Highlights of Mexico (Superior)13 days & 12 nights, Escorted Discovery Group
Escorted Discovery Group
Mexico City, Oaxaca, San Cristobal de las Casas, Palenque, Merida & Chichen Itza
Discover the legacy of the Aztec, Mayan and Spanish empires on this outstanding tour of Mexico's finest sites. Explore magnificent pyramids and temples, colorful colonial cities with their indigenous influences, and the natural beauty of valleys, canyons, waterfalls and tropical rainforests.
Day 1Arrive Mexico City
You will be met and taken to your hotel.Hotel Galeria Plaza - 3 Nights
Day 2Mexico City
This trip will reveal the most important areas in the city today. You will visit the Zocalo, the great main square of the city. Here stands one of the largest and oldest cathedrals in Latin America. Started in 1525 but not completed until 1813, the building successfully incorporates a number of different architectural styles. The Palacio Nacional, the seat of the Mexican government, takes up the eastern side of the Zocalo. The interior of this building is decorated with the stunning murals of Diego Rivera, which depict events from Mexico's history from the pre-Aztec period to the 20th Century. The Palace of Montezuma once stood on this site, which Cortes destroyed and rebuilt for his own use after the conquest.Hotel Galeria Plaza (B, L)
Continue to Chapultepec Park, one of the great urban parks of the world and renowned for its ancient, stately ahuehuete trees. Within the park is the Museum of Anthropology, renowned as one of the world's best museums with a fascinating and priceless collection of artefacts from the Aztecs, Maya and Mexico's other pre-Columbian civilizations.
The 'City of the Gods' is located approximately 31 miles north-east of Mexico City. The ruins of Teotihuacan cover a wide area and include the Avenue of the Dead, a broad causeway running the length of the site, and the imposing Pyramid of the Sun, which compares in size to the great Cheops Pyramid in Egypt.Hotel Galeria Plaza (B, L)
The main pyramid is 230 feet high and a second smaller pyramid, the Pyramid of the Moon, rises from a large plaza at the end of the Avenue of the Dead. Among the other buildings excavated since the archaeological exploration of the site began in 1905, the Citadel merits particular attention. Inside this fortress-like complex stands the Temple of Quetzalcoatl. The front of this remarkable temple is decorated with a giant relief of the plumed serpent god and the rain god Tlaloc.
You will also visit the shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico City, a national symbol for Mexicans. The shrine and cathedral were constructed on the site of an old Aztec shrine, where an indigenous Mexican boy saw a vision of the Virgin Mary - a beautiful lady in a blue mantel trimmed with gold. The shrine offers impressive views over Mexico City from its vantage point on a hill.
Day 4Fly to Oaxaca
You will be collected at your hotel and taken to the airport. Board your flight to Oaxaca.Hotel Parador San Miguel - 2 Nights (B)
Upon arrival, you will be met and taken to your hotel.
Enjoy a city tour of Oaxaca. Visit the Regional Museum of Oaxaca, housed in a former Dominican convent where exhibits include the treasures from Monte Alban. Continue to the Santo Domingo church, which contains spectacular baroque architecture. The tour ends with a visit to the zocalo.
Day 5Monte Alban
The sheer grandeur of the site's scale, perfect geometry and natural setting make the ruins of Monte Alban a truly awe-inspiring sight. This was the ancient capital of the Zapotecs, and was later inhabited by the conquering Mixtecs. The monumental plan of this mountain top city was achieved in part by building some of the temples around the rocky outcroppings on the edge of the plateau. Of particular interest is the Great Plaza, the Ball Court, the building of Los Danzantes and Tomb 104 with its remarkable murals of gods. The site also offers dramatic views over the city and valley of Oaxaca.
Afternoon at leisure or book an optional visit to El Tule and Mitla.Hotel Parador San Miguel (B)
Day 6To San Cristobal de las Casas
You will be collected at your hotel and taken to the airport.Hotel Diego de Mazariegos - 2 Nights (B)
Upon arrival in Tuxtla Gutierrez, drive to San Cristobal de Las Casas, with an excursion en route to the Sumidero Canyon.
Transfer to the pier. Here, you will board an open motor boat which will take you on a journey along the Grijalva River to the Sumidero Canyon. This spectacular canyon is over 3,280 feet deep and 18 miles wide, and indigenous warriors unwilling or unable to endure Spanish rule used to hurl themselves into the canyon rather than submit. The duration of the boat trip is approximately 1.5 hours.
You will then continue by road to San Cristobal de las Casas, the colonial capital of Chiapas.
Day 7San Cristobal de las Casas
Today you will take a morning tour of the city, to see its baroque churches and colorful market. You will also visit the nearby Mayan villages of Zinacantan and San Juan Chamula. These villages have regional costumes unique to their ethnic groups, for example, the Zinacantans wear multi-colored outfits with ribbons on their hats signifying how many children they have. The church in San Juan Chamula is notable for its vibrantly painted facade.Hotel Diego de Mazariegos (B)
Please be considerate when taking photos in this region. Photography is resisted by many of the indigenous Mayans, as they believe the camera steals their souls, and that photography in a church steals the soul of God. Please ask your tour guide for advice.
