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HomeTours to Central and South AmericaMexicoIn the Footsteps of the Mayans
16 days

In the Footsteps of the Mayans

Gain a unique insight into Mexico’s exciting history and various pre-Columbian ruins seasoned with cosy colonial towns and a beach holiday on the white sandy beaches of the Yucatán Peninsula.

In the Footsteps of the Mayans In the Footsteps of the Mayans
16 days

In the Footsteps of the Mayans

Gain a unique insight into Mexico’s exciting history and various pre-Columbian ruins seasoned with cosy colonial towns and a beach holiday on the white sandy beaches of the Yucatán Peninsula.

Choose this tour because…

The history and culture of Mexico are truly fascinating, and can be traced back to several centuries BC. It is a country that is still heavily influenced by the early Mayan civilisations and the Spanish conquistadores. This trip will lead you in the footsteps of the Mayans and give you the opportunity to experience UNESCO World Heritage Sites and one of the seven wonders of the modern world. You will have the chance to soak up the ambience of the pulsating capital city, and gain insight into the period of Spanish rule when you visit some of the different and charming colonial towns. You can also enjoy the idyllic countryside on a sailing trip through the Sumidero Canyon and during a visit to the beautiful turquoise waterfall. Your trip finishes up with time to relax and unwind in the delightful beach resort of Playa del Carmen, with its crystal-clear water and brilliant white sandy beaches.

What is included in the price?
This package includes the following
  • Flights from the UK to Mexico City and return from Cancún (enquire regarding direct flights)
  • Transfers from and to airports (in small international groups)
  • First-class coach travel: Mexico City – Oaxaca
  • 1 night’s accommodation in first-class coach: Oaxaca – Tuxtla Gutiérrez
  • Coach travel: San Cristobal de las Casas – Palenque
  • First-class coach travel: Palenque – Mérida
  • Coach travel: Mérida – Playa del Carmen
  • 13 nights’ accommodation in good hotels incl. breakfast
  • 1 x lunch (day 13)
  • Individual tour, however, all excursions are in small international groups with local English speaking guides except on day 7 and 9
  • Telephone hotline staffed 24/7 throughout your trip
  • ATOL certificate included
  • Departure guarantee – the tour will take place regardless of the number of participants
  • Daily departures

Comprehensive package of excursions:

  • Visit to the temple city of Teotihuacán, Guadalupe church and Three Cultures Square
  • Guided tour of Mexico City, incl. visit to the museum of anthropology
  • Guided tour of Oaxaca
  • Visit to the archaeological Mayan region of Monte Alban
  • Sailing trip in Sumidero Canyon
  • Trip to the Indian villages of San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan
  • Visit to the Agua Azul and Misol-Ha waterfalls
  • Visit to the Mayan complex of Palenque
  • Visit to Chichen Itza, one of the wonders of the modern world
  • Admission tickets to the attractions mentioned
See all pictures
Detailed Itinerary
Day 1: Departure from the UK and arrival in Mexico City

Departure day, where you will fly to Mexico City, with connecting flights along the way. At Mexico City airport, you will be met by a driver who will accompany you to your hotel.

Day 2: Teotihuacán, Basilica and Three Cultures Square

Your first full day here will take you to the biggest ruin complex in Latin America: the temple city of Teotihuacán, which means The place where people became gods. As you walk along the 3-km-long Avenida de los Muertos (Avenue of the Dead), you can admire the enormous temples and pyramids that date all the way back to the year 200 BC, but which were constructed over a very long period of time. Of particular interest are the Quetzalcoatl temple, where the remains of more than 200 sacrificed prisoners of war have been found, the Quetzalpapalotl palace, The Pyramid of the Moon (60 m) and the Pyramid of the Sun (70 m), which are built on top of a 100-metre-long cave, where it is said that the human race was created.

The tour then continues to the church called Basilica de Nuestra de Guadalupe, which can hold a congregation of 10,000 people and attracts around 20 million pilgrims each year. The church is named after Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico – and, indeed, of the whole of Central America.

