Day - 1
Location: Mexico City - Bienvenidos, welcome to Mexico City! On arrival, take a complimentary transfer from the airport to your hotel. If you have time, perhaps take a stroll to get a feel for this vibrant and rapidly growing capital where the ancient and modern collide. You'll meet your leader and other members of your group this evening for a welcome meeting at 6pm – until then, the day is yours. After the welcome meeting you may like to head out with your leader for an optional group dinner, an opportunity to get stuck straight into the many local culinary delights!
Day - 2
Location: Mexico City - Get to know Mexico City during a guided tour with your leader. Visit the Metropolitan Cathedral, the largest and one of the oldest cathedrals in Latin America. You’ll also explore Zocalo, the city’s main square, and the remains of Tenochtitlan, the capital city of the Aztec empire. Check out famous Mexican painter Diego Rivera’s Mural Museum at the Alameda Central. Your tour also includes a visit to the Museum of Anthropology, home to an impressive collection of 600,000 pieces of Mexican art and artifacts. After the tour, the day is yours to spend as you please. The Leon Trotsky and Frida Kahlo (La Casa Azul) museums are two popular sights worth checking out as an optional activity. Trotsky, having come off second-best to Stalin in the race to the helm during 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. Otherwise, just outside of the city, a visit to the colourful floating gardens of Xochimilco makes for an enjoyable afternoon.
Day - 3
Location: Puebla - Depart Mexico City this morning and visit the ancient Teotihuacan ruins, once one of the biggest cities in the world. Meet with a local guide and discover the amazing ruins known as the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon which dominate the skyline. Stroll down ‘The Avenue of the Dead’ and see the clues to what life was like here nearly 2000 years ago. Continue to the city of Puebla, joining your leader for an orientation walk to get your bearings and explore the beautifully preserved city centre. Puebla is known for its delicious food scene and your leader will have tips on the best places to dine on local specialties this evening.
Day - 4
Location: Oaxaca - Say adios to Puebla and hola to Cholula. One of the oldest inhabited places on earth, Cholula is home to the fascinating Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de los Remedios, a church that sits atop a pyramid inside a hill. You’ll have a few hours of free time to roam the streets lined with colourful buildings, visit the church, and capture incredible volcano views in clear weather. Travel onwards to Oaxaca, arriving in the late afternoon or early evening. This beautiful city is known for its colonial architecture, cuisine and lively art scene, but it's also a great place to browse for traditional Mexican handicrafts, with descendants of the Zapotec and Mixtec selling an array of bright woven blankets and shawls. Your leader is certain to have some brilliant recommendations for dinner this evening.
Day - 5
Location: Oaxaca - A traditional craft experience awaits you this morning, with a visit to a women-run alebrijes workshop. Alebrijes are hand-painted folk art sculptures of mythical creatures. During your visit you will learn from the artists about the materials, process, and stories of the artists and the sculptures. They can tell you what your alebrije and nahual (spirit animal) are by sharing your birth date. Back in the centre of Oaxaca, your leader will take you on an orientation walk before a free afternoon. Oaxaca is known for its incredible food so you're sure to enjoy dinner with your fellow travellers at a local restaurant, perhaps enjoying regional specialties like tlayudas or mole.
Day - 6
Location: Oaxaca - Recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Oaxaca has much to offer travellers so make the most of your free day in this vibrant city. You may like to dig into Oaxaca’s celebrated cuisine during a hands-on cooking class. Or perhaps pay a visit to the archaeological site of Monte Alban. The Zapotec civilisation began construction of this city around 200 BC, and Olmecs and Mixtecs have inhabited it at different times. Have your camera ready to go, because up here you can get an amazing view across the three legs of the valley of Oaxaca. Otherwise, enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of the streets and take the opportunity to feast on some regional delicacies. Season depending, a folkloric ballet performance is also a great optional activity. The Santo Domingo Cultural Centre is also well worth a visit.
Day - 7
Location: Salina Cruz - Spend the day exploring Oaxaca’s surrounds, before travelling to Salina Cruz for the night. Set off with your leader this morning, first stopping at the famous Tule Tree, a 1500-year-old Montezuma cypress with a 36-metre circumference, making it one of the widest in the world. Travel onwards to the Mitla archaeological ruins, once the religious centre for the Zapotec people. Lunch today will be at the home of a local Zapotecan family where you’ll have the chance to try traditional dishes and learn about the culture of the indigenous Zapotec people. Visit a woman-owned mezcal farm and tour the cacti plantation. A little sampling of the different mezcals rounds out your day of exploration. Relax on the bus as you travel to Salina Cruz for the night.
