Pyramid of the Sun Teotihuacán
Mahekal Beach Resort
Sunset over the Caribbean
Pyramid el Castillo at Tulum
God of the Winds Temple, Tulum
Highlights of Mexico
A luxury tailor-made journey exploring the rich history and ancient cultures of Mexico
14 nights from £3,500 per person sharing, including accommodation, guides, flights and transfers
Best time to go: December to May
Enjoy the sights and sounds of Mexico City, the nearby Teotihuacán pyramids, the ancient capital of the Zapotec people at Monte Albán near Oaxana, explore San Cristóbal and view the spectacular Sumidero Canyon, discover the Mayan ruins at Palenque, heading on to Mérida (the 'Paris of the New World') and then to the famous Mayan pyramids of Chichén Itzá. Your final destination is a tranquil hideaway on a glorious beach on
the Riviera Maya.
Day 1: UK to Mexico City
Depart on BA from London Heathrow at lunchtime, arriving Mexico City early evening. You will be met at the airport and driven to
Hotel Historico Central for a 3 night stay. First evening at leisure, perhaps treating yourself to a restorative massage in the hotel's spa.
This hotel's name tells you that it sits right in the middle of the capital's colonial core, one block from the city's heart, the huge Zócalo square and cathedral. The hotel was opened in 2016 and has already garnered enthusiastic feedback from guests, not least for its exceptional service. With its ornate façade contrasting with clean contemporary interior design and many attractive little touches such as complimentary cafe with basic snacks and Wifi, in-room coffee makers and same-day laundry.
Day 2: Mexico City Tour - Half Day Private Excursion
Mexico City has evolved over the centuries into a modern metropolis from its founding as the Aztec city of Tenochtitlán in the 14th century. A history of agricultural cultivation, religious ritual, and warring tribes took a seismic turn with the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores and the development of the city was fuelled by silver mining. This is all reflected in the cultural vestiges apparent all over the modern city which you will glimpse during your private guided city tour. Visit the vast Zócalo, or main square, monumental Metropolitan Cathedral and National Palace with its murals by Diego Rivera. Take a look at a handicraft market where you can browse for purchases and travel down elegant boulevards. Overnight at Historico Central.
Pyramid of the Sun Teotihuacan
Day 3: Teotihuacan Pyramids and Guadalupe Shrine – Full Day Private Excursion
Your private guide will drive you 50km northeast to the archaeological site of Teotihuacán (pictured above), home to some of the world’s most remarkable relics of ancient civilisation. The immense ruins - dominated by vast pyramids - are thought to date from around 300BC. The identity of the city's founders and where they came from remains a mystery. It was completely abandoned until the Aztecs arrived, eventually collapsing for good in the 7th century AD. En route you stop at the Plaza de las Tres Culturas (Square of the Three Cultures) in the Tlatelolco neighbourhood. The plaza recognises three periods of Mexican history reflected by buildings: pre-Columbian, Spanish colonial, and the independent mestizo nation. Continue to the basilica of Guadalupe, a statue of the Virgin Mary atop a hill where a local Christian convert claimed to have seen her in a vision. Here, pilgrims approach the shrine on their knees across the flagstone courtyard. The most devout make the whole pilgrimage on their knees. Overnight at Historico Central.
Day 4: Short flight to Oaxaca
Private transfer to the airport for the 1 hour flight to Oaxaca. You will be met at the airport and driven to Hotel Casa Conzatti for a 2 night stay. This agreeable little hotel (45 rooms) occupies a quiet corner of what can be a rumbustious city, next to a little park, less than a kilometre from the main square. There are 3 adjoining blocks housing the guest rooms and restaurant, sparkly clean with whitewashed walls, tiled flooring and an airy feel. Décor in the rooms is hardly cutting edge, colours are bright in a Mexican way, but it isn't too fussy. There are some nice extra facilities not always present in medium class hotels, such as a tea and coffee maker in the rooms, free Wifi in the restaurant, TV, safe, ironing kit and hair dryer.
Day 5: Monte Alban Ruins – Half Day Private Excursion
It's a short 9km drive to the ancient ruins of Monte Albán (pictured above). The city was the capital of the Zapotec people, flourishing until its demise around 950AD. Lying on a hill, the views from the temples and pyramids of the surrounding area are superb. At its height, the city was a highly sophisticated society of over 25,000 inhabitants. Overnight at Hotel Casa Conzatti.
