kohn, in front of the 90-foot-tall, centrally located Temple of Kukulkan. The performance, "Placido Domingo in Chichen Itza: The Concert of the Thousand Columns," will feature opera, popular Mexican ballads and zarzuela, a Spanish lyric genre.

Deluxe Suite at the Hacienda Xcanatun // (c) Hacienda Xcanatun
Deluxe Suite at the Hacienda Xcanatun

More than 7,000 people are expected to be in attendance for the performance, and tickets range from $50 to $1,000. All proceeds go directly to the restoration and conservation of Chichen Itza and the surrounding Maya communities.

Where to Stay
Nearby Hacienda Xcanatun (pronounced Ish-cana-toon) is offering a promotional deal for the anniversary concert called the Night to Remember Concert Package. A three-night package starts at $1,370 per couple and a four-night package starts at $1,700. Although packages do not include tickets to the show (tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster), they do include views of tropical gardens, air-conditioned suites and white-glove guest transportation via a luxury bus with an open bar, canape service, waiters and televisions featuring Domingo’s music.

Prior to the concert, the Hacienda will offer a special dinner fusing European cuisine with Caribbean and Yucatecan ingredients, set to musicians playing zarzuelas and Yucatecan favorites.

As the night draws to a close, travelers can retreat to one of 18 rooms at the Hacienda Xcanatun. Master suites feature a spacious living area and separate sitting room decorated with antiques. An oversized bathroom is sky-lit and outfitted with either a hydrotherapy tub or a hand-carved coral stone tub and waterfall.

Deluxe suites boast English colonial decor and private verandas with Yucatecan hammocks and outdoor hydrotherapy tubs in the midst of tropical gardens.

The Hacienda was originally constructed in the 18th century and, after total deterioration and abandonment, the Ruz family reopened the establishment in 2000 after five years of renovation. Now, nine acres of tropical gardens surround Hacienda Xcanatun, including its two swimming pools.

Keeping true to local flavor, bedding is made from premium linens of hand-loomed Yucatan cotton and bathrooms are lined with local marble and stone from Ticul, a small city in western Yucatan.

The Spa at Hacienda Xcanatun features Maya therapists combining ancient Maya treatments with the latest in stress reduction techniques. Local plants and flowers, as well as honey, are used as a curative agent for stress relief and relaxation.

What to See
If visitors feel the need to explore the countryside before or after the concert, the hotel can set up day trips away from the resort.

Just five minutes from Hacienda Xcanatun is Dzibilchaltun, one of the least-visited sites of the Yucatan. The 10-square-mile town features a 144-foot-deep cenote (underground cavern) filled with swimmable water; the Museum of the Maya People, home to regional artifacts and cultural relics; and a 15th-century Catholic chapel.

Ek Balam, or the Black Jaguar, recently opened to the public in 2000, but claims to be the longest inhabited city in the Yucatan. Over 40 structures have been unearthed on site within the four-square-mile area surrounded by two concentric walls.

Ek Balam’s central plaza is home to three ceremonial structures including the 500-foot-long, 100-foot-high Acropolis, resting place of the city’s ruler, Ukit Kanle’k Tok. Hieroglyphs of human-size Maya warriors adorn the walls of the great tomb and the only way in is through a carved, 15-foot-tall jaguar mouth.

Fifty miles from Hacienda Xcanatun is Uxmal, home to the 115-foot-tall Pyramid of the Magician and the Nunnery Quadrangle, the most famous of Uxmal’s several quadrangle buildings, as well as a ballcourt for playing an ancient Mesoamerican ballgame, a precursor to ulama.

The Yucatan does not shy away from activities, whether it’s daytrips to Maya ruins or an anniversary celebration fit for the gods. For a night at the opera and a day with the ancients, the Yucatan will deliver come October.