Yaxcopoil is best known for its impressive French architecture that more closely resembles something in Versailles than in your typical Yucatecan hacienda.
Though the history of the hacienda itself stretches back to the 17th century, Yaxcopoil’s history stretches much farther back than that — to the time of the ancient Maya.
When Europeans first arrived in the area, Yaxcopoil had already been mostly abandoned by the Maya, who had once inhabited the surrounding area as part of the kingdom of Ah Canul, which was itself one of the successor states of the League of Mayapán.
Ancient Yaxcopoil, which translates as the “place of the large trees,” was largely dismantled for building materials. However, given the size of the city and the efforts of archaeologists and the hacienda’s owners, a glimpse of Yaxcopoil’s glory days can still be seen today.
Archaeologists believe that the ceremonial core of Yaxcopoil during antiquity was also known as Tanmul, so when discussing the area in archaeological terms it is usually referred to as Yaxcopoil-Tanmul.
Because Yaxcopoil is not an archaeological park, the remains of the ancient city can be found spread out across a large area on both sides of the Mérida-Uxmal highway. Several of the pyramids and larger structures in the area today lay inside private land and are not open to tourists.
An analysis of pottery suggests that Yaxcopoil-Tanmul was occupied as early as the 1st century BCE, but its immediate surrounding proves occupation dating back to the pre-classic, as early as the 6th century BCE.
Archaeologists believe that Yaxcopoil-Tanmul sat upon an important trade route that connected the northern Yucatán with the Puuc kingdom of Uxmal further south, much as it still does today.
Given its strategic location, it is likely that Yaxcopoil-Tanmul was at least during a time under the control of Ichcanzijó (the Mayan city located where Mérida’s contemporary Centro is today).
However, Yaxcopoil-Tanmul was also clearly influenced by the nearby city-state of Oxkintok, especially when it comes to sculpture.
Several artifacts of this great Mayan city can be seen today in a small, yet beautiful museum hosted inside Hacienda Yaxcopoil.
If you go
Unlike other haciendas that only offer glimpses of their treasures to folks paying to spend the night or host special events, hacienda Yaxcopoil opens its doors to visitors interested in history and allows its groundskeepers to offer tours. There is no formal set price for these tours, but gratuities are always appreciated (and expected).
Hacienda Yaxcopoil is roughly 20 miles from downtown Mérida and makes for a fantastic and relaxing stop on the way to explore Mayan sites along the Puuc route.