Photo: Nora Rose Mueller

Ancient Ruins and Beautiful Gardens in the City of Eternal Spring

An hour’s drive outside of Mexico City is Cuernavaca, know as “the city of eternal spring“. The nickname is well-deserved: year round, the temperature rests comfortably in the 80s, and almost every night it rains, ensuring that everything is well-watered and utterly green.

It is little surprise, then, that infamous colonizer Hernán Cortés chose the city as the seat of his power; the palace from which he governed still stands in what is now downtown Cuernavaca, one of many relics left behind by his occupation.

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Among the structures still open to the public is San Antonio Altacomulco (now Hotel Hacienda Cortés) is a sugar mill hacienda founded in 1530, which has since been converted to a luxe garden, hotel, and spa.

The hotel grounds are open to the public, and anyone can dine at their restaurant (don’t miss their sautéed mushrooms cooked with chile de arbol or their molcajete, a traditional dish cooked in volcanic rock) or simply stop for a drink (no relaxing afternoon is complete without a cool michelada).

Hotel Hacienda de Cortés is the perfect stop in the late afternoon after a day spent outdoors– or you can go all in on relaxation and make an appointment at their spa (no need to be staying at the hotel).

Even if you’re not planning on having a full meal, the grounds are still worth walking. Much of the original architecture is still intact, and plants bridge the divide between old and new: the main dining rooms has the branches of a tree growing along a column, its woody branches a contrast to the wine glasses and carefully folded napkins; patios with chairs and tables are engulfed by trees and vines, hidden from the main walkways, creating sanctuaries within a sanctuary; old stone walls are polished and worn by hundreds of years of rain.

Throughout there is a sense of exploration; the gardens and buildings are arranged without a strict pattern: staircases lead here and there along indirect paths to different levels for a perfect afternoon of wandering.

To learn more about Hacienda de Cortes, visit the organization’s website.

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