The Route of Sacred Cacao
Imagine going deep into the jungle, where the air is impregnated with the delightful aroma of chocolate. Small cacao farms settled deep in the forest offer a unique experience for the erstwhile tourist. Old ranches dating from colonial times are now home to cacao farms whose owners like nothing more than receiving visitors. You'll be able to see, smell and taste cacao in its various stages of production. At the farm Hacienda de La Luz in La Chontalpa, the cacao grain is home grown and made into handmade chocolates. Boasting some 50 hectares, the farm has at its entrance a beautiful garden where a large variety of tropical plants and fruit trees grow freely. The farm's bespoke guided tour brings you closer to the plantation, its harvest periods, its collection procedures and – the most intriguing part – the chocolate-making process. First, the still-green grains are fermented; these are then washed, toasted and their shell removed. In an old mill, grains are ground into a paste. Finally, the paste is mixed with sugar and cinnamon and set in special molds. At Cholula Farm, cacao is produced through organic agriculture; La Casa de la Naturaleza (House of Nature), as its plantation is called, is home to a great diversity of plants and animals, including howler monkeys which can frequently be seen swinging between branches. Should the tour make you hungry, the farm has a palapa in the gardens where typical Tabasco cuisine is served (booking is essential). Finca Genesis is another organic cacao-producing farm. Like other farms in the region, Finca Genesis hosts activities linked to ecology such as the research and development of natural harvest techniques, preservation and diffusion of cultural inheritance and organic production workshops.
Comalcalco, Entrance of the Mayan World
Comalcalco (“House of Frying Pans” in Nahuatl) is one of the most important ancient cities in Tabasco, and the only Mayan city built with bricks of baked clay instead of stone. This amazing archaeological site is made up of three complexes: the North Square, the Great Acropolis and the Acropolis of the East. Its impressive Site Museum houses around 300 pieces portraying the development of this ancient city. It is, thankfully, easily reached via Villahermosa, at just 50 kilometers from the city.
The westernmost Mayan ceremonial center discovered to date, Comalcalco is a fascinating yet under-visited site. Comalcalco thrived as an agricultural center specializing in cacao, still an important cash crop in the region.
The composition of the site’s scattered pyramids and temples is completely unique. Unlike Mayan sites in the Yucatan where limestone was plentiful, the builders of Comalcalco manufactured bricks from clay, sand and oyster shells. Comacalco is believed to feature the earliest brick buildings in Mesoamerica. Elaborate stucco façades, masks and multi-colored reliefs decorate the site’s gleaming white pyramids (off-limits to climbers due to the pyramids' delicate exteriors). Some tours include stops