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  • Looking out over The Plaza of a Thousand Columns in Chitchen Itza, Mexico
  • The Fine Arts Museum in Mexico City, Mexico
  • Ik-Kil Cenote near Chichen Itza, Mexico
  • The Kukulkan Pyramid (El Castillo) at Chitchen-Itza, Mexico
  • Mayan ruins at Palenque, Mexico
  • Colourful  Mayan skulls at a market, Mexico
Route:
Mexico City to Cancún
Days:
13
Style: Worldwide Adventures
Code: ZMA
From:
US$1,289

US$1,225


From the buzzing metropolis of Mexico City to the white sand beaches of Cancún, this tour offers a comprehensive overview of Mexico's highlights. Discover the magic of the pyramids at Teotihuacan, peruse the colonial architecture at Oaxaca, enjoy stunning views from the Zapotec site of Monte Alban, visit indigenous villages around San Cristobal de las Casas, hear the hoots of monkeys in the jungle around Palenque and explore the World Heritage site of Chichén Itzá.

Have more time?

Add nine days to your trip and finish in Antigua, Guatemala. Search for tour code YMA.

About this tour

  • Type of Travel: Public Transport
  • Group Size: Average 8-12. Maximum 16.
  • Recommended Age: 18-65
  • Country: Mexico

Itinerary

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Day 1 to 1 - Arrive Mexico City

The first day of your tour is simply an arrival day with no pre-organised activities. In order to allow time to relax and see some of the sights you may wish to add pre-tour accommodation.

Mexico City is the world's most populated city with over 20 million people. Founded by Spanish conquerors in 1521, Mexico's capital sits at 2309 metres above sea level and was built on the site of the ancient Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. The extensive metro system and trolley buses make getting around easy and there is certainly plenty to see and do here.

A good starting point is the main plaza, the enormous Zócalo, where you will find the impressive Catedral y Sagrario Metropolitano, the main cathedral of Mexico City, with a magnificent Latin-Baroque style façade. Remember to look through the glass flooring outside of the church to see the ancient Aztec city beneath. Just behind the cathedral are the Aztec ruins of the ancient Teocali, which were only discovered in 1978. You can also visit the world famous Anthropology Museum and the National Palace where you can see murals depicting the history of Mexico by one of the country's most famous artists Diego Riviera. A museum dedicated to his equally famous wife, Frieda Kahlo, is located in her childhood home in Coyoacán. In the evening you can enjoy a spicy Mexican dinner and maybe a few tequilas in the Zona Rosa while enjoying music performed by a mariachi band.

Accommodation

1 night(s) in hotels at Hotel El Salvador or similar

Day 2 to 2 - Puebla

Before heading to Puebla we take a short bus journey from Mexico City to the ancient site of Teotihuacan where we can enjoy a guided tour. Here you will see an amazing abandoned city built around 300 BC by a civilisation now lost in the mists of time. The historic complex is a fascinating combination of ceremonial pyramids, such as the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon, the Ciudadela, which are connected by the Street of the Dead, palaces, old temples and the Plaza of the Sun. The buildings are decorated with friezes and other ornate artworks. Heading back to Mexico City we board a comfortable bus to Puebla on a two hour journey. In Puebla you can admire the Spanish colonial architecture and try a mole poblano, a rich spicy sauce containing chocolate, cinnamon and nuts.

We continue to one of Mexico's oldest towns, Puebla, which means "City of the Angels". Set in a valley with a dramatic backdrop of volcanoes and snow-topped peaks, Puebla is a fascinating old colonial town founded in 1531. The historic city centre has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site partly due to its impressively preserved Spanish colonial architecture. Puebla is the best place to try mole poblano, a rich, spicy sauce containing chocolate, cinnamon and nuts, as well as different types of hot peppers, often served over chicken.

Included Excursions

Guided tour of Teotihuacán ruins

Accommodation

1 night(s) in hotels at Hotel Alhondiga or similar

Day 3 to 3 - Oaxaca

Next on our list is Oaxaca (pronounced wa-ha-ka), a beautiful city bordered by mountains and thick forests, with a very pleasant Plaza de la Constitución where you can eat, drink and watch the world go by. After getting taxis to the bus terminal we will spend 4-5 hours travelling in first class to Oaxaca. Sample tasty street food and admire the colourful colonial buildings in this attractive town.

