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A Taste of Mexico

14 days from £3,959pp

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A Taste of Mexico:
Trip Dossier

Mexico is one of Latin America’s most vibrant and entertaining destinations, with a huge diversity of historical, cultural and natural attractions. This holiday focuses on the distinctive cuisine, increasingly popular the world over. Recipes reflect a fusion of indigenous Mesoamerican cooking with European, especially Spanish, elements added after the Spanish conquest. The basic staples remain native foods such as corn, beans and chili peppers, but the Europeans introduced a large number of other foods, such as dairy products and various herbs and spices. The result is uniquely Mexican.

On this private holiday you’ll have the opportunity to learn how to prepare some of the landmark dishes, guided by qualified Mexican food experts, and savour  your  culinary creations.. 

In addition, explore Mexico City and visit a few of the colonial towns, where indigenous and Spanish heritages sit side by side.  Continue to the Yucatán peninsula and explore the ruins of Chichén Itzá, the most grandiose testimony to the bygone Mayan empire. Round off your holiday lounging on the white-sand beaches that fringe the peninsula.

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Mexico City. Transfer to hotel in the historical centre.

Day 2

Guided tour of Mexico City and the Anthropology Museum. ( Taqueria Lunch )

Day 3

Guided excursion to Teotihuacan pyramids and Museum of Tequila.

Day 4

Visit to Xochimilco Cookery School.

Day 5

Transfer to Puebla with mole poblano lunch.

Day 6

Guided city tour of Puebla with street food experience. On to Oaxaca by road.

Day 7

Cooking class and visit to food market. Excursion to the ruins of Monte Albán.

Day 8

Excursion to Mitla and El Tule with mescal tasting.

Day 9

Fly to Mérida, transfer to hotel.

Day 10

Yucatán Slow Cooking demonstration and tasting.

Day 11

Guided excursion to Mayan ruined city Chichén Itzá; on to Mayan Riviera.

Days 12-13

At leisure on the Caribbean coast.

Day 14

Transfer to Cancún airport for international flight home.

Detailed itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Mexico City. Transfer to hotel in the historical centre.
 

You’ll be met at the airport by one of our local representatives and accompanied to your hotel. Mexico City was built on the site of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec empire, and it lies at 2,250m above sea level. Vast, chaotic and vibrant, this sprawling megalopolis of more than 20 million people has a multitude of attractions.

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Mexico City . Palacio Bel Artes

Day 2

Guided tour of Mexico City and the Anthropology Museum. ( Taqueria Lunch )
 

The arrival of the Spanish conquistadores was seismic event in the story of the Aztec people.  Their magnificent causewayed city was razed, and the invading Spaniards rebuilt it in their own tradition  ̶   the development fuelled by silver mining.  This is all reflected in the cultural vestiges apparent all over the modern-day city which you’ll see during your guided tour. Visit the zócalo, or main square, monumental Metropolitan Cathedral and National Palace with its murals by Diego Rivera. Stroll down elegant boulevards, or browse at a handicraft market.

You will also visit the world-class Museum of Anthropology, exhibiting remarkable, well displayed Aztec artefacts alongside items from other ancient civilisations. There’s also a scale model of the lake-city Tenochtitlan. It’s a fantastic introduction to the superb and sometimes grisly artistic achievements of Mexico’s early inhabitants. 

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Tacos Al Pastor

Day 3

Guided excursion to Teotihuacan pyramids and Museum of Tequila.
 

Today’s highlight is a guided tour of Teotihuacan. Passing through the northern suburbs of the capital, with a pause to visit the shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe, you head into the countryside towards the megalithic archaeological site of Teotihuacan which dates from the time of Christ and was once one of the largest cities in the world.

It is hugely influential in the historic narrative of modern Mexico and, although it had already been abandoned by the time of the Aztecs, even this great empire held it in awe. Soak up the history as you stroll along the imposing Avenue of the Dead, leading to the vast Pyramid of the Sun, and take the opportunity to climb its vertiginous, ancient steps for a panorama of the ruins and the surrounding countryside. Lunch will be taken in the traditional and renowned La Gruta restaurant which occupies a large natural cave.

Finally, back in Mexico City you'll visit the well-established Museum of Tequila and Mezcal, which processes and houses more than 300 different varieties of liquor – you’ll learn about the distilling process and get to sample a different varieties.

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Teotihuacan

Day 4

Visit to Xochimilco Cookery School.
 