The last stop on the itinerary for the day is the Plaza de las Tres Culturas (Three Cultures Square), which symbolises the three periods of Mexican history. Take the time to admire the remains of the pre-Columbian Aztec ruins, a Spanish church from the colonial age, and the Mexican mestizos’ modern building that now houses the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Day 3: Mexico City

On the agenda for today: a tour of Mexico City, one of the biggest cities in the world. It is surrounded by volcanoes and located at an altitude of 2,240 metres above sea level, making it one of the most elevated capital cities in the world. The tour includes a visit to the colonial centre of the city, where you will see Zocalo, the central square. Attractions here include the national palace, featuring fantastic wall paintings of scenes from the history of Mexico by the famous artist Diego Rivera, Templo Mayor – the ruins of the former Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan – and the biggest cathedral in Mexico, an impressive building constructed using stones from Aztec temples. From here, you continue on to Alameda park, site of the national theatre (Palácio de Bellas Artes), which stages operas, ballets, plays and concerts. You will then follow the beautiful La Reforma Avenue to Chapultepec Park, which is home to the impressive Museum of Anthropology that provides fascinating insight into the history and numerous cultures of Mexico.

Day 4: Mexico City – Oaxaca

It is now time to head for the colonial gem that is Oaxaca, a coach trip of around 6.5 hours.

Day 5: Guided tour of Oaxaca

The day is given over to a tour of the city. You will visit Zocalo, the central square, which is famed for its charming atmosphere and numerous Marimba bands. A few streets from here stands Santa Domingo, the most famous Baroque church in Mexico. Right next door stands a museum of the same name, showcasing many of the finds from the giant archaeological area of Monte Alban.

Day 6: Monte Alban – Oaxaca - Tuxtla Gutierrez

The day starts with a half-day excursion to the archaeological area of Monte Alban, which is located on a hill top 400 metres above the city of Oaxaca. Monte Alban was constructed over a period of 2000 years, after work was begun around the year 900 BC by the Zapotec people. The amazing sights here include playing fields where Mesoamerican ball games were once played, pyramids and burial sites for the rulers. Your guide will tell you all about the site and explain the mysteries of the ‘dancers’ stones’. You will return to the hotel in the afternoon.

In the evening you will take the coach to Tuxtla Gutierrez – a journey of around 10 hours, arriving at your destination the following morning.

Day 7: Tuxtla Gutierrez – Sumidero Canyon – San Cristobal de las Casas

The bus arrives at the bus station in Tuxtla Gutierrez early in the morning. You have a couple of hours to go out for breakfast before being picked up for your tour to the Sumidero Canyon.

You will experience the stunning canyon on a 2-hour speedboat ride, when you can really enjoy the dramatic rock walls towering on either side of you. You may be lucky enough to see monkeys, crocodiles and different kinds of birds.

After the sailing trip, you will continue on to San Cristobal de las Casas, which is located at an altitude of 2,100 metres. The town was originally just called ‘San Cristobal’; ‘de las Casas’ was added subsequently in honour of the Spanish priest Bartolomé de las Casas, who fought for the rights of the indigenous Indians. It is one of the most beautiful and charming colonial towns in Mexico. Here, you will feel and experience the Mayan culture, which adds a very special atmosphere to the town.

Please note there is no English-speaking guide on this day (nor is one needed).

Day 8: Excursion to Indian villages

The day is given over to a trip to visit the two Indian villages of San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan. San Juan Chamula is home to 50,000 descendants from the Mayans, primarily Tzotzil and Tzeltals. The Mayans place great emphasis on retaining their distinguishing features and cultural heritage, which is reflected, for example, in their own special language and in the fact that the town has its own regulations and own police force.

You will have the chance to visit Chamula’s distinctive church, which is located on the central square. The church is a good example of how the original Mayan beliefs gradually merged with the Catholic faith. The Indians pray to the Mayan god or saint relevant to the illness or wish that forms the basis for their visit. There are no pews in the church, so visitors have to kneel and pray on the floor among the numerous lighted candles. The air is thick with incense, and the walls are lined with wooden figures of the local saints and of John the Baptist, who is the guardian angel of the town.

Zinacantan is also home to a population of descendants from the Mayans, primarily Tzotzil. Both San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan are well-known for their weaving techniques, and each village has its own special costumes featuring carefully composed patterns and colours. At the markets, Indian traders in colourful clothes sell ceramic items and clothing made of wool and cotton.

Day 9: San Cristobal - Palenque

Today you will travel from San Cristobal de las Casas to Palenque, stopping en route to visit the astounding Agua Azul waterfalls (unguided). There are more than 500 large and small waterfalls here, ranging in height from 3 to 30 metres. With the turquoise water, intense colours, the constant breeze and the unbroken rumbling, this is one of the most beautiful and memorable natural attractions in Mexico.