Day - 8
Location: San Cristobal de las Casas - Your journey continues as you drive to the Sumidero Canyon, a gigantic natural canyon with walls reaching as high as 1,000 metres. Here you’ll hop aboard a boat for an up close and personal tour of this remarkable landscape. Be sure to keep an eye (or an ear) out for howler monkeys along the way! After your boat tour, drive to the charming city of San Cristobal de las Casas. Once in 'San Cris', as it's known, take a walk and soak up the strong old-world atmosphere of this town, which is due in no small part to the grand Spanish colonial architecture, prominent indigenous cultures and winding cobblestone streets. Your leader will help orientate you with a walk around the town centre, then you are free to venture wherever your heart desires!
Day - 9
Location: San Cristobal de las Casas - This morning, your leader will take you on a walking tour of the city, passing impressive churches, green plazas and countless museums. Next, head to the nearby Maya village of San Juan Chamula. Nestled in the highlands, this village serves as a marketplace and religious ceremonial centre for the indigenous communities who live in the surrounding hills. The local people have retained their traditional way of life and can often be seen wearing their own distinctive, colourful clothes. Make the short drive to the next town of Zincantan. As you explore with your leader, you'll learn more about these mostly Maya communities. Later, during free time back in San Cris, perhaps rent a bike to explore the town further.
Day - 10
Location: Palenque - Say goodbye to San Cristobal de Las Casas as you head for Palenque and its surrounding jungle. It will be an early start to minimise the chance of hitting road closures common in the area. There will be a stop or two to stretch your legs, before arriving at the low and wide Agua Azul Waterfalls, which flow slowly over limestone rocks. There's time for lunch and a quick dip, so remember to pack your swimsuit! Otherwise, enjoy a scenic stroll around the beautiful surroundings, before continuing to Palenque.
Day - 11
Location: Palenque - Set out this morning to the archaeological site of Palenque. Located on a hilltop in an area of hot jungle, these are some of the most astounding Maya ruins in the region, dating back as far as AD600. Some of the ruins remain unexcavated and are hidden in the surrounding forest. Enjoy a guided tour of the site and listen out for the calls of howler monkeys as you explore this lost city. After your tour, head back to your hotel in the more modern city of Palenque and perhaps spend the afternoon relaxing by the pool.
Day - 12
Location: Merida - Settle in for another driving day as you travel from Palenque to the historic city of Merida. Your drive will be broken up with short stops and an included lunch stop. Lunch will be a moreish selection of local seafood, with alternatives available. Founded in 1542, Merida is the capital of the Yucatan state and has retained much of its old-world charm. After the drive, stretch your legs with an orientation walk with your leader where you’ll have the chance to check out the city’s colonial buildings and learn about its Maya heritage.
Day - 13
Location: Merida - Today is a free day to explore the many sights of Merida. Perhaps visit some of the museums, including the impressive Regional Anthropology Museum of the Yucatan, and stroll the city streets which are alive with art and culture. Hang out in the green and shady Plaza Grande, with the 16th-century cathedral on one side and City Hall, State Government Palace and Casa Montejo on the other. The outdoor market is another essential visit, with an array of hammocks and Mayan replicas for sale, plus a selection of enticing local cuisine, including the dish cochinita pibil ('little pig') or the incredibly spicy El Yucateco hot sauce. If you can't visit enough Maya sites, you may want to head for the ancient ruins of Uxmal. Here you'll visit the amazing Palace of the Governors, considered by many to be the best example of classic Maya architecture. You may choose to travel west out to the coast to take a boat ride and visit the Celestun Bird Sanctuary and Biosphere Reserve. Here, near extensive beaches lined with coconut trees, you'll see a variety of coastal birds. Depending on the season (usually November to March), you may be able to witness the magnificent sight of thousands of flamingos painting a pink streak across the landscape.
Day - 14
Location: Playa del Carmen - Your first stop today is Chichen Itza, possibly the most famous Maya site in Mexico. You'll see the marvellous Temple of Kukulkan standing over the ruins and not far from the temple is the ‘ball court’, where many disputes are known to have been settled by way of a ball game that employed only the elbows, hips and wrists. Stone carvings depicting violence suggest it was not such a casual sport. Following a guided tour of the site, enjoy a special lunch with a local family in the town of Piste. Tuck into a traditional Pibil feast, a Maya style of cooking that involves barbecuing underground, which the family have perfected over generations. Finally, continue to the popular seaside town of Playa del Carmen, where you may like to join your group for a final dinner together.
Day - 15
Location: Playa del Carmen - With no activities planned for today, you are free to leave the accommodation at any time. If you wish to spend more time in Playa del Carmen, we'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).