Mayans and Mariachis
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Last updated: 02/19/2009
Mountains, jungle and tropical beaches. Experience the best of Mexico on an overland adventure visiting the highlights of this spectacular country full of culture, history and stunning nature.
Arriving Mexico City
On arrival you'll be transferred to your hotel in the city centre, walking distance from the Alameda Park, the Revolution Monument, several famous plazas and the nightlife district Zona Rosa. Once you've freshened up take a taxi to the Zocalo: one of the most famous squares in Mexico and one of the largest public squares in the world. If it's already quite late in the day then skip the Zocalo and visit Plaza Garibaldi, a popular square lined with bars and restaurants and where mariachis in sombreros sing their serenades. Touristy yes, but still very much worth seeing.
Mexico CityWhen you're in Mexico City make sure you visit the number one attraction: the Museo d'Antropologia. It's one of the best, most extensive museums in the world and boasts a fascinating collection of artefacts from all the different cultures of Mexico. The ruins and ancient cities you'll visit further on in your trip will have a lot more meaning when you've visited this museum and learnt more about the history and background of these places and the people that once lived there. Take a taxi; the buses (as we experienced first-hand) are popular with pickpockets.
Mexico City â Excursion PyramidsPlan a day to head out to the pyramids of Teotihuacan, an hour outside the city. The âAvenue of the Deadâ is lined with temples and pyramids that you can climb up. A half-day excursion can easily be arranged locally (approx US$30)
Mexico City - PueblaBecause we want to make sure you get to the right bus station to catch your bus out of Mexico City, we've arranged a transfer from your hotel to the bus terminal. The noisy city and suburbs gradually make way for dry, hilly landscape dotted with giant cactuses and the occasional hacienda in the distance. It's the quintessential Mexico you recognise from the travel guides.After a 3-hour bus ride you'll arrive in Puebla. You'll be staying in a colonial hotel in a former Jesuit monastery. The hotel is one block from the Zocalo, the central square in Puebla. It's a fun place to visit, especially in the evening.Distance: approx 3 hours
PueblaToday is free for you to explore the picturesque city of Puebla. If you like art, particularly paintings, then visit the artists district Barrio del Artista where you'll find several art galleries. If you're in need of a quick sugar rush, the Calle 6 Oriente is known for its sweet shops selling mouth-watering and tooth-cracking sweets like the famous dulce de leche and lime filled with sweet coconut and 'rompope' a liquor based on egg yolk and vanillaFurther up is the 150-year old Teatro Principal. Stop off for a drink at one of the nearby outdoor cafes, a popular meeting place for local musicians, students and artists.
Puebla - OaxacaWe've booked the bus from Oaxaca for you today. Despite having 300.000 inhabitants, Oaxaca has a real small-town feel to it and can easily be explored on foot. From the bus station take a taxi to the Spanish taverna in the heart of the town, where you'll be staying tonight.Oaxaca is even more Indian than Puebla. The town has an interesting mix of ethnic and colonial influences: local market stalls selling traditional crafts are set against the backdrop of baroque colonial buildings and many of the locals still wear the colourful traditional costume. Oaxaca, like Puebla is an artistic town so you'll find plenty of cultural events going on. Ask at the hotel whether there's anything special going on while you're there.Distance: approx 4Â½ hours drive
Oaxaca - overnight bus to San CristobalIn the morning you'll be picked up at your hotel for a visit to the top of the 'White Mountain' and the temple city Monte Alban. The temple complex once served a religious purpose and later became the burial city where Zapotecs would bury their dead.When you're done exploring the ruins and enjoying the view, hop on your bike. On a guided mountain-bike tour you'll explore the area and cycle (downhill) back to Oaxaca. On the way you can stop of at little food stalls, or make a detour to visit one of the villages. You'll be back in Oaxaca in time to grab a bite to eat before you board the 7pm first-class overnight bus to San Cristobal de las Casas, a trip which will take around 12 hours.
San CristobalEarly in the morning, around 7am you'll arrive in San Cristobal, the capital of Mexican Indian culture nestled in the highlands of Chiapas and home to a mix of Mexicans, Indians and travellers. Take a taxi to your posada, a cheerful hotel with beautifully decorated rooms. If there's a room available you can check in straight away.The centre of San Cristobal is car-free so you'll set out on foot to wander round the colourful winding streets that slowly lead uphill through the city. The higher you get, the more beautiful the view: bright sunlight reflects on the green mountains against a background of threatening clouds.Because San Cristobal is quite high up in the mountains the evenings can get quite chilly so you'll need a sweater or a jacket. Or warm up with a tequila in one of the local bars.