Next stop on today’s trip is the 35-metre-high Misol-Ha waterfall, which is rightly famous for its beauty. It is located in the heart of the tropical vegetation, surrounded by mahogany and sapote trees. Misol-Ha was formed by cliffs collapsing into the river, which has created a broad pool near the falls where you have the opportunity to go swimming.

Please note there is no English-speaking guide on this day (nor is one needed).

Day 10: Palenque

Palenque is set in an area of tropical rainforest and known for its beauty and magnificent location overlooking the flat Yucatan countryside. Palenque was one of the biggest cities in the Mayan kingdom, and gives its name to the nearby Mayan ruins, which feature on the UNESCO World Heritage List. These fascinating ruins are hidden deep in the almost impenetrable rainforest in the Chiapas Province of Mexico. Here, you can take a look at the Inscription Temple, a burial monument to King Pascal the Great. The 600 hieroglyphics carved into this temple make up the second-longest Mayan inscription in the world.

Day 11: Palenque – Mérida

Today, you have a long day of travelling ahead of you, but as you are on board a first-class bus to Mérida, you can just sit back in the soft seats and enjoy the landscape rushing by. You can either walk from the hotel to the bus station in Palenque or take a taxi (at your own expense). On your arrival in Mérida, a taxi is waiting to drive you to your hotel.

The drive takes about 8 hours.

Day 12: Mérida

There are no excursions planned for the day, so you can choose to visit the flamingo colony in Celestun, to admire the magnificent Mayan ruins at Uxmal or to explore Mérida for yourself. It is a charming city, founded in 1542 on the site of the former Mayan settlement of Tihó. It is known as ‘The White City’ on account of the many white-painted houses it contains. The locals also refer to it as ‘the Paris of Mexico’ as it is the most European city on the Yucatan peninsula. During the last century, the city grew rich on the production of agave fibre, and the affluence of yesteryear is still reflected in the numerous impressive buildings.

Day 13: Mérida - Chichen Itza – Playa del Carmen

Today, you will be heading off to the delights of Playa del Carmen, but en route to the beach paradise you will be stopping off at the ruins of Chichen Itza, an ancient city that features on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and which has been named one of the seven wonders of the modern world.

The ruins actually include traces of two different cultural periods: one Mayan and one Itza. The Mayans were highly skilled in both astronomy and architecture, which is clearly evidenced in the ruins. For example, you can admire the 25-metre-high pyramid El Castillo, which is actually a representation of the Mayan calendar in stone. Every March and September, a ‘snake’ appears to be winding its way up the north steps – but it is only the shadow thrown by the sun. Other attractions here include the biggest antique playing field in Mexico, which measures more than 180 x 70 metres, the Temple of the Warriors, famous for its Chac-Mool figure, and the observatory from where the Mayans studied the stars. In addition, you can see the holy well – Cenote Sagrado – which was used in religious rituals. It was originally a source of water, and the Mayans expressed their thanks through sacrifices to Chaac, the rain deity. Both human bones and valuable gifts to the gods have been found at the bottom of the well.

The tour then continues to the delightful holiday town of Playa del Carmen famous for its long, white sandy beach, palm trees and crystal clear water.

Possible upgrades

For an additional cost, you can change the final beach part of your holiday from Playa del Carmen to Tulum. You can also choose to upgrade your hotel in Playa del Carmen. See the upgrade and additional purchase options below:

Day 14: Playa del Carmen

The day is yours to do with as you wish: explore Playa del Carmen on your own and relax on the fine white sandy beach, for example. You can also try some of the different water sports, such as windsurfing or jet-skiing, or go snorkelling and diving off Cozumel island – a world-famous paradise for divers with its fascinating grottoes and beautiful reefs. A ferry sails directly from the beach at Playa del Carmen to Cozumel, and the trip takes around 30–45 minutes.

The central square in Playa del Carmen is the Plaza Mayor, situated next to the beach and close to the departure point of the ferry that sails to Cozumel. Plaza Mayor marks the start of the main street in the town, Avenida 5, which is lined with shops, restaurants and bars. In the evening, the beaches transform into a giant party arena lined with bars that typically host live reggae or calypso music. It is hard to imagine a better way to start the evening than sitting down with a cool Corona beer, listening to sweet music and admiring the view out over the Caribbean Sea.

Day 15: Start of the trip home

The time has now come to bid farewell to Mexico. You will be driven to Cancún airport to start your journey home. You will fly to the UK with connecting flights along the way.

Day 16: Arrival in the UK

You arrive in the UK after a wonderful tour.

Single room supplement £665
Discounts are available for groups of 6 or more people
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Contact travel consultant Neil Smith

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