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Discover Mexico: Oaxaca's culture and coastline

13 days from £2795pp

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Discover Mexico: Oaxaca's culture and coastline:
Trip Dossier

Mexico is one of Latin America’s most vibrant and entertaining destinations, with a huge diversity of historical, cultural and natural attractions. On this private holiday, based in elegant and evocative accommodation, you’ll start off by visiting contrasting areas of the multi-layered capital, where the Aztec and Spanish heritage blends or co-exists. 

Heading out of the capital, stroll through the cobbled streets and soak up the colonial atmosphere in the Spanish planned city of Puebla.  Drive on towards the isolated, rugged southern highlands, dotted with small weaving and craft villages, which compose the region around Oaxaca, which has its own distinctive identity. Known as Mexico’s artistic centre, the town has both indigenous and colonial features: the markets, artisan workshops, rituals and multiple fiestas reflecting the native culture while the baroque architecture, plazas and museums display the Spanish influence. 

Round off your holiday lounging on the white sand beaches that fringe the bays, smothered in tropical foliage, on the Pacific beach at Huatulco.

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Mexico City and transfer to hotel in the historic centre.

Day 2

Full day guided excursion to Teotihuacán pyramids and Guadalupe shrine.

Day 3

Guided visit to Xochimilco, Coyoacán and the Frida Kahlo Museum.

Day 4

Full day guided tour to Puebla, Cholula and Tlaxcala, overnight in Puebla.

Day 5

At leisure in Puebla.

Day 6

By road to Oaxaca, southwest Mexico, guided tour of city and market.

Day 7

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

Day 8

At leisure in Oaxaca.

Day 9

Transfer to airport and fly to Huatulco; transfer to hotel on the beach.

Day 10-12

At leisure on the beach; optional water-sports and activities.

Day 13

Transfer to Huatulco airport and fly to Mexico City to connect with international flight home.

Detailed itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Mexico City and transfer to hotel in the historic centre.
 

You’ll be met at the airport by one of our local representatives and accompanied to your hotel. Mexico City has evolved over the centuries into a modern day metropolis from its founding as the Aztec city of Tenochtitlán in the 14th century. A history of agricultural cultivation, religious ritual, and warring tribes took a seismic turn with the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores and the development of the city was fuelled by silver mining.

Your hotel is close to the zócalo, main square, right in the heart of the historic core of the city which is crammed with important colonial edifices. You might stroll along the pedestrianised streets in the evenings, when Mexicans take their traditional promenade, stopping off for a coffee or beer in one of the numerous bars, or window-shopping.

Mexico City

Day 2

Full day guided excursion to Teotihuacán pyramids and Guadalupe shrine.
 

Guided tour of Teotihuacán and the Guadalupe shrine. Passing through the northern suburbs of the capital, you head into the countryside towards the megalithic archaeological site of Teotihuacán. Teotihuacán 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.

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 lush surrounding countryside.

Visit also the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadelupe, the most venerated shrine and pilgrimage destination in Mexico. Here, the Virgin Mary, disguised as an indian princess, appeared to indigenous Mexican Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, leaving her image impressed on his cloak. It is not certain that he ever existed but he was canonised by the Roman Catholic church in 2002 as the continent’s first indigenous saint.

You can explore the historic centre on foot from your hotel. Don’t miss the cathedral and national palace.  If you have time we suggest you visit the world-class Museum of Anthropology, a short taxi or public bus ride away. The museum exhibits remarkable, well displayed expositions of Aztec artefacts alongside items from other ancient civilisations. It’s a fantastic introduction to the superb and sometimes grisly artistic achievements of Mexico’s early inhabitants.

Teotihuacan

Day 3

Guided visit to Xochimilco, Coyoacán and the Frida Kahlo Museum.
 

Today you have a guided day trip out to the fringes of the city and its most prestigious artist quarter. Visit Coyoacán, which, before the city expanded to absorb it, was a colonial village. This neighbourhood still has its own identity, with narrow streets, plazas, cafés and a lively arty atmosphere.

Walk through the main plaza, churches and beautiful old buildings, including the house of conqueror Hernán Cortés. Visit Frida Kahlo's home, where the great artist was born, lived much of her life, and eventually died. The house is a treasure trove, not only of her paintings, but also of innumerable artefacts associated with her and her husband, famous muralist Diego Rivera.

Continue to the floating gardens of Xochimilco, which were once connected to the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City) by a causeway, and where the Aztecs grew much of their food. Navigate the tranquil tree-lined canals on board a traditional 'trajinera', a flower-decked wooden punt, and will discover a little of how Aztec life was before the conquest. 

 

Xochimilco

Day 4

Full day guided tour to Puebla, Cholula and Tlaxcala, overnight in Puebla.
 

It is a 3hr drive to Puebla, a large city within sight of the snowy peak of Popacatapétal and one of the places which most evoke the country's Spanish colonial past.  It is groaning with baroque churches (70 in the centre alone) and hundreds of other graceful buildings embellished with the hand-painted ceramic tiles, which it manufactures.

