Travel through vivacious Mexico then onto historic Havana to the Caribbean splendour of Trinidad and Cienfuegos

Discover the heart of Mexico's Aztec, Zapotec, Mayan and Spanish cultures on this journey spanning ruins, pueblos and beaches. Arrive in Mexico and travel through the mad metropolis of Mexico City to the relaxed beaches of the Yucatan Peninsula, and unravel the magnificent mystery of the ancient Mexican civilisations along the way. Then explore the charming streets of Havana, where old-time American automobiles, richly-scented Cuban cigars and an eclectic tapestry of architectures evoke a colourful past. Between the small-village vibes of Vinales and the outstanding charisma of Trinidad, discover Cienfuegos and its heartbreaking blend of Caribbean and Parisian flavours. With plenty of time to swim, snorkel, cycle and hike, this adventure combines Latin America's most colourful and exciting destinations.

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Terms & Conditions

Start
Mexico City, Mexico
Finish
Havana, Cuba
Countries
Cuba, Mexico
Style
Basix
Code
QVBAC
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 16

Why we love this trip

  • You've never seen true colour until you've been to a Mexican market. Practice your bargaining skills, snap some photos and pick up traditional handicrafts at the markets in multiple destinations

  • Eat your way through arty Oaxaca. Mole, mezcal and chocolate for dinner? Delicioso!

  • Chichen Itza is one the New Seven Wonders of the World. It's not hard to see why - strolling around the ancient Mayan ruins feels pretty wondrous 

  • Away from the thumping nightlife of Cancun, splash around, sun-bake and play on Playa del Carmen's white sandy beaches

  • Be swept away by the eclectic history of Cuba’s capital as you join a knowledgeable local guide on a half-day tour of Old Havana

  • Venture to the village of Vinales, where the small-town charms are many. Spend your time sipping rum in quaint bars with locals and exploring hidden caves in the mountains

  • Stop in at the mausoleum of Che Guevara for a fascinating insight into the rise and fall of the charismatic and highly celebrated Cuban revolutionary

  • See why Trinidad is a favourite for many Intrepid adventurers. Wander the cobblestone streets alongside cowboys and farmers and clock the best-preserved colonial buildings in Cuba

Is this trip right for you?

  • This trip involves some long days of travel by local transport, including two overnight buses. While this can be tiring, it's also a fantastic way to rub shoulders with the locals and get under the skin of a place. 

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  • Cuba is different, and that's a big part of its allure. Things don't always go according to plan, and many things don't work the same way as back home. Patience and good humour will go a long way in this beautiful destination.

  • Funds can be difficult to access in Cuba. Ideally bring multiple credit cards from several different banks just to be sure.

  • Luxuries such as air conditioning, and even toilet seats, are often scarce. Part of the experience here is learning to appreciate everyday Cuban resourcefulness.

  • Internet can also often patchy or unavailable – embrace the holiday from social media!

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2018 to 31 December 2018. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2017 - 31 December 2017

Bienvenidos! Welcome to Mexico. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting today at 6 pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.

