Day - 1
Location: Mexico City - Arrive at Mexico City’s Benito Juarez International Airport; a complimentary transfer is included with your trip so please ensure you provide your flight details to your booking agent at least 14 days prior to travel so the transfer can be organised. You’ll meet your tour leader and other group members for a pre-tour briefing in the evening, which will be followed by an optional group dinner at a nearby restaurant. This is normally held at 6 pm but please check the notice board at reception to confirm the time and place. Please bring your passport, next of kin details and travel insurance documents along with you. Mexico City could easily keep you busy for a week, so you may want to consider arriving a day or two before the start of your trip. The Leon Trotsky and Frida Kahlo museums are two popular sights worth checking out that aren’t included in this trip. Trotsky, having come off second-best to Stalin in the Soviet era, was expelled and found refuge in Mexico City where he was eventually murdered, while Frida Kahlo is perhaps the most renowned Mexican artist in history.
Day - 2
Location: Mexico City - Today is a long but worthwhile day with a city tour starting at approximately 8.30 am. Visit the impressive National Museum of Anthropology before heading to the Zocalo (main square) for a trip to the Cathedral and National Palace. You’ll discover that Mexico City is an exciting mix of modern cosmopolitan glamour with remnants from both its ancient and colonial history. The tour will finish at approximately 3 pm, and in the evening your leader will take you on a taco crawl around town to try the locals’ favourite taquerias. Be warned: you may not want to know the ingredients before you try them, just trust your taste buds.
Day - 3
Location: Teotihuacan / Mexico City - Travel by private vehicle to Teotihuacan, about 50 kilometres northeast of Mexico City. Here you'll discover the extraordinary ruins known as the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon, which dominate the skyline. This was once one of the country's biggest ancient cities and the Aztec capital. With the help of a local guide, you'll have time to stroll down The Avenue of the Dead to see fascinating clues as to what life here was like nearly 2000 years ago.
Day - 4
Location: Oaxaca - Farewell Mexico City at approximately 8 am and head south to Puebla. The drive takes about 3 hours, depending on local traffic, and your leader will take you on a walk around town on arrival. Puebla has retained its colonial heritage despite rapid growth and development, and you’ll visit Calle de los Dulces (Candy street) and El Parian (handicraft market), as well as the impressive Rosary Chapel and Town Hall Palace. Continue the journey south to Oaxaca (5 hrs drive), a city renowned for its cuisine, vibrant art scene and traditional Mexican handicrafts.
Day - 5
Location: Oaxaca - Recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Oaxaca has much to offer to travellers and today you’ll take a full day tour of the city including lunch at a local family’s home. Your local guide will take you to the Mitla ruins, which were once the religious centre for the Zapotec peoples, and Hierve el Agua, a group of stunning natural rock formations where the minerals resemble cascading waterfalls. Sip on the famous, tequila-like local booze, mezcal, but not before checking out the Tule Tree, a 1500-year-old tree that's over 11 metres in girth. Later, learn about a peculiar tradition not many have the opportunity to witness when visiting Oaxaca: beeswax candle making. You will visit a local shop that keeps this tradition alive to learn about the technique involved in making these delicate candles and maybe have a go yourself. The evening is free for you to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy Oaxaca’s nightlife.
Day - 6
Location: Sumidero Canyon / San Cristobal de las Casas - Fly to Tuxtla Gutierrez at noon, the capital of the Chiapas state in southern Mexico. Travel by private vehicle to the Sumidero Canyon, an 800-metre deep canyon and World Heritage Site dating from the same time as the Grand Canyon. You’ll take a boat tour on the Sumidero River, the canyon’s architect, before continuing a further 1.5 hours to San Cristobal de las Casas. Expect to arrive by 7 pm, with the evening free for you take in the distinctive old-world feel courtesy of the Spanish colonial architecture and pretty, cobbled streets.
Day - 7
Location: San Cristobal de las Casas - Embark on a half-day tour this morning to the Maya villages of San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan. Nestled in the highlands, these villages serve as marketplaces and religious ceremonial centres for the indigenous people who live in the surrounding hills. The local people have retained their traditional way of life and are often seen dressed in their own distinctive colourful costumes. You’ll explore these villages with a guide and learn more about the culture and history of these mainly Maya communities.
