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Private Journeys

Discover Mexico: Oaxaca’s culture and coastline

13 days from £3,290pp

Mexico

Itinerary

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Day 1

Arrive in Mexico City and transfer to hotel in the historic centre.

You’ll be met at the airport by one of our local representatives and accompanied to your hotel. Mexico City has evolved over the centuries into a modern day metropolis from its founding as the Aztec city of Tenochtitlán in the 14th century. A history of agricultural cultivation, religious ritual, and warring tribes took a seismic turn with the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores and the development of the city was fuelled by silver mining.

Your hotel is close to the zócalo, main square, right in the heart of the historic core of the city which is crammed with important colonial edifices. You might stroll along the pedestrianised streets in the evenings, when Mexicans take their traditional promenade, stopping off for a coffee or beer in one of the numerous bars, or window-shopping.

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Day 2

Full day guided excursion to Teotihuacán pyramids and Guadalupe shrine.

Guided tour of Teotihuacán and the Guadalupe shrine. Passing through the northern suburbs of the capital, you head into the countryside towards the megalithic archaeological site of Teotihuacán. Teotihuacán dates from the time of Christ and was once one of the largest cities in the world. It is hugely influential in the historic narrative of modern Mexico and, although it had already been abandoned by the time of the Aztecs, even this great empire held it in awe.

Stroll along the imposing Avenue of the Dead, leading to the vast Pyramid of the Sun, and take the opportunity to climb its vertiginous, ancient steps for a panorama of the ruins and the lush surrounding countryside.

Visit also the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadelupe, the most venerated shrine and pilgrimage destination in Mexico. Here, the Virgin Mary, disguised as an indian princess, appeared to indigenous Mexican Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, leaving her image impressed on his cloak. It is not certain that he ever existed but he was canonised by the Roman Catholic church in 2002 as the continent’s first indigenous saint.

You can explore the historic centre on foot from your hotel. Don’t miss the cathedral and national palace.  If you have time we suggest you visit the world-class Museum of Anthropology, a short taxi or public bus ride away. The museum exhibits remarkable, well displayed expositions of Aztec artefacts alongside items from other ancient civilisations. It’s a fantastic introduction to the superb and sometimes grisly artistic achievements of Mexico’s early inhabitants.

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Day 3

Guided visit to Xochimilco, Coyoacán and the Frida Kahlo Museum.

Today you have a guided day trip out to the fringes of the city and its most prestigious artist quarter. Visit Coyoacán, which, before the city expanded to absorb it, was a colonial village. This neighbourhood still has its own identity, with narrow streets, plazas, cafés and a lively arty atmosphere.

Walk through the main plaza, churches and beautiful old buildings, including the house of conqueror Hernán Cortés. Visit Frida Kahlo’s home, where the great artist was born, lived much of her life, and eventually died. The house is a treasure trove, not only of her paintings, but also of innumerable artefacts associated with her and her husband, famous muralist Diego Rivera.

Continue to the floating gardens of Xochimilco, which were once connected to the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City) by a causeway, and where the Aztecs grew much of their food. Navigate the tranquil tree-lined canals on board a traditional ‘trajinera’, a flower-decked wooden punt, and will discover a little of how Aztec life was before the conquest. 

 

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Day 4

Full day guided tour to Puebla, Tonantzintla and Cholula, overnight in Puebla.

En route to the World Heritage Site of Puebla, a 3hr drive from Mexico City,  you’ll stop in Tonantzintla to visit the unique Santa María church renowned for its elaborate and unique stucco interior – a beautiful example of indigenous artisan work combining Mexican and European Christian elements.

Then you’ll continue on to Cholula to visit the remains of the Great Pyramid of Cholula, which measure 450m along each side of the base and is an impressive 65m high, making it larger in volume than Egypt’s Cheops pyramid.

You’ll arrive in Puebla in time for lunch at the traditional La Fonda de Santa Clara restaurant where you’ll be encouraged to taste mole poblano – Mexico’s national dish – that fuses a flavoursome array of chillies in a thick, rich, chocolate-tinged sauce. Finally, you’ll explore Puebla’s colonial centre that is lined with churches and provincial mansions, adorned with the delicately hand-painted talavera tiles – Puebla’s finest attraction.

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Day 5

At leisure in Puebla.

At leisure in Puebla.

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Day 6

By road to Oaxaca, southwest Mexico, guided tour of city and market.

Leave Puebla and head by road to the city of Oaxaca, set among arid mountains. The capital of the region, it has airy patios and graceful arcades and is famed for its colourful market, serapes, crafts and dances. The city’s historical centre, was declared a UNESCO world historic site in 1987.

The population in this area is still dominated by Zapotec and Mixtec indians, but the town has many examples of well-preserved Spanish colonial architecture, some fine museums and a thriving artistic community, as well as a wonderful climate. The peace and quiet of the cobbled streets is a welcome contrast to the busy capital.

You can easily explore the city on foot with the main square, the Zócalo, and the boulevard of Calle Alcalá being free of traffic. Visit the city’s government palace, cathedral and Santa Domingo church, as well as its colourful food market. Oaxaca is a centre for Mexican art, so there are also opportunities to purchase arts and crafts in its gift shops.

 

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Day 7

Half day guided excursion to the ruins of ancient city Monte Albán.

Head out of town to nearby Monte Albán, the grand Zapotec ceremonial centre. Strategically located on an artificially levelled hill where three valleys meet, the site has superb views over the surrounding area. There is time to explore the pyramids, steep staircases, walls covered with strange carvings, burial chambers and temples. Although there is a theory that the main plaza was a religious ceremonial site, most of the imagery all over the place is decidedly militaristic, featuring tortured captives and devastated conquered settlements.

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Day 8

At leisure in Oaxaca.

At leisure in Oaxaca. 

Oaxaca

Day 9

Transfer to airport and fly to Huatulco; transfer to hotel on the beach.

Transfer to Oaxaca airport and fly to Huatulco on the Pacific coast via Mexico City. This, once a small, unassuming village on the Pacific coast, has been absorbed into an ambitious tourism project aimed to rival the highly commercialised Cancún, although it is markedly more low-key and laid-back.

Its location is certainly impressive, set around nine stunning bays and surrounded by lush tropical forest bubbling with wildlife. It is especially popular with holidaymakers from Mexico. Your Mediterranean-style hotel is located on a pretty bay.

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Day 10-12

At leisure on the beach; optional water-sports and activities.

Relax in the hotel’s tropical gardens or around the immense free-form pool. The beaches are exquisite and there are loads of water-sports, activities and excursions at the property or easily booked.

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Day 13

Transfer to Huatulco airport and fly to Mexico City to connect with international flight home.

Transfer to Huatulco airport to fly to Mexico City and connect with your international flight home.

Inspired by this trip

Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.

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Your edit for Latin American inspiration

Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.

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