Trip reference number: ITN-MEX013
Trip Operator: Rainbow Tours
Mexico is filled with ancient traditions, rich history, gorgeous natural beauty and delicious cuisine. Travel across Mexico, starting in the diverse metropolis of Mexico City and ending in the Yucatan Peninsula. In-between, stop at the delightful city of Oaxaca and visit its nearby impressive archaeological site of Monte Alban. Visit the highland town of San Cristobal de las Casas and the surrounding Tzotzil Indian villages; home to an eye-opening mix of local customs, costumes and beliefs. Discover the jungle clad ruins of Palenque before heading to the Yucatan Peninsula; to soak up the colonial charm of its capital city of Merida; characterised by cobblestoned streets and pastel coloured buildings. Finish your holiday at Chichen Itza; recently nominated as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.
Day 1 Depart London Heathrow on your direct flight to Mexico City with British Airways arriving early evening. On arrival, transfer to the Hotel Barcelo Mexico Reforma for 3 nights.
Day 2 Soak up the culture and history of Mexico City on a private tour. Built on top of the ruins of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, the city's main square and centre point is the Zocalo, one of the largest public squares in the world. Flanked by some of the city's most important buildings, stop by the Metropolitan Cathedral (the largest church in Latin America) and the Palacio Nacional (closed on Monday); home to a series of murals by Diego Riviera depicting the country's complex history. Drive along the famous boulevard; Paseo de la Reforma; Mexico City's main thoroughfare which once connected the Zocalo with the castle of Chapultepec; once home to Emperor Maximilian during his short-lived reign. This afternoon, visit one of the most highly regarded museums within the Americas; the National Museum of Anthropology and get lost in the treasures of the Aztec culture.
Day 3 Visit of one Mexico's most impressive archaeological sites; located just 50km northeast of the city. Teotihuacan, held sacred by the Aztecs, features a multitude of temples, palaces and pyramids. Visit the famous Quetzalpapalotl Palace Complex, the Pyramid of the Moon, and the immense Pyramid of the Sun, ranked among the biggest in the world.
Day 4 Depart Mexico City on a flight to Oaxaca. Located in a valley surrounded by the Sierra Madre del Sur mountain range, Oaxaca was once the centre of the Mixtec and Zapotec civilisations. Since the city was conquered by the Spanish in the mid 1500s, the city has taken on a Spanish flavour; full of ornate churches, elegant archways, balconies and charming plazas. Despite its colonial heritage, the city retains its indigenous charm. Oaxaca is a delight to explore on foot; with handsome yet tranquil streets, often flanked by brightly coloured buildings to meander and leafy plazas to sit out in and enjoy its famous local gastronomy. This afternoon, enjoy a private tour taking in the city's highlights.
Day 5 Visit the Monte Alban World Heritage Site and admire the endless views over the Oaxaca Valley. Considered one of the greatest Zapotec cities; it came to dominate the cultural, religious and economic life of the region. A triumph of engineering; a mountain top was levelled out to create the famous ceremonial site. Wander amongst the grand structures and explore the Gran Plaza, the Ball Court, the Observatory and the Palace.
Day 6 Start early this morning with a transfer to the airport for your flight via Mexico City to Tuxtla Gutierrez. Upon arrival, visit the magnificent Sumidero Canyon. Aboard a motorboat; navigate one of Mexico's most spectacular natural wonders. Formed 36 million years ago, its sheer rock walls reach more than 1000m. In the afternoon, arrive to the charming town of San Cristobal de las Casas, found in a highland valley surrounded by lush pine forest. Spend the next two nights here.
Day 7 San Cristobal de las Casas is an absolute pleasure to explore, with its picturesque cobbled streets and markets, its relaxed, welcoming ambience and wonderfully clear highland light. Explore the colonial centre on foot on a private tour, visiting the cathedral with its lavish interior and gold-encrusted pulpit as well as the impressive 16th-century Santo Domingo temple. A 10km drive into the highlands lie the Tzotzil Indian villages of San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan. Descending from the ancient Maya these local people maintain many unique customs, costumes and beliefs. Visit the beautiful church in San Juan Chamula and the nearby village of Zinacantan and its local handicraft market.
Day 8 Travel to Palenque, stopping along the way at Agua Azul, some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country. Surrounded by rainforest, over 500 cascades create aquamarine coloured rock pools. A refreshing dip provides relief from the heat and humidity of the lowlands. Continue onto Palenque where you will be staying at the Chan-Kah hotel for 2 nights, perfectly located for your visit to Palenque archaeological site in the morning.
Day 9 This morning take a guided tour of the archaeological site of Palenque. Hidden within the jungle, these temples are a fantastic example of Mayan architecture in Mexico. Wander through the 500 buildings spread throughout the jungle, exploring the Temple of the Inscriptions; the tallest of the buildings, the Temple of the Sun; crowned with a prominent roof comb and The Palace with its maze of corridors and rooms.
Day 10 Depart Palenque today and fly to Merida, the capital of the Yucatan peninsula. Though a bustling city, Merida's historic centre retains its colonial charm and its laid-back tempo is a delight for visitors. Featuring a large, leafy main plaza and impressive European-style mansion houses painted in warm pastel shades, the next 2 nights will be spent in the city, ideal as a base to explore nearby historic and natural attractions. Merida is famous for showcasing its local Yucatecan cuisine so be sure to try some regional dishes such as cochinita pibil and sopa de lima.
Day 11 Visit the impressive archaeological site of Uxmal, a world heritage site, 80km south of the city. Characterised by low horizontal palaces set around courtyards, Uxmal is decorated in symbolic motifs and sculptures depicting Chaac, the rain god. It is considered one of the best examples of Mayan Puuc architecture in the region. Visit the House of the Magician, which dominates the site as well as the House of Turtles and the Nunnery. After, continue on to Kabah, whereby the Palace of Masks features nearly 300 masks of Chaac.
Day 12 The cultural capital of the peninsula, enjoy a tour of Merida in the morning. While bursting with colonial history, it is also a modern cosmopolitan city filled with museums, art galleries and restaurants. In the afternoon you will be transferred to Hacienda Chichen, the closest hotel to the ancient site of Chichen Itza.
Day 13 Today is dedicated to Chichén Itzá, one of the New 7 Wonders of the World and a dazzling ancient city which has been beautifully restored. Once centred around the Maya empire in Central America, the most imposing and iconic structure is ‘El Castillo’. Twenty-four metres high with 365 steps, one for each day of the year, this pyramid was dedicated to Kukulcan, the Mayan God of Quetzalcoatl. Visit the Sacred Cenote, the heart of Chichén Itzá. Travel along a Mayan road to a natural well, thought of as the home of the rain God of Chaak and used for human sacrifices. In the afternoon transfer to the airport for your overnight return flight to London Gatwick. If you wish, we recommend extending your holiday with a stay on the beach in Tulum or on Holbox Island.
Day 14 UK Arrival
This trip has no fixed departures but restrictions may apply - check operator website
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