Modern meets ancient in Mexico City - one of the world's largest urban centres. Although crowded and smoggy, D.F. (Distrito Federal) offers a great variety of museums, galleries and architecture, along with exciting nightlife and delicious street food. If you arrive into the city early, head to the Zocalo, the city's huge central square, to see Aztec ruins and colonial architecture. Perhaps relax in one of the many parks, plazas or gardens or take an Urban Adventure with an expert local guide.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Mexico City Markets and Food Tour - Urban Adventures - USD41
  • Mexico City - Teotihuacan archaeological site (inc. transport, entrance and guide) - USD50
  • Mexico City - National Palace and Diego Rivera murals - Free
  • Mexico City - Metropolitan Cathedral - Free
  • Mexico City - Templo Mayor (Archaeological Site and Museum) - USD5
  • Mexico City - Palace of Fine Arts (Bellas Artes) - USD5
  • Mexico City - National Museum of Anthropology - USD6
  • Mexico City - Bosque de Chapultepec & Natural History Museum - USD5
  • Mexico City - Frida Kahlo Museum - MXN200
  • Mexico City - Estadio Azteca football match (ticket price depends on the game) - USD30
  • Mexico City - Mariachis in Garibaldi Square (entry is free, price to hire a band for 2-3 songs) - USD8
  • Mexico City - Floating Gardens of Xochimilco and boat tour - USD45
  • Mexico City - Torre Latino 360° lookout - USD5
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This morning your leader will take you on an orientation walk around the city, followed by a free afternoon. If you like art, the Frida Kahlo Museum is a must-see. Another fascinating activities is a boat tour through the canal district of Xochimilco.
Alternatively, you can choose to take an optional day trip to the archaeological ruins of Teotihuacan, 50 kilometres out of the city. A local guide will lead you down 'The Avenue of the Dead', pointing out the historic Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon. You'll also visit the religious landmark of the Virgen de Guadalupe.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Mexican Night Out: Cantinas, Mariachi & Lucha Libre - Urban Adventures - USD58
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This morning and most of the afternoon are free to continue exploring Mexico City. Later in the afternoon, take taxis to the bus station and catch a local bus to Puebla (approx 2.5 hours). Please make sure you bring bottled water and snacks for the journey. Local buses in Mexico aren’t the colourful school buses you’ll see in other areas of Central America. Most of the buses we use in Mexico are comfortable coach-style vehicles, with a bathroom and seats for all passengers. Local buses tend to blast the air conditioning so remember to pack a jacket in case you get cold.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today is free to discover Puebla at your leisure. Although a rapidly growing city, Puebla features many well-maintained colonial churches and buildings. Two good examples are the Santa Domingo Church and Rosary Chapel. Head to the markets to brush up on your bargaining skills and pick up some hand-painted tiles or other handicrafts. If you're looking for something outside of the city, perhaps take the train to Cholula town to visit the Great Pyramid. After a day sightseeing and shopping, why not try some mole Poblano, a dish native to Puebla and famous all over Mexico? You could even try making it yourself during an optional cooking class.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Puebla - Santo Domingo Church and Rosary Chapel - Free
  • Puebla - Visit to Cholula - USD15
  • Puebla - Cooking class - USD85
  • Puebla - Lucha Libre show (ticket price depends on seating area) - USD15
  • Puebla - Museum of Art - USD5
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today travel by local bus to Oaxaca (approx five hours). You'll have two full free days here. Your leader will provide ideas for activities and help you to make the most of your time. A beautiful old colonial town, Oaxaca is full of graceful arcades and colourful markets. The markets are populated by descendents of the Zapotec and Mixtec Indians selling colourful woven blankets and shawls. Oaxaca is also known for its arts scene, including folk art, fine art and dance. Explore the narrow, cobbled streets or simply sit in the square drinking mezcal as the world goes by. Your hotel is within walking distance of Oaxaca's nightlife hot spots.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Spend the next two days exploring Oaxaca. Perhaps visit the spectacular mountain top temples of Monte Alban just outside the city. Monte Alban was inhabited for 1,500 years by the Olmec, Zapotec and Mixtec peoples, and is an outstanding example of a pre-Columbian ceremonial centre. The settlement's terraces, dams, canals and pyramids were literally carved out of the mountain. Alternatively, you could take a day tour out to the nearby Mitla Ruins, the mineral springs of Hierve el Agua and a mezcal distillery. Back in town, why not whip up something delicious at a cooking class?

On the evening of Day 7, take a first-class overnight bus to San Cristobal del las Casas (approx 13 hours in total). First-class buses in Mexico are quite comfortable. They are equipped with toilets and reclining seats with plenty of leg room. They are always air-conditioned, so make sure you take a light jumper with you as it may get cold on board.

