Mexico, Belize & Guatemala
Mexico City to Puebla
Before arriving World Heritage Puebla, we visit historic Cholula, once second only to the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan (modern Mexico City). The great city stood at the foot of what appears to be an earthen hill that is, in fact, the largest pyramid ever built, covering over 46 acres and spanning an incredible 405 meters on each side! In addition to this great construction dedicated to Quetzalcoatl, the city had a reported 365 temples. We explore the archaeological site and then head to Puebla, where we have lunch (not included). Afterwards we enjoy a walking tour and dinner. From November 2014 we we expect the itinerary to change back to the below: MEXICO CITY TO MORELIA Meet up with your fellow travelers and Tour Manager in Mexico’s sprawling capital, before we hit the road and travel to Spanish flavored Morelia. This gorgeous town is all about colonial heritage. Packed with 16th and 17th century buildings, archways and cute little plazas, Morelia’s picturesque center comes with plenty of character and charm. Learn about its background as one of Mexico’s first Spanish cities on a walking tour of the UNESCO World Heritage listed centre. You’ll also see the birthplace of the Mexican revolutionary, Morelos, after whom the town is named. We check out Morelia’s sweets and handicraft market, where there’s a chance to pick up some of its famous candy as a tasty souvenir. Tonight, we’ll see the stunning cathedral lit up under night lights and watch the pretty fireworks display. Your Tour Manager will give you the background on the building’s mix of styles and intricate decorations. Later, get to know the group and your Tour Manager over dinner in a local restaurant that overlooks the central plaza. Try out the tasty specialties of this region, like the famous fruit gazpacho (a cold soup made up of fruits like pineapple, mango and watermelon, topped off with lime juice).
Puebla to Cuernavaca
We depart Puebla for Cuernavaca for the Pueblo Magico of Tepoztlan, a longtime home base among precipitous cliffs and temples of the Nahua people. The town is venerated as the birthplace of Aztec serpent god Quetzalcoatl. We explore the town center on foot and then continue onward to Cuernavaca, established by the Olmec over three thousand years ago. We visit the cathedral and then it is time to explore on your own, optionally you can visit the fortress that Cortes built atop an ancient pyramid before a night out in this college town “of the eternal spring.” From November 2014 the itinerary will change back to the below: MORELIA TO IXTAPA VIA ZIHUATANEJO Head out West to the Mexican Riviera, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean. We stop for lunch on one of Mexico’s most stunning beaches, Playa la Ropa. It’s dotted with palm trees and is a perfect spot for water sports like parasailing and jet-skiing. Walk off your lunch in low-key Zihuatanejo and explore this charming fishing village where local restaurants, artisan studios and interesting boutiques line the cobblestone streets. Tonight, we stay in the modern resort town of Ixtapa.
Cuernavaca to Acapulco
Today, we head to the popular resort and Mexico’s original party town, Acapulco. With its gorgeous bay and stunning villas, you’ll soon understand why this is a traditional stomping ground for the rich and famous and why people like Sinatra, Elvis and JFK used to come here. After the sun goes down, watch the famous daredevil cliff divers. They’ll jump a heart-stopping 25 or 35 meters from the sheer cliffs surrounding the bay into a tiny cove. Tonight, honor Acapulco’s reputation and dive into the nightlife action. With salsa clubs, meringue bars, discos and nightclubs, there’s something for everybody here From November 2014 the itinerary will change back to the below: IXTAPA A free day in Ixtapa means time to relax. Kick back at the hotel and make the most of its fantastic pool and pool bar. Otherwise, head to the beach and soak up some sun or snorkel in the waters of the Pacific Ocean. Your Tour Manager can even help you sort out a boat for hire if you want to get out on the water and do a bit of fishing. Turn the energy levels up with an optional horse ride along the beach, then maybe go for a late night stroll through the luxurious hotel district and get a taste of the high life. Dance the night away at one of the nightclubs or grab a quiet drink at a local bar.
Today we chill out at the awesome Acapulco beach. There's also the opportunity to see local neighbourhoods of Acapulco on the way to a Borat Ride through Canals at Coyuca Lagoon. Otherwise, why not travel outside of Acapulco and explore some of the natural treasures of the area as well as a visit to a Turtle farm and Botanical Garden. Later this afternoon, relax on our included sunset boat cruise, hang out with the group and get another angle on Acapulco from the water. From November 2014 the itinerary will change back to the below: IXTAPA TO ACAPULCO Today, we head to the popular resort and Mexico’s original party town, Acapulco. With its gorgeous bay and stunning villas, you’ll soon understand why this is a traditional stomping ground for the rich and famous and why people like Sinatra, Elvis and JFK used to come here. After the sun goes down, watch the famous daredevil cliff divers. They’ll jump a heart-stopping 25 or 35 meters from the sheer cliffs surrounding the bay into a tiny cove. Tonight, honor Acapulco’s reputation and dive into the nightlife action. With salsa clubs, meringue bars, discos and nightclubs, there’s something for everybody here.