This is a unique opportunity to prepare a traditional Mexican meal in a kitchen in Xochimilco, Mexico’s kitchen garden on the fringes of the city. Visit a local market and purchase the necessary ingredients before preparing a traditional dish under the guidance of Doña Lupita. Enjoy eating your meal on a trajinera boat, punted along the canals of rural Xochimilco while being serenaded by mariachi musicians.

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Xochimilco

Day 5

Transfer to Puebla with mole poblano lunch.
 

En route to the World Heritage Site of Puebla, situated 130km southeast of Mexico City, you'll stop in Tonantzintla to visit Santa María church, renowned for its elaborate and unique stucco interior - a beautiful example of indigenous artisan work combining Mexican and European Christian elements. Then you'll continue on to Cholula to visit the vestiges of the Great Pyramid of Cholula, larger in volume than Egypt's Cheops pyramid.

You'll arrive in Puebla in time for lunch at the traditional La Fonda de Santa Clara restaurant where you'll be encouraged to taste mole poblano, Mexico's national dish, which fuses a flavoursome array of chillies in a thick, rich, chocolate-based sauce. Finally, you'll explore Puebla's colonial centre, dotted with churches and provincial mansions adorned with the delicately hand-painted talavera tiles - Puebla's finest attraction.

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Mole Poblano lunch in Puebla

Day 6

Guided city tour of Puebla with street food experience. On to Oaxaca by road.
 

In the morning you’ll be familiarised with Puebla’s wide array of street food. Few places on Earth can satisfy a sweet tooth like the Calle de los Dulces in Puebla. You can almost get a sugar fix just walking by the shops that line Avenida 6 Oriente, their windows and display cases stuffed with traditional candies and cookies.

Drive to Oaxaca (4-5hrs) along the new toll highway passing through the Sierra Madre mountains. There are dramatic rugged landscapes dotted with cacti plants and a backdrop of snow-capped peaks. The population in this area is still dominated by people of Zapotec and Mixtec descent, although the town has many examples of well-preserved Spanish colonial architecture, some fine museums and a thriving artistic community, as well as a wonderful climate.

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Mexico sweets ( camotes ) in Puebla

Day 7

Cooking class and visit to food market. Excursion to the ruins of Monte Albán.
 

Oaxacan cuisine is famous for its complexity and rich variety of ingredients and flavours. You will learn how to prepare traditional Oaxacan dishes from a local cookery teacher using recipes passed down through the generations. First, visit the market to buy and sample the ingredients; unusual  fruits and  vegetables and regional herbs and spices. A light lunch is then provided in the market  with a talk on Oaxacan food, after which it is into the kitchen to prepare a delicious 4-course meal.

In the afternoon, head out of town to nearby Monte Albán, the grand Zapotec ceremonial centre. Strategically located on an artificially levelled hill where three valleys meet, the site has superb views over the surrounding area. There is time to explore the pyramids, steep staircases, walls covered with strange carvings, burial chambers and temples. Although there is a theory that the main plaza was a religious ceremonial site, most of the imagery is decidedly militaristic, featuring tortured captives and devastated conquered settlements.

 

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Salsa and Lime Oaxaca

Day 8

Excursion to Mitla and El Tule with mescal tasting.
 
Depart Oaxaca for the Zapotec ruins of Mitla, 46km away. The main attraction is its impressive inlaid stone mosaics that decorate its palaces. On the return trip, stop at the huge 2-3,000-year-old ahuehuete tree, one of the oldest in the world, which dominates the parish church of Tule village. With a girth of 42m and diameter of 14m, it also claims to be the widest tree in the Americas. A final stop will be at a mezcal distillery to learn about the production process of this agave-based spirit, produced only in Mexico and mostly in Oaxaca.
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Monte Alban Ruins Oaxaca

Day 9

Fly to Mérida, transfer to hotel.
 

Fly to Mérida, capital of the state of Yucatán, via Mexico City. The city was founded by the Maya and conquered by the Spanish who dismantled the Mayan pyramids and used the stones as foundations for the cathedral. Mérida then became an immensely wealthy city, described as the ‘Paris of the New World’. Its money came mainly from the production of sisal, cactus fibres which are used to make rope, and it was culturally and geographically isolated from the rest of the country until transport infrastructure reached it in the 1950s.

Today Mérida retains a lovely colonial centre, with a mix of opulent and crumbly buildings but it is a modern, bustling, thriving city, with lots of local character, some excellent places to eat and good shops and markets. The inhabitants, descendants of the Maya and the colonists, love a good fiesta, and you may well find one going on, with live music and market stalls, while you are there.

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Mestizo dancers in Merida.

Day 10

Yucatán Slow Cooking demonstration and tasting.
 

