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Private Journeys

Trailblazer Mexico

11 days from £2,332pp

Mexico

Itinerary

map marker Map

Day 1

Arrive in Cancún. Collect hire car and drive to your hotel

On arrival at Cancún airport you will be met by a representative who will escort you to the car hire office a short distance away. The assistant will wait with you until you have checked the car and documentation. Your car will be a mid-sized Chevrolet Aveo (or similar) which will be your companion for 11 days. Other sizes of car are available, and terms and conditions are subject to change.

The adventure begins! Jump into the car and drive off to your nearby hotel, close to the beach. Cancún straddles a lagoon on the north-eastern tip of the Yucatán peninsula and is a purpose-built resort with beautiful beaches, good diving and water sports as the main attractions. If you have a bit more time you might linger on for a day or two (speak to us about lengthening your stay) and consider visiting the underwater sculpture park.

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Day 2

Drive to Chichén Itzá, Mayan archaeological site.

Drive inland to Chichén Itzá, the grandest and most well organised of all the Mayan sites, dominated by the huge, symmetrical, stepped El Castillo pyramid.

The drive from Cancún to Chichén Itzá is around 200km and will never take less than 2hrs even if travelling directly on the toll (or cuota) road. But we recommend that you take the free road (libre). You’ll encounter more speed bumps but you will pass through small villages at a slower pace and get a better feel for Mexican life in the Yucatán.

En route you might want to visit the colourful, laid-back colonial town of Valladolid with its grand church and peaceful plaza. It’s also a good spot from which to visit one of the cenotes which pit the peninsula. Cenotes are steep-sided freshwater sinkholes fed by underground rivers, deep enough for you to take a dip into their sparkling clear turquoise and emerald waters.

When you arrive at your accommodation you can enjoy the lovely gardens and the pool. It’s just a short walk from the site, which you will explore tomorrow.

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Day 3

Explore Chichén Itzá.

This morning you will visit one of the modern seven wonders of the world, Chichén Itzá. Locally you can avail yourself of a local guide to explore the ruins if you wish, which we recommend as it will bring the history alive. Or you can choose to wander the site to discover its pyramids, macabre sculpture and temples, on your own; it’s well laid out and easy to explore.

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.

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Day 4

Drive to your hacienda on the outskirts of colourful Mérida

There is plenty of time for a second visit to Chichen Itza, exploring in the morning calm is a very different experience.

In the afternoon continue on the toll road the direct journey to your hotel would take approximately two hours. We recommend stopping en-route at the beautiful town of Izamal ( 64km east of Mérida). Known as the yellow city as all its major buildings including an impressive Franciscan monastery are painted a deep mustard. The local food market is known for its venison tacos.

From here you continue the short distance to your hotel is a quiet hacienda from the early 19th century a short drive away from Mérida, giving you the chance to relax in a peaceful environment but also making it easy to pop into the city to explore.

Mérida is the 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… or simply enjoy the relaxing grounds of your out-of-town hacienda.

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Day 5

Optional food tour of Merida or visit Celestun

Today you have a free day to explore, there are plenty of options nearby to keep you entertained. You can drive into colonial Merida to explore the colourful city with its Spanish buildings, grand churches, wonderful museums and famous food scene. We can organise various city tours including one focused on the delicious street food, just ask your consultant.

If you want to see a more natural side you can drive to the coast and visit Celestun, a small fishing town set in the middle of a wildlife sanctuary studded with lagoons and fresh water springs. It’s best known for its colourful congregation of flamingos, most populous between March and September, but there’s a host of other waterfowl species to be spotted here including egrets, herons and sandpipers.

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Day 6

Optional visit to the Mayan site of Uxmal.

Uxmal is one of the regions most famous ruins, for many the most dramatic forest-clad Mayan site. It’s just over an hours drive south of 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.

One of the joys of self-drive is the total flexibility it allows, so you can get there as early of late as you like and explore the ruins at your own pace. If you want to learn more about the site and regions history, authorised guides are available at the entrance, or we can arrange one for you.

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Day 7

Drive to Chiquila and Holbox island.

It’s back in the car today to drive north to the coast at Holbox. Isla Holbox is separated from the Mexican mainland on the tip of the Yucatán peninsula by a shallow blue lagoon which attracts migrating flamingos. With virtually no vehicles permitted on the island, the streets in the lazy village are made of sand, and you get around in golf buggies. There’s an uninterrupted stretch of powder white beach on which to sunbathe, and there is scope for other activities: 

You leave your car at a secure parking area (pay locally) at Chiquila, the ferry port on the mainland side, and then take a 15 minute ferry ride to the island. Golf carts are available there to carry you to your hotel for a few dollars.

There are several options you could take to get to Chiquila.  You may be able to do the journey in a little under three hours if using the main roads primarily. Alternatively you could take the bumpier highway 176 from Merida heading east towards the Tizimin junction at which point you can visit the spectacular ruins at Ek Balam or head to the coast to see flocks of flamingos at Rio Lagartos. If taking this route check the last ferry to Holbox and make sure you don’t miss it!

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Day 8

Relax on Holbox island; optional swimming with whale sharks.

Holbox takes you back to the days before the Yucatan became a popular tourist destination, there are almost no cars on the island so you can walk the peaceful streets or simply stroll along the white sand beaches. The crystal clear sea gives you a great oppertunity to snorkel all before spending the evening discovering the small laid back restaurants and bars serving fresh sea food that line the sea front. It’s the perfect place to get away from it all and relax for a few days

In season, May-Sept, the migratory path of whale sharks brings them close to the tropical waters of Holbox and Contoy islands, – this is one of a handful of places in the world they visit and where you can view them.

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Day 9

Day at leisure on Holbox.

There’s lots to do on Holbox island, You can kayak through the mangroves; visit the flamingo-dotted Passion Island; or hire bikes and ride to the ecological reserve at Yum Balam where the beach is strewn with driftwood and iguanas cling to the trees.

 

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Day 10

More time on Holbox Island

Explore the island in a golf cart, take advantage of the water sports the hotel has to offer, or just relax on the property’s sun-loungers, by the pool or on the beach. The sunsets here are some of the most colourful in the world.

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Day 11

Drive to Cancún airport for international flight home.

You will probably want to take the most direct route to get back to drop your car off in Cancún with plenty of time, so allow at least 3 hours to take the (regular) ferry, collect your car from Chiquila and head south via Kantunilkin to the toll road back to Cancún airport.

 

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Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.

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Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.

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Real Latin America Experts

  • Evie Oswald
    Evie Oswald - Travel Expert

    It's hard to believe that Evie has had time to cram so much in to her life so far. Having lived as a child in the Americas and Europe she found herself immediately attracted to Latin America.

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    Ben Line - Travel Expert

    Ben fell in love with Latin America on a six month backpacking trip from Colombia to Mexico in 1995. Since then he has explored most of South America, including living in Peru for a year. He is now Head of Sales.

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    Hannah had an early introduction to Latin America when her family moved to Ecuador and she returned to study in Buenos Aires for a year before backpacking across the continent.

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    A former JLA tour leader, Carrie brings a wealth of on-the-ground experience to our London-based Tailor-made and Group Tours department.

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    Mary Anne Nelson - Travel Expert

    Born in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, Mary’s insider knowledge and dry sense of humour make her a highly valued member of the Tailor-made Holidays and Group Tour sales team.

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    Having spent part of her childhood in Colombia and worked in Brazil and Costa Rica, Hannah's ties to Latin America run deep. Hannah is a much valued Travel Expert in our Tailor-made Holidays and Group Tours sales team.

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