In the center of colonial Mexico, Sepulveda is a gorgeous centuries-old hacienda on a working ranch that's a magnet for horse lovers and those escaping the cities for fresh air in the countryside.
Located about an hour from the international airport of Leon, Hacienda Sepúlveda is one of those fabulous country estates that's well-known by Mexican nationals but almost totally off the radar of most foreigners. It's located in Lagos de Moreno, which is pretty enough but not a tourism hotspot, plus it's hard to compete with all the attractions in nearby Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende. If you can manage to put this grand hacienda hotel on your schedule, however, you'll be rewarded with a memorable stay in beautiful surroundings.
Some of the main structures date back to 1684 and the ranch has been in use even longer. Although converted to a hotel in 1991, the third generation owners still plant crops here on part of the 300 acres of land and there are generally more than 40 horses on site. The equestrian aspect is what draws many visitors from North America and Europe: they come here to ride for days on not just the hacienda property but other estates and natural areas nearby. When I visited, some guests were learning how to herd cattle from a charro and they visited a horse whisperer who leads the animals around without any reins.
The gardens around the hacienda are popular with butterflies and birds and there's a pond where you can fish or just take out a paddleboat. Walking trails lead to a old aquaduct and other ruins. Mountain bikes are available to ride around the property. For lazier pursuits, there are hammocks, hot tubs, and a dramatic swimming pool next to arches in the center courtyard. It gets too cold for swimming a few months a year here in the high desert, but the pool does stay warmer than the air much of the time because the water is coming from a hot spring.
Staffers set up romantic dinners for two in nooks around the pool and in a separate courtyard by the bar: Sepulveda is a popular spot for weddings, anniversaries, and romantic getaways. The main restaurant is situated in what was once the area where hay and corn feed was kept. With a high barrel ceiling and thick stone walls, it's not the warmest place in winter, but stays very comfortable the rest of the year. The limited menu is based on recipes from the woman who has been cooking for the family for decades. While this makes for a good story and provides a sense of history, lunch and dinner can get redundant after a copule days. For budgeting purposes, it's also best to go for the full meal plan when booking a room because there are no prices on any of the menus and there's nowhere else to go nearby anyway.
The bar was once part of the stables and it's the kind of place where you sit down for a drink and end up staying for hours. Local tin light fixutures, comfortable furniture, and interesting curios all make this a place meant for lingering. A full-sized pool table offers another reason to stick around.
Past a courtyard full of cacti and giant henequin-like maguey plants is a spa in an 1890 building that offers very reasonbly prices treatments: facials, vinotherapy, a chocolate wrap, or more conventional massages. Another hot tub is here along with a warm relaxation area.
The 23 rooms vary in size, layout, and building age, with some being in the oldest part of the hacienda and some just looking historic but really being in newer buildings. All have the pampering touches you would expect, like robes, comfortable beds (even the fold-outs), soft linens, and an array of good toiletries. Cable TVs have several channels in English and there are coffee makers as well. All have some kind of fireplace or wood stove, which is necessary in the cold months, plus an array of moquito repellant methods, which can come in handy in the summer.
All rooms are equipped with antiques, quality furniture (much of it hand-carved), and period artwork---though non-Christians may want to check out the room photos on the hotel's website if they're bothered by seeing an entire wall covered by crucifixes or images of the Virgin Mary. The various suites are worth the modest upgrade for their additional space and extras. The Chula Vista one has its own balcony with a view, for instance, and La Troje is on two levels, with a loft bedroom on top. Las Virgines is a corner suite with views of the gardens and a separate living room.
In a building with such thick walls, the complimentary Wi-Fi is spotty throughout. Most guests aren't here to work anyway; on the contrary it's a place guests come to forget their troubles and enjoy each others' company.
Hacienda Sepulveda can be reached in one to three hours from Guadalajara, Leon, Aguas Calientes, Guanajuato, or San Miguel de Allende. While this hacienda hotel is better known among residents of those cities than with people outside the country, multiple staffers speak English well on top of their gracious service.
Web Address: www.haciendasepulveda.com
Total Number of Rooms: 23
Published rates: $160 to $255 room only, $295 to $370 full board for two
Review and photos by editor Timothy Scott.
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