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Value Mexico: Highlights of Mexico City and the Yucatán

12 days from £1522pp

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Value Mexico: Highlights of Mexico City and the Yucatán:
Trip Dossier

This two week private tour is a great introduction to a huge country with an immense variety of cultural and physical landscapes. There are deserts, mountains and jungles magnificent ruined pre-Columbian pyramids and temples, graceful colonial towns and a timeless indigenous life in the villages and markets. 

All this makes for an enticing holiday: we’ve picked out a few of the highlights to give you a good value, economical and rewarding holiday. Mexico City is a huge metropolis, one of the largest cities in the world (you may like to extend your time here) and our guided tour takes you to a few of the top sights.  Zip down to Mérida, an agreeable, Mayan and colonial city in the Yucatán Peninsula, from where you will visit a few of the better-known Mayan archaeological sites. Finally head for the Caribbean beach at Playa del Carmen on the Riviera Maya.  

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

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

Day 2

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

Day 3

Full day guided city tour and visit Teotihuacán pyramids.

Day 4

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

Day 5

Full day excursion to Mayan ruins of Uxmal and Kabah.

Day 6

At leisure.

Day 7

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

Day 8

Option to re-visit the ruins. By road to Caribbean Playa del Carmen on the Mayan Riviera.

Days 9-11

At leisure on the beach, optional activities..

Day 12

Transfer to Cancún airport for international flight home.

Detailed itinerary

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.
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.


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.


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.

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.

Day 6

At leisure.

At leisure in Mérida.

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.

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. 
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.

Day 12

Transfer to Cancún airport for international flight home.

Essential information


One flight (longest 1.5hrs); 3 scenic road journeys (longest 2hrs). 


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. Here we use small, friendly hotels, colonial or modern in style with well-equipped rooms, private bathroom and heating.


Breakfast daily.


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 excursion to historic colonial towns Cuernavaca and Taxco.
• Full day city tour and visit Teotihuacan pyramids.
• Full day excursion to Mayan ruins of Uxmal and Kabah.
• Visit Chichén Itzá ruins – New Seven Wonders of the World.

Summary of nights

12 days, 11 nights: Mexico City 3; Mérida 3; Chichén Itzá 1, Playa del Carmen 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 Latin America.
• Accommodation as specified.
• Meals as specified.
• Excursions as specified, including entrance fees

Not included in the journey price

• Tips and gratuities
• Meals other than specified.
• International flights to Latin America.
• Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket
• Optional excursions.


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.


Tips are expected and local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income. We recommend approximately $10 per person for a half day and $20 for a full day for guides and half that for drivers.

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.


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 holiday is suitable for all able, reasonably fit visitors, including families. If you or anyone in your party has a disability please contact us.


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

The Yucatán Peninsula is hot (around 30°C) and humid all year round. October through April are the driest months. The hurricane season runs from July to November.

Clothing and special equipment

Bring plenty of light cotton clothing and good, comfortable walking shoes. Some warm items and good waterproof jackets are also necessary. We suggest that you plan to ‘layer’ your clothing; it is easier and more efficient to put on a couple of light layers than one thick jumper, and sensible to have long sleeves for areas where mosquitos may be a problem. Sandals are a good informal option for evenings. Protection against the sun (sunblock, sun hat) and mosquito repellent are essential and you should bring swimwear. A daypack is useful for carrying around
sunblock, guidebook, water and any extra layers. 

Please get in touch with the office before departure if you have any doubts. Good equipment is very important and hard to come by in Mexico.


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. 


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.  Clients with a different nationality should refer to our Briefing Dossier and check with the relevant consulate.

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