When traveling to a new country, you don’t want to “just” visit but you want to immerse yourself in a new culture. You want to experience new things and live like a local. This is what traveling is about!
Well, let me tell you something you will really like. If you are coming to the Yucatan Peninsula and you want to have a very authentic experience, all you need to do is relax and chill out in a hammock! Easy right? It’s awesome! If you think it’s too good to be true, keep reading.
Where do hammocks come from?
The first hammocks have been found in the Antilles from the Spanish conquerors. The name “hamaca”, comes from the Haitian word “hamac” which means “tree”. In fact, such hammocks were made of tree cortex and they were hanging off trunks so people could lay down and rest.
When Spaniards arrived in Yucatan, they found it very hard to cope with the warm and humid weather. But they soon had a great idea: convert in bed those hammocks from the Caribbean. From here, hammocks started to become very popular and in a few years of colonial government, even the Indians decided to give up their “bed” to sleep in comfortable hammocks.
Types of hammocks
As hammocks became more popular, Yucatecans started to perfect the technique and they invented new fabrics and netting. Good hammocks are woven by hand with the help of a frame and a needle or shuttle carved from strong wood or bone, which allows each thread to be crossed. Making a hammock can take up to 3-4 weeks and no hammock is the same, as the result depends on the stitched made by each craftsman.
One way to categorize hammocks is between “thick cord” (like a basketball net, less thick than a clothesline) and “thin cord” hammocks (more like a fishnet and with a much finer cord). Both cord styles are comfortable. The choice between the two cords will depend on how you want to use your hammock. The thick cord hammock is perfect for a more heavy usage and to take it on trips. The thin cord is better if you plan to leave your hammock in the same place for regular, everyday use. Hammocks typically come in cotton or nylon. Cotton hammocks provide a more comfortable thread against the body, whereas the nylon is a stronger fiber and will not fade in the sun.
There are different sizes of hammocks you can choose from. Ask for help when you buy it and make sure to stretch it out to check the actual size.
The smallest size is the single one or “individual”, good for solo use and day trips. The “matrimonial” is a bit bigger and probably the most common one as it comfortably fits 2 people making it perfect for couples but also allowing extra space for one person. If this is not enough, the king-size is about 2 meters wide and it’s great for 2 or more people. Finally, the jumbo size, with more than 3 meters wide, is the largest hammock as it is made for the whole family or a group of friends. Yes, you have read it right. A “giant” hammock where the entire family can relax, chill or sleep. Isn’t that amazing? One big hammock to share it with your friends.
Well, I guess it’s pretty clear now that hammocks are a very serious thing here in the Yucatan. With a very hot and humid weather, the hammock is the perfect bed and if you lay down properly, it’s even more comfortable than a bed. One thing is for sure, it’s a way fresher as it allows air to come in, offering great ventilation.
How to choose the right hammock
The best Mexican hammocks are handmade by the indigenous Mayans living in many of the small villages around the Yucatan Peninsula. You’ll recognize a genuine hammock by its quality and craftsmanship. When buying a hammock, check the weave and the thickness of the material. Don’t leave the hammock on display, take it down, stretch the material and check the weave. The best hammocks have a tight weave, with a narrow and firm “gaps” between the threads. Make sure to inspect the cords for frays or flaws. Ensure that the ends are not loose and are elegantly finished. Check that the materials are in good condition, not worn or frayed. A well tightly-woven hammock will provide excellent support and hours of relaxation. The best thing, it will last for years!
Where to buy it
If you want to buy a good hammock, head to Tixkokob, 20 minutes’ drive from Mérida. Here you will have plenty of options and you will be “shocked” in front of the huge variety that exists. You can also find good hammocks in the Centro of Mérida and in markets. Generally speaking, the higher the price, the better the quality. You can choose size, materials, style, and color. Prices go from as little as $300 Mexican pesos for a wide-weave nylon hammock up to $2,500 pesos for natural materials and a good tight weave hammock. Don’t forget to buy the complements: ropes (sogas) and the famous “S” hook hangers (ganchos para hamacas or eses).
As hammocks are a huge thing here in Yucatan, every home has at least 2 or more hammocks. When visiting a house, you will find many hammock hooks called hamaqueros. They are a sort of iron ring (the first hamaqueros were made of wood) dig into the cement block wall and surrounded by more cement and paint. There are many different styles of hamaqueros, from the antique ones that you can still find in markets to newer and more modern options. You can hang your hammock pretty much everywhere, from strong walls and columns, but also from palm trees and on boats. The options are endless and you can easily take your hammock anywhere you go!
A trip to the Yucatan is not complete if you don’t take a hammock home with you! You will remember your amazing experience in this magic land every time you lay down on your floating bed. Grab a beer and your favorite book and enjoy life like a real Yucatecan! Or, if you want to take it to the next level, get rid of your bed during those hot summer nights and sleep in a hammock for the ultimate experience.
I hope you found this article useful and that it will help you to perfectly choose your hammock when it’s time to buy one!