While the bus is very comfortable, the road from Oaxaca to San Cristobal has some very winding sections. If you suffer from motion sickness, this will be a good time to have your medication ready.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Oaxaca - Monte Alban Ruins (entrance fee) - USD10
  • Oaxaca - Full-day tour inc. Mitla Ruins, Hierve el Agua and mezcal distillery - USD45
  • Oaxaca - Santo Domingo Cultural Centre - USD8
  • Oaxaca - Cooking class - USD80
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Petty thefts happen from time to time during overnight bus journeys. These opportunistic individuals are not only an annoyance, they are also unfortunately extremely talented. They wait for passengers to be asleep to skilfully search through carry-on luggage in search of cameras, money and credit cards. During overnight bus journeys, it is safest to carry all your valuable belongings in the main luggage compartment which remains locked and out of the reach of anyone throughout the journey.
Arrive into San Cristobal early in the morning. Check-in at the hotel isn't usually until midday, so if you can't check in on arrival, leave your luggage and start exploring San Cristobal. Today and tomorrow are at your leisure. As always, your group leader will help you arrange to take part in optional activities. With its winding cobblestone streets and colonial architecture, San Cristobal de las Casas maintains an old-world feel mixed with strong pre-hispanic roots. The surrounding villages are home to Tzotzil and Tzeltal groups who maintain their tribal origins through their traditional costumes and customs. You might like to explore the villages by mountain bike. If you take a day trip to San Juan Chamula, make sure to visit the church. The floor is covered with pine needles and the air is heavy with incense. Shamans come here to carry out cleansings with firewater, ancient prayer and chickens. If you visit, please be aware of a strict ban on cameras as the local people maintain their traditional customs. There are also markets selling colourful handicrafts. Another option is a day trip to Sumidero Canyon. Back in town, wander to a local cafe and try an 'elote', a traditional highland corn snack.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • San Cristobal de las Casas - Mayan villages tour inc. San Juan Chamula - USD20
  • San Cristobal de las Casas - Sumidero Canyon (inc. transport) - USD30
  • San Cristobal de las Casas - Mountain bike tour - USD40
  • San Cristobal de las Casas - Amber (Jade) Museum - MXN20
  • San Cristobal de las Casas - Jade Museum - USD5
  • San Cristobal de las Casas - Museum of Typical Costumes - USD4
  • San Cristobal de las Casas - El Chorreadero canyoning - MXN1250
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today travel along a windy road by private minivan to Palenque (approx 6 hours). Once you've arrived, the afternoon is free for you to relax or explore. Situated in hot jungle, Palenque is the jumping off point to the nearby Mayan ruins of the same name. You'll have tomorrow to check them out.

Notes: 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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today you have the chance to visit the ruins of Palenque. Situated on a hilltop, the ruins date back to 600 AD and are some of the most impressive Mayan relics in Mexico. As you walk among the temples (closed-toe shoes recommended), listen out for the eerie calls of howler monkeys echoing from the jungle. There are many ruins which are still un-excavated and remain hidden in the forest. You can opt to take a guided tour of the ruins or through the surrounding jungle. This evening, transfer to the bus station and board an overnight bus to Merida. The journey should take around eight to nine hours in total.
Accommodation
  • Overnight bus (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Palenque - Guided tour of Palenque Ruins (including guide, transport & entrance fee) - USD60
  • Palenque - Jungle Trail tour - USD15
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Early this morning arrive into the historic town of Merida. Founded in 1542, Merida still retains much of its old-world charm. Wander through the Old Town, check out some museums 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 Mantejo on the others. For a taste of Merida's 19th-century glory, go for a walk along the mansion-lined Paseo de Montejo. Mornings are the best time to visit the outdoor markets, where you can stock up on hammocks and Mayan replicas. This is also a great place to sample local food specialities, such as 'cochinita pibil' or the extremely spicy El Yucateco hot sauce. Merida is the gateway to the Maya ruins of Uxmal. A tour of the ruins includes transport and a local guide. Little is known about the site's origins but it is thought the city was founded around 500 AD. Much of the site is decorated with masks of the rain god Chac. You can also visit a nearby bird sanctuary or a variety of other ruins. Merida's locals love dancing. Every Sunday the town's streets are transformed into an open-air dance floor, with salsa and merengue bands providing the music.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Merida - Uxmal Ruins tour (inc. shared transport and guide) - MXN800
  • Merida - Cuzama cenotes tour (inc. transport and guide) - USD45
  • Merida - Celestun Bird Sanctuary (entrance and transport) - USD50
  • Merida - Guided city tour - USD15
  • Merida - Dzibilchaltun Ruins tour - USD70
  • Merida - Contemporary Art Museum - USD5
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Travel to Playa del Carmen by private minivan, stopping en route for an included visit to the Maya ruins of Chichen Itza (this first leg will take about two hours). Recently named one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, Chichen Itza contains both Toltec and Mayan ruins lying alongside each other. The famous El Castillo pyramid dominates the site. There is also a large ball court where games used to be held. Nearby, excavations of the Well of Sacrifice offered up treasures of jade, copper and gold as well as many human and animal bones. The group will spend 2-3 hours at Chichen Itza before continuing on to Playa (approx 3 hours). Blessed with azure waters, powdery beaches and a European feel, Playa del Carmen is a resort city close to Cancun but with less of a party atmosphere. On your last night of the trip, kick back with a margarita and watch the sunset.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Chichen Itza Ruins - Entrance
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Travel to Cuba. Although the flight is not included, a complimentary departure transfer to Cancun Airport and a complimentary arrival transfer in Havana are included with your trip.
If you arrive into Havana in the morning, please note most activities in Cuba can only be booked through the tourist desk in the lobbies of the larger hotels or direct with the venue. Otherwise, there are plenty of good museums to check out, including the Museo de la Revolucion and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes.

