From cities to beaches to mountains, see the best of all terrains in Mexico and Guatemala.

From the white sands of Playa del Carmen to the thick green jungle of Guatemala, this trip will show you landscapes so beautiful you might understand why the ancient civilisations who once ruled here worshipped gods of nature. Speaking of ancient civilisations, this journey will have you exploring the cities and monuments they left behind. Scramble over the jungle-swallowed ruins of Tikal and tour the sprawling temples of Chichen Itza, all with local guides who can give you insight into what it all means.


Start
Mexico City, Mexico
Finish
Antigua, Guatemala
Destinations
Guatemala, Mexico
Style
Comfort
Code
QBKMC
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 12

Why you'll love this trip

  • Eat your feelings in Oaxaca, where produce is fresh and food is a part of history – like the mezcal made in traditional distilleries.

  • The bight yellow façade of the Convento de San Antonio de Padua disguises its complicated history as the site of a former Maya temple, destroyed in 1561.

  • See the sunrise over the towering Tikal National Park, here temples peek from behind verdant forest.

  • Kayak on a lake sheltered by volcanos in Panajachel.

Is this trip right for you?

  • This trip involves some long days of travel by private and local transport, including one overnight bus. 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.

  • Mexico's climate is sultry and tropical, so can get really hot and humid. Wear loose clothing and make sure stay hydrated, especially while out on walking tours.

