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Signature Mexico: Day of the Dead

7 days from £1,902pp

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Signature Mexico: Day of the Dead:
Trip Dossier

This eventful short holiday invites you to observe and even participate in the colourful rituals of the Day of the Dead, a festivity which is enthusiastically embraced in Mexico. You spend some time in Mexico City before moving on to Oaxaca which, with its airy patios and graceful arcades, is famed for its colourful market, serapes, crafts and dances. The celebrations are particularly animated in this region.   

The Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) involves a traditional ritual, both vivacious and contemplative, during which Mexicans pray for and remember friends or family members who have passed away and assist them on their spiritual journey.

Death is not to be feared: this is a celebration of the lives of those who have died. The so-called Day of the Dead – actually three days – gets under way on Halloween, 31 October and extends into 1-2 November, coinciding with All Saints Day and All Souls Day in the Catholic calendar. Exuberant parades with rumbustious music, where participants wear ghoulish costumes and skull-masks in vibrant colours take place alongside calmer, quieter celebrations featuring anecdotes, many amusing, about the lives of the departed. You’ll get to know local families and share their experiences.

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

28 Oct: Arrive Mexico City.

Day 2

29 Oct: Guided city tour and Museum of Anthropology.

Day 3

30 Oct: Fly to Oaxaca: explore Tlacolula market, Teotitlan, Santo Domingo Tomaltepec.

Day 4

31 Oct: Explore Abastos market; visit a traditional wake.

Day 5

1 Nov: Day of the Innocents. Soledad Etla Valley and Comparsa Parade.

Day 6

Nov 2: Day of the Dead. Valley of Ocotlan, Coyotepec and Tilcajete.

Day 7

3 Nov: Fly to Mexico City to connect with international flight home.

Detailed itinerary

Day 1

28 Oct: Arrive Mexico City.
 
Mexico City

Transfer to your hotel in the historic centre.

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Mexico City

Day 2

29 Oct: Guided city tour and Museum of Anthropology.
 
Day of the Dead

Your tour of Mexico City includes the historical places of interest around the vast main square (Zócalo) including the National Palace with murals by Diego Rivera and the 16th century metropolitan cathedral.

Continue to peruse the handicraft market before heading up the illustrious Paseo de la Reforma boulevard to reach the Museum of Anthropology. In our view this is one of the continent’s best museums, with presentations representing different regions, each featuring exhibits manifesting society in pre-Hispanic history and the colonial period as well as showing how life is lived in contemporary Mexico. 

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Day of the Dead

Day 3

30 Oct: Fly to Oaxaca: explore Tlacolula market, Teotitlan, Santo Domingo Tomaltepec.
 
Oaxaca

Preparations for Day of the Dead celebrations get well under way today. You will learn about the fascinating Zapotec culture, an indigenous pre-Columbian civilisation which thrived in the valley of Oaxaca. Travel east to the town of Tlacolula for market day: the stands full of traditional goods from the area include woven Zapotec rugs and red pottery pieces.

Continue onto Teotitlán del Valle, a weaving village. The history of this craft dates back to when tributes of cloth were paid to the Aztecs. Visit a Zapotec family to watch the delicate weaving and spinning techniques which use natural dyes to create tablecloths and rugs.

After a traditional lunch in a family home you’ll visit the village Santo Domingo Tomaltepec to watch the Day of the Dead bread being prepared for the following day. Today’s journey through the valleys will end in the village of Santa Maria, home to possibly the world’s thickest tree, El Tule.

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Oaxaca

Day 4

31 Oct: Explore Abastos market; visit a traditional wake.
 
Day of the dead

In the morning you’ll peruse the eclectic and energetic Day of the Dead tiangus at the Abastos Market. In an open-air bazaar you’ll browse the stalls piled high with Day of the Dead ornaments and decorations including colourful strings of beads, bunches of vibrant marigolds and the iconic illustrated sugar skulls. Watch families buying decorations to adorn their home altars in tribute to their loved ones. The afternoon is yours to wander through Oaxaca, observing the festivities as you please.

In the late evening head off to observe a traditional wake in the village of Xoxocotlán, before being invited by a local family into their home to savour hot chocolate and Day of the Dead decorated bread – pan de muerto. Continue on to the cemetery to take part in the annual celebration, appreciating the unique atmosphere of joyous remembrance mixed with sadness. Join the same local family as they decorate their family grave.

In this festival honouring the spirits at the graveside flowers play an important part. The decorations in the old cemetery include marigolds, candles, and copal incense. An abundance of flowers decorates the graveyard where the people of Xoxocotlán hold a vigil by candlelight at the decorated tombs. 

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Day of the dead

Day 5

1 Nov: Day of the Innocents. Soledad Etla Valley and Comparsa Parade.
 
Day of the dead

You have a morning at leisure. In the afternoon drive north of the valley to the village of Soledad Etla to be a part of the magnificent Comparsa Parade. Walk with the jubilant procession alongside 3m tall stilt walkers dressed as spirits, marching bands playing loud banda music and local people dressed in elaborate costumes. You’ll pass rows of vendors where you can stop to buy food, mezcal, flowers, coffee and hand-made crafts. 

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Day of the dead

Day 6

Nov 2: Day of the Dead. Valley of Ocotlan, Coyotepec and Tilcajete.
 