With a free day, soak up more of Acapulco’s vibes, its 50s glamor and its beach life. Hit the calm waters of Hornos or Papagayo beaches or else watch surfers take to the waves at Playa Revolcadero For a slice of the local lifestyle, head to the open-air market and shaded zocalo (central square). With little, traditional eateries this is a great place to people-watch and to taste different dishes. Try out some pork tacos, chicken mole (chocolate and chilli sauce), garlic shrimp or even some Pacific lobster. Acapulco is an adventure lovers paradise - kayak, snorkel or learn to scuba dive.
Acapulco to Taxco
Travel through the Sierra Madre Mountains this morning to the pretty, hill-side town of Taxco. With its dramatic backdrop of cliffs and mountains, and its pretty stucco buildings with terracotta roofs, this is the perfect place to wander about in. Get lost in the winding cobblestone streets and uncover cute little plazas and flower-filled courtyards. Keep an eye open for VW Beetle taxis and check out the stunning Santa Prisca Cathedral on the central square. Pull up a table at an outside café, where you can sit back with a beer and take in the colonial architecture. Maybe try some pozole (pork and vegetable stew). With a tradition in silver going back to before the Spanish Conquest, Taxco is the perfect place to pick up some jewellery. Your Tour Manager will organize a silver demonstration and give you tips on the best places to buy. Then rummage through the many platerias (silver shops) and find some great presents for back home.
Taxco to Mexico City
This morning we return to the chaotic capital, Mexico City. This metropolis fuses the festive, the ancient and the quirky. First up: a visit to Xochimilco canals and markets. Board our own brightly colored flat bottom boat and cruise along the canals, past gardens and floating Mariachi bands. Vendors jump from boat to boat with souvenirs, so you can kick back and shop while you ride along the canals. Then we head to the historic heart of the city, where ancient civilization, political power and religion combine around the enormous Zocalo (central square). Get inspired as our expert Local Guide uncovers the nation’s core spots and shows off this living time line. Step inside the largest cathedral in Latin America and learn why the tilting Catedral Metropolitana is a spiritual hub for Mexicans. Get up close to Mexico’s Aztec past as you explore the bare ruins around Templo Mayor. Our Local Guide will peel back the layers and explain how a new temple was built here every 52 years, one on top of the other. If you’re keen, you can go into the Temple Mayor for a closer look. See the sinking Palacio Nacional (National Palace), home to the Mexican government. Enjoy a crash course in this country’s history by checking-out Diego Rivera’s famous murals that decorate the palace walls. These colorful paintings tell the story of Mexico in a nutshell, from the nation’s mythical beginnings to the early 20th century. Tonight, go out and explore and feast on Mexican specialities then wash it all down with some tequila, Mexico’s national drink.
We turn back the clock this morning with a trip to Teotihuacan, the largest archaeological city ever to exist on the American continents. Climb the impressive pyramids and imagine how this was once central America’s greatest city. Our Local Guide will fill you in on the Teotihuacanos beliefs and rites as you walk around the site and see the Sun and Moon Temples. This afternoon, discover another side of vibrant Mexico City with a visit to the easy-going, old barrio (neighborhood) of Coyoacan. Take in the old colonial mansions, fountains and quiet squares of this cultural quarter. See the paired studios of artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera and maybe visit Frida Kahlo’s famous Blue House, which is filled with colorful art, pre-Hispanic artifacts and a beautiful garden. In your free time, live a slice of the local lifestyle and head to the Coyoacan Markets – the buzzing food stalls are perfect for trying authentic Mexican food, like a torta (Mexican sandwich), enchiladas and tacos. Shopping-wise, this town has it all, from big brands to bargains. Get some tips from your Tour Manager before you splurge. Rummage through the colorful La Merced, the largest market in the city. See piles of dried chillies, tropical fruits and other vibrant food displays as well as local crafts. Otherwise, walk the streets and get a feel for the city’s bustling street life, where cafes spill out onto the pavements, pushcart kitchens cook up fantastic food and sidewalk vendors sell anything from t-shirts to jewelery. Take a break and taste Mexican coffee in a traditional coffeehouse or sip on some tropical juice at a jugeria (juice bar). If you’re hungry, try a rosticeria for some crispy roast chicken Mexican style or a hole-in-the-wall taqueria for a burrito. For something different, find out if there is lucha libre (Mexican masked wrestling) on while you’re in town and go check out a match. For a dose of culture, walk through Mexican history with a visit to the famous Museo Nacional de Antropologia (Museum of Anthropology). It has an incredible collection of artifacts, starting from pre-historic times. The museum grounds are also great for taking a break from the buzzing down town area, so hang out in the gardens, read beside the lake or check out the zoo.