Itinerary

Arrive at Mexico City’s Benito Juarez International Airport and be transferred to your hotel. A complimentary transfer is included with your trip. 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. You'll meet your leader and other members of your group this evening for a welcome meeting. The exact time and place of the meeting can be found at the hotel reception. This meeting will be followed by an optional group dinner at a nearby restaurant.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Some departures of this trip are part of a combination trip. As such, some of your fellow travellers may be continuing on longer itineraries to start the second part of their trip – Mexico & Costa Rica Experience (QVKBC) or Best of Mexico & Cuba (QVKGC) or Essence of Central America (QVKAC). Please contact our sales team if you wish to book or know more information on these longer combination trips.
Enjoy a guided city tour of Mexico City. You'll visit the Metropolitan Cathedral, Zocalo, National Palace and Museum of Anthropology. After that, the day is yours to spend as you please.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. Just outside of the city, the colourful Xochimilco gardens and canals are especially fun on weekends.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Mexico City - National Museum of Anthropology (Closed Mondays)
  • Mexico City - Leader-led city tour of Historic center
  • Mexico City - National Palace and Diego Rivera murals
  • Mexico City - Metropolitan Cathedral
Optional Activities
  • Mexico City - Frida Kahlo Museum (Cheaper for students, pensioners & on weekdays. Closed Mondays) - MXN200
  • Mexico City - Leon Trotsky Museum - MXN40
  • Mexico City - Palace of Fine Arts (Palacio de Bellas Artes) (Closed Mondays) - MXN60
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today we vist Teotihuacan, about 50 kilometres northeast of Mexico City. Here we'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’ and see the clues to what life was like here nearly 2,000 years ago. Continue on to Oaxaca (6 hours) learning some Spanish from your leader on the way. Orientation walk around hotel in 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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Teotihuacan - Archaeological site (Entrance fee, Guide & Transport)
  • Informal Spanish Lesson
  • Oaxaca - Orientation walk
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
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, at a mezcal factory and visit the Tule Tree, a 1500-year-old tree that's over 11 metres in girth.The evening is free for you to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy Oaxaca’s nightlife.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Hierve el Agua - Petrified waterfalls (Entrance fee, Guide & Transport)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
Today is a free day for you to explore Oaxaca at will. Perhaps you want 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. 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. Season depending, a folkloric ballet performance is a also a great optional activity. There's also the Santo Domingo Cultural Centre which is worth a visit.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Oaxaca - Folkloric ballet (seasonal) - USD10
  • Oaxaca - Cooking class - USD85
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Depart Oaxaca for the airport at approximately 11 am then take the 1.30 pm flight to Tuxtla airport (1 hour 20 minutes), before driving to San Cristobal de las Casas (1 hour). Once in 'SanCris', 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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • San Cristobal de las Casas - Orientation walk
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
This morning your leader will take you on a walking tour of the city. San Cristobal de las Casas maintains an old-world feel with winding cobblestone streets and colonial architecture. Next, head to the nearby Mayan villages of San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan. 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, we'll learn more about these mostly Mayan communities. During free time perhaps rent a bike to explore the town further.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • San Cristobal de las Casas - Leader-led city tour
Optional Activities
  • San Cristobal de las casas - Bicycle rental (per hour) - USD30
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
The rest of the time in SanCris is free for you to explore town. You may want to pay a visit to the Na Bolom Museum, a small museum/research centre which was the home of anthropologist and photographer Gertrude Duby-Blom and her archaeologist husband Frans Blom. While Frans explored Mayan sites all over Chiapas, Trudy studied, photographed and fought to protect the scattered Lacandon people. Today, apart from a hotel and a museum, the house provides free accommodation to Lacandon people that make their way to San Cristobal for work, studies or medical reasons. Alternatively, you may want to visit the amber (jade) museum, which displays and sells beautifully carved items and insect-embedded pieces or venture to the Sumidero Canyon to get a dose of nature.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • San Cristobal de las Casas - El Chorreadero canyoning - MXN1400
  • San Cristobal de las Casas - Na Bolom Museum - MXN50
  • San Cristobal de las Casas - Jade Museum - USD5
  • Sumidero Canyon - Boat Excursion (Entrance & Transport) - USD30
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Say goodbye to San Cristobal de Las Casas as you head for Palenque. On the way we'll visit 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, take a stroll around the beautiful surrounding area, then we'll continue to Palenque.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Agua Azul waterfall - Visit with option to swim (Entrance fee)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Special Information
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.
Early this morning you'll visit the archaeological site 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 AD600. Some of the ruins remain unexcavated and are hidden in the surrounding forest. Enjoy a guided tour of the site, and keep an ear out for the strange calls of howler monkeys as you explore this lost city. In the early afternoon we drive north to Merida (approximately 8 hours).
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Merida - Orientation walk
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
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 Mantejo 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 mind-blowingly 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 Nov-Mar), you may be able to witness the magnificent sight of thousands of flamingos painting a pink streak across the landscape .
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Merida - Uxmal Ruins tour (inc. shared transport and guide) - MXN810
  • Merida - Contemporary Art Museum - USD5
  • Merida - Celestun Bird Sanctuary (Entrance and Transport) - MXN1035
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Transfer by private vehicle to Izamal, a small city an hour's drive from Merida. Izamal is an important pre-Columbian Maya site and your leader will take you for a guided walking tour of the city including a visit to the Convento de San Antonio de Padua, a Spanish monastery built on the site of a destroyed Maya temple in 1561.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Izamal - Convento de San Antonio de Padua (Entrance)
