A visit to Hotel Quinta Chanabnal is not so much a visit to a hotel, as it is a trip to an art gallery, a historical site, a university and of course a Mayan village all at once. Raphael Tunesi is more than just the "owner", but a visionary who imagined this place and built it as a labor of love - his love of all things Mayan. If you like to stay at a boutique hotel because you like individuality, uniqueness, and appreciate and admire someone's passion then you will love it.
We had the absolute delight of taking a tour of the Palenque ruins with Sr. Tunesi who not only can read Mayan glyphs from 615 AD, but can also translate them into Spanish, English, German and Italian. His love for the culture knows no bounds, he met his wife of Mayan heritage at Palenque touring the grounds, and he is a published expert on the Maya.
As a result what he has built is the realization of a dream. The Presidential Suite is misnamed, it should be the suite of the God of the Underworld, but this might not rent as well...as the architecture is similar to that of the building atop this famous pyramid at the ruins. Although I doubt the Mayans of 615 had whirlpool tubs and air conditioning, but there has been a bit of progress since then. This wonderful suite features (as do others in the hotel) hand carved wood furnishings and moldings, hand carved stone relief art in the Mayan tradition, and traditional colors and designs (windows in a T shape, and the tall angled Mayan Arch shape).
The food, for such a petite place, was spectacular. Incredible Cochinita Pibil, Mole, and lamb dishes, fresh salads, soups and more. But wait, in addition to Mexican and Mayan favorites, Raphael throws in some specialties reflecting his Italian roots ("like my grandmother would make") including gnocchi, fresh pastas and more. Our only mistake was going out one night to eat instead of staying in (big mistake).
The pool is lovely on three levels modeled after the cascading waterfalls of Palenque. The grand room has a stone relief which tells the story of the hotel and Raphaels' family, with custom designed and built furnishings which are spectacular in and of themselves. Don't forget to ask about his own pyramid with a "Stela" in front, a carved stone shaft with a descriptive story on it.
Such a hotel with only 6 suites is bound to have a few quirks, so embrace them and love them. If you're looking for a hotel with 24 room service or computerized check in kiosks, you're in the wrong place. This is boutique hotel-dom at its best, and as long as Raphael continues to nurture his dream there, you should visit it.
My only suggestion is he needs to write (another) book explaining the architecture and symbolism of the art made for the site. It didn't take much to pull those explanations out of him, but he could easily sell tickets and make the hotel a tourist attraction in and of itself - I doubt many more authentic replicas of Mayan architecture have been made.
Palenque itself is small and provincial, so the hotel offers guests a civilized relief from the surroundings - it did not seem as though other hotels in the area could compete with this class of property. Nevertheless, if you're going, you're going to marvel at the ruins of Palenque and tomb and successes of King Pakal of the 600s, so at least read a Wikipedia entry before and give yourself a full day to explore, enjoy and take it all in...it is truly a wonder of the Americas.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Only three kilometers from the archaeological site of Palenque, Chiapas, this luxury resort evokes a Mayan palace complex of the Classic Period. Traditional pre-Hispanic design, updated with modern sophistication, awaits the discerning traveler at Boutique Hotel Quinta Chanabnal.The architectural complex consists of two Junior Suites, four Deluxe Suites and one Presidential Suite. Amidst luxuriant jungle flora our swimming pools recall the typical waterfalls found in the ruins of Palenque. ... more less
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