Mexico City to Merida
Today, it’s a total change of scene when we leave behind Mexico City and fly to the beautiful white-stone city of Merida. Laid-back and pretty, it’s perfect for a wind down after the hectic hum of the capital. Get a real feel for this small, stylish town on our walking tour through the center as your Tour Manager gives you the story behind the haciendas, palaces and gorgeous buildings. We'll ride through town old-style on our included horse & carriage ride. The local driver will show off Merida’s core spots as you sit back and soak up the atmosphere. Use your free time to explore the buzzing market district, where you can pick up handicrafts, hammocks and traditional travel treasures like ponchos and sombreros.
Merida to Cancun via Chichen Itza
We kick start the day with a trip to UNESCO World Heritage-listed Chichen Itza – the best preserved and most famous Mayan ruins in Mexico. Hear from our expert Local Guide about the time temples and how the Mayan calendar worked as you explore the spectacular ancient ceremonial center and the fascinating snail-shaped observatory. Back on the coach, we continue on to glitzy Cancun, Mexico’s super resort. This party paradise is a high energy destination, loaded with outdoor activities and a buzzing nightlife. Use your free time to relax with an evening siesta. Then head into town to the Mercado 28, a lively market serving up homemade foods. Sit yourself down in a fondita (little café) and order various specialties from throughout Mexico or try the regional Yucatan dish, chicken pibil (chicken in a special marinade). For some live, local music, make a move to Parquet de las Palapas with some friends. Grab a cold cerveza (beer) from one of the food stands and take it all in. Then explore what’s on offer party-wise in Cancun.
Cancun & Playa del Carmen
Take a trip with the group to the hip, hot beach of Playa del Carmen. A popular spot for snorkeling and diving, Playa del Carmen has underwater caves and mind-blowing offshore coral reefs. Take a swim in the azure waters, chill out on the beach or even jump on a ferry to the Island of Cozumel. Back in Cancun, wrap up the day on the beach watching the sun set over the Caribbean Sea. Some ideas for dinner include hitting an open-air restaurant for some fresh seafood or heading to the central plaza for some authentic island specialties.
Today, your Tour Manager will take you to hidden spots and show off tropical jungle and watering holes. Then with a full free day, make the most of Cancun’s action and crystal clear waters. We get away from it all and head to the pint-sized Isla Mujeres. With no cars and little development, this is the place to wind down on pristine beaches and soak up the sun. Experience its fabulous coral reefs on our optional Garrafon Natural Reef Park excursion. If you’re keen, you can even swim with dolphins here. You could head to Punta Nizuc for some more snorkeling. For something different have a look through La Casa des Artes Mexicanas (House of Mexican Art), where you’ll see musical instruments, handmade kids’ toys and traditional costumes. Opt for a trip to Xcaret Ecopark, where Mayan ruins, a stunning inlet and jungle combine to make this place so special. Have a swim in the underground river and see colorful birdlife and a butterfly farm. Later why not get into the fun, festive vibes of Cancun and settle in on an open terrace beachside or at a small, local bar. Keep it moving until the sun comes up if you want – Cancun nightlife is the stuff of legends.
Cancun to Caye Caulker
Adios Mexico, but we’ll be back! This morning we leave Cancun and head to Chetumal for some exploring & maybe bite to eat, before boarding our water taxis into Belize. We’ll park up on this Caribbean island, where the motto is “go slow.” Tonight it’s dinner we’ll offer a feast of fresh seafood & your chance to sample the reggae nightlife!
The day is all yours! Fuel up at breakfast, then you get to make the most of our ME Time optionals, like swimming with sharks at Belize’s World Heritage Barrier Reef, Kayaking the mangroves or lazing on “The Split” (a break in the island), where sipping and sunbathing is the scene! Tonight, rejoin the crew in the evening for an amazing sunset sail! Enjoy included snacks, drinks and music during for our last night on the island.
Caye Caulker to Guatemalan Rainforest
Enjoy a hearty breakfast before we ride a water taxi to Belize City, then it’s an overland journey to the forests of Guatemala’s Peten! We’ll arrive at our awesome Jungle Lodge inside the park late afternoon, where there’s the option to fly through the rainforest canopy on ziplines… why not! You can also head into the ruins yourself and go exploring, before dinner. Tonight relax as you drift to sleep to the sounds of the forest. Rest up, cause tomorrow has a lot to offer!
