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Bucket list experience:

Last updated: 26 November, 2022
Expert travel writer: Alex Robinson

This ancient Mayan purification ceremony is designed to cause an intense physical, emotional and mental release – and a transformative, almost mystical feeling of rebirth. It cleanses and reunites the physical, mental and spiritual forms.

The ceremony takes place in a temazcal, or ‘steam house’ – a small, circular dome made of rocks and mud. The structure has several symbolic components: the dome house (signifying a mother’s womb), the entrance, symbolising rebirth when you come out, a burner where wood is set on fire and a bonfire where the water is heated. All four basic elements – earth, wind, fire and water – are represented.

It’s led by a local shaman (X’Men, or Mayan priest). Red-hot lava rocks are placed in the center, and doused with water infused with local aromatic herbs. The searing heat generated causes profuse sweating, which combined with inhaling the therapeutic herbs, promotes detoxification. The complete darkness inside liberates the senses from distraction, enabling deep contemplation and meditation, leading to mental balance and mindfulness (presence from the mind). A group energy is generated through chanting and music. At the end, you’ll cool off in a cold river or pool, which  closes the pores and activates the immune system.

A proper ceremony usually lasts up to 3 hours (though shorter, more touristy ones can be as short as one hour). After, you’ll leave with a sense of inner harmony, enlightenment and rejuvenation. Other reputed benefits include detoxification, skin cleansing, reduced depression, and reduced risk of dementia.

Price from: £80
Minimum age: 13
Age suitable: 13+
Frequency: daily
When: Daily
Duration: 3 hours

Getting there & doing it

Make sure you choose a ceremony with the proper round stone structure – some are held in tents, where the heat and darkness are less intense. Also, check there is a limit on participants – around 7 people is ideal; some cram in 20-30, which is too many. Don’t eat for two hours beforehand, but make sure you are well-hydrated. Some o

The ceremonies are intense – don’t participate if you have debilitating medical conditions like heart problems or abnormal blood pressure. Some places allow children, others don’t, but realistically it’s not suitable for anyone under 13.

You’ll find temazcal ceremonies everywhere now, notably in hotels; but beware cheap imitations – it’s not the same experience or purification outcome.

For the real, authentic experience, try Ana y Jose Cabanas in Tulum (who have been there since the early days) have been running temazcal ceremonies from their Ana y Jose Hotel & Spa since before they were fashionable. Ceremonies include a visit to a local cenote and dinner after. The upscale Chable Wellness Resort Yucatan offers a good one. Temazcal Koatl is another good choice, a genuinely Mexican-run ceremony between Puerto Morelos and Cancun. Xcaret Park on the Mayan Riviera offers a touristy one-hour version.

On Mexico’s west coast, head for the uber-romantic Cala de Mar Resort at Ixtapa.

When to do it

Ceremonies are run all year-round, specific days depend on the operator.

Cala de Mar Resort & Spa

Ixtapa, Guerrero, Mexico

A super romantic all-suite hideaway with a private beach and personal butler, set close to a nature reserve.

Official star rating:

Chable Yucatan

Chochola, Yucatan Peninsular, Mexico

An authentic jungle retreat and exceptional wellness resort, set in a 200-year-old estate, focusing on ancient Mayan wellness rituals.

Official star rating:

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Mayan Riviera


Talc-white beaches, reefs teeming with life, ruined temples in misty rainforests – the Riviera Maya offers a family or romantic beach holiday with a dash of Indian Jones adventure.

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