Please see Holiday Information Sheet for this holidays individual departures itinerary (located under View Departures & Book tab)
We fly to Mexico City and take the short transfer to our hotel for two nights.
We will start the day driving out of the city to explore the extraordinary temples at World Heritage Pre-Hispanic Teotihuacan. It is hard to describe the immense nature of the site. Evidently huge amounts of time and labour went into construction. For the best view we can climb to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun. We take lunch in a local restaurant before returning to Mexico City. From our hotel it is a short walk to the Centro Historico. We will enjoy the company of an expert local guide to bring the sites alive for us. Mexico City was built on top of the centre of the Aztec empire, there are still clear signs of the former city. We also hope visit Palacio Nacional to see Diego Rivera murals, depicting his take on Mexican history. Unfortunately the Palacio is subject to wildly unpredictable opening times.
We start the day with a visit to the Anthropological Museum, one of the most important of its kind in the world. It covers all aspects of Pre Hispanic culture. It would be impossible to see everything in one visit so our local guide will suggest highlights. In the afternoon we will take a boat tour around the floating gardens at Xochimilco. A gentle boat ride around the canals is a stark contrast to the busy city
First we visit Tepoztlan, famous for the remains of El Tepozteco temple built on top of Tepozteco Mountain, as well as for the exotic ice cream flavours prepared locally. We will walk up to Tepozteco pyramid along shaded paths to enjoy panoramic views from the top.
Our journey then continues to World Heritage city Puebla where we stay two nights.
We will spend the morning exploring the tunnels of Tlachihualtepetl, the partially buried temple of nearby Cholula. The Zona Arqueologia at Cholula is centred on what, at one time, was the biggest pyramid in Mesamerica. In the 1930s archaeologists began to excavate tunnels which now extend to about 8km. The tunnels are now open to the public, they are well lit and all but the very tallest will be able to stand upright. Anyone suffering from claustrophobia may wish to miss out this part of the program and meet up with the group at the exit to the tunnels. The way through the tunnels is clear and it impossible to get lost. The walk through takes about 20 minutes. On exit from the tunnels we continue to see Patio de los Altares with its excellent acoustics. Next we can climb up to to Nuestra Senora de los Remedios, the church built by the Spanish on top of the great pyramid. It is well worth the climb for the excellent views from the terrace.
After lunch we return to Puebla city to enjoy a guided tour of the elegant streets.
The journey from Puebla to Oaxaca takes about 6 hours. It is a good road and the scenery is interesting or spectacular throughout. Look out for Pico de Orizaba (5747m), Mexico’s highest mountain on the border between the states of Veracruz and Puebla. The volcano is currently dormant but not extinct with the last eruption taking place in 1846. It is the second most prominent volcanic peak in the world after Africa's Mount Kilimanjaro and has one of the highest tree lines in the world at 4100m. It is possible to see an observatory on the flanks of the volcano. Known as ‘The Large Millimeter Telescope’, it is the world's largest single-aperture telescope built for observing radio waves.
We should arrive early afternoon to enjoy some free time and a brief introductory tour in the city.
The drive up from Oaxaca to the Zapotec city of Monte Alban should take 30mins. The site is at an altitude of 1860m. Monte Alban is a world heritage site and its mountain top position affords spectacular views of the surrounding valleys. We will take about 90mins to tour the site. From the entrance on the north side we walk across the Gran Plaza to climb the north platform to appreciate the extent of the site. Our guide will explain the purpose of the various platforms, buildings and patios.
Later we will walk down to the town of Arrazola begins from the main plaza. The walk drops about 300m and is steep in places. It should take about 75mins. Walking poles can be useful.
The town is known for the production of Alebrijas, brightly coloured wooden sculptures. We will have time to see the carving and purchase examples should you so chose.
On our return to Oaxaca we will take in the sprawling market full of things you wouldn't find on sale in the UK.
