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Eagle: Aztecs, Mayas and conquistadores

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On this escorted group holiday, visit the superb museums and teeming plazas of the megapolis Mexico City, wander the cobbled streets and soak up the Spanish colonial features of Oaxaca, Campeche and Mérida. Explore the glorious ancient monuments which lay hidden, smothered and silent for centuries amid the deep valleys and jungles of the south, before ending your trip in the lush Yucatán Peninsula, fringed by white sand beaches. 

From here you're well positioned to extend your trip to Mexico's Caribbean coast, to Cuba, or across the border to Guatemala.

Holiday itinerary

UK clients depart arriving Mexico City the same day.

Day 1

Overnight in the capital.

Day 2

Visit the Museum of Anthropology and Teotihuacán pyramids.

Day 3

Optional visit to Coyoacán, Frida Kahlo museum and Xochimilco.

Day 4

Drive to Oaxaca via the city of Puebla.

Day 5

Visit pre-Columbian archaeological sites Mitla and Monte Albán.

Day 6

Walking tour of Oaxaca and time at leisure to explore.

Day 7

By air and road to San Cristóbal de las Casas via Sumidero Canyon.

Day 8

Excursion to villages San Juan Chamula and Zinancantán.

Day 9

Drive to Palenque via the waterfalls and pools of Misol-Ha and Agua Azul.

Day 10

Guided tour of the archaeological site Palenque.

Day 11

Drive to the historic city of Campeche.

Day 12

Continue to Mérida via Mayan temples at Uxmal.

Day 13

At leisure: explore Mérida or visit the gulf coast.

Day 14

Drive to Mayan Chichén Itzá; guided tour of the ruins.

Day 15

Depart from Cancún on international flight or extension.

UK clients arrive home the following day.

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What our experts say

A rich mix of cultures, Mexico invites you to delve into one of the most diverse countries in Latin America. Lovers of history and contemporary tradition alike with thrill to this eye-opener: from the ruined temples Aztecs of Mexico City and the Maya of the Yucatan, passing through the Spanish colonial and indigenous jewels of Oaxaca, Chiapas and San Cristobal de las Casas. 

Nicola Goldie

Nicola Goldie

Travel Consultants

Places visited on this holiday

Eagle aztecs, mayas and conquistadores

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Mexico City
Mexico City Street

It’s mind-bogglingly huge. Seen from the air, Mexico City, embracing over 20 million people, is a drained lake full of urban sprawl, located at 2,250m. But at ground level it exposes all the different aspects of its centuries of history dating back to the Aztecs: wander the secretive lanes around the city’s heart, the vast zócalo, dominated by its monumental cathedral; turn off a 4-lane highway into the arty colonial quarter of Coyoacán; or take a bus past silvery sky-scrapers down the noble Paseo Reforma – inspired by the Champs Elysées - to shady Chapultepec Park, to appreciate the contrasts. A metropolis with a burgeoning economy, it’s a city that demands attention, and admiration.

When to go
It’s a year-round destination. Most rain falls between Jun and Sep.

Language

Spanish.

Getting local currency

Mexican peso. Notes can be withdrawn from the many ATMs using a UK credit or debit card. You may have ask your bank to authorise withdrawals before you leave the UK, and amounts are limited to about £100.

Time difference

GMT -6 hours.  

Combines with

A visit to almost anywhere else in Mexico: the domestic flight network is comprehensive and roads are good. Close to the city you might visit the silverwork town of Taxco (170 kms); a bit further afield but accessible by car is a necklet of divine colonial towns, including the artists’ Mecca San Miguel de Allende (234 kms).

Getting there

There are direct flights from London taking around 12 hours.

Key events
Independence Day, 16 Sept, celebrations throughout the city
Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe), 12 Dec: Not a public holiday, but it is Mexico's biggest religious festival of the year. The day is celebrated with a mass ceremony and a traditional fair in her honour. The day is packed with free concerts on the plaza of Basilica de Guadalupe, in a suburb of the city. 
Day of the Dead, Nov 1st - 2nd, celebrated throughout the country.

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Colonial and silver towns
Silver town

Northwest of Mexico City lie ranges of gnarled, humpy but starkly beautiful hills. Here, and in the bountiful valleys of the Bajío, Spanish colonists built fortunes from the mining of precious metals, especially silver. Prosperous towns sprang up which share a heritage of baroque churches, leafy squares and pastel-washed houses. Each has its own character: the university town Guanajuato, 2,000m, built in a narrow gorge, is a centre for music, theatre and dance, while the homely yet international little town of San Miguel de Allende, 1,900m, is a magnet for artists. Morelia, 1,920m, shows off some of the grandest monumental colonial architecture, and Querétaro, 1,820m, is renowned for its impressive colonial aqueduct.