There will be a welcome meeting at approximately 6pm this evening. Please expect a letter from your leader in the afternoon of Day 1 to confirm the place of your meeting (if by 5pm you cannot locate this letter then please ask your guesthouse owner if one has been delivered, or ask to call our assistance line listed in the "Problems and emergency contact information" section of this document). We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information again at this meeting, so ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. The tour briefing is generally followed by an optional group dinner.

 
Accommodation
  • Standard guesthouse (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Havana - Buena Vista Social Club - CUC30
  • Havana - Cigar factory tour - CUC12
  • Havana - La Cabana Fortress canon blast ceremony - CUC8
  • Havana - Baseball game (Oct - Apr) - CUC3
  • Havana - Tourist bus day pass - CUC5
  • Havana - Ernest Hemingway tour - CUC70
  • Havana - Morro Castle - CUC3
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Please see "Joining instructions" for more information about exiting the arrivals hall and connecting with your arrival transfer driver. Please trust that your driver will know the address of your assigned guesthouse.

As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group will change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary.
This morning your leader will take you on a walking tour of the Old Havana. This tour includes a visit to the cathedral, Plaza de Armas, San Francisco de Asis, Plaza Vieja, Central Park and other sites. Next you will head west on a private bus to Vinales (approximately 3 hours). This is a small and charming rural village, and probably the easiest place in Cuba to mingle with locals, who are very sociable and love nothing better than to drink rum and dance the night away. The scenery around Vinales is some of the most picturesque in Cuba.
Accommodation
  • Standard guesthouse (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Havana - Guided walking tour of Old Havana
  • Vinales - Orientation Walk
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
You will have an included informal Spanish lesson when the group decides. Then enjoy some free time today in Vinales, which you'll soon see is home to extraordinary scenery that's some of Cuba's best. Soak up the slow, old-world pace of rural Cuba, as oxen plod gracefully along the streets. There are many optional outdoor activities available. You might like to cruise around the area on a bicycle, hike through the tobacco fields or to explore one of the America’s largest cave complexes up in the mountains. Your leader will have further recommendations.
Accommodation
  • Standard guesthouse (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Vinales - Informal Spanish lesson
Optional Activities
  • Vinales - Bicycle hire (per day) - CUC5
  • Vinales - Live music venues - CUC2
  • Vinales - Palenque Cave - CUC1
  • Vinales - Cueva del Indio (Cave visit with boat trip) - CUC5
  • Vinales - Salsa lesson (per hour) - CUC10
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Cave visits will require sturdy footwear, as they can involve walking across slippery rocks.
Today is a long travel day - Head back to Havana before continuing east to Playa Larga (approximately 8 hours). You will stop at the Bay of Pigs for a swim, and if there is time you can hire snorkel gear. Continue to Playa larga where you'll spend the night. 
Accommodation
  • Standard guesthouse (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Bay of Pigs - Visit & swim
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Hit the road again today, firstly visiting the Giron Museum to learn about the Bay of Pigs Invasion – the battle between the US and the Cuban revolutionaries which resulted in the first defeat of a US-backed takeover in Latin America. Next stop is Cienfuegos, which some locals like to call 'The Pearl of the South'. You'll have time for an optional lunch or simply discover its beautiful colonial centre, with its wide Parisian-style boulevard and elegant colonnades. If there is time, pay a visit to the Palacio del Valle with the group. Once a modest home for a local trader, this palace is now Cienfuegos' architectural pride and joy. The entire edifice drips with ornate carvings in Venetian alabaster. Then finally on to Trinidad (approximately 1 hour drive) is a standout destination for many visitors to Cuba, due in no small part to a friendly populace, old-fashioned feel and particularly well-preserved colonial buildings. The Santeria religion (a voodoo-like Afro-Cuban tradition) which is practiced here makes the town all the more intriguing. For an insight into the colourful post-revolutionary period, the Museo Nacional de la Lucha Contra los Bandidos and the Casa de los Mártires de Trinidad are great to visit. Nearby is the sprawling Valle de los Ingenios, where sugar plantations stretch out as far as the eye can see.
Accommodation
  • Standard guesthouse (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Playa Giron - Museum Giron Entrance and Film
  • Cienfuegos - Orientation Walk
  • Trinidad - Orientation walk
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today is a free day in Trinidad. For some beachside fun and perhaps a little snorkelling, head down to Playa Ancon. Just be careful you don't stand on a sea urchin. Hiking and cycling are equally good options, and there are some excellent walking trails in the nearby Sierra del Escambray mountains. At some point while you're here, a great activity is to go to a folklore show at one of the town's numerous open-air venues. Cuba has a rich and varied music and dance tradition that draws roots from Spain, Africa and France, and this is your chance to experience it all first-hand, from the Mambo to the rumba.
Accommodation
  • Standard guesthouse (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Trinidad - Bicycle rental (full day) - CUC5
  • Trinidad - Live music venues - CUC5
  • Trinidad - Musical instrument lesson (guitar, double bass, tres, percussion - per hour) - CUC10
  • Trinidad - Trek to El Nicho Waterfall (taxi, entrance fee & guide) - CUC27
  • Trinidad - Ancon beach shuttle bus - CUC4
  • Trinidad - Cayo Blanco island catamaran cruise - CUC45
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
On the way back to Havana you will pass by Santa Clara to visit the Che Guevara mausoleum and memorial. Che's remains were brought to rest here after they were found in a remote corner of Bolivia in 1997, where he was assassinated by the CIA-backed Bolivian army. There is an impressive bronze statue of Che bearing his rifle. Inside the museum, you can learn about his amazing life and see photos and exhibits such as his famous black beret. On reaching Havana you will return to your guesthouse, then enjoy some free time. Take the opportunity to hit the town for a final night of salsa.
Accommodation
  • Standard guesthouse (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Santa Clara - Visit to Che Guevara Mausoleum and Museum
  • Havana - Visit to Plaza de la Revolucion
Optional Activities
  • Havana - Jose Marti Memorial Tower - CUC2
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Your trip comes to an end after breakfast this morning. Check-out time is 10am. You may be able to store your luggage at the guesthouse for an extra cost.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.

