Arrive in Cancún at any time. Check into our hotel and enjoy the city. Please try to arrive before 6pm for an important group meeting where you can meet the Chief Experience Officer (CEO) and the other group members. Long a destination among sun-worshipping tourists and spring breakers, we only stay here long enough to meet and get primed for our adventure. The famous resort of Cancún on the northeastern tip of the Yucatán Peninsula, is a thriving town with skyscraper hotels and crowded beaches. Prices are higher in Cancún than elsewhere in Mexico because everything must be transported into the city. The heat and humidity of Cancún may affect you upon arrival, with a general sense of lethargy and/or loss of appetite. This is no cause for alarm, it’s simply a reaction to the heat. Be sure to drink plenty of water (cold bottled water is available everywhere) and do not attempt too much in any given day. We prefer fan-cooled rather than air conditioned rooms to avoid having to acclimatize to the heat and humidity every time you go outside.
After departing Cancún at 9:00am under the usually scorching sun, we stop for a guided tour of the famous Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá before arriving in the evening in the capital of the Yucatán, Mérida. The city of Chichén Itzá, estimated to be founded in 432, houses some of the finest examples of Mayan architecture ever excavated, including El Castillo, with a balustrade of 91 stairs up each of the four sides, a ball court with a grandstand and towering walls. The attention to detail, and fusion of architecture, science and religion within the structures and throughout the city planning, will no doubt impress you. After seeing a part of ancient Mexico we will arrive in Mérida where you will have an included orientation walking tour and for the next couple of days you can explore colonial Mérida’s museums, plazas, architectures, open markets and outdoor cafés. Known as la ciudad blanca, the white city, Merida offers the ideal opportunity to learn about Mexico’s fascinating mix of cultural influences. Merida’s also the gateway to the Mayan ruins of Uxmal, one of the Yucatán’s many ancient treasures. Mérida, the capital of Yucatán State, was founded in 1542 on the site of the Mayan city of Tihoo. Its centre, the Plaza Mayor, or zocalo, is green and shady and surrounded by the twin-towered 16th Century Cathedral, the City Hall, the State Government Palace, and the Casa Montejo. There are several 16th and 17th century churches scattered about the city, as well as some interesting museums. Mornings are the best time to visit the busy and colourful markets. You can buy traditional crafts, such as hammocks or Guyabera shirts, and a good selection of Maya replicas. You can also try out new and wonderful food items, such as the delicious cochinita pibil, a local specialty. Hot sauce fans will also want to try El Yucateco, a fiery liquid made from habanero peppers. Be sure and stroll down the Paseo de Montejo (or take a caleche carriage ride), together with many shops and restaurants, you will see stately mansions dating from the late 19th century. Nearby, is the main shopping street, Calle 65. You are sure to find Mérida a fascinating and beautiful city to explore on foot. If cities aren’t your thing, escape to the beach town of Progreso and see the Dzibilchaltun ruins on the way. Mérida is also the gateway to the Mayan ruins of the Puuc Route, the most famous of which is Uxmal, which rivals Chichén Itzá in its scale and extent of excavation. Or, visit 3 nearby cenotes or water sink holes in the town of Cuzama, not far outside Mérida. Transportation to the cenotes is an adventure as it involves taking small wooden horse-drawn carts that runs for 9 km along old rail tracks. Enjoy a refreshing swim in the crystal clear waters of the cenotes! Estimated Travel Time: 7 hours Approximate Distance: 320 km
After a long day of travel we arrive at the monumental Mayan ruins of Palenque. The large sarcophagus containing the mummified remains of the Lord Pakal were found in 1952 by Mexican archaeologist Alberto Ruz and is only one of Palenque’s many treasures. The temples at this site, with fantastic comb-like decorations on their intact roofs, and the sculptured wall panels, are undoubtedly amongst the most exquisite achievements of the Maya. The ancient city holds over 200 buildings of varying size and complexity. Don’t forget to bring your camera on our included guided tour of the ruins. There are many optional activities to choose from in this area. If you are interested in seeing more ancient Mayan sites, take a day trip by van and then boat to the breathtaking Bonampak and Yaxchilan Ruins near the Guatemalan border. This is a full day tour but well worth the journey. If you are interested in doing something closer to Palenque, the famous Agua Azul and Misol-Ha waterfalls are approximately 45 minutes away and are both well worth a visit. The 35-metre high Misol-Ha waterfall is set in the middle of lush jungle, with smaller falls just inside a nearby cave. Take a break from the heat with a swim in the stunning naturally formed pools at the waterfalls of Agua Azul, located just 15 minutes from Misol-Ha. Depart for Tulúm later in the evening on Day 6. Estimated Travel Time: 8 hours Approximate Distance: 620 km
A first-class, but often heavy-on-the-air-conditioning, overnight bus takes us to Tulúm, situated on the Caribbean coast. Upon arrival in Tulúm, we'll find a place for breakfast before travelling south to the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve. We spend a couple of nights at reserve, one of Mexico’s most important protected areas due to its diversity in bird and animal species. Our jungle lodge allows us to see and appreciate the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve through its 14-metre tower. The Reserve uses ecologically responsible technologies, including systems for wetland waste management, rainwater collection, and solar and wind energy generation to protect the environment. Optional activities include swimming in cenotes, lagoons or the ocean, bird or cayman spotting in a kayak or biking. Estimated Travel Time: 15 hours Approximate Distance: 870 km
About 30 minutes off of Cancún is the beautiful Isla Mujeres, Spanish for 'Island of Women'. Long and narrow, this small island offers much to explore. Scooters or golf carts are easily available and a great way to explore the Island. A nice selection of restaurants, shops and modest nightlife gives the Island a great flavour. The beaches are also some of the best in the area. Opt to set sail before dusk to watch the sunset and stars emerge. Another popular option is to spend the day at Isla Contoy - a bird sanctuary with a few short trails and an abundance of wildlife. **Please note that you may need to return to Cancun in the evening of Day 9 if you have a very early flight the next day. The Cancun International airport is exactly one hour from Isla Mujeres (30 mins by ferry and taxi respectively) and the ferries run from 6am, through 1am daily. Therefore, if you have an international flight from 9:30am onwards (or a domestic flight from 8:30am onwards) on Day 10 you are fine to stay in Isla Mujeres for the last night. Estimated Travel Time: 3 hours Approximate Distance: 150 km
Depart Isla Mujeres at anytime. It is only a 30-minute ferry transfer to Cancún from Isla Mujeres. Transferring to the Cancún International Airport is easily arranged. The total travel time between Isla Mujeres and the airport is approximately 1 hour.