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destination Economy Class
Sydney to
Mexico City
Return from
$1,642*

Mexico Day of the Dead in Oaxaca

Mexico

Day 1 OaxacaArrive at any time. Arrival transfer included. Please try to arrive before 6pm for an important group meeting where you can meet the Chief Experience Officer (CEO) and the other group members. The colourful and lively markets and the impressive Zapotec ruins of Monte Albán are just two of many reasons to visit wonderful Oaxaca. The conqueror of Mexico, Hernán Cortez, chose the Valley of Oaxaca as his personal domain in the Americas and many visitors have followed in his footsteps. Surrounded by the Sierra Madre del Sur and Sierra Madre de Oaxaca mountain ranges, Oaxaca is a lovely colonial city, which has maintained not only the physical structures, but also the serenity of an era gone by. Monte Albán, a spectacular grouping of pre-hispanic (Zapotec) mountain top temples, is just a short bus ride away, as is the Valley of Mitla with its colourful ruins and hand-loomed carpets. Stepping from the cultural to the culinary, Oaxaca is also a great area for trying out new tastes and textures. From the sublime to the exotic, the restaurants and markets around town will challenge you to one adventure after another. After all, this is the home of Mezcal (look for the unfortunate worm at the bottom), Oaxaca chocolate, cheese, and yes, even dried grasshoppers covered with chili and lime, if you are so inclined. In addition to the above, the Oaxaca region is home to a plethora of activities and celebrations focused around the oft-described as macabre Day of the Dead ("Dia de los Muertos") festivities in Mexico. During this tour, you'll get to experience many related events firsthand.Day 2-6 Oaxaca (5B)Orientation walk around town provided by your Chief Experience Officer to help you get your bearings around Oaxaca. You'll be sure to visit the two massive markets in Oaxaca that are just off of the main square, where you'll find many local foods on sale alongside ornaments and Day of the Dead essentials for local families. Day of the Dead takes place between October 31 and November 2 and is a celebration and remembrance of the deceased. Families will build private altars and bring large feasts to cemeteries, where they go to be with the souls of the departed. It is believed that the souls will come to be near their families and will be able to take part in the celebrations. Some of the altars that are built are very elaborate and include sugar souls and marigold flowers. In most regions, the souls of infants and children are honoured on November 1 with adults being honoured on November 2. It is generally a festive rather than somber gathering. This tour includes visits to cemetaries in both Xoxocotlan and Atzompa to view the altars and families gathering as dusk turns to dark. The many candles placed around the altars and graves add to the ambience of the sites. In addition, you'll view Day of the Dead parades in both Oaxaca proper and the Etla Valley. Participants in these parades dress in elaborate costumes and are serenaded by brass bands. Mezcal served in small plastic cups is frequently passed out to those watching the parades. The Oaxaca area is well known for its many artisans who make everything from pottery to elaborate weavings to tequila's cousin, mezcal, and the group will also have the opportunity to visit a couple of the the nearby communities to see the artisans at work. In your free time, you can opt to experience Oaxaca's other great offerings. From the nearby ruins of Monte Alban or Mitla to cooking classes to learn about the mouth-watering mole of the area to or relaxing in a cafe on the city's main square, we think there's something for everyone to enjoy.Day 7 Oaxaca (B)Depart at any time.