Off the back of the success of the international ‘slow food’ movement which originated in Italy over 20 years ago, chef David Sterling launched the regional chapter of this organisation known as Slow Food Yucatán.  It was set up to enhance the enjoyment of food while supporting and maintaining local farming, craft production and regional culinary traditions.

You visit local producers of anything from rum and chocolates, to herbs, honey and chicharrón (fried pig skin) depending on the seasons and availability.

After exploring the stalls, you'll enjoy a meal in a popular local restaurant where you'll feast on an array of authentic regional Yucatecan foods.

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Day 11

Guided excursion to Mayan ruined city Chichén Itzá; on to Mayan Riviera.
 

From Mérida drive to Chichén Itzá (3 hrs), the grandest of all the Mayan sites, dominated by the huge, symmetrical, stepped El Castillo pyramid. The origins of the site are mysterious, and appear to have Toltec as well as Mayan influences. It has the largest and best-preserved ball court in the Americas: the venue for an ancient ritual game that was played throughout the continent, but which is still not fully understood.

Archaeologists have not been able to determine whether the losers or winners were decapitated, but judging from the gory carvings along the base of the court’s walls, someone certainly came to an unpleasant end. There is also a huge sacred well.

Drive on to the Riviera Maya on the Caribbean coast. Drive to Playa del Carmen on the Mayan Riviera (4hrs). As its name suggests, this stretch of white-sand coastline has been comprehensively developed for tourism, with varying degrees of success from an aesthetic point of view. Playa, an hour’s drive south of Cancún, is a pleasant, if very busy, family and entertainment resort with a lively pedestrianised centre overflowing with restaurants and bars. Your hotel is in a rather more peaceful location on the fringes of town. 

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El Castillo, Chichen Itza

Days 12-13

At leisure on the Caribbean coast.
 

The beaches are gorgeous here and there are loads of activities and excursions, from visits to other Mayan ruins to scuba diving. These are easy to book locally. You might even hire a car for a day or two to have more flexibility to explore.

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Playa del Carmen

Day 14

Transfer to Cancún airport for international flight home.

Essential information

Transport

2 domestic flight; 2 scenic road journeys . 

Accommodation

This trip combines mid-range hotels, colonial or modern in style with well-equipped rooms, private bathroom and heating/air-conditioning.  Except for Mérida, you’ll be staying in suites throughout.

Meals

Breakfast daily; lunch days 2-5, 7,10,11.

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 clients on their return.

Included excursions

• Mexico City: City tour and Anthropology Museum; taco experience.
• Guided excursion to Teotihuacan pyramids, Museum of Tequila and lunch at la Gruta.
• Mexico City: Lesson at Xochimilco Cookery School.
• Guided visits to Tonantzintla and Cholula with mole poblado lunch.
• Puebla: City tour and street food experience.
• Oaxaca: Food market and cookery class; tour of pre-Columbian city Monte Albán.
• Oaxaca: Guided excursion to Mitla and el Tule with mescal tasting.
• Mérida: Slow cooking demonstration.
• Mérida: Visit Chichén Itzá ruins (one of the New Seven Wonders of the World).

Summary of nights

14 days, 13 nights: Mexico City 4; Puebla 1; Oaxaca 3; Mérida 2; Mayan Riviera 3.

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 Latin America.
• Accommodation as specified.
• Meals as specified.
• Excursions as specified, including entrance fees.

Not included in the journey price

• Tips and gratuities.
• International 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$35 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, and possibly some travellers’ cheques (American Express are the most widely accepted), though these are gradually falling out of use. 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 expected 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 food and drink-focused holiday is suitable for visitors with an interest in Mexico and its culinary traditions.  If you have a disability, please contact us.

Climate

In Mexico City and the mountains towns the climate is temperate all year round and, because of the altitude, it rarely gets too hot. 

The wet/rainy season lasts through June to August, which usually means a couple of hours of rain in the afternoon. 
Temperatures can drop to freezing in Mexico City and Oaxaca over the winter months.

On the Caribbean coast it’s hot and fairly humid all year round, with a risk of tropical storms and hurricanes Sep-Nov.

Clothing and special equipment

For day-to-day wear you should go prepared to encounter all seasons - a light fleece jacket and a waterproof/breathable outer shell makes a good combination. Trousers, skirt or shorts made from light, quick-drying synthetic materials work well. 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. Light loose clothing and beach wear is appropriate for your stay on the Caribbean coast. 

Strong, comfortable footwear is essential and you should bring insect repellant, sun block and sun glasses. 

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 relevant consulate.

APIS and ESTA - important flight information:

ESTA - if flying to, or via, the USA, 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 machine-readable (MRP). 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.

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