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Value Mexico: Highlights of Mexico City and the Yucatán

12 days from £1,648pp

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Value Mexico: Highlights of Mexico City and the Yucatán

12 days from £1,648pp
 

Private Journey

 

Day 1

Arrive in Mexico City. Transfer to hotel in the historic centre.
 
Transfer to your hotel in the historic centre of the city. Mexico City was built on the site of Tenochtotlán, the capital of the Aztec Empire, and it lies at 2,250m above sea level. Vast, chaotic and vibrant, this sprawling megapolis of more than 20 million people has a multitude of attractions.
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Mexico City `Zocola'

Day 2

Full day guided excursion to historic colonial towns Cuernavaca and Taxco.
 

Leave the city for a full day excursion.  First visit Taxco, a colonial town with steep twisting cobbled streets and one of the first centres of Spanish silver mining. There are plenty of craft workshops and shops selling good value silver goods where you can browse. The town is now a national monument and its historic character preserved.  Continue to Cuernavaca, linked to Mexico City by a spectacular mountain motorway.

It is well known for its all year spring-like climate, and its most famous resident, Spanish conqueror Hernán Cortés. The historical centre is focussed around the main square, the Plaza de Armas. Particularly rewarding is a visit to the 16th century Palacio de Cortés; the former palace houses a museum chronicling Mexican history and culture. Many colonial residences have been converted to galleries, museums, boutiques or fashionable restaurants.

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Taxco

Day 3

Full day guided city tour and visit Teotihuacán pyramids.
 

Begin with a guided tour of Mexico City in the morning, when the historical centre is at its least frenetic.  Your visit includes the area around the main square (Zócalo) surrounded by prestigious buildings such as the National Palace (with murals by Diego Rivera) and the sixteenth century cathedral. Continue to the archaeological site of Teotihuacán, 50km away. This huge, impressive pre-Columbian city was built on a drained lake floor. Teotihuacán 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.

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Teotihuacan

Day 4

Fly to Mérida, transfer to hotel in the city centre.
 

Fly to Mérida, capital of the Yucatán Peninsula. The city was founded by the Mayan Indians and named Tiho. In 1542 it was conquered by the Spanish conquistadores 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 that 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 Mayans 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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Government Palace

Day 5

Full day excursion to Mayan ruins of Uxmal and Kabah.
 
Guided excursion to the Mayan temple complex at Uxmal, 80km from Mérida. The site is dominated by the majestic Pyramid of the Magician, alongside which is an elegant nunnery quadrangle with Puuc-style complex stonework pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle. Strolling through the ruins, cradled in dense vegetation shading the visitor from the scorching sun is an almost mystical experience. Continue to Kabah, with its incredible Palace of Masks, with intricate mosaics representing the face of Chac the rain god 260 times.
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Day 6

At leisure.
 

At leisure in Mérida.

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Day 7

Transfer to Chichén Itzá, guided tour of the archaeological site.
 

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

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El Castillo Pyramid  Chichen itza

Day 8

Option to re-visit the ruins. By road to Caribbean Playa del Carmen on the Mayan Riviera.
 
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. Cancún is a sprawling resort of high rise hotels and Disney-like themed bars and restaurants. 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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Playa del Carmen

Days 9-11

At leisure on the beach, optional activities..
 

The beaches are gorgeous here and there are loads of activities and excursions, from visits to 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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Day 12

Transfer to Cancún airport for international flight home.

12 days from £1,648pp

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