Land of the Maya
23 days with Intrepid Travel Rating:
Days 1-3 Mexico City
On arrival in Mexico, head to the heart of the downtown area to settle in. Meet the team and grab a delicious dinner of spicy tacos, cheesy quesadillas and traditional arroz con frijoles negro (black beans and rice). Check out the must-see archaeological ruins of Teotihuacan, home to the two giant pyramids – Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon. Stroll down the Avenue of the Dead with a local guide to uncover the site's many wonders and to better understand the way life was lived nearly 2000 years ago. Then visit the major religious landmark Virgen de Guadalupe before spending some free time feeling the rhythm of Mexico City’s streets.
Day 4 Puebla
Travel by minibus to Puebla and explore a city that has successfully combined modern developments with its colonial past. Take the time to intimately explore this Mexican township. Head to the market and bargain for local arts and crafts, or take an optional hike to a nearby volcano. If the food of Mexico has already seduced you, why not learn a few new cooking skills at a traditional cooking class and try to master the local dish mole poblano, which originated in Puebla and is famous all over Mexico.
Days 5-6 Oaxaca
Explore the colourful markets, exciting architecture and flavoursome cuisine of Oaxaca. Bargain with the Zapotec and Mixtec Indians, who sell colourful woven blankets and shawls, or wander the streets, dazed by the range of architectural delights. Otherwise, relax like a local with a mescal or tequila in hard while sitting in the shady central square, El Zovalo. Be sure to visit Monte Alban, a mountain home that was inhabited for 1,500 years by a succession of cultures (Olmecs, Zapotecs and Mixtecs).
Day 7 Tehuantepec
See the widest tree in the world – the Tule Tree – and stop by a mezcal factory to see how this famed spirit is made and at the Mitla ruins on the way to Tehuantepec.
Days 8-9 San Cristobal de las Casas
Discover the old-world charm of San Cristobal de las Casas on this journey into a more traditional part of Mexico. Explore cobbled streets dotted with local shop fronts, which are run by friendly indigenous locals. Be introduced to this colonial city on a village walking tour, passing impressive cathedrals, green plazas and countless museums and cafes. Learn more about the tradition, culture and history of these mainly Mayan communities, and during free time, perhaps rent a bike to explore the town further or venture to the Sumidero Canyon to get a dose of nature.
Days 10-11 Palenque
Head out on a waterfall excursion like no other. See Misol-ha – a fast-moving waterfall where water plunges 35 metres and crashes into the pool below. Later, make tracks to the low and wide Agua Azul, which flows slowly over limestone rocks. Remember to pack your swimsuit for a quick dip in the afternoon. Otherwise, hike around the beautiful surrounding area. The next day, tour the impressive Palenque ruins – a Maya masterpiece.
Day 12 Campeche
Take a dip in the Gulf of Mexico before continuing on to the fortified colonial town of Campeche.
Day 13 Merida
Spend the day exploring Merida’s well-preserved Old Town. As well as being the capital of Yucatan state, Merida is the cultural capital of the entire peninsula. Today is free to choose your own adventure: relax in a sunny central cafe, meander museums or walk around the Plaza Grande checking out cathedrals, 16th-century houses and its municipal cultural centre. There is a lot to see and do, but be sure to stop, take a breather and try some unique Yacatecan food. Influenced by the Maya culture, this cheesy, spicy and meaty cuisine is some of the best in Mexico.
Days 14-15 Playa del Carmen
Explore Chichen Itza, arguably the most famous – and by far the most visited – Maya site in Mexico. With a local guide, see the El Castillo pyramid, where human sacrifices were made to appease the Mayan rain god Chac, and learn about the ball courts where disputes were settled during a sporting game (combatants were only allowed to hit a ball using their elbows, hips and wrists, and the losing players lost their heads). In Playa del Carmen, spend time at the beach and explore the aqua-blue waters with a snorkel while the Caribbean rays falls from the sky. This laidback coastal town has some of the best international food in the area, which makes it the perfect spot to cheers a margarita glass to the success of an in-depth Mexican adventure.
Days 16-17 Caye Caulker
Venture to the island of Caye Caulker and partake in an exciting snorkeling trip. Jump into the ocean and swim with the fishes... and sharks, turtles and rays of the area. For enthusiastic divers, take an optional excursion to the incredible Blue Hole or stay on dry land to meet the island’s celebrated Cake Lady and Tamale Seller. Afterwards, savour the amazing variety of seafood – be sure to try buttered lobster and a mojito or two. The locals are right, this is a place to relax and unwind.
Day 18 San Ignacio
Observe hundreds of animal species in the famous Belize Zoo. See jaguars creep, margays pounce and boa constrictors slink about their vivarium, while walking through this unique animal sanctuary. Not only a fun place to explore, Belize Zoo also rescues wild animals, while their Tropical Education Centre teaches about the importance of the surrounding ecosystem and the creatures who call it home.
Day 19 Tikal
Towering above the jungle of Tikal National Park, the granite temples of Tikal are an awesome sight and one of the most magnificent Maya ruins. Explore a maze of smaller structures hidden in the jungle growth. If you’re feeling energetic, climb to the top of the ruins for spectacular views over the canopy. You may even spot toucans, macaws and other colourful birds.
Day 20 Flores
Enjoy an early morning meander around the Tikal ruins before driving to the quaint township of Flores. Be inspired by the enduring culture and traditions practised in this region. Stroll through the cobbled streets and if you’re game, jump in Lake Peten Itza for a swim.
Days 21-23 Antigua
After a dawn tour of the Tikal ruins, fly to Guatemala and head to Antigua. In the old colonial capital, walk along cobbled streets to find colourful markets, laze on the beautiful white beach and dance to indigenous marimba music. Visit a women's cooperative, which aims to assist community development, health, education, income generation and access to clean water for women in the area. See the ladies demonstrate their skills in traditional crafts, before enjoying some of their delicious cooking. At the end of this Mexico and Guatemala exploration, sit down at the beach, watch the sun set into the ocean and cheers a cerveza to a fabulous trip.
All This Included
Travel from Mexico to Guatemala via Belize for an essential education in Central American culture. Explore ancient Maya temples, sample tongue-sizzling cuisine and relax on some of the finest beaches in the Caribbean.
Hotel (22 nts)
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