Please note that our 2019 departure is now sold out so please get in touch with us to reserve your place on our 2020 trip which departs on the 28th October 2020.
Be part of the preparations and celebrations for Mexico's Day of the Dead festival on this exciting small non-exclusive group tour. This trip is perfect for those keen to enjoy an authentic experience of Mexican culture. A colonial city and the artistic capital of Mexico, Oaxaca is one of the best destinations to experience this unique festival.
During the Day of the Dead celebrations, death comes alive. Families celebrate the memories of those they have lost throughout the years, elaborately decorating altars in their houses and holding traditional wakes in cemeteries. You will be immersed into this 4,000 year old festival and learn about the history, meaning and symbolism behind it. Streets will be filled with iconic symbols including the intricately painted sugar skulls and cemetery will be elaborately decorted.
Day 1 Depart London Heathrow on your direct flight to Mexico City arriving early evening. On arrival, transfer to your hotel for 2 nights.
Day 2 Today visit the archaeological site of Teotihuacan, located 50km northeast of Mexico City. First stop will be the Three Cultures Plaza where 3 cultures converge: Aztec, Spanish and contemporary Mexican. Continue to the Shrine of Guadalupe, one of Latin America's most revered religious shrines and it is here that the Virgin of Guadalupe was said to have appeared. A one-hour drive from here takes you to Teotihuacan, one of the most impressive cities of the ancient world, held sacred by the Aztecs. We will explore its temples, palaces and pyramids, including the Quetzalpapalotl Palace Complex, the Temple of the Feathered Conches, the Pyramid of the Moon, and the immense Pyramid of the Sun, ranked among the biggest in the world. This is a shared service.
Day 3 Today depart Mexico City and fly to Oaxaca. Upon arrival you will be transferred to Hotel Victoria for the next 6 nights. Oaxaca offers a fascinating mix of colonial, indigenous and ancient cultures. The city boasts fine Spanish buildings and churches, markets and the important archaeological site of Monte Alban. After the Spanish conquered Oaxaca in 1533, the city quickly took on a Spanish flavour with ornate buildings, elegant archways, decorative wrought iron balconies and charming plazas. Today's Oaxaca may be a combination of pre-Hispanic, colonial and modern influences but, despite its heritage, the city remains essentially Indian at heart, wherein lies its particular charm. The townsfolk speak their own language and their market is one of the most colourful in Mexico. Oaxaca is definitely the best place in Mexico to experience the Day of the Dead celebrations.
Day 4 Today explore the beautiful city of Oaxaca and discover its colonial heritage on a city tour. Wander the stone paved streets of this picturesque city set against a mountainous backdrop. Pass the houses, shops and cafes which are painted a multitude of bright colours. You’ll learn about the city’s history with a visit to the ornate Santa Domingo church; a wonderful example of the city’s lavish baroque architecture and a stop at Casa Juarez, where Mexico's great liberal reformer and president Benito Juarez once lived. Make a stop at the Zócalo, the main square and the centre of the historic town. End the tour with a stop at a local market, full of diverse offerings for the locals to purchase on the altars for the Day of the Dead tradition. This open-aired bazaar, is piled high with Day of the Dead ornaments and decorations including colourful strings of beads, bunches of vibrant marigolds and the iconic illustrated sugar skulls. Learn about the traditional local breads decorated for the festival season, local fruits and the flowers of the dead.
Day 5 Preparations for Day of the Dead celebrations today get well underway. Today visit a Day of the Dead altar and learn about the symbolism it represents. Visit the nearby traditional town of Zaachila, the last Zapotec capital after the fall of Monte Alban to the Mixtecs. Wall art is abound in Zaachila, many streets are adored with beautiful murals and feature remarkable examples of the Day of the Dead art. The local Thursday market in Zaachila remains largely unchanged for centuries. This fantastic market is an excellent to experience the sights, sounds and smells of a Zapotec market during this festive period. Whilst in Zaachila; stop at its impressive Mixtec tombs, main square flanked by Pre-Hispanic monoliths and an ornate church. In the evening, visit one of the oldest towns of the Oaxaca Valley; Xoxocotlan. Visit the tombs of the old and new cemetery of San Miguel and celebrate with flowers and candles alongside the villagers. Families gather to spend part of the night or the whole night beside the tombs of their loved ones, reminiscing of the good times and celebrating in the memory of the deceased. The atmosphere within Xoxo is very special and an unforgettable experience.
Day 6 Located in the heart of the Zapotec zone, visit the town of Teotitlan del Valle; considered the craft centre of Oaxaca. This traditional town has been renowned for its weaving wares and handicrafts since pre-Hispanic times. Visit the workshop of a traditional candlemaker to witness this exemplary art form, carefully hand crafted to be used throughout annual celebrations and particularly Day of the Dead. In the afternoon, drive northeast of the valley to the village of Soledad Etla to be a part of the magnificent Comparsa Parade. Walk with the jubilant parade alongside 10 feet stilt walkers dressed as spirits, marching bands playing loud ‘banda’ music and locals in elaborate costumes. You’ll pass rows of vendors where you can stop to purchase local and traditional food and mezcal. Being part of this vibrant parade and all the festivities is an amazing experience of Mexican life.
Day 7 Exploring the extraordinary archaeological site of Monte Alban is not to be missed on any visit to Oaxaca. A collection of temples, palaces, terraces, dams, canals and pyramids carved out of the mountain, Monte Alban was the ancient capital of Zapotec and once supporting 35,000 people.This ancient city is centred around the Great Plaza, an open area on the mountain top which offers breathtaking views of the surrounding area. Looking down across the spectacular landscape is an incredible way to view the valleys you have spent the last few days exploring.
Day 8 Today visit the Mitla archaeological site, Hierve El Agua springs and the Tule Tree. After the decline of Monte Alban, Mitla became the most important Zapotec city in the area and was later occupied by the Mixtecs. With a guide, explore the beautiful buildings and discover their unique geometric stone mosaics. Next stop is the “Hierve El Agua”, up in the hills these mineral springs run into icy cold clifftop bathing pools and offer spectacular panoramic views. The surrounding cliffs appear to be covered in huge frozen waterfalls formed by the petrified minerals from the water. On the way back to Oaxaca, make a stop at the Tule tree, one of the world’s largest trees thought to be more than 2000 years old.
Day 9 Oaxacan cuisine is famous for its refinement and complexity, and today we will learn how to prepare it. The class will be led by a local lady who picked up her cooking skills from her mother and her grandmother before her. First, in a local market taste and buy the ingredients: different fruits, vegetables and traditional herbs that are used in the preparation of the regional dishes of Oaxaca. A light lecture on Oaxacan cuisine is given, and then you will create a delicious 4-course meal. In the afternoon you wil...
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