Day 6: Oaxaca to San Cristobal
Early start for your flight to Mexico City, connecting with your flight to Tuxtla Gutierrez. On arrival, you will be met and taken to San Cristóbal (4 hours), via Sumidero Canyon (next picture). Take in the picturesque mountain scenery and the spectacular, 1km deep canyon with several superb viewpoints along the way. A short boat trip may be included depending on time.
San Cristóbal is a delightful town on many levels. Its striking location in a fertile valley bound by chunky mountains and its pleasant climate, thanks to an altitude of 2,100m, enhance the rustic charm of the graceful baroque and neoclassical homes, churches and public buildings. But it is the mélange of cultures, Spanish and indigenous, reflected in the markets and craft-shops that is perhaps the biggest draw. A great place to ramble and relax.
Your stay here will be at Hotel Diego de Mazariegos, an attractive colonial building close to the main square. All rooms are pleasantly decorated and well maintained. Facilities include a restaurant and a lively Tex-Mex bar with an extensive range of different types of tequila.
Day 7: City Tour and Indian Villages – Half Day Shared Excursion
Begin the tour at the pretty main plaza in San Cristóbal de las Casas. On the north side of the square is the cathedral, most recently restored in the 1920s after earthquake damage in the 1800s, with its five gilded alters. Continue to the Santo Domingo temple, an impressive 16th century church with a beautiful pink facade and a gilded baroque interior. Browse the local market before departing by vehicle to the indian villages of San Juan Chamula and Zinacantán, about ten minutes drive from San Cristóbal. San Juan Chamula is characterised by the local costumes: men in grey, black or light pink tunics, and women in blue. The local church, centre for numerous festivals and rituals, is also of interest. The Sunday market is colourful and a popular tourist attraction. In Zinacantán, traditional costumes are also still worn: men wear embroidered red jackets and women, blue shawls. Please note that photography is a sensitive issue with local Indians and permission should be asked before taking pictures. Overnight at Hotel Diego de Mazariegos.
Day 8: Private Transfer to Palenque
Private transfer to Palenque via Tonina archaeological site and Misol-Ha. The drive down from upland San Cristóbal to the steamy jungle enveloping Palenque (pictured below) takes around 5 hours. En route you will pause to visit Toniná and Misol Ha. Toniná is a Mayan archaeological site overlooking a tranquil valley with an interesting and blood-soaked history. Having defeated Palenque, its rulers captured and imprisoned many of the important inhabitants of that city and imprisoned them at Toniná, subsequently beheading them - a gruesome activity depicted in many of the carvings at the site. Misol Ha is altogether a more peaceful spot: here a waterfall tumbles over a cliff into a delightful pool. There is a path you can walk leading behind the veil of water.
Stay at Chan-Kah Resort Village (for 2 nights), located 3km from Palenque and 4km from the Mayan ruins. The hotel has wood and stone cottages with spacious private bathroom, ceiling fan, air-con and patio. The outstanding feature of the casitas are the large terraces which look over the beautiful tropical scenery, where sightings of wildlife such as agoutis, howler monkeys and iguanas are common. The hotel also has a huge free-form swimming pool with separate family and adult sections and a waterfall feature which is fed by the river in the tropical garden.
Day 9: Palenque Archaeological Site – Half Day Private Excursion
The Mayan site of Palenque is set on a hill amongst lush green rainforest abundant with monkeys and birdlife, and a majority of the buildings remain unexcavated. The temples that have been renovated are in remarkably good condition, the most impressive being the Templo de las Inscripciones. Also impressive is Temple 13 that houses a tomb and red-coloured skeleton believed to have been a queen. Overnight at Chan-Kah Resort Village.
Day 10: Palenque to Mérida
Private transfer to Villahermosa airport (approx 2.5 hours) to catch a flight back to Mexico City, connecting with a flight to Mérida. Mérida was founded by the Mayan Indians but in 1542 it was conquered by the Spanish and became immensely wealthy, described as 'the Paris of the New World'. Its income came from the production of sisal, cactus fibres that are used to make rope, and it was culturally and geographically isolated from the rest of the country until transport infrastructure reached it in the 1950s. Today, Mérida retains a lovely colonial centre (pictured below), with a mix of opulent and crumbly buildings but it is a modern, bustling, thriving city, with lots of local character, some excellent places to eat and good shops and markets. The inhabitants, descendants of the Mayans and the colonists, love a good fiesta, and you may well find one going on, with live music and street stalls, while you are there. Stroll around the sunny streets, shop for local lace or one of the region's famous hammocks.