A conservative, strongly catholic and very traditional community, it took the ' wrong' side in the War of Independence and has been involved in some bloody battles. Nevertheless it is a friendly city and a pleasant place to while away a few days.

Continue to visit to the hilltop pre-Columbian site of Cholula. This huge pyramid is larger than the Egyptian Pyramid of Cheops, but today is not much more than a grassy mound. Drive on to the city of Tlaxcala where highlights include the government palace with its vivid murals, the beautiful pilgrimage site of the Shrine of our Lady of Ocotlán, and San Francisco Monastery.

Drive to Tlaxcala, which has a lovely main plaza flanked by the government palace with its vivid murals. Visit also the Shrine of our Lady of Ocotlán - a beautiful church and pilgrimage site, and the 16th century San Francisco Monastery. The tour ends back in Puebla, where you will spend the night.

Elaborate church in Tlaxcala

Day 5

At leisure in Puebla.
 
At leisure in Puebla.

Day 6

By road to Oaxaca, southwest Mexico, guided tour of city and market.
 

Leave Puebla and head by road to the city of Oaxaca, set among arid mountains. The capital of the region, it has airy patios and graceful arcades and is famed for its colourful market, serapes, crafts and dances. The city's historical centre, was declared a UNESCO world historic site in 1987.

The population in this area is still dominated by Zapotec and Mixtec indians, but 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. The peace and quiet of the cobbled streets is a welcome contrast to the busy capital.

You can easily explore the city on foot with the main square, the Zócalo, and the boulevard of Calle Alcalá being free of traffic. Visit the city's government palace, cathedral and Santa Domingo church, as well as its colourful food market. Oaxaca is a centre for Mexican art, so there are also opportunities to purchase arts and crafts in its gift shops.

 

Giant chicheron ( pork scratchings) on Oaxaca market

Day 7

Half day guided excursion to the ruins of ancient city Monte Albán.
 
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 all over the place is decidedly militaristic, featuring tortured captives and devastated conquered settlements.
Oaxaca   Monte Alban

Day 8

At leisure in Oaxaca.
 
At leisure in Oaxaca. 

Day 9

Transfer to airport and fly to Huatulco; transfer to hotel on the beach.
 

Transfer to Oaxaca airport and fly to Huatulco on the Pacific coast via Mexico City. This, once a small, unassuming village on the Pacific coast, has been absorbed into an ambitious tourism project aimed to rival the highly commercialised Cancún, although it is markedly more low-key and laid-back.

Its location is certainly impressive, set around nine stunning bays and surrounded by lush tropical forest bubbling with wildlife. It is especially popular with holidaymakers from Mexico. Your Mediterranean-style hotel is located on a pretty bay.

Huatulco Bay Pacific coast Mexico

Day 10-12

At leisure on the beach; optional water-sports and activities.
 
Relax in the hotel’s tropical gardens or around the immense free-form pool. The beaches are exquisite and there are loads of water-sports, activities and excursions at the property or easily booked.
Huatulco Camino Real Mexico

Day 13

Transfer to Huatulco airport and fly to Mexico City to connect with international flight home.
 

Transfer to Huatulco airport to fly to Mexico City and connect with your international flight home.

Essential information

Transport

3 jet flights; 1 road journey. 

Accommodation

At all levels, we prefer smaller hotels with some local character; whether one of a local chain or independent. On the odd occasion where we use an international chain, we choose properties with some historic or unique features.

For this trip we have selected high class, historically evocative, romantic and nostalgic hotels, while on the beach the property has a Mediterranean style which nevertheless fits in well with the natural environment. Of course all have, 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

• Full day guided excursion to Teotihuacan pyramids and Guadalupe shrine in Mexico City.
• Guided tour of Xochimilco, Coyoacán and Frida Kahlo Museum.
• Guided tour of Puebla, Cholula and Tlaxcala.Guided tour of Oaxaca market and city.
• Half day guided excursion to the ruins of ancient city Monte Albán, Oaxaca.

Summary of nights

13 days, 12 nights: Mexico City 3; Puebla 2, Oaxaca 3; Huatulco 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, 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 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 top-of-the-range holiday is suitable for most visitors, including families. Should 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 never gets too hot. 

The wet/rainy season lasts through June to August, which usually means a couple of hours of rain in the afternoon. Don't be discouraged from visiting the mountains during rainy season, when you'll see lush, green landscape, as opposed to the dry season's parched, brown landscape - and it often only rains in the late afternoons and evenings. During the rest of the year there is little or no rain.

Temperatures can drop to freezing in Mexico City and Oaxaca over the winter months.

On the Pacific coast, temperatures typically vary between 21°C and 33°C  over the year, with a peak season of hot weather in April and May. The coolest weather occurs between December and February. There are 300 sunny days per year, with rain falling between June and September, the wettest month.

Clothing and special equipment

For day-to-day wear in the highlands you should go prepared to encounter all seasons - a light fleece jacket and a Gore-Tex 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. 

Strong, comfortable footwear is essential and you should bring insect repellent, sun block and sun glasses. You should take swimwear for the beach and pools. 

Please get in touch with the office 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 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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