Day of the dead

Visit Oaxaca's outlying villages where you can find many examples of crafts and folk art. At this time of the year artisans set up the family altars and you can witness first-hand how Oaxacan families welcome their relatives who are visiting on this special occasion.

Spend the day discovering the artisans of the area and learning about the diversity of the folk art in the valley of Zimatlán. Visit the village of San Bartolo Coyotepec, famous for its black pottery and potter Carlo Magno Pedro who specialises in Day of the Dead art. Continue to the village of San Martin Tilcajete known for Alebrijes, fine wooden and intricately painted animals. While this style of wood carving is a relatively new craft, dating back only two generations, these objets d'art represent a magnificent expression of Mexican folklore.

Lunch today is a delicious meal of Day of the Dead quesadillas hosted for you by a local family in Santo Tomas Jalietza, who will share with you how to prepare a traditional Oaxacan meal.

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Day of the dead

Day 7

3 Nov: Fly to Mexico City to connect with international flight home.

Essential information

Transport

2 domestic flights.

Accommodation

For this trip we have selected well located mid-range hotels with well equipped rooms, private bathroom and air-conditioning. 

Meals

Breakfast daily.

Guides

We carefully select our local partners, some of whom we have worked with for over 25 years. Their English-speaking guides understand the expectations of our clients very well, and are consistently singled out for praise by the latter on their return.

Included excursions

• Half day guided city tour and Anthropology Museum in Mexico City.
• Oaxaca: Tlacolula market, Teotitlan, Santo Domingo Tomaltepec. 
• Oaxaca: Explore Abastos market. 
• Visit a traditional wake.
• Guided excursion to Soledad Etla Valley and Comparsa parade.
• Guided excursion to Valley of Ocotlan, Coyotepec and Tilcajete

Summary of nights

7 days, 6 nights: Mexico City 2; Oaxaca 4.

Included in the journey price

• Services of our team of experts in our London office.
• Services of Journey Latin America local representatives and guides.
• All land and air transport within Mexico.
• Accommodation as specified.
• Meals as specified.
• Excursions as specified, including entrance fees.

Not included in the journey price

• Tips and gratuities.
• Flights to and from the UK 
• Meals other than specified.
• Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket.
• Optional excursions.

Currency

The unit of currency in Mexico is the Mexican peso.

Daily spend

It is very difficult to give a guideline for essential expenses but a budget of around US$45 per day should cover the cost of meals not included in the holiday itinerary, drinks and the odd souvenir. Eat at the best restaurants and you will pay considerably more.

How to take it

Cash machines are available in all major cities and towns, and so taking a debit or credit card with a PIN number is the most convenient way of withdrawing money while on your trip, and in most shops and restaurants you can also pay by card. However, since cards can get lost, damaged, withheld or blocked, you should not rely exclusively on a card to access funds. 

We recommend that additionally you take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can exchange into local currency. Dollar bills should be in good condition, soiled or torn bills may be refused. You can take sterling, but the exchange rate is not always competitive or even available, restricting the number of places where you can change money.

Tipping

Tips are welcomed and local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income. 

Most service industry workers will expect a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have spare change for hotel porters, taxi drivers and the like. It is common to leave 10 - 12% in restaurants.

Tipping guidelines can be found in our Briefing Dossier.

Insurance

Travel insurance is essential. 

Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance page. 

Airport taxes

If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax is usually included in the ticket.

Journey grade

Generally this holiday is suitable for most visitors, including families though there are some late nights and young children might find all the skulls a bit scary. . Should you have a disability, please contact us.

Climate

In Mexico City and Oaxaca the climate is temperate all year round and, because of the altitude it never gets too hot. 

During October and November there is little or no rain.

Clothing and special equipment

For day-to-day wear in the highlands you should go prepared to encounter a spring-like climate.  It may be chilly in the evening. If you plan to eat in smart restaurants, although clothing is not formal (no need for jacket and tie), something quite smart would be appropriate. 

Strong, comfortable footwear is essential and you should bring sun block and sun glasses.
Please get in touch with the office  or on live chat before departure if you have any doubts. 

Vaccinations

Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following; typhoid; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. For specific requirements you must consult your GP.

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website. 

Visas

Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins.  Anyone with a different nationality should enquire with us or check with the Mexican consulate.

APIS and ESTA - important flight information:

ESTA - if flying to the US, or via the US you will need to fill in your application to ESTA online

This costs $14 per person, and must be done by you personally.

Passports must also be e-passports with a digital chip.  Avoid locking suitcases if transiting the USA, as their customs authorities retain the right to break into them.

APIS - Many countries now oblige airlines to provide additional information about passengers prior to the flight departure. This Advance Passenger Information (APIS) must be supplied to us promptly in order to issue tickets and avoid fare increases. We will provide the airlines with the relevant details if we are booking your international flights. If the information is not provided you may be denied boarding.

Water-To-Go

We’ve partnered with Water To Go to offer Journey Latin America clients a 50% discount on 7cl filtered, reusable water bottles with every booking. The bottle can be refilled at any water outlet and has a filter that eliminates 99.9% of bacteria and viruses, allowing the water to be safe to drink.
Contact your Travel Consultant for more information and to include the purchase in your booking.
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