Wonders of the Yucatan

Pleasant Holidays takes agents on its ‘Colonial Cities’ tour

By: Maribeth Mellin

The Mexican spirit quickly infused agents on a recent Pleasant Holidays tour in Mexico. Two hours after landing in Merida, the group’s diehard shoppers were inspecting hats and hammocks in the central plaza. Others more interested in soaking up the ambience sipped margaritas at sidewalk cafes. Their in-depth exploration of Mexico’s colonial charms had begun.

Over the next four days agents learned about Maya archeology, the Spanish conquest, colonial architecture and yucatecan cuisine during an educational trip to Yucatan, one of Pleasants’ Colonial Cities destinations. The tour began in the capital city of Merida, a cultural center that serves as gateway to the Maya world. Guide Juan Vazquez wove historic details into nearly everything he said over the following days, giving agents a wealth of valuable information for their clients.

“He amazed me with his knowledge and detail of historical facts,” said Lauren Faucher of Delta Airlines, which used connecting flights to allow West Coast agents to join in celebrating Delta’s inaugural flight between Atlanta and Merida. “He is proud of his heritage and you could tell he loves what he is doing.”

The group also scrambled around palaces and pyramids at the archeological site of Uxmal outside the city. After sampling chicken baked with fragrant achiote (a regional spice) and local Leon Negro beer, they returned to Uxmal for a sound and light show under the stars. The next night, Chichen Itza served as the stage for another show with blue and red lights casting a glow over El Castillo. Ample time for explorations and adventures were built into the itinerary at both UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Pleasant’s varied selection of accommodations for the tour began and ended at the Fiesta Americana Merida, which rises behind one of the elaborate 19th-century mansions that once lined the graceful French-inspired Paseo Montejo. The luxury hotel has a branch of Los Almendros, one of Yucatan’s most famous regional restaurants and, in a nod to more modern tastes, it also has a TGI Friday’s and a branch of Sanborn’s, a combo restaurant, bookstore, souvenir shop and bakery.

For an even more traditional experience, the agents visited Hacienda Xcanatun, a restored 18th-century hacienda less than a half-hour from Merida. One of the loveliest boutique hotels in Mexico, Xcanatun has a gourmet French-inspired restaurant, a soothing, healing spa and just 18 suites that combine modern comforts (air conditioning, hot tubs, cushy beds) with traditional architecture and design.

“If I were to plan this for myself or a client I would definitely include a Hacienda stay,” said Jackie Wilson of Nonstop Travel Deluxe in Torrance, Calif.

The Mayaland Hotel, buried in gardens and jungle by Chichen Itza, also wowed tour participants who marveled at the sense of total escape the hotel provides (along with swimming pools perfect for a dip after a tour of the steamy ruins).

Pleasant’s Colonial Cities Merida tour isn’t just a gateway to the Maya world, it’s also a great way to begin a beach vacation. According to Ken Phillips, a Pleasant Holidays spokesperson, the company has options for extending the tour to include Cancun or the Riviera Maya. Phillips encouraged agents to explore the cultural side of Mexico along with the more popular beach destinations.

“Until they actually experience it themselves, it’s difficult for them to get a true sense of the unique opportunities the Yucatan presents for their clients looking for a different, more authentic Mexico,” he said. “The potential is almost unlimited. It’s an incredible area just waiting to be discovered.”


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