Private transfer to Hotel La Mision de Fray Diego (mid-range) for 2 nights. This elegant converted 17th century convent is set back from the street in the heart of Mérida. The rooms and suites have high ceilings, dark wood and wrought iron furnishings, and antique paintings. All have cable TV, minibar and spacious private bathrooms. Guests may choose to eat in the airy restaurant or in the shade of the garden courtyard, or there are numerous local eateries nearby. There is also a small swimming pool and sun terrace.
Day 11: Mérida
Day at leisure. Overnight at Hotel La Mision de Fray Diego.
Day 12: Transfer to Chichén Itzá
It is a 2½ hour drive by tourist bus from Mérida to the famous Mayan pyramids of Chichén Itzá, arriving around 11.00, in time for lunch and an afternoon escorted tour. Chichén Itzá is the best-known and best-restored of the Yucatán's vast array of Mayan archaeological sites. It overwhelms with the vast scale of its temples and pyramids, and the intricate carvings, the evocative ball courts and 'time temples' are indicative of the creative fusion of Mayan and Toltec cultures. You'll come across multiple images of the Mayan rain god and Quetzalcóatl, the plumed serpent, and, hidden in the woodland, the bright waters of the steeple-sided cenotes, or limestone sink-holes. Overnight at The Mayaland, a well-regarded resort just a few minutes' walk from the ruins at Chichén Itzá. Its location is probably the main reason for its popularity but it is also a pleasant, well-managed place to stay, set in landscaped, forest-green tropical gardens dotted with small Mayan structures and run through with streams. There are 55 rooms and five spacious suites in the elegant, antique-filled main building, cool and bright with air-con, cable TV and hand-made ceramic tiles. It's a proper self-contained resort, with four restaurants (many of the ingredients are grown on the premises), two bars, three outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts and bird-watching trails.
Chichén Itzá – Half Day Shared Excursion
The impressive site is over 1500 years old, and divided into sections: the castle and central pyramid of nine stepped levels, four decorated with designs of snakes and jaguars; the Temple of the Warriors; observatory; ball court; the impressive Sacred Cenote, a 35m deep natural well used in Mayan religious ceremonies and sacrifices; and the North Group of earlier predominantly Toltec buildings.
Day 13: Chichén Itzá and Transfer to Riviera Maya
Morning at leisure to re-visit the ruins (the site is now open from 06.00 for those who want to experience the dawn chorus), followed by a shared transfer to the Riviera Maya. The coach departs around 15.00 and the drive to Cancún takes approximately four hours, where passengers are dropped off at the main hotels that line the oceanfront, continuing south dropping off passengers along the Riviera Maya. The Riviera Maya with its white sand beaches and natural attractions have made this stretch of coastline a mecca for visitors from all over the world. Crystal-clear turquoise waters make for good swimming, snorkelling and diving. You will be dropped at Mahekal Beach Resort for you last 2 nights in Mexico. Following an $18 million refurbishment Mahekal Beach Resort has been transformed into a low key, tranquillity-focused and tasteful low-rise property set on a gorgeous stretch of white sand on the Mayan Riviera. There are just under 200 guest rooms but you wouldn't really know it; accommodation is in Mexican Palapa-style cabins with a tastefully washed-out, castaway décor. Rooms are air-conditioned, and each has a terrace with hammocks, and Wifi but no TV. There's a restaurant and wellness spa, with beachside massages on offer, water sports, a dive centre, a fully equipped gym, freeform swimming pools and plenty of loungers on which to relax.
Days 14: Mahekal Beach Resort
Enjoy a day on the beach, being pampered in the spa or diving / snorkeling in the warm, crystal clear Caribbean.
Day 15: Fly home
Unfortunately, your 14 night Mexican odyssey is now over and it's time to fly home. Private transfer to Cancún for your overnight flight to London.
Time to Start Planning?
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