Day 8Agua Azul waterfalls - Palenque
Drive to Palenque via the waterfalls of Agua Azul, a journey of approximately 7 hours. Leave San Cristobal in the morning and drive through the lush scenery of the Chiapas highlands, passing through pine forest covered mountains, coffee and banana plantations and Indian villages. Descend from the highlands into the jungle. Visit the waterfalls of Agua Azul, which are a spectacular turquoise color in the dry season (November to April) turning green/brown in the rainy season. Continue to Palenque.Chan Kah Resort - 2 Nights (B, L)
Note: Due to frequent demonstrations by local communities and subsequent restricted access to certain roads between San Cristobal and Palenque it may be necessary to travel to Palenque by an alternative route, and therefore it would not be possible to visit the Agua Azul waterfalls. There may, however, be a possibility to visit an alternative waterfall, time permitting. You will be advised locally of the up-to-date situation.
Palenque was a magnificent ancient city of the Mayans, built with admirable aesthetic sensitivity to the site's natural setting at the foot of the Chiapas Mountains. The excavated and restored ruins that can be seen today represent only a small part of a vast city, whose planned layout covered up to three square miles. Palenque reached its peak between 500 and 700 AD, before falling into decline in the 10th century AD and disappearing into the jungle. The principal buildings may not be as monumental as those of cities such as Uxmal, but they enchant by virtue of their light, graceful appearance and their marvellous painted stucco decorations.Chan Kah Resort (B, L)
The site is dominated by the eight-storey Temple of the Inscriptions, which contains the tomb of the 7th-century ruler Pakal, and the imposing Great Palace. From the palace's interior courtyard rises a unique, four-storey tower believed to have served as an astronomical observatory. Throughout the palace are finely detailed reliefs depicting human figures and scenes from the life of the city, and several as yet un-deciphered pictograms.
Day 10Fly to Merida
Drive from Palenque to Villahermosa, a journey of approximately 2.5 hours. Board your flight to Merida.Gran Real Yucatan or Casa Del Balam - 2 Nights (B)
On arrival, you will be met and taken to your hotel.
You will visit the Plaza Mayor, the 16th century Cathedral and the Palacio de Gobierno, where there is a display of vividly colored historical murals.
Day 11Kabah - Uxmal
Uxmal was built in the classic Mayan period, between 600 and 900AD. Your visit will take you to the Pyramid of the Magician, a remarkable structure rising steeply to a height of 125ft. At the base of the pyramid, the foundations of Temple 1 can be identified, a structure believed to have been one of four small buildings grouped around a courtyard. You will also see a building complex called the Nunnery Quadrangle by the Spaniards because of the large number of cell-like chambers (a total of 88) that were found inside. From here, a path leads through a ruined ball court to an immense platform. On the right stands the House of the Turtles (Casa de Las Tortugas). The terrace is dominated by the magnificent Governor's Palace, and the Great Pyramid is located behind it. West of this stands the Dovecote (Palomar) which takes its name from its unusual roof-comb.Gran Real Yucatan or Casa Del Balam (B, L)
You will then continue to the smaller Mayan site of Kabah, where you will visit the Palace of Masks, decorated with over 300 masks.
Day 12To Chichen Itza
Drive from Merida to Chichen Itza, a journey of approximately 2 hours.Hacienda Chichen - 1 Night (B)
Chichen Itza was a ceremonial center of the Mayas over several centuries. The oldest building, which dates from 600AD, is representative of Classical Mayan architecture. The structures built after the 10th century however exhibit Toltec stylistic elements, a result of the Toltec conquest of the Yucatan peninsula in 950AD. It is this blend of Mayan and Toltec architecture that make Chichen Itza such an extraordinary site.
The most famous of the many notable buildings on this vast site is the Temple of Kukulcan (the Mayan name for the god Quetzalcoatl), which is a 82 ft. high pyramid with a temple at the summit. Every detail of the structure is thought to be imbued with mythical significance. The pyramid has a total of 365 steps, one for each day of the year.
On the days of the equinox, in spring and autumn, the afternoon sun casts a shadow on the side of the balustrade which resembles the downward gliding of a snake. To the Maya, this represented the descent of Kukulcan, a god usually depicted as a plumed serpent. Other sights at Chichen Itza are the Ball Court (the ceremonial games played here lasted for days and included the sacrifice of players to the gods), the El Caracol observatory and the reclining figure of Chac Mool which has become the symbol for the Yucatan around the world.
Day 13Depart Chichen Itza
Drive from Chichen Itza to Cancun, a journey of approximately 2.5 hours for your onward flight.(B)