Magical Mexico

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Run by: Rainbow Tours

Reference number: ITN-MEX013

From: £3645.00

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 idyllic and beautiful Riviera Maya. Visit the Tzotzil Indian village of San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan to learn about the unique customs, costumes and beliefs from the local people. Travel into the jungle to find the 500 buildings of the majestic archaeological site, Palenque. Built thousands of years ago but still standing today, this impressive ancient site is a marvel to witness. The journeys to each destination will be filled with adventure. When you travel from San Cristobal de las Casas to Palenque, stop at Parque Nacional Agua Azul a collection of multicoloured waterfalls occupied by exotic animals such as the jaguar, tapir and toucan. 

Itinerary

Day 1 Depart London Heathrow on your direct flight to Mexico City with British Airways arriving early evening. On arrival transfer to the Hampton Inn & Suites and settle into the Mexican way of life with a cocktail on the rooftop terrace which overlooks the Centro Historico.

Day 2 Spend the morning soaking up the culture and history of Mexico City. Start with a stroll across the massive Zocala (main square) and to find an enormous Mexican flag proudly flying against the clear blue sky. The square is flanked by interesting buildings such as the Cathedral Metropoltana and the Palacio Nacional which depicts the country’s history with a series of Diego Rivera’s murals. This afternoon, wander amongst the locals at a traditional handicraft market en-route to the Museum of Anthropology where you can get lost in the treasures of the Aztec cultural history.

Day 3 There’s an early start today to visit the World Heritage Site of Puebla en route to Oaxaca. Take in the colourful glazed pottery of the characteristic Talavera tiles in the town as you wander through the winding streets to the historical churches, colonial mansions and the 17th century cathedral in the colonial centre. Travel onto Oaxaca, arriving in the evening.

Day 4 Spend this morning with a local who will take you to the food markets to buy the fresh ingredients you will use in your cooking class. Learn how to create traditional and delicious Mexican dishes.After lunch, visit the Monte Alban World Heritage Site and admire the endless views over the Oaxaca Valley. Wander amongst the terraces, dams and pyramids which were carved out of the Mountain by the ancient Zapotec peoples. There will also be time to explore the Gran Plaza, the Ball Court, the Observatory and the Palace and Mitla, one of the most sacred places. Finally, return to the city of Oaxaca to visit the splendid Santo Domingo church.

Day 5 Start early this morning with a transfer to the airport for your flight via Mexico City to Tuxtla Gutierrez. Upon arrival you will visit the magnificent Sumidero Canyon. Set off from the town of Chiapa de Corzoon on a motorboat along the Grijalva River, navigating through the sheer rock walls of the canyon. Look out for crocodiles in the river and spider monkeys, iguanas, herons, and kingfishers in the surrounding National Park. Arrive in San Cristobal de las Casas, found in a highland valley surrounded by lush pine forest. Here you will spend two nights at the charming Casa Mexicana.

Day 6 With plenty to see, explore on foot the colonial heart of San Cristobal de las Casas. On the north side of the main square is the cathedral with a lavish interior and gold-encrusted pulput. A few blocks away is the impressive 16th-century Dominican church Templo de Santo Domingo featuring an intricate pink façade and gilded Baroque interior. In the Chiapas highlands about 10km from San Cristobal lies the Tzotzil Indian village 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.

Day 7 Today you will journey to Palenque, stopping along the way at Parque Nacional Agua Azul home to some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country. The cascading water, varying from three to 30 metres in height, tumbles into the aquamarine coloured rock pools. Swim through this idyllic water, a refreshing relief from the heat and humidity of the lowlands. The best time to visit the waterfalls is outside of the wet season, June to September. Continue onto Palenque where you will be staying at the Chan-Kah hotel, perfectly located for your journey to Palenque in the morning.

Day 8 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 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. Once you have finished exploring, drive onto Campeche, a Spanish settlement built on the site of a former Maya fishing village around 1540. A genuine port town with a captivating naval history spend the evening meandering through the narrow cobblestone streets, enjoying the baroque architecture, peaceful boardwalks and lively markets.

Day 9 A remarkable set of ruins and a brilliant expression of Puuc architecture, spend the day at the World Heritage Site of Uxmal. Built in the sixth century AD and added to over the next 400 years, Uxmal, pronounced oosh-mahl, is a magnificent area dominated by the House of Magician. Stroll through the palaces set around courtyards, decorated with symbolic motifs and sculptures depicting the long-nosed rain god Chaac. A short drive away, continue onto Kabah best known for its extraordinary Palace of the Masks, a temple decorated with rows of masks. After your day of archaeological discoveries, you’ll be transferred to your hotel in Merida.

Day 10 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. Surrounding the Plaza Prinicipal is the Cathedral, the Palacio Municipal, Casa Montejo and the Govemor’s Palace. Also close by is the grand Cathedral of San Ildefonso. Built on the former site on a Maya temple, using the stones, it is one of the oldest in Latin America. Inside you will find murals depicting the meeting of Francisco de Montejo (Merida’s founder) and the Mayan King Tutl Xiu. In the afternoon you will be transferred to Hacienda Chichen, the closest hotel to the ancient site of Chichen Itza.

Day 11 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 you will be transferred to the beach resort on the Riviera Maya, Petit Lafitte.

Day 12 Petit Lafitte is a charming intimate hotel with a wonderful location, ideal to enjoy the peace and quiet of the beach-front. Situated on a quiet strip of beach it is just a short distance from Playa del Carmen and its collection of bars and restaurants. There are plenty of activities to enjoy. Visit the ancient ruins of Tulum, spectacularly positioned on a cliff overloo...

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