  • Izamal - Leader-led city tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Our first stop today is Chichen Itza, an hour's drive from Izamal. This is possibly the most famous Mayan 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, we'll continue to the resort town of Playa del Carmen (2 hours).
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Chichen Itza - Archaeological site (Entrance fee, Guide & Transport)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
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. Blessed with azure waters, powdery beaches and an almost European feel, Playa del Carmen is a popular resort town famed for its coral reefs. For adventures further afield, take a ferry across the turquoise seas to Cozumel, an island famous for its reef diving, or perhaps check out the Tulum ruins. In the evening, settle in beachside and watch the world go by with a margarita in your hand or take advantage of the famous nightlife and let your salty hair down.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Tulum - Archaeological Site (Entrance fee) - MXN65
  • Dos Ojos Cenote - Fresh water rock pool (Entrance fee with snorkelling gear included) - MXN350
  • Playa del Carmen - Bicycle rental (per day) - MXN250
  • Playa del Carmen - Ferry to Cozumel (Round-trip) - MXN326
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Travel to Guatemala. Although the flight is not included, a complimentary departure transfer to Cancun Airport and a complimentary arrival transfer in Guatemala City are included with your trip. There will be a welcome meeting at approximately 6pm this evening followed by an optional group dinner. As the seat of the Spanish colonial government, Antigua was once the most important city in Central America. It was destroyed by an earthquake in 1773, but many of the colonial buildings have been restored and the architecture from its glory days can still be admired under the watchful gaze of the ever-present Pacaya Volcano.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night) (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers.
Today you’ll travel in a private vehicle to Rio Dulce. The Rio Dulce (Sweet River) runs out of Lake Izabal to the Caribbean Sea through Guatemala’s small stretch of eastern coastline sandwiched between Honduras and Belize. It’s home to the Guatemalan manatee, which you may be lucky enough to see tomorrow. It’s a long journey, approximately 6.5-7 hours, and on the drive your leader will teach you some useful Spanish phrases other than ‘una cerveza, por favor’. The van will stop for an optional lunch on the way.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Informal Spanish Lesson
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Take a scenic boat trip downstream to Livingston, a fascinating, laidback town at the mouth of the Rio Dulce that offers a unique experience of the local Garifuna culture. Afterwards explore Siete Altares (Seven Altars), the hidden cascading waterfalls. A fair level of fitness and good walking shoes is required for the path, and water shoes for the falls themselves are recommended for this activity. Later, there are several optional activities to choose from, such as exploring the nearby San Felipe fort, checking out the heritage-listed Quirigua Ruins or submerging yourself in the natural hot springs. Free evening in Rio Dulce.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Livingston - Community visit by boat
  • Siete Altares - Livingston's 7 Waterfalls Walk
Optional Activities
  • Rio Dulce - San Felipe Fort - USD4
  • Rio Dulce - Quirigua Ruins - USD41
  • Rio Dulce - Natural hot springs (including transportation) - USD25
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Depart Rio Dulce at 9 am for Flores, a 3.5-4 hour drive by private vehicle. You’ll arrive in time for an optional lunch by the water and can choose to spend the afternoon either relaxing or taking part in an optional activity, like a boat tour on Lake Peten Itza or exploring the El Castillo Fort. Your leader will also take you on an orientation walk around town and the evening is free for you to find a restaurant or grab some street food and eat by the lake.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Flores - Orientation walk
Optional Activities
  • Flores - Lake Peten Itza boat tour - USD6
  • Flores - El Castillo Fort - USD5
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Rise and shine, the group is up (very) early today to catch the sunrise at the Tikal ruins. Towering above the jungle of the Tikal National Park, the five granite temples of Tikal are an awesome sight and one of the most magnificent Maya ruins. Hidden in the jungle growth is a maze of smaller structures just waiting to be explored. The energetic can climb to the top of the ruins for spectacular views over the canopy and you may even spot toucans, macaws and other colourful birds. You’ll have an hour-long guided tour then time to explore the site on your own before returning to Flores.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Tikal National Park - Archaeological site (Entrance fee, Guide & Transport)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Another early start today with a 5.45 am departure to Flores airport for a 7 am flight to Guatemala City (1 hour). You’ll jump in a private vehicle to Panajachel, a town in the Guatemalan highlands on the shore of Lake Atitlan, and your leader will take you on an orientation walk before checking in to the hotel. There’s an optional lunch and the afternoon is free for you to explore the town’s thriving market, take a walk around the lake or perhaps you’d rather hire a kayak for a different view.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Panajachel - Orientation walk
Optional Activities
  • Panajachel - Kayak rental (per hour) - USD8
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
There are numerous villages scattered around Lake Atitlan and today you’ll jump in a shared boat and visit Santiago, the largest of them. Santiago remains very traditional with many villagers continuing to live a Tz’utujil lifestyle, and your leader will take you on a walking tour of the community. Lunch is included at Casa del Mundo, a spectacular hotel overlooking the lake, after which there’s free time walk around the village and markets on foot or rent a bike to explore further.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Lake Atitlan - Santiago Village tour
Optional Activities
  • Panajachel - Bicycle rental (per day) - USD10
  • Panajachel - Water taxi to Santiago, San Pedro or San Juan - USD8
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
Antigua is calling and we’re listening. Take a private vehicle (3 hours) back to where it all started and take a city tour (2 hours) with a local guide. Antigua remains the cultural centre of Guatemala with its cobbled streets, markets and colonial buildings, not to mention the indigenous marimba music drifting from the many bars and restaurants. The afternoon is yours to enjoy – perhaps you’ll take a chocolate-making workshop, or visit a coffee and macadamia plantation, or even hike the mighty Pacaya Volcano outside town. Don’t forget to organise a farewell dinner tonight with your group!
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Antigua - Guided City Tour
Optional Activities
  • Antigua - Chocolate-making workshop - USD25
  • Antigua - Pacaya Volcano hike - USD16
  • Antigua - Coffee/Macadamia nut plantation tour - USD45
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today is your final day and there are no activities planned. You’re free to depart after breakfast, but there’s plenty to do in Antigua if you’d like to stay on, and a whole lot more to see in Central America if you’re interested in jumping on another trip.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