Just an hour's drive south of Mexico City is Puebla, 2,135m, a large city with an imposing colonial core reflecting its importance as a trading post during the era of the Spanish Empire. It's a great base for visits to the indigenous towns of Cholula and Tlaxcala.    

When to go

The highland colonial silver towns have a pleasant sunny climate year round; most rain falls from Jun-Sep.

Language

Spanish

Getting local currency
Mexican peso. Notes can be withdrawn from the many ATMs using a UK credit or debit card. You may have ask your bank to authorise withdrawals before you leave the UK, and amounts may be lower than permitted in the UK.
Time difference

There are flights to León-Guanajuato from the UK via various cities in the USA including Houston and Los Angeles. Flights to León-Guanajuato operate from Mexico City. You can travel to the colonial towns by public coach or self-drive hire car on a good network of roads.

Combines with

The resorts and hotels of the Pacific coast; Guadalajara, one of Mexico’s most important cities (flights from León); Oaxaca, Mexico’s artistic centre and preserver of the country’s indigenous heritage, fly from León via Mexico City, 3.5hrs.

Key events
Independence Day, 16 Sept. Celebrations throughout the country, fireworks and parades in San Miguel.
Festival Internacional Cervantes, Guanajuato, 2 weeks in Oct annually (dates vary). Huge cultural festival with many activities and presentations across the whole range of performing arts.
Day of the Dead, 1-2 Nov. Celebrated throughout the country.
Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe), 12 Dec.  Not a public holiday, but it is Mexico's biggest religious festival of the year. In Querétaro it coincides with a two week fair with rides and many other events.

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Oaxaca

Oaxaca is a charming city with a long and eventful history. Separated from Mexico City to the north by rugged mountains and dotted with small weaving and craft villages, the isolated region has ploughed its own furrow, forging its own distinctive identity. Known as Mexico’s artistic centre, Oaxaca embodies both indigenous and colonial features, the markets, artisan workshops, rituals and multiple fiestas reflecting the native culture while the baroque architecture, plazas and museums bear witness to the Spanish influence. The Zapotec and Mixtec people’s ancient sites at Monte Albán, Yagul and Mitla are as impressive as the Mayan ruins in the south and east.

When to go

The highland town has a pleasant climate with temperatures ranging from the low to the high 20s Celsius throughout the year. Maximum sunshine hours Jan-Mar. Most rain falls Jun-Sept.  

Language

Spanish

Getting local currency

Mexican peso. Notes can be withdrawn from several ATMs using a UK credit or debit card. You may have ask your bank to authorise withdrawals before you leave the UK, and amounts are lower than permitted in the UK. Money exchanges (casas de cambio) exchange dollars cash; rates for Euros and sterling are low.

Time difference

GMT -6 hrs.  

Combines with

The beach resorts and hotels at Huatulco (by the dramatic, literally breath-taking drive on Highway 175, 3.5hrs or 35mins by air) and Puerto Escondido, both on the Pacific coast (38mins by air).

Getting there

Fly from Mexico City, 1.5 hrs. There is an excellent highway now connecting the two cities, it takes 5hrs to cover the 500km.

Key events
Guelaguetza! Two Mondays in Jul. Extravagant Oaxacan folk dance fiesta taking place in the amphitheatre. Accompanied with processions and fireworks.
Virgen de Carmen, 16 Jul. Processions and fireworks
Day of the Dead,  1-2 Nov. Celebrated throughout the country. Music and dance ceremonies at the cemetery; sand sculptures at the cathedral.
Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe), 12 Dec. Not a public holiday, but it is Mexico's biggest religious festival of the year.
Christmas events: 16-25 Dec. Nightly nativity plays, processions, fireworks, traditional dancing.

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Chiapas, San Cristobal and Palenque
Chiapas, San Cristobal de las Casas & Palenque

In the southern state of Chiapas, San Cristóbal de las Casas, 2,100m, along with its surrounding villages - traditionally a focal point of political rebellion - is now a stronghold of indigenous lifestyle. The landscapes are savage, with jungle, rivers, canyons and lakes a backdrop to traditional settlements and some fine pre-Columbian ruined temples. The kilometre-deep Sumidero Canyon has vertical limestone cliffs plunging into trapped green waters of the river below; the rim road is punctuated with viewpoints. Further east is the religious centre at Mayan Palenque, once throttled by the surrounding jungle but now revealed in all the glory of its intricate masonry - vaults, pyramids, pillars and sculptures, all constructed on a series of terraces. 