Guatemalan Rainforest to Santa Elena (Flores)
We rise before the sun to watch daybreak unfold from atop the Mayan ruin, Templo IV… so prepare for amazing! Enjoy an included guided tour of the area or explore the magnificent jungle ruins, before our afternoon trip to the island of Flores, built atop another ancient Mayan center known as Tayasal. Make the most of your time, and opt for a lake cruise on arrival if you feel like getting out on the water before more relaxing over tonight’s dinner.
Santa Elena to Antigua
From the relaxed Flores to Guatemala’s bustling capital city! Today we’ll skip the queues and make a beeline for the unique beauty and relaxed vibe of World Heritage Antigua. You’ll be shown many of the historic and beautiful facets of town, among rooftop flowerbeds and horse drawn carriages bouncing over cobblestones. We get to spend two nights in this stunning town beneath towering volcanoes.
The day is yours to explore and take advantage of the awesome ME Time optionals we serve up! Get lost in the city, see the sights and tick those boxes, your Tour Manager will help you get where you want to be. If you’re looking for an adventure why not hike a volcano or ride mountain bikes? Then, if you want to relax you could try making local native chocolates, enjoy some international cuisine or shop for some beautiful traditional textiles. There are so many things to do today… its up to you on how you want to enjoy it.
Antigua to Lago Atitlan
Wake up in Anitgua for the last time and continue north into the Highlands, to see the magnificent Lago Atitlan! We’ll journey by private boat to a lakeside Mayan community where we will meet local artisans and learn to make tortillas by hand. And taste them too, of course. Afterwards, relax on a hammock or enjoy the thrill of gliding in the sky… with our ME Time optional - paragliding with local professionals for epic views of the landscape. Tonight we’ll get amongst the traveller vibe and hit the main street, lined with cafes and shops, for a fun night out.
Lago Atitlan to San Cristobel de las Casas
There will be few good snaps to be taken on route today. We’ll make our way through small Mayan communities of Guatemala’s highlands en route to the Mexican border, where we enter the beautiful and rugged territory of Chiapas. You’ll get the chance to explore Comitan and try some of the local cuisine and maybe sample a traditional drink Tascalate (made from chocolate, toasted corn and achiote). Later we heads to the evergreens in the cool cultural capital of San Cristobal de las Casas!
San Cristobel de las Casas
It’s time to get up and discover all city has to offer! Adventurers can take to the landscape for horseback riding or mountain biking this morning. After your Backstage Pass will take you to the Mayan hillside communities of San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan, learn about the untold generations of merging Native American and European cultures. Tonight you’ll get to try some traditional Tamales Chiapanecos at an included dinner, before hitting the town to move to local rhythms. Get festive!
Chiapas to Tehuantepec
This morning you could be relaxing by the pool under mango trees, exploring iconic monuments and indulging in great traditional food! From Mexico’s southern highlands, we make our way toward the country’s great center. The isthmus of Tehauntepec is the narrowest stretch of land that sits between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean. We’ll descend from the forested hills into the beautiful coastal plains of Tehuantepec, where you’ll visit the city square, before a delicious local dinner with your crew.
Tehuantepec to Oaxaca
It’s time to take on this amazing destination. First up we head to World Heritage Oaxaca for some exploring then it’s onto Matatlan, the world capital of the traditional alcoholic spirit Mezcal, where we’ll learn how this agave spirit is produced. Then it’s back on the road to the former Zapotec religious center of Mitla, where sacred rites were once carried out among the geometrical stonework, still intact. Before arriving at our hotel, we get to check out one of the largest trees in the world! Tonight is the first of two nights in the celebrated culinary capital. Enjoy an included walking tour among magnificent colonial architecture this evening, stopping by the market for some delicious and nutritious Chapulines…yum!
This morning is the last full day of the trip! So enjoy the last day with the crew and make the most of some ME Time, discover some of the fantastic local museums and shops in the area. This afternoon, we visit World Heritage Monte Alban, built on a mountaintop overlooking the modern capital. This area is famous for extraordinary traditional crafts and we will visit a local workshop, before returning to town for dinner. It’s time to celebrate one last time… Salud!
Oaxaca to Mexico City
The trips not over yet, after our final breakfast, we travel to the center of the ancient Aztec universe. We’ll take a panoramic tour of World Heritage Puebla, then head to Cholula. This is where the church Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios stands above the buried pyramid Tlachihualtepetl. After you can choose to enjoy a relaxed lunch in the small town plaza or enter the ruins and explore the ancient tunnels. This evening, we arrive Mexico City, where you can say adios to your amigos!