Private Journeys

Luxury Mexico: Yucatan in style

12 days from £4,100pp

Mexico

Itinerary

map marker Map

Day 1

Arrive in Mexico City. Transfer to central hotel.

You’ll be met at the airport by one of our local representatives and accompanied to your luxury hotel. Mexico City, known by the local people simply as ‘DF’ (Distrito Federal), was built on the site of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Empire, and it lies at 2,250m above sea level. Vast, chaotic and vibrant, this sprawling megalopolis of more than 20 million people has a multitude of attractions.

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Day 2

Guided tour of Mexico City and the Teotihuacan pyramids.

The arrival of the Spanish conquistadores was seismic event in the story of the Aztec people.  Their magnificent causewayed city was razed, and the invading Spaniards rebuilt it in their own tradition  ̶   the development fuelled by silver mining.  This is all reflected in the cultural vestiges apparent all over the modern-day city which you’ll see during your guided tour. Visit the zócalo, or main square, monumental Metropolitan Cathedral and National Palace with its murals by Diego Rivera. Stroll down elegant boulevards, or browse at a handicraft market. 

Passing through the northern suburbs of the capital, you head into the countryside towards the megalithic archaeological site of Teotihuacán. Teotihuacan 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. Soak up the history as you 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 surrounding countryside. 

If you have time after or before the tour we suggest you visit the world-class Museum of Anthropology, exhibiting 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

Day at leisure with optional excursions

Today you have a choice of two optional excursions.

The first suggestion visits the lively and bustling colonial neighbourhood of Coyoacán, located in the south of Mexico City. Coyoacán was the first capital of New Spain and as a result, still proudly maintains its own identity, with narrow streets recalling a bygone era, plazas, cafes and a vibrant Bohemian atmosphere. You will explore Coyoacán's main square, an array of churches and beautiful old buildings, then you'll visit the home of surrealist artist Frida Kahlo. The house has been converted into a museum and gives an authentic representation of the lives and characters of both Frida Kahlo and her muralist husband, Diego Rivera - it highlights the political strains under which both passionate artists lived and constantly fought.

Alternatively, you might take an exhilarating flight in a hot air balloon over Teotihuacán to get a bird's eye view of the ruins you explored yesterday, and see them in their landscape context.

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Day 4

Fly to Mérida, transfer to hacienda hotel.

Mérida is the capital of the state of Yucatán. The city was founded by the Maya. In 1542 it was conquered by the Spanish conquistadores who dismantled the pyramids and used the stones as foundations for the cathedral. Mérida then became an immensely wealthy city, described as the Paris of the New World. Its money came mainly from the production of sisal, cactus fibres that are used to make rope, and it was culturally and geographically isolated from the rest of the country until transport infrastructure reached it in the 1950s.

Surrounding Mérida is a cluster of old haciendas, opulent in their day, when they became rich from the sisal trade. Many fell into disrepair but several of them have been restored as luxury accommodation for visitors. Hacienda Ticum, sitting in beautiful peaceful gardens, is one of these, with shady terraces, graceful arches and thatched cottages.

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Day 5

Walking tour of Mérida.

Unique due to its geographical isolation, strong Mayan presence and rich cultural heritage, Mérida is filled with striking white-stone Spanish colonial architecture and  is known as 'the white city'. Mérida retains a lovely historic centre, with a mix of opulent and crumbly buildings but it is a modern, bustling, thriving city, with lots of local character, some excellent places to eat and good shops and markets. The inhabitants, descendants of the Maya and the colonists, love a good fiesta, and there are plenty throughout the year, with live music and market stalls.

Your guided walking tour offers an insight into this fascinating city, taking in its cathedral on the plaza grande - the oldest in Latin America You will visit the city’s founder Montejo's grandiose home, complete with ornate porticos, and the Governor's Palace, with its collection of murals portraying Yucatan's violent history.

