Unearth the treasures of Mexico, from spicy Mexico City to Playa del Carmen

Cheers a margarita glass to the vivacious beauty and fiery flavours of Mexico. Discover the culture and landscapes of this fascinating country on a trip that takes you from Mexico City to Play del Carmen – with a spattering of enticing stops along the way. Discover Maya history and culture at the incredible Chichen Itza ruins, and visit traditional communities in the charming San Cristobal de las Casas. Indulge in a feast of delicious local food, with a chance to learn some cooking skills of your own. And snorkel in the brilliant Caribbean waters, laze on white sands and stroll through lively marketplaces. Waterfalls and volcanoes await you, and a host of museums, churches and archaeological sites give you a taste of Mexico’s rich cultural heritage.

TRIP CHANGES FOR 2017:

The itinerary of this trip will change from 1 February 2017.

In order to improve our trips we regularly review feedback from past travellers and our local operations team. As a result of that process, in 2017 we’ll make the following changes to this itinerary:

Puebla will be a stop en-route to Oaxaca.

We will fly from Oaxaca to San Cristobal de las Casas (enabling us to drop an overnight stop in Tehuantepec) and

We will remove the overnight stop in Campeche.

These changes will enable us to spend more time in highlight destinations, including Mexico City, Oaxaca and Playa del Carmen.

The overall itinerary will look like this:

Day 1 Mexico City
Day 2 Mexico City
Day 3 Teotihuacan / Mexico City
Day 4 Puebla / Oaxaca
Day 5 Oaxaca
Day 6 Oaxaca
Day 7 San Cristobal de las Casas
Day 8 San Cristobal de las Casas
Day 9 Palenque
Day 10 Palenque Ruins / Merida
Day 11 Merida
Day 12 Chichen Itza / Playa del Carmen
Day 13 Playa del Carmen
Day 14 Tulum / Playa del Carmen
Day 15 Playa del Carmen

Start
Mexico City, Mexico
Finish
Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Countries
Mexico
Themes
Explorer
Code
QVKD
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 12
Carbon offset
186kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • This is one of our most comprehensive adventures in Mexico, rich in historical and cultural highlights
  • Get up close and personal with the country's diverse heritage, from the magnificent Aztec temples of Teotihuacan to the brightly-dressed Maya folk of the hills of San Cristobal
  • There's something for everyone on this trip, whether you're a history buff, nature-lover or Epicurean
  • Compare Mexico City's heady street-food scene to the subtler fare found in Oaxaca
  • Your adventure culminates in rest and relaxation. The white sands and azure waters of Playa Del Carmen are the perfect excuse to extend your stay in Mexico

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 May 2016 to 31 December 2016. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2017 - 31 December 2017

Arrive at Mexico City’s Benito Juarez International Airport and be transferred to your hotel. Settle in and, if you have time, take a stroll to get a feel for this vibrant and rapidly growing capital where the ancient and modern collide. In the evening, usually around 7 pm, you will meet your leader and other members of your group for a pre-trip meeting. The exact time and place of the meeting can be found at the hotel reception. Generally the meeting is followed by an optional group dinner at a nearby restaurant.
Enjoy a guided city tour. You'll visit the Metropolitan Cathedral, Zocalo, National Palace and Museum of Anthropology. After that, the day is yours to spend as you please. Learn some dance moves from the locals, or try out your own to the music of a mariachi band. Ask your leader about where to find Aztec ruins in the city centre, or perhaps take the subway right through to one of the temples. If you'd rather venture out of the city, take a trip to the beautiful canals and gardens of Xochimilco, located 28 kilometres south of the city.
Head to Puebla in a private minivan. Along the way, you'll stop at Teotihuacan, about 50 kilometres northeast of Mexico City. Here you'll discover the amazing Aztec ruins known as the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon which dominate the skyline. This was once the Aztec capital, and one of the biggest cities in the world. Stroll down ‘The Avenue of the Dead’ with your local guide and see the clues to what life was like here nearly 2,000 years ago. Continue to Puebla, a town of palpable colonial heritage despite rapid development. You'll visit the local markets, where some excellent hand-paint tiles are available. To finish off a busy day, perhaps sample some mole Poblano, a local specialty that's famous across Mexico. You can even try cooking it yourself in an optional cooking class.
Take a minibus to Oaxaca, the beautiful colonial city known for its cuisine and lively art scene. It's also a great place to browse for traditional Mexican handicrafts, with descendants of the Zapotec and Mixtec Indians selling an array of bright woven blankets and shawls. Enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of the streets and take the opportunity to feast on some regional delicacies. From the delicious banana-leaf-wrapped ‘tomales’ to the spicy baked chilli and lime grasshoppers, there's no shortage of unique and delicious fare, usually sold by the lovely old ladies of the markets.
Today you'll travel up a nearby hill to see the ancient Zapotec ruins 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. With the help of your local guide, you will explore the remnants of plazas, tombs, palaces and temples that make up this intriguing site. Return to Oaxaca for the afternoon and enjoy some free time. Season depending, a folkloric ballet performance is a great optional activity while you're here. There's also the Santo Domingo Cultural Centre which is worth a visit.
Drive south towards the Pacific coast on your way to Tehuantepec. En route you'll stop to see the Tule Tree, a massive Montezuma cypress generally regarded as one of the most stunning trees in the world. You'll also visit a Mezcal factory to learn the backstory of this heady Mexican drop, which you may have sampled by now. Another stopover on today's drive is Mitla, an important Zapotec archaeological site that was originally built as a gateway between the world of the living and the world of the dead. Continue then to Tehuantepec, where you'll spend the night.
Continue driving east into the state of Chiapas. On the way you will visit Sumidero Canyon, a gorgeous, 800-metre-deep canyon carved out by the Sumidero River. It's roughly as old as the Grand Canyon. Continue to San Cristobal de las Casas. Stretch your legs, 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.
Take a tour around the Mayan villages of San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan today. Nestled in the highlands, these villages serve as marketplaces and religious ceremonial centres for the indigenous folk 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 costumes. As you explore these villages with a guide, you'll learn more about these mostly Mayan communities.
Say goodbye to San Cristobal de Las Casas as you head for Palenque. Enjoy some free time exploring the town when you arrive.