San Cristobal, excursion to Chamula
This morning you will head out to Chamula. Because the village has a lot of rules and customs which you won't be aware of, we've arranged this excursion with a local guide to give you a full understanding of the place. Chamula is a small mountain village where, after the arrival of the Spanish invaders old local customs were intertwined with Catholic customs. For example, in the local church you won't find a priest but a shaman seated on the ground, giving advice to the villagers.In the afternoon back in San Cristobal you'll have time to visit the local market where you can buy local produce, handmade clothes and souvenirs.
San Cristobal - PalenqueToday's bus journey will take you from cool mountain air to the tropical jungle in about 5 hours. Passing through wooded valleys and rural villages with pigs blocking the road and horses grazing in the ditch, it's one of the most scenic stretches of your trip across Mexico.Palenque is in the tropical jungle where it's hot and humid, which is why we've arranged accommodation for you outside the village in a small hotel with pool. The Palenque ruins are a 10-minute drive away.Distance: 5 hours along very windy roads...
PalenqueAt 8 am you will be picked up at your hotel for the short trip to Palenque. Bring plenty of water, it's very hot so you'll be sweating buckets. Palenque is hidden deep in the jungle and is one of the few Mayan cities where archaeologists were able to decipher details of the life of the ancient Mayans. You'll have plenty of time to wander through the ruins before the heat drives you back to the comfort of your air-conditioned minibus waiting by the entrance.Not much later you'll find yourself immersed in the refreshingly cool waterfalls of Agua Azul. If you're feeling fit you can follow the path up to the top of the waterfalls, the view is amazing.
At the end of the day you'll arrive back in Palenque.
Palenque - CampecheIn the morning you'll board the bus for a 6-hour journey to Campeche. When you arrive in the afternoon take a taxi to your hotel in the colourful historic centre. All the sights are within walking distance of your hotel. You can take a tram ride from the central square to the fortress walls and bastions that once protected the city against pirates. Many of the colonial buildings have recently been restored and are beautifully lit at night.
Campeche - MeridaFrom the bus terminal in Campeche it's a short 1Â½ hour drive to Merida. where you'll stay the next two nights. Merida is a large town and it's usually quite hot, so you'll be staying in a colonial hotel with pool close to the main square where you can sit in the shade and soak up the Mexican atmosphere.Then take a walk around the town and be amazed at the colossal buildings in French Neo-renaissance style that form a stark contrast to the simple pastel-coloured Yucatecan houses.
MeridaToday you'll be free to visit the surrounding area of Merida. If you've been hit by Mayan-fever after your visit to Palenque then book an excursion to Uxmal, a Mayan city built in 'Puuc' style. With its decorative statues, frills and flourishes we considered it one of the most beautiful Mayan ruins.If you'd rather see some local wildlife then head to the Gulf of Mexico for a boat trip through the Rio Celestun nature reserve, home to thousands of bright pink flamingos. Day trips can easily be arranged from your hotel in Merida. Departure is daily around 8am, returning around 6pm. Price of these excursions approx US$60.
Merida - Chichen Itza - Playa del Carmen
It's an early start today as we've booked you onto the first bus to Chichen Itza this morning (about 4 hours drive). Before you enter what was the last major Mayan city, you can hand in your luggage at the entrance. The serene atmosphere of this ancient city is best experienced from El Castillo, the pyramid in the central part of the city. There's an amazing view across the temples, pyramids, the unusual playing field and the cenote where the Mayans used to fetch their water.Your bus will leave around 3pm from the entrance for your next tropical destination: Playa del Carmen.
Playa del CarmenIt's time to enjoy the tropical sun, sea and sand. You'll spend the next couple of days in Playa del Carmen, a former fishing village overlooking the turquoise Caribbean sea. Your hotel is centrally located: to the left you'll find the broad pearly white beaches, to the right is Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue) a lively shopping street with several bars, restaurants and souvenir shops. There's always plenty going on there, especially in the evening.
Playa del CarmenYou can spend the last day of your Mexico trip snorkelling, diving, visiting the cliff-top ruins of Tulum or simply wile away the hours on the beach doing absolutely nothing at all. It's all up to you.
Playa - CancunThe serenades of the mariachis still ringing in your ears, it's time to say adios to Mexico. Depending on the departure time of your flight back to the UK we've booked the bus back to Cancun airport for you in the morning or afternoon.
- Inclusions -
- Transfer on arrival in Mexico City; accommodation, local transport and excursions as described
- Exclusions -
- International flights & (airport) taxes. Other local (bus) transport (approx Â£25 per person), admission fees, meals.
- Extras -
- This is not a group tour and can be tailor made to create your perfect trip. We can play around with your itinerary until we get it just right.
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