When to go
The highland city has a pleasant temperate climate with temperatures in the low 20°C throughout the year. Maximum sunshine hours in Jan - Feb. Most rain falls Jun - Sep.  

Palenque is in the tropical lowlands, with temperatures in the low 30°C throughout the year. The heaviest rainfall occurs in May - Oct. 

Language

Spanish.

Getting local currency

Mexican peso. Notes can be withdrawn from several ATMs in San Cristóbal using a UK credit or debit card You may have ask your bank to authorise withdrawals before you leave the UK, and amounts are lower than permitted in the UK. Banks, casas de cambio and travel agencies exchange dollars cash.

Time difference

GMT -6 hours.

Getting there

Fly  to San Cristóbal  or Tuxtla Gutiérrez (1.5 hours by road from San Cristóbal) from Mexico City, 1 hour.

Key events
Carnival: Feb/Mar. Especially festive at San Juan Chamula.
Day of the Dead, Nov 1st - 2nd, celebrated throughout the region. 
Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe), 12 Dec. Not a public holiday, but it is Mexico's biggest religious festivals of the year and celebrated throughout Chiapas.

Back to list of places visited
Yucatan Peninsula
El Castillo, Chichen Itza

The states of Campeche, Yucatán and Quintana Roo form the huge wedge of low-lying, forest-covered territory of Mexico’s south-east. It is here that vestiges of the Mayan civilisation loom out of the undergrowth at every turn. Sites replete with temples and pyramids festooned with sacred carvings were, once abandoned, swallowed up by a rapacious jungle but are now gradually being revealed. The best known sites, Chichén Itzá, Uxmal, Tulum are easily accessible and have been spruced up for visitors. There are lesser-known sites rising from an untouched natural setting including Edzná, a huge ceremonial centre featuring the 30m high Temple of the Five Storeys, and Calakmul, the biggest archaeological area in Mesoamerica with 7,000 buildings in the central zone. 

There are some pretty Spanish colonial towns too, the arched colonnades of Izamal and Mérida, a  bustling  place where colonial churches and mansions cram the grid of streets;  plazas host markets and impromptu musical and  theatrical performances. 

The Riviera Maya spans the peninsula’s soft-sand Caribbean coast with its resort hotels and fishing villages, while the coastal mangrove-draped marshes at Sian Ka’an host a biosphere reserve heaving with wildlife.


When to go

It’s hot and fairly humid all year round, with a risk of tropical storms and hurricanes Aug-Nov.

Language

Spanish

Currency

Mexican peso. Notes can be withdrawn from the ATMs in major towns throughout the peninsula using a UK credit or debit card. You may have to authorise with your bank before you leave homefirst, and withdrawals are limited to about £100. There are also banks and money exchanges (casas de cambio) here.

Time difference

GMT -6 hrs.

Combines with

A visit to almost anywhere else in Mexico: the domestic flight network is comprehensive and roads are good.  Mexico City is less than 2 hrs’ flying time away. Havana, Cuba, is also just 2 hrs away from Cancún

Key events

Carnival, many places on the peninsula, Feb-Mar annually, preceding Ash Wednesday and Lent. In Cozumel and Cancún the holiday has a festive atmosphere, with processions, street parties and parades.
International Gay festival, Cancún, May. A 5-day celebration with eating, drinking, mariachi music and beach parties.
Festival de las Aves de Yucatán, Mérida, Nov, annually. Bird-watching sessions, workshops, and exhibits. 
Riviera Maya Jazz Festival: Mamitas beach, Playa del Carmen, late Nov annually.

Getting there

There are direct flights from London to Cancún (10.5 hrs) and routes to Cancún and Mérida via hubs in Europe and the USA.

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Caribbean coast: Riviera Maya and Holbox
Tulum

On Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, the Caribbean Mayan Riviera refers to the stretch of uninterrupted pale golden sands running south from the purpose-built resort of Cancún to Tulum, home to the celebrated cliff-top Mayan ruins. The coastline is followed by a close-to-shore barrier reef rich in undersea marine life; offshore are leisure-destination islands such as Isla Mujeres and Cozumel. Small resorts and former fishing villages cater for visitors, notably the family-friendly Playa del Carmen. There is plenty to see and do on the Riviera Maya, including outdoor activities, marine parks and diving opportunities. Within easy reach are several ruined Mayan cities buried away inland in rainforest, including the grand pyramids of Cobá.