Accommodation

1 night(s) in hotels at Meson del Rey or similar

Meals

1 Breakfast(s)

Day 4 to 4 - Night Bus to San Cristóbal

From Oaxaca we include a guided excursion of Monte Albán, the holy city of the ancient Zapotecs located 400 metres above the Oaxaca valley. There are many structures to explore around the Grand Plaza including numerous tombs, ceremonial altars, tunnels, pyramids and palaces, many decorated by glyphs, paintings and intricate carvings. After enjoying the charms of Oaxaca we take an overnight bus to San Cristóbal de las Casas.

Included Excursions

Guided tour of Monte Albán ruins

Accommodation

1 night(s) on overnight sleeper buses

Day 5 to 7 - San Cristóbal

Ascending into the mountainous Chiapas region we arrive at the fascinating colonial city of San Cristóbal de las Casas. Situated in the middle of the highlands, here you will find Mexico's richest example of indigenous culture, as it is surrounded by 21 indigenous villages with distinct languages, dress and customs. Red tiled houses painted in brilliant colours dominate the city, maintaining a delightful provincial charm. There are numerous interesting museums to see such as the Amber Museum, the Coffee Museum, the Maya Medicine Museum, and the 'Na Bolom' Cultural Centre.

We can enjoy an included tour of the nearby villages where you can buy beautifully made local handicrafts and get a true feel for how modern descendents of the ancient Maya people live today. The tour gives you a fascinating insight into their pre-Columbian beliefs and their daily struggle to be heard in what is one of Mexico's most isolated regions.

There is also an option to visit the stunning Sumidero Canyon on a guided speedboat tour along a 30 kilometre section of the Grijalva river to the hydro-electric dam. There are plenty of opportunities to photograph local wildlife such as birds, crocodiles and iguanas. The cliffs towering over the river reach 100 metres at the highest point, which will provide a dramatic backdrop to your pictures.

Included Excursions

San Cristóbal village tour

Optional Excursions

Na Bolom Museum, the old house of Frans and Trudy Blom, an anthropologist and archaeologist, who worked with the Lacandon Indians. – MXN50 • Canyon Sumidero. A tour to a deep impressive canyon, where you can spot several sun-bathing crocodiles. – US$25

Accommodation

3 night(s) in hotels at Palacio de Moctezuma or similar

Meals

2 Breakfast(s)

Day 8 to 9 - Palenque

Next we take a scenic and lengthy bus journey to Palenque. You will pass beautiful views as we travel for just over five hours to the town and ruins of Palenque, famous for the tombs found filled with riches in honour of the renowned Lord Pakal and the Red Queen. This archaeological site houses more than 200 structures including a series of hilltop temples, towers, tombs and pyramids surrounded by steamy jungle. The most important constructions, which date back to the Classical period (400-700 AD) are the Temple of the Inscriptions, the Crypt, the Palace complex, the Temple of the Cross, the Temple of the Foliated Cross, and the Temple of the Sun. Decorated with elaborate friezes, sculptures and inscriptions, Palenque is unquestionably one of the most important Mayan archaeological sites. Paths cutting through the jungle lead to various temples and the gorgeous waterfalls, where over time, strange figures have taken shape in the rock formations. A local guide may offer you the extra option of going on a forest walk where you can see unexcavated ruins enveloped in jungle.

Other attractions near Palenque include the fantastic Agua Azul Nature Reserve with more than 200 small waterfalls, and the incredible Misol-Ha waterfall with a 30 metre drop (optional half day tour includes both these falls).

Included Excursions

Guided tour of Palenque ruins

Optional Excursions

Tour by minivan to Agua Azul and Misol Ha waterfalls – US$25

Accommodation

2 night(s) in hotels at Hotel Xibalba or similar

Meals

2 Breakfast(s)

Day 10 to 11 - Mérida

Today we spend a full day on buses as we head from Palenque to Merida. After a short walk to the bus terminal, we board a first class bus and the journey will take the whole day. Capital of the Yucatan province, the 'white city' of Mérida is a pleasant mixture of colonial buildings, churches and plazas. The markets simply overflow with beautiful weavings, hammocks and batiks, making this a great place to buy handmade crafts and souvenirs. At night the city comes alive with live theatre and concerts. There are many city excursions on offer here, from a comprehensive hop on/hop off bus tour exploring the greater city area to a relaxing horse-drawn carriage tour around the cobbled streets of El Centro and Pasaje Montejo Boulevard. If you want to explore the region near Mérida you could visit the small fishing town of Celestún with its large flamingo population. You could also take a swim in the local 'cenotes' (sen-o-tays), fresh-water swimming holes connected by spectacular limestone caverns and deep underwater rivers once sacred to the ancient Maya, covering the entire Yucatan peninsula.

