I continue my travels through Mexico and head further south. I’m looking for a special location not far from Palenque, the world famous Maya complex. After some serious searching I come across a wonderful Hideaway, tucked away right in the heart of Chiapas, not far from Guatemala. Admittedly, it takes some effort this destination, but it’s definitely worth it: this is off the beaten track Mexico, it’s mountainous, with hidden Maya treasures and dense jungle and above all….hardly any tourists!

Chiapas is Mexico’s southernmost region. This is also the land of the tough rancheros, who work hard to keep their heads above water and drive their cattle spectacularly. The same goes for the owners of this ranch: the Fonseca family. They left Jalisco to start their own farm here; a real family business. All of the family members are very entrepreneurial and in 1998 they opened a restaurant next to the farm, to serve food to travellers on their way from or to Guatamala or the Maya temples in Bonampak and Yaxchilán. They soon realised that an accommodation would also be welcome and so father and sons took it upon themselves to build two rooms. They did so entirely according to their own design and by making use of various local building materials. This was the start of Parador Valle Escondido. By now, the number of rooms has grown to 15, there’s a second restaurant for guests of the hotel and son Willy manages the hotel part, while father and son César are in charge of the farm.

And it’s a unique spot! Not only do you really get to know local Mexican farm life, you also get to stay in a comfortable hotel. For the rooms were built with careful attention and much eye for detail. They’re spacious, elegant and the bathrooms in particular are worth mentioning…so neat, they were drawn up completely from local limestone that was taken from the surrounding hills. Willy and César speak excellent English and welcome us as if we’re family. They show us around the ranch and tell us about the medicinal plants, they allow us to pluck the juiciest fruit from the trees and let my children drive the cattle on horseback, just like true rancheros (the highlight of our Mexico trip, according to my daughter). We dive into the natural swimming pond for a refreshing dip and afterwards enjoy a cold Mexican beer while lying in our hammocks……siesta forever! At night, hungry from all our activities, we tuck in to a lovely three course dinner. They cook from farm to table here, and let me tell you, it was one of the best meals of our journey……delicious and plentiful.

Besides getting a taste of local life, there is plenty to do around here. For instance, there are jungle treks to take, waterfalls to swim in and some of the most beautiful Mayan temples are only an hour’s drive away. Palenque is an absolute highlight, but if you’re looking for a mystical experience without being distracted by hordes of tourists, you should definitely make also an excursion to the ruins of Bonampak and Yaxchilán.

Finca Valle Escondido is absolutely worth the detour, and a true Local Hideaway. For it is really off the beaten track and offers a unique insight into local Mexican life, while staying in very comfortable accommodations. And the Fonseca’s are absolutely adorable…our Mexican family!

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