Isla Holbox is only about 75km from Cancún, but worlds away from the glitz of that burgeoning resort. If even super-chic Tulum is a bit too trendy for your liking you can head for Isla Holbox, a low flat new-agey island separated from the Mexican mainland on the tip of the Yucatan peninsula by a shallow azure lagoon which attracts migrating flamingos. With virtually no vehicles permitted on the island, the streets in the lazy village are made of sand, and you get around in golf buggies. There’s a virtually uninterrupted stretch of powder white beach on which to sunbathe, but there is scope for other activities: whale-shark viewing is some of the best in the world (Jun-Sep) and the island is popular for kite-surfing.  Because it has not been readily accessible, the island’s tourist infrastructure is in its infancy but new establishments are creating possibilities for yoga retreats and spas. The island is a good choice for everyone from romantic couples to families.  

When to go

It’s hot and fairly humid all year round, with a risk of tropical storms and hurricanes Sep-Nov.

Language

Spanish

Getting local currency

Mexican peso. Notes can be withdrawn from the ATMs in Cancún, Playa using a UK credit or debit card. You may have ask your bank to authorise withdrawals before you leave the UK, and amounts are limited to about £100. There are also banks and money exchanges (casas de cambio) here, and money exchanges in Tulum. Holbox has just one ATM, best not to rely on that.

Time difference

GMT -6 hours.  

Combines with

A visit to almost anywhere else in Mexico: the domestic flight network is comprehensive and roads are good.  Mexico City is less than 2hrs’ flying time away. Havana, Cuba, is also just 2hrs away from Cancún by air.

Getting there

There are direct flights from London to Cancún (10.5 hours) and routes via hubs in Europe and the USA. Holbox is a 2-2.5hr drive from Cancún to Chiquila followed by a 20 minute ferry ride. It's just 1-1.5hrs by the new toll motorway 305 from Playa del Carmen to Chiquila (1.5-2hrs from Tulum). 

Key events

Riviera Maya Jazz Festival: Mamitas beach, Playa del Carmen, late Nov annually.

Speak to an expert Travel Consultant or send us your enquiry today.

Tailor-made holiday

Our specialists have been expertly crafting award-winning tailor-made holidays to Latin America for over 37 years.
We would be delighted to create a truly personalised trip which perfectly matches your wishes and requirements.

97% of our clients rated their experience with us as Excellent or Good.

Speak to an expert Travel Consultant or send us your enquiry today. Eagle: Aztecs, Mayas and conquistadores

  • Copper Canyon Railway 5 days from £1,203pp

    Take a trip on the world-renowned Copper Canyon Railway, which cuts a swathe through the desert inland from Mexico’s Pacific coast. The views over the mountain scenery are extraordinary. There are scores of ravines and gorges, and, according to altitude, an infinite variety of landscape and vegetation from snow-dusted peaks smothered in conifers to sub-tropical citrus groves.

    Day 1: Fly from Mexico City to Chihuahua, transfer to the modern and convenient Fiesta Inn.

    Days 2-4: Board the train which descends through the remote wilderness of the Copper Canyon: it’s one of the deepest and longest on the planet. This remote wilderness is occupied by the indigenous Tarahumara people who practice subsistence agriculture.There are 3 days of magnificent journeys (2-7 hrs each) with switchbacks, bridges and tunnels carrying the lonely track which clings to the cliff walls. Enjoy jaw-dropping views over the chasms, and stay in comfortable hotels en route. Overnight at the Lodge at Creel, Hotel Posada Barrancas Mirador, and Posada del Hidalgo at El Fuerte.

    Day 5: Transfer from El Fuerte to Los Mochis airport and fly to Mexico City to continue your holiday or to connect with your international flight.
    UK clients arrive home the following day.

    Breakfast daily, dinner day 2, full board day 3.

  • Mexico beach 4 days from £526pp

    Spend a few days unwinding on Mexico’s Riviera Maya, with its long stretches of powder-white palm-fringed sand and turquoise seas of glassy translucence.  The small town of Tulum offers a low-key beach alternative to the major resorts around Cancún. To cap it all, the well preserved and picture-perfect ruins of Tulum, a small, resilient Mayan city, are perched on a cliff behind the main beach. Travel a down the coast from Cancún to Tulum and stay at a property situated on a powder white beach.

    Day 1: Private transfer along the Riviera Maya from Cancún to Tulum and arrive at the effortlessly stylish Hip Hotel. A smallish property situated on one of the best beaches in Mexico. Beachfront cabins are spacious with their own veranda complete with hammock. The hotel has a fine, thatched restaurant with sea views and excellent fresh seafood options. There are other eateries within walking distance or a short taxi ride away.

    Days 2, 3: At leisure to swim and snorkel or visit to the nearby cliff top ruins.

    Day 4: Private transfer to Cancún to continue your holiday or to connect with your international flight.

    UK clients arrive home the following day.

    Breakfast daily.

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Please note

October departures coincide with the Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico.

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