Today we drive out to hike through La Sierra Norte. We visit the Neveria community. Their name derives from the production of ice during the late 19th century. The hike winds initially up then down through the pine forest of Neveria to the lower altitude oak forest at Latuvi We will have many fine views on the way. We descend 400m over 10km. The walk takes about 4hrs. We will be accompanied by a member of the local community who will be very knowledgeable about the flora & fauna and the history of the Indian communities.
Today we have a variety of treats. First a quick visit to the Tula Tree, said to be 2000 years old though this is difficult to verify without cutting it down! The tree and its younger cousin are located in the grounds of a church. Then on to the petroglyphs at Xaaga village. They are spread over large rocks on the hillside and are thought to be over 10,000 years old. The path is rough underfoot, again walking poles ca be useful. It can also be very hot so remember to take water, hat and sunscreen. The walk is about 2km with minimal ascent/descent. It takes about an hour there and back.
Our next stop is at Hierve del Agua. A spectacular calcified rock formation with warm water pools, suitable for swimming (recommended!) and offering fabulous views all around. There are changing rooms at the site. There are also stalls selling food so this is an excellent place for lunch.
Finally we continue to Mitla and take in the El Gran Palacio de Mitla, an important prehispanic temple. Here there should be an opportunity to purchase freshly squeezed orange juice, very welcome at the end of the day.
This is a long transfer day. Depending on traffic, the journey can be 6-7 hours with refreshment stops. On arrival we discover a very different culture from the mountains. The tropical heat and humidity is immediately obvious. After checking in at our central hotel we can spend an appealing hour or so in the tree-lined Plaza de Armas. The dominant buildings here are the cathedral, the dome of which is covered with Puebla tiles, and the 17th century Palacio Municipal. The Portales or arcades are a good place to eat or enjoy a relaxed coffee and listen to the street musicians.
Just north of town, Hernan Cortez, the first conquistador, arrived in 1519 to violently transform the country and indeed the whole of Central and South America.
After a free morning we transfer to Veracruz airport for the direct flight to Merida (3 nights). On arrival we transfer to the city centre among the pastel mansions and promenades. In the afternoon locals gather in the leafy Plaza Grande beneath the towers of a 16th century cathedral.
Today we drive 90mins out to Celustun. There is an opportunity to swim so bring your things. We get on open boats with canopies to keep the sun off. We go straight to see the Flamingos. The boats will drift close by the birds offering some great photo opportunities. There is plenty of other bird life to be enjoyed. Groups have previously noted Egrets, Herons, Pelicans, Vultures, Frigate birds, Coots and Osprey amongst others. We will also go to see a mangrove swamp close up. At the end of the trip we will take lunch at a restaurant on the powdery white sand beach. We can have lunch and/or swim in the Gulf of Mexico. The restaurant has changing facilities and showers. We get back to Merida mid afternoon. We will have a brief orientation tour then some free time to enjoy the city.
We head south from Merida to see fantastic Mayan sites. Known as the Pu'uc (hilly) Route destinations they include World Heritage site Uxmal, Kabah, Sayil, restored Mayan temples and other structures covered with brush, tree and jungle in much the way early Spanish explorers and archaeologists found them.
We leave Merida to explore the Yucatan Peninsula. We take in Tixcocob, a small town renowned for its hammock making. We visit a family business to have a demonstration of hammock making. There are hammocks to buy if so desired. Next to Izamal, once as important as Chichen Itza and today a fascinating mix of Maya remains and Spanish colonial buildings. The main extant pyramid is one of the largest in Yucutan and one can climb to the top. It is a short walk from the pyramid to the main square and adjoining Convent that we can visit for a short guided tour. The convent is built on the platform base of a former pyramid and has a large atrium with open cloisters and early Franciscan frescoes. Pope John Paul visited the Convent in 1993.We overnight close by one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, World Heritage site, Chichen-Itza. On arrival at the hotel there should be an option to visit a 'cenote', a fresh water sink hole, ideal for swimming. Your tour leader will advise.
The famous Mayan pyramids of Chichen-Itza are over 1500 years old. We will explore the site early morning, avoiding the heat of the day and the crowds that descend later. In the afternoon we depart from Cancun on an overnight flight to the UK.
Arrive London Gatwick.