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Self-drive Mexico: Colonial cities to Pacific coast

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This self-drive holiday takes you on the rugged highland colonial-cities loop, and on to the Pacific coast. Your hire car is provided and your point-to point itinerary planned out for you, with hotel reservations made in advance and maps provided.

Northwest of Mexico City are crumpled 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, and a necklace of prosperous towns sprung up which share a heritage of baroque churches, leafy squares and pastel-washed houses.

Each has its own character: the university town Guanajuato, built in a narrow gorge, is a centre for music, theatre and dance, while Morelia shows off some of the grandest monumental colonial architecture. Querétaro is renowned for its impressive colonial aqueduct.

Continue for some beach time at a luxurious and utterly romantic first class resort, La Casa que Canta, on the glorious sands of the Pacific coast at Zihuatanejo.

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Mexico City. Transfer to your hotel.

Day 2

Guided tour of the city and Teotihuacán pyramids.

Day 3

Your car is delivered, drive to Guanajuato via Querétaro, 2 nights.

Day 4

At leisure in Guanajuato.

Day 5

Drive to Morelia via Pátzcuaro, 2 nights.

Day 6

At leisure.

Day 7

Drive to Zihuatanejo on the Pacific coast.

Days 8-11

At leisure on the beach. Optional activities and water sports.

Day 12

Transfer to the airport, fly to Mexico City to connect with international flight home.

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What our experts say

With good infrastructure, a self-drive holiday in Mexico is the perfect way to see the country at your own pace. This holiday has been put together to give you the flexibility to make your holiday your own; you’ll meet local people, linger for longer at beautifully restored old silver mining towns and get ahead of the crowds if you’re on your own timetable. The benefit of this holiday is it gives you the freedom of independent travel, safe in the knowledge that the accommodation you’re staying in has been handpicked and recommended by us!

Sophie Barber

Sophie Barber

Travel Consultants

Places visited on this holiday

Self-drive Mexico: Colonial cities to Pacific coast

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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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Pacific Coast
Pacific Coast

The Pacific coast is backed by rolling hills covered in vegetation varying from arid desert to Mediterranean-style scrub and luxuriant forest. Tumbling down to the shoreline, these cliffs and hills harbour many horseshoe coves and beaches of white to ochre sands. The waves on the Pacific coast have a long way to come, and these rollers are much beloved by surfers.

Along the vast length of this coastline there are areas which are highly commercialised (Acapulco, Mazatlán, Puerto Vallarta). However there are also hotels and resorts with their own extensive grounds on less developed stretches of coast, especially around Manzanillo and Zihuatanejo. The Oaxaca shoreline around Huatulco and Puerto Escondido is particularly spectacular, with stretches of virgin beach. 

When to go

It’s hot and humid all the year round. Most rain falls Jun-Sep when the vegetation wakes up in a carpet of lush verdure. The landscape is pretty parched by March. The high season for tourism is mid-Dec to mid-Jan and Jul-Aug.

Language

Spanish

Getting local currency

Mexican peso. Notes can be withdrawn from the ATMs in the major resorts 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 in the UK.

Time difference

GMT -6 hrs.  

Combines with

The luxury hotels around Manzanillo and Zihuatanejo In the southeast, west of Mexico City, are within easy reach of the colonial cities of Guadalajara, Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende; the low-key resorts around Huatulco and Puerto Escondido are easily accessible from Oaxaca by air (40mins) or winding road (3.5hrs).

Getting there

There are short flights from Mexico City or from Oaxaca (40mins)to Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo, Puerto Escondido and Huatulco.

Key events
Fiesta del Mar: Huatulco, first week of Apr.
Festival Costeño de la Danza: Puerto Escondido, mid-Nov.  Folk dancing. There are other events in the town in the same month including a surfing tournament.  

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.

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Self-drive Mexico: Colonial cities to Pacific coast

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Self-drive Mexico: Colonial cities to Pacific coast

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