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Land of the Maya Overview
- 2014-01-01 - 2014-12-31
Explore the historic ancient ruins of Mexico, Belize and Guatemala
Wander around ancient ruins in Mexico, swan through the aqua blue waters of Belize and navigate the colonial alleyways of one of Guatemala's most beautiful major cities. From the grimy yet tantalising streets of Mexico City, through the underwater wilderness of Caye Caulker, to the ancient Maya temples of Tikal, Central America is a hot spot for historical adventures, nature enthusiasts and party animals. Pack bathers, sunscreen and a sense of adventure for an exploration through the Land of the Maya.
What's included in this trip
Land of the Maya SummaryAdd to Shortlist
On arrival in Mexico, head to the heart of the downtown area to settle in. Meet the team and grab a delicious dinner of spicy tacos, cheesy quesadillas and traditional arroz con frijoles negro (black beans and rice). Check out the must-see archaeological ruins of Teotihuacan, home to the two giant pyramids – Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon. Stroll down the Avenue of the Dead with a local guide to uncover the site's many wonders and to better understand the way life was lived nearly 2000 years ago. Then visit the major religious landmark Virgen de Guadalupe before spending some free time feeling the rhythm of Mexico City’s streets.
Travel by minibus to Puebla and explore a city that has successfully combined modern developments with its colonial past. Take the time to intimately explore this Mexican township. Head to the market and bargain for local arts and crafts, or take an optional hike to a nearby volcano. If the food of Mexico has already seduced you, why not learn a few new cooking skills at a traditional cooking class and try to master the local dish mole poblano, which originated in Puebla and is famous all over Mexico.
Explore the colourful markets, exciting architecture and flavoursome cuisine of Oaxaca. Bargain with the Zapotec and Mixtec Indians, who sell colourful woven blankets and shawls, or wander the streets, dazed by the range of architectural delights. Otherwise, relax like a local with a mezcal or tequila in hand while sitting in the shady central square, El Zovalo. Be sure to visit Monte Alban, a mountain home that was inhabited for 1,500 years by a succession of cultures (Olmecs, Zapotecs and Mixtecs).
See the widest tree in the world – the Tule Tree – and stop by a mezcal factory to see how this famed spirit is made and at the Mitla ruins on the way to Tehuantepec.
Discover the old-world charm of San Cristobal de las Casas on this journey into a more traditional part of Mexico. Explore cobbled streets dotted with local shop fronts, which are run by friendly indigenous locals. Be introduced to this colonial city on a village walking tour, passing impressive cathedrals, green plazas and countless museums and cafes. Learn more about the tradition, culture and history of these mainly Maya communities and, during free time, perhaps rent a bike to explore the town further or venture to the Sumidero Canyon.
Head out on a waterfall excursion like no other. See Misol-ha – a fast-moving waterfall, where water plunges 35 metres and crashes into the pool below. Later, make tracks to the low and wide Agua Azul, which flows slowly over limestone rocks. Remember to pack your swimsuit for a quick dip in the afternoon. Otherwise, hike around the beautiful surrounding area.
Take a dip in the Gulf of Mexico before continuing on to the fortified colonial town of Campeche.
Spend the day exploring Merida’s well-preserved Old Town. As well as being the capital of Yucatan state, Merida is the cultural capital of the entire peninsula. Today is free to choose your own adventure: relax in a sunny central cafe, meander museums or walk around the plaza Grande checking out cathedrals, 16th-century houses and its municipal cultural centre. There is a lot to see and do, but be sure to stop, take a breather and try some unique Yucatecan food. Influenced by the Maya culture, this cheesy, spicy and meaty cuisine is some of the best in Mexico.
Explore Chichen Itza, arguably the most famous, and by far the most visited, Maya site in Mexico. With a local guide, see the El Castillo pyramid, where human sacrifices were made to appease the Maya rain god Chac, and learn about the ball courts, where disputes were settled during a sporting game (combatants were only allowed to hit the ball using their elbows, hips and wrists, and the losing players lost their heads). In Playa del Carmen, spend time at the beach, exploring the blue waters with a snorkel while the Caribbean rays falls from the sky.
Venture to the island of Caye Caulker and partake in an exciting snorkelling trip. Jump into the ocean and swim with the fishes... and sharks, turtles and rays. For enthusiastic divers, take an optional excursion to the incredible Blue Hole or stay on dry land to meet the island’s celebrated 'cake lady' and 'tamale seller'. Afterwards, savour the amazing variety of seafood – be sure to try buttered lobster and a mojito or two. The locals are right, this is a place to relax and unwind.
Head to San Ignacio and choose to explore Xunantunich, an impressive Maya ceremonial centre or journey to Mountain Pine Ridge. For adventure seekers, hit the water and go on a tubing adventure into the heart of this beautiful region.
Towering above the jungle of Tikal National Park, the granite temples of Tikal are an awesome sight and one of the most magnificent Maya ruins. Explore a maze of smaller structures hidden in the jungle growth. If you’re feeling energetic, climb to the top of the ruins for spectacular views over the canopy. You may even spot toucans, macaws and other colourful birds.
Fly to Guatemala City and head to Antigua. In the old colonial capital, walk along cobbled streets to find colourful markets, laze on the beautiful white beach and dance to indigenous marimba music. Visit a women's cooperative, which aims to assist community development, health, education, income generation and access to clean water for women in the area. See the ladies demonstrate their skills in traditional crafts before enjoying some of their delicious cooking. At the end of this Mexico and Guatemala exploration, sit down at the beach, watch the sun set into the ocean and cheers a cerveza to a fabulous trip.
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