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Family Mexico: Mayan temple adventures

12 days from £3,342pp

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Family Mexico: Mayan temple adventures

12 days from £3,342pp
 

Private Journey

 

Day 1

Arrive in Cancún. Transfer to your hotel not far from the centre of town.
 
On arrival at Cancún you’ll be transferred to your hotel close to the town centre.  Cancún straddles a lagoon on the north-eastern tip of the Yucatán peninsula. It's a purpose-built resort. Beautiful beaches, good diving and water sports are the main attractions.
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Beach in Cancun Mexico

Day 2

Guided visit to sub-aquatic sculpture museum.
 
Guided trip to the Sub-aquatic Sculpture Museum. This unique underwater attraction is the brainchild of a British artist. Displayed on the ocean bed off the shores of Cancún, Isla Mujeres and Punta Nizuc are over 400 clay sculptures. The highlight is the so-called 'Silent Evolution' where life-size figures eerily hold hands in a circle.

The aim of this ongoing project is not only creative but focuses on the need to conserve the coral environment.  The clay models promote marine growth and in turn will form artificial coral over time, altering the appearance of the sculptures. A high-power speedboat takes you to the site where you will have a chance to snorkel amongst the various exhibits. All snorkelling equipment is included.

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Underwater sculpture

Day 3

Drive to Mayan archaeological site at Chichén Itzá. Overnight.
 
By road (2hrs) inland to Chichén Itzá, the grandest and best organised of all the Mayan sites, dominated by the huge, symmetrical, stepped El Castillo pyramid. You’ll have a private tour of the site with guide.

The origins of the site are mysterious. 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.

Accommodation is a short walk from the site and in the evening there is the option to return for the Sound and Light Show.

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El Castillo pyramid at Chichen Itza

Day 4

Drive to Mérida, lively colonial and Mayan city; 4n.
 
By road to Mérida (2hrs direct) capital of the state of Yucatán. The city was founded by the Maya but in 1542 it was conquered by the Spanish conquistadores and became immensely wealthy, described as the ‘Paris of the New World’. The city 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 street stalls, while you are there. Stroll around the sunny streets, shop for local lace or one of the region’s famous hammocks.

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Mestizo dancers in Merida.

Day 5

Guided tour to sisal hacienda Sotuta de Peón.
 
Today you have a guided excursion delving into the history of the Yucatán region and how it was shaped by the henequén (sisal) boom in the 1800s. The trip begins with a drive to a working henequén hacienda, Sotuta de Peón, 35km south of Mérida. The experience transport you back to the colonial era, as you witness the entire henequén production process - from plant to fibre, from fibre to finished product - all using century-old machinery. Ride out to the farming fields on an authentic wooden cart pulled by mules, with the option of a refreshing swim in a nearby cenote (a natural sinkhole typical of the Yucatán peninsula). 
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Hacienda Sotula

Day 6

Guided explorations of Mayan sites Uxmal and Kabah.
 
Guided exploration of the ruined ceremonial temples of Uxmal, for many the most dramatic forest-clad Mayan site. It’s just over an hour from Mérida, but you enter a different world. The site is dominated by the majestic Pyramid of the Magician, inhabited by birds and bats, alongside which is an elegant ‘nunnery’ quadrangle with Puuc-style complex stonework pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle. The rain god Chac is represented by grotesque stone masks.

You’ll also visit the site of Kabah, where Chac also features in mosaic stone, with 250 masks on the Palace of Masks.

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Uxmal

Day 7

Guided day trip to Celestún on the Gulf coast.
 

Guided day trip to Celestún on the remote, undeveloped and swampy gulf coast.  In contrast to the lively city of Mérida,  Celestún is a low key beach resort favoured by Mexican families;  this once isolated fishing port has an inviting, broad white sandy beach and plenty of restaurants. But it is most famous for the lagoons at the entrance to town which are filled with rose-coloured flamingoes, usually on display.

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Celestun

Day 8

By road to Playa del Carmen on the Mayan Riviera.
 
By road 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. As you head south towards Tulum, the built-up area thins out and there are some lovely exclusive hotel properties. Playa, an hour’s drive south of Cancún, is a pleasant family resort with a lively pedestrianised centre overflowing with restaurants and bars. 
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Day 9

Guided excursion to Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.
 
Visit the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, a natural protected area 2hrs south of Playa del Carmen. It is a small ecotourism and education centre, an example of sustainable development in sensitive tropical ecosystems.

The reserve embraces tropical forest, mangrove and savannah and a coast and offshore marine reserve. The area is abundant with wildlife particularly aquatic birds. Other inhabitants include monkeys, tapirs, turtles, ocelots and jaguars.

Take a guided boat trip through the wetlands or hike through the jungle and discover the historical site of Muyil, an impressive Mayan temple.  You even have the opportunity to swim and float on the freshwater stream through the channels.

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Sian Ka'an

Day 10

Guided trip to Tulum and Xel Há.
 
Day trip to Tulum further south on the Caribbean coast. The small town of Tulum has small thatched palapa-style bars, restaurants, hotels and guesthouses flanking the main road which cuts through town and continues along the peninsula as far as Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve.

 The nearby beaches are simply superb with sugary white sand and enticing turquoise waters. To cap it all, the white Mayan ruins of Tulum are spectacularly perched on a cliff behind the main beach.

You’ll also visit the marine-life lagoon at Xel-Há, surrounded by mangroves and brimming with tropical fish. It’s rather commercialised, but the waters are inviting and you see a kaleidoscope of sub-aqua life forms.

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Tulum

Day 11

At leisure on the beach.
 
At leisure. Explore the ruins and relax on the beach below, or head inland to Mayan Cobá in the jungle. For a change from Mayan ruins you might visit the effervescent little resort of Playa del Carmen up the coast, a family friendly place where there is a plethora of restaurants, bars, shops and entertainment.  
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Mexico snorkelling

Day 12

Transfer to Cancún airport for international flight home.

12 days from £3,342pp

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My son’s words say it all ‘Walking and climbing the pyramids (at Chichen Itza) reminded me of my PlayStation games and the stories I have read on the Egyptian pyramids, only better."

Antonio Vaquero

Antonio Vaquero

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