Later, board one of the city’s famous a horse drawn carriages and descend on the famous Paseo de Montejo, Merida's stately boulevard  - modelled on Paris's Champs Elysées - lined with mansions built by the wealthy plantation owners during the boom era of the city's sisal trade at the turn of the 20th century

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Day 6

Visit Hacienda Sotuto de Peón.

Today you have a guided excursion delving into the history of the Yucatán region and how it was shaped by the henequén (sisal) boom in the 1800s. The trip begins with a drive to a working henequén hacienda, Sotuta de Peón. The experience transports you back to the colonial era, as you witness the entire production process - from plant to fibre, from fibre to finished product - all using century-old machinery.

Ride out to the farming fields on an authentic wooden cart pulled by mules, with the option of a refreshing swim in a nearby cenote (a natural sinkhole typical of the Yucatán peninsula). You’ll enjoy lunch at the hacienda.

 
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Day 7

At leisure

Today you have a day at leisure to enjoy the facilities and ambiance of your hacienda. You might like to dpend a good part of the day relaxing on a lounger by the lovely pool. But if you wish to explore more of the fascinating region - such as the nearby archeological site Ake or the beautiful colonial city Izamál - excursions can be organised from the hotel. 

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Day 8

Transfer to Mérida, continue to Chichén Itzá archaeological site, guided tour of the ruins. Overnight nearby.

From Mérida drive to Chichén Itzá (3 hrs), the grandest of all the Mayan sites, dominated by the huge, symmetrical, stepped El Castillo pyramid. The origins of the site are mysterious, and appear to have Toltec as well as Mayan influences. It has the largest and best-preserved ball court in the Americas: the venue for an ancient ritual game that was played throughout the continent, but which is still not fully understood.

Archaeologists have not been able to determine whether the losers or winners were decapitated, but judging from the gory carvings along the base of the court’s walls, someone certainly came to an unpleasant end. There is also a huge cenote sacred well. Accommodation is a short walk away, and in the evening there is the option to return to the site for the Sound and Light Show.

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Days 9-11

Relax at a luxury resort on Mayan Riviera, Caribbean coast.

Drive to your small luxury resort, Esencia, set on Playa Xpu-Ha, a beautiful broad stretch of powdery sand beach on the Riviera Maya. It’s the perfect place to relax, with luxurious suites featuring a separate living room and large picture windows framing the garden and ocean. Many suites feature private plunge pools.

The Aroma spa offers massages, herbal saunas and beauty treatments using natural plant extracts, and yoga and meditation under the tuition of an instructor is also available. There are also two pools - one strictly for adults, the other welcoming families.

You can venture further afield to eat but will be tempted to try the garden restaurant or informal dining area for lunch and champagne breakfast.

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Day 12

Transfer to Cancún airport for international flight home.

Inspired by this trip

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Real Latin America Experts

  • Paul Winrow Giffen
    Paul Winrow-Giffin - Travel Consultant

    After graduating in Computer Science, Paul spent seven months travelling from Colombia to Argentina and came home hooked on Latin America.

  • Hannah Waterhouse
    Hannah Waterhouse - Travel Consultant

    Hannah had an early introduction to Latin America when her family moved to Ecuador and she returned to study in Buenos Aires for a year before backpacking across the continent.

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    Hannah Donaldson - Travel Consultant

    Having spent part of her childhood in Colombia and worked in Brazil and Costa Rica, Hannah's ties to Latin America run deep. Hannah is an invaluable part of our Group Tours team.

  • Ben Line
    Ben Line - Travel Consultant

    Ben fell in love with Latin America on a six month backpacking trip from Colombia to Mexico in 1995. Since then he has explored most of South America, including living in Peru for a year. He is now Manager of the Tailor-made Department.

  • Sophie Barber
    Sophie Barber - Travel Consultant

    Sophie lived in Chile before joining us and has travelled extensively across Latin America, from Mexico to the furthest tip of Patagonia.

  • JimAshworth
    Jim Ashworth - Travel Consultant

    Jim first caught the Latin American travel bug in 2001 when he decided at the last minute to join a friend travelling around Central America – he hasn't looked back since.

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