22 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 1 dinner

Transport

Private vehicle, Plane, Shared boat

Accommodation

Hotel (22 nights)

Included activities

  • Mexico City - National Museum of Anthropology (Closed Mondays)
  • Mexico City - Leader-led city tour of Historic center
  • Mexico City - National Palace and Diego Rivera murals
  • Mexico City - Metropolitan Cathedral
  • Teotihuacan - Archaeological site (Entrance fee, Guide & Transport)
  • Informal Spanish Lesson
  • Oaxaca - Orientation walk
  • Hierve el Agua - Petrified waterfalls (Entrance fee, Guide & Transport)
  • San Cristobal de las Casas - Orientation walk
  • San Cristobal de las Casas - Leader-led city tour
  • Agua Azul waterfall - Visit with option to swim (Entrance fee)
  • Merida - Orientation walk
  • Izamal - Convento de San Antonio de Padua (Entrance)
  • Izamal - Leader-led city tour
  • Chichen Itza - Archaeological site (Entrance fee, Guide & Transport)
  • Livingston - Community visit by boat
  • Siete Altares - Livingston's 7 Waterfalls Walk
  • Flores - Orientation walk
  • Tikal National Park - Archaeological site (Entrance fee, Guide & Transport)
  • Panajachel - Orientation walk
  • Lake Atitlan - Santiago Village tour
  • Antigua - Guided City Tour

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm on Day 1. There are no activities planned for the final day so you may depart at any time.
2. To have a private room on this trip, a single supplement is bookable; subject to availability.
3. For the included internal flight ticket, please provide your full name exactly as per passport, at the time of booking or at least 45 days prior to travel.
4. To save you money and the hassle of booking multiple trips, this journey is a combination of some of our most popular adventures. Your leader and the composition of your group may change with the start of each adventure.
5. As this is a combination trip, the flight from Cancun Airport to Guatemala City Airport on Day 15 is not included in the tour cost and it must be purchased separately. When booking this flight, keep in mind there will be a group meeting at 6 pm in Antigua on this day so we recommend arriving prior to this.
6. A complimentary airport arrival transfer is included; valid if you are arriving on Day 1 or if you have booked pre-tour accommodation through us. You must provide your flight details to your booking agent at least 14 days prior to travel.
7. Complimentary airport arrival and departure transfers are included mid-trip to help ease your independent connections throughout the combination trip. You must provide your flight details to your booking agent at least 14 days prior to travel.
- An airport departure transfer is included to Cancun Airport
- An airport arrival transfer is included from Guatemala City Airport
8. Please be careful when booking flights to/from Antigua; make sure you fly into/out of Guatemala City Airport [GUA]. Guatemala City Airport is the closest airport to Antigua. Please do NOT book flights to/from Antigua & Barbuda Airport [ANU] as this is an island in the Caribbean.
9. Hurricane season in this region is June to November, when landslides, mudslides, flooding and disruptions to essential services can occur. Intrepid monitors any situations that arise, and may need to change itineraries or activities in response to these natural weather occurrences.

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.