Meals

No meals are included on this tour

Transport

Local bus, overnight bus, private vehicle, metro

Accommodation

Hotel (12 nights), Overnight bus (2 nights), Standard guesthouse (7 nights)

Included activities

  • Chichen Itza Ruins - Entrance
  • Havana - Guided walking tour of Old Havana
  • Vinales - Orientation Walk
  • Vinales - Informal Spanish lesson
  • Bay of Pigs - Visit & swim
  • Playa Giron - Museum Giron Entrance and Film
  • Cienfuegos - Orientation Walk
  • Trinidad - Orientation walk
  • Santa Clara - Visit to Che Guevara Mausoleum and Museum
  • Havana - Visit to Plaza de la Revolucion

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Important notes

START AND END TIME:
On Day 1 there are no activities planned until the important welcome meeting at approximately 6pm. There are no activities planned for the final day.

NON-INCLUDED FLIGHT:
The international flight between Cancun and Havana on day 15 of this itinerary is not included in the price of this trip. You must purchase the flight separately. 

COMPLIMENTARY MID-TRIP TRANSFERS:
A departure transfer to Cancun Airport & an arrival transfer in Havana is included. To book your complimentary transfers you must provide your flight details to your booking agent at least 14 days prior to travel.

SINGLE SUPPLEMENT:
A Single Supplement to have your own room is available for purchase on this trip, however it excludes nights 6 & 11 (Overnight bus) where you will be in shared accommodation.

CUBA TOURIST CARD:
Tourists cards are required for all nationalities visiting Cuba. Travel Insurance is also compulsory, please refer to trip notes for further details regarding this.

CUBA:
There are unprecedented changes happening in Cuba right now. It is an exciting time but it also means some patience and understanding is required for the heightened demand of infrastructure, accommodation and crowds.

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides 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.

Reviews

Our Discover Mexico & Cuba trips score an average of 4 out of 5 based on 3 reviews in the last year.

Discover Mexico & Cuba , June 2017

Mark Stephenson

Discover Mexico & Cuba , May 2017

Andrea McDonnell