The local Zapatista movement in the region around Palenque has been quite active in recent months, occasionally holding protests or blocking roads. Our local operations team is constantly monitoring this situation to ensure the safety of our passengers and leaders. In some cases we might need to use an alternative route from San Cristobal to Palenque to avoid this activity - more so to bypass long traffic delays than any real danger. It's also possible that the Misol-Ha and Agua Azul waterfalls will not be accessible at the time we are scheduled to visit.
Today you will visit the ruins of Palenque. Located on a hilltop in an area of hot jungle, these are some of the most astounding Mayan ruins in the region, dating back as far as AD 600. Some of the ruins remain unexcavated and are hidden in the surrounding forest. Enjoy a guided tour of the site. As you explore this lost city keep an ear out for the strange calls of howler monkeys reverberating through the jungle.
Pack your swimmers today as you drive north towards the Gulf of Mexico. On the way there you'll be stopping at the beach, so take the opportunity for a refreshing dip. Continue to Campeche where you'll spend the night. Enjoy an orientation tour of the city and visit the San Miguel Fort and museum. Campeche is a charming Spanish colonial harbour town, a UNESCO World Heritage site complete with walls and fortifications. Many of the buildings have been restored, and as a result the townscape is quite a sight.
Head for the ancient ruins of Uxmal this morning. Here you'll visit the amazing Palace of the Governors, considered by many to be the best example of classic Mayan architecture. You'll also visit the mystical Pyramid of the Magician, comprising five super-imposed temples. Continue to Merida and take a tour of this 'white city'. See its many dazzling colonial buildings and learn more about the Mayan heritage of the town.
Enjoy free time exploring the many sights of Merida. The Regional Anthropology Museum of the Yucatan and the shady Plaza Grande are both good places to start. At the latter you will find the 16th-century cathedral, City Hall, State Government Palace and Casa Mantejo. The outdoor market is essential, with an array of hammocks and Mayan replicas for sale. Here you can sample some local fare, including the dish cochinita pibil ('little pig') or the mind-blowingly spicy El Yucateco hot sauce. Ask your guide for some more recommendations.
Chichen Itza is your first stop today. This is possibly the most famous Mayan site in Mexico. You'll see the marvellous Temple of Kukulkan standing over the ruins. 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, continue to the resort town of Playa del Carmen. Here you can spend your time snorkelling among the mangroves, diving in underground caverns or strolling along white sands. In the evenings, kick back and watch the waves with a margarita. It's possible to take a ferry from here across to Cozumel for some reef diving too.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are free to depart the accommodation at any time. But to make the most of what Playa has to offer, extending your stay is highly recommended.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
14 breakfasts
Transport
Private minivan
Accommodation
Hotel (14 nights)
Included activities
  • Complimentary Airport Arrival Transfer
  • Mexico City - National Palace and Diego Rivera murals
  • Mexico City - Museum of Anthropology
  • Mexico City - Metropolitan Cathedral
  • Mexico City - City Tour
  • Mexico City - Teotihuacan archaeological site (inc. transport, entrance and guide)
  • Puebla - Santo Domingo Church and Rosary Chapel
  • Puebla - City Tour
  • Oaxaca - Monte Alban Ruins (entrance fee)
  • Oaxaca - Mitla ruins visit
  • Oaxaca - Mezcal Factory
  • Oaxaca - Tule Tree
  • San Cristobal de las Casas - Sumidero Canyon (inc. transport)
  • San Cristobal de las Casas - Mayan villages tour inc. San Juan Chamula
  • Palenque - Misol-Ha and Agua Azul waterfalls
  • Palenque - Archaeological site guided tour
  • Campeche - San Miguel Fort
  • Campeche - City Tour
  • Merida - Uxmal Ruins tour (inc. transport and guide)
  • Merida - Guided city tour
  • Chichen Itza - Entrance

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Important notes

1. A single supplement is available on this trip.
2. An airport arrival transfer is included. Please provide your flight details at the time of booking.

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what’s included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

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Reviews

Our Best of Mexico trips score an average of 4.64 out of 5 based on 33 reviews in the last year.

Best of Mexico , July 2016

Best of Mexico , July 2016