DepartingFrom 01/01/2015 to 29/10/2016

7 days
FROM $1,149*
7 days FROM $1,149*

Mexico Food & Culture

Mexico City

Day 1 Mexico City Arrive in Mexico City at any time. There are no planned activities during the day, so check into the hotel and enjoy this charming city. Please try to arrive before 6pm for an important group meeting where you can meet the Chief Experience Officer (CEO) and the other group members. Following the welcome meeting, head out for your first of many meals with this group as you wine and dine your way through Central Mexico. Explore the world's largest metropolitan area or take an optional day trip to the famous archaeological site of Teotihuacan. The former Aztec Capital (you can still see some of the ruins of the great Tenochtitlán in the centre of the city, or take a subway ride through one of the temples) was destroyed in the struggle with Cortez and those who followed him. Today it is the world’s fastest growing urban centre, offering a great variety of impressive museums, galleries and range of architecture, perhaps unequalled anywhere else in the Americas. Mexico City or D.F., as the locals refer to it, also has a variety of food to match its impressive visual style. If you prefer to get outside the city, the pyramids of Teotihuacán and the canals and gardens of Xochimilco are two good places to start. A word of caution: Mexico City may be slightly overwhelming at first. The world’s most populous centre is a crowded, smoggy, urban place where the altitude combined with atmospheric conditions may cause irritation of eyes, nose and throat. Also be aware that the heat may affect you upon arrival, with a general sense of lethargy and/or loss of appetite. This is no cause for alarm; it is simply a reaction to the heat. Be sure to drink plenty of water (cold bottled water is available everywhere) and do not attempt too much in any given day. Mexico is the third largest country in Latin America and the most populous Spanish speaking country in the world. Its geography ranges from swamp to desert, from tropical lowland jungle to high alpine vegetation and from thin arid soils to others so rich that they grow three crops a year.Days 2-3 Puebla (1D)Head to Puebla, famous for its hand-painted tiles, unique handicrafts, mouth-watering Mole Poblano (a mouth-watering spicy sauce made with cocoa and infinite varieties of chillies) and rich colonial history. Enjoy an included dinner at a local restaurant known for its featured seasonal specialities. Opt to try out a mole-making class. Puebla has managed to incorporate its colourful colonial past with a growing and progressive modern city centre. There are enough churches and well-maintained, colonial buildings to satisfy the most ardent lover of architecture. The markets, of course, are also present for buying, browsing or photographing. While you're here, enjoy the quality and richness of the food at Puebla. Some of these specialties include the following: "Chiles en nogada" - found late summer/early fall harvest season. Ground meat is seasoned and combined with raisins, pine nuts and local fruit before being stuffed tinto roasted poblano chiles. These stuffed chiles are then dipped in batter and fried before being topped off with a creamy sauce made partially of walnuts and then topped with pomegranates. "Molotes" - Chorizo (spicy sausage), squash blossoms with cheese or herbed sliced new potatoes are tucked into a circle of thin corn dough before all is sealed and fried in oil until crisp. "Tinga" - Shredded pork is is added to a clay pot filled with tomatoes, garlic, onions and chipotle chiles and simmered until the flavours combine. This mixture is served on tostadas, or hardshell tortillas, with lettuce and avocado.Days 4-5 Oaxaca (1D)The colourful and lively markets and the impressive Zapotec ruins of Monte Alban are just two of many reasons to visit wonderful Oaxaca. The conqueror of Mexico, Hernán Cortez, chose the Valley of Oaxaca as his personal domain in the Americas and many visitors have followed in his footsteps. Surrounded by the Sierra Madre del Sur and Sierra Madre de Oaxaca mountain ranges, Oaxaca is a lovely colonial city, which has maintained not only the physical structures, but also the serenity of an era gone by. Explore the colourful markets and enjoy an included cooking class to get the most out of the Mexican cuisine experience. Enjoy a local Oaxacan dinner. We also include a short visit to a mezcal factory that produces the fiery "other tequila" which is this region's specialty. Monte Albán, a spectacular grouping of pre-Hispanic (Zapotec) mountain top temples, is just a short bus ride away, as is the Valley of Mitla with its colourful ruins and hand-loomed carpets. Stepping from the cultural to the culinary, Oaxaca is also a great area for trying out new tastes and textures. From the sublime to the exotic, the restaurants and markets around town will challenge you to one adventure after another. After all, this is the home of Mezcal (look for the unfortunate worm at the bottom), Oaxacan chocolate, cheese, and yes, even salted grasshoppers, if you are so inclined.Days 6-7 Puerto Escondido Drive to the coast and enjoy time in the beach paradise on the Pacific. With so much to do in Puerto Escondido you might want to lounge on the beach, try surfing, diving or take an eco tour to spot dolphins, sailfish or sea turtles. Visit the local market for a taste of how the locals shop. Opt to enjoy a seafood dinner in this quaint coastal town.Day 8 Mexico CityCatch a flight back to the largest city in the world! This fascinating multi-layered megalopolis is home to an endless list of cultural wonders, the best anthropology museum for Mexican archaeology, the largest plaza (the zocalo), the Zona Rosa, many Aztec historic sites, and a vibrant street life at all hours. Travel back to this massive city and hit a few of the attractions and restaurants you weren't able to visit on your first time through.Day 9 Mexico CityDepart at any time.

DepartingFrom 01/10/2014 to 02/12/2016

9 days
FROM $1,249*
9 days FROM $1,249*

Explore Mexico & Guatemala

Mexico

Day 1 CancunOnce an unknown fishing village, Cancun is now a heaving tourist centre with plenty of bars, restaurants, resorts and nightclubs to contrast the beautiful white-