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Signature Mexico: Cultural heartlands to Caribbean coast

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This jam-packed holiday visits the museums and teeming plazas of the megalopolis Mexico City, where Aztec and Spanish heritages sit side by side then moves on to the dramatic landscapes of the Sumidero Canyon to indigenous Oaxaca and colonial Mérida, gateway to the ruined jungle-cloaked Mayan temples. 

Mexico is one of Latin America’s most vibrant and entertaining destinations, with a huge diversity of historical, cultural and natural attractions. Drive through the dramatic vertiginous landscapes of Sumidero canyon. Wander through the cobbled streets and soak up the colonial atmosphere in Oaxaca and Mérida. Go on to explore the evocative ancient monuments, testament to bygone Mayan empires, which lay hidden and silent for centuries amid the deep valleys and jungles of the south. The journey ends on the white-sand beaches that fringe the Yucatán Peninsula.

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Mexico City. Transfer to central hotel.

Day 2

Guided city tour of Mexico City.

Day 3

Shared guided excursion to Teotihuacan pyramids; Guadalupe shrine.

Day 4

Fly to Oaxaca.

Day 5

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

Day 6

Fly to Tuxtla Gutierrez, continue by road to San Cristobal de las Casas.

Day 7

Guided tour of San Cristóbal de las Casas.

Day 8

Transfer to Palenque.

Day 9

Guided tour of Palenque ruins.

Day 10

Fly to Mérida, transfer to hotel.

Day 11

Optional guided excursion to Mayan ruins of Uxmal and Kabah.

Day 12

Transfer to Chichén Itzá. Guided visit to the ruined city.

Day 13

Option to re-visit the ruins. By road to Playa del Carmen, Mayan Riviera.

Day 14

Transfer to Cancún airport for international flight home.

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What our experts say

I loved putting this trip together as it enables you to see so much of Mexico and its many different nuances and colours, all within a two-week holiday. As our signature holiday to Mexico, this trip covers all the main hitters including historic Mayan sites, Spanish colonial cities and pristine white beaches. We have included guided excursions, hand-picked accommodation and will even meet and greet you at the airport, for a fully immersive, memorable holiday to Mexico!

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Places visited on this holiday

Signature Mexico: Cultural heartlands to Caribbean 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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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.

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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.

Back to list of places visited
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.

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Signature Mexico: Cultural heartlands to Caribbean coast

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Signature Mexico: Cultural heartlands to Caribbean coast

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Signature Mexico: Cultural heartlands to Caribbean coast

14 days from £2,439pp

Price excludes international flights at the beginning and end of the trip

 

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Explore the dates and prices of this unique holiday to Latin America.

Due to flexible pricing and minimum room night requirements during peak times (such as New Year, Carnival and Easter) we may not always present all the dates we have available.

If your ideal travel date is not shown, call us on 020 8747 8315, or click on the 'Make an Online Enquiry' button to the right.

Prices exclude international flights at the beginning and end of the trip.

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