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. As your fellow travellers are arriving at various times throughout the day, there are no planned activities other than a group dinner and info session. Look in the hotel lobby for notices on when/where the group meeting will occur. 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. 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. We use it as a starting and finishing point, and try not to spend too much time in this massive resort area.
This morning we travel to Mérida the capital of the Yucatán, where you will have an included orientation walking tour. Known as la ciudad blanca, the white city, Merida offers the ideal opportunity to learn about Mexico’s fascinating mix of cultural influences. The city 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 is surrounded by the twin-towered 16th Century Cathedral, City Hall, State Government Palace, and the Casa de Montejo. There are several 16th and 17th century churches scattered throughout the city, as well as some interesting museums. Mornings are the best time to visit the busy and colourful markets where you can buy traditional crafts, a good selection of Mayan replicas, or try out new and wonderful food items; nearby Calle 65 is the main shopping street. Be sure to stroll down the Paseo de Montejo (or take a horse drawn calesa ride), lined with shops, restaurants and stately mansions dating from the late 19th century. Go see the murals at the Municipal Palace or visit the newly renovated Anthropological Museum to learn more about Mayan history. Mérida is a fascinating and beautiful city, and easy 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. 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: 5 hours Approximate Distance: 320 km
Begin the day with an included guided visit to the beautifully restored stepped pyramids of Chichén Itzá. The city of Chichén Itzá was founded in 432 and taken over by the Toltecs in the 10th century. Today it is probably the most visited and best-restored site in the Mayan world; it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988. Some of the finest examples of Mayan architecture ever excavated can be found here, including El Castillo with a balustrade of 91 steps up each of the four sides, a ball court with a grandstand and towering walls and the famous observatory. The attention to detail and fusion of architecture, science and religion within the structures and city itself will no doubt impress you. Chichén Itzá is best known for an amazing phenomenon: during the spring and fall equinoxes, the light of the rising and setting sun projects the sun's rays into a diamond-back rattlesnake of light and shadow. The shadow forms the illusion of a snake ascending or descending the giant staircase of El Castillo, a reference to Kukulcan, the serpent-like god of the Maya. An impressive cenote, or sinkhole, can be seen only five minutes walk from the main plaza. It’s said that ancient ceremonies of offering and sacrifice were performed here for the Mayan rain god, Chac. Our final stop is Playa del Carmen, located on the beach just a 45-minute drive south of Cancún. The town is your last chance to enjoy some nightlife, buy last minute souvenirs and to relax and swim in the Caribbean Sea. There is also snorkelling and diving available, and long stretches of sandy beaches which are perfect for walking and relaxing after a hectic day. Just off the coast is the island of Cozumel, renowned for its world-class diving. Take the ferry from Playa del Carmen (30 to 75 minutes depending on the boat) across the turquoise waters and explore the towns and the reefs of the island. For a final dose of ruins, Tulúm is just a 45-minute drive south of Playa. Aside from its unusual late Mayan architecture, it offers possibly the most appealing setting for any ruins, as it is located on a palm-fringed, white-sand beach, where you can even go for a swim within the ancient walls. Estimated Travel Time: 4 hours Approximate Distance: 390 km
The airport is located just south of Cancún (45 minute drive) so you can easily head directly there from Playa del Carmen without returning to Cancún.