Day - 8
Location: Palenque - Prepare for a long travel day as you depart San Cristobal de Las Casas and travel north to Palenque. You’ll visit the Agua Azul waterfall on the way, so wear or pack your swimmers in your day pack. Cool off in the turquoise waters before continuing towards Palenque and expect to arrive around 6 pm. Situated in the jungle, Palenque is the jump-off point to the nearby Maya ruins of the same name which you’ll visit tomorrow.
Day - 9
Location: Palenque Ruins / Campeche - Today you’ll meet a local archaeologist for a memorable visit to the ruins of Palenque. Archaeologists have been hard at work uncovering the secrets of this ancient city, but around 90% of the site remains unexcavated and concealed in the forest. Sitting on a hilltop surrounded by thick trees, the ruins date back to AD600 and are some of the most impressive Maya relics in Mexico. The area gives you an idea of what the Spanish invaders must have seen when they first came across the hidden ruins, and try to listen out for the eerie calls of howler monkeys and the echoes of screeching parrots as you walk through the jungle. After lunch, you’ll continue driving six hours north to Campeche, the last long travel day on this itinerary.
Day - 10
Location: Campeche - Campeche is a port city located on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and was once the most important seaport for the Spanish conquerors. Campeche’s history is well-preserved and it was awarded World Heritage status as an urbanisation model of a baroque colonial town and because of the defensive walls and fortification system, a result of ongoing pirate attacks throughout the 16th and 17th centuries. Your leader will take you on a tour of the city in the morning, and the afternoon is yours to continue exploring or catch some rays and take a dip in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Day - 11
Location: Celestun Reserve/Merida - Continue along the coast this morning to visit the Celestun Bird Sanctuary and Biosphere Reserve where you'll take a guided boat tour. Here, near extensive beaches lined with coconut trees, you'll see a variety of coastal birds. Depending on the season (usually Nov-Mar), you may be lucky enough to witness thousands of flamingos painting a pink streak across the landscape. Arrive at the historic town of Merida in the evening and take an orientation walk with your leader before finding some Yucatan cuisine for dinner. Merida, founded in 1542, is the Yucatan capital and retains much of its old-world charm. Take in the splendour of its many colonial buildings and learn more about the Maya heritage of the town.
Day - 12
Location: Merida - Today is a free day to explore the many sights of Merida and your leader will be able to recommend some good options. There are several museums including the impressive Regional Museum of Yucatan, and the streets are perfect for strolling and enjoying the city’s art and culture. Hang out in the green and shady Plaza Grande, with the 16th-century cathedral on one side and City Hall, the State Government Palace and Casa Mantejo on the other. For a taste of Merida's 19th-century glory, take a walk along the mansion-lined Paseo de Montejo. The outdoor market is another essential visit with an array of hammocks and Maya replicas for sale, plus a selection of mouth-watering local foods including a Yucatan specialty, cochinita pibil (little pig).
Day - 13
Location: Chichen Itza/Playa del Carmen - Depart Merida at 6.30 am and arrive at Chichen Itza when the doors open at 8 am. Named as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, Chichen Itza is considered the most important archaeological vestige of the Maya-Toltec civilization in Yucatan by UNESCO. You’ll take a two-hour guided tour of what is perhaps the most famous Maya site in Mexico, dominated by the Temple of Kukulkan, or El Castillo, a Mesoamerican step-pyramid. You’ll also visit Ik Kil, one of the most beautiful cenotes (Fresh water natural rock pool) in Mexico. After an option to swim (remember to pack your swim gear in your day pack again), enjoy a buffet lunch. Continue approximately three hours to the Caribbean coast and Playa del Carmen. Blessed with azure waters, powdery beaches and an almost European feel, Playa del Carmen is a popular resort town famed for its coral reefs and excellent diving.
Day - 14
Location: Playa del Carmen - Take today to enjoy Playa del Carmen as you see fit. Kick back with a book, stroll along the white sands or snorkel in crystal-clear waters. For adventures further afield, take a ferry across the turquoise seas to Cozumel, explore another cenote or take a guided tour of the nearby Tulum ruins. In the evening, settle in beachside and watch the world go by with a margarita in your hand.
Day - 15
Location: Playa del Carmen - Adios! Your trips comes to an end after breakfast today. Please keep in mind that you must comply with the hotel's internal rules regarding check out times.