Optional Excursions

Anthropological Museum – MXN30 • Mérida city tour – free • Uxmal ruins – US$65 (approx) • Cenotes, it is possible to swim and snorkel in various cenotes which often resemble small, circular lakes or lagoons with vertical edges. – US$ 44 • Hop-on hop-off bus – US$8

Accommodation

2 night(s) in hotels at Hotel Colonial or similar

Meals

2 Breakfast(s)

Day 12 to 12 - Cancún

Before going to Cancun, we travel on a bus to Chichén Itzá, an impressive Maya/Toltec site recently voted as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. Constructed between the 7th and 10th century AD, Chichén Itzá was a centre of pilgrimage for the Maya for over 1000 years. Among the sights your local guide will point out during the tour of the site are the ball court where the captain of the winning team was beheaded (no incentive to play your best!) and the sacred cenote where treasures and the remains of human sacrifices have been discovered. The most famous attraction is the great Pyramid of Kukulcan, dedicated to the feathered serpent god Kukulcan and built with such precision that a shadow serpent descends down the steps during the equinox. After soaking up the beauty of Chichén Itzá, we have plenty of time to relax on the long bus to Cancun.

Until 1970 Isla Cancún (Cancún Island) had only three residents, the caretakers of the coconut plantation with only 117 people living in nearby Puerto Juarez, a fishing village and military base. The island was home to some of the Caribbean's most beautiful beaches and with the advent of mass market tourism it was an ideal location. Due to the reluctance of investors to bet on an unknown area however, the Mexican government had to finance the first nine hotels.

Today over two million visitors a year, come to Cancún to relax on one of the beautiful beaches in what is now known as the 'hotel zone' and to swim in the crystal clear turquoise waters. If the activity of Cancún becomes too much for you, you can always take a ferry out to the more relaxed Isla Mujeres or arrange a snorkelling or diving excursion.

Included Excursions

Guided tour of Chichén Itzá

Optional Excursions

Isla Mujeres – US$18 ferry • Xelha Theme Park - From US$95 • Xcaret Theme Park – From US$95 • Swimming with whale sharks (seasonal May - Sept) – US$140

Accommodation

1 night(s) in hotels

Meals

1 Breakfast(s)

Day 13 to 13 - Depart Cancún

Your adventure of a lifetime comes to an end today. If you have a late flight or have lengthened your stay by adding post tour accommodation you will have more time to explore the sights.

Meals

1 Breakfast(s)

What's Included

Excursions & Activities

  • Guided tour of Teotihuacán ruins
  • Guided tour of Monte Albán ruins
  • San Cristóbal village tour
  • Guided tour of Palenque ruins
  • Guided tour of Chichén Itzá

Accommodation

11 night(s) in hotels, 1 night(s) on overnight sleeper buses

Transportation

Public Bus

Meals

9 Breakfast(s)

Other

Tucan Travel tour leader, English-speaking local guide(s) on included excursions

What's Not Included

  • Spending money – budget for meals, snacks, drinks, limited souvenirs, laundry, tips and any extras
  • International flights to/from the start/end of your tour and departure taxes  
  • Tips on included excursions, visas, travel insurance, personal items and single rooms.  
  • Optional excursions - On each trip, you may find there are some excursions that are not included. This might be because they are not to everyone's taste or there may be various options of differing value to choose from. More information on the excursions we recommend is listed under each day of your itinerary though prices may vary. If you are after something in particular, don't hesitate to ask your tour leader.
  • Airport transfers and pre and post tour accommodation

Group

Group Size: Maximum 16. Average 8-12

Tour Suitability: This tour is recommended for people aged 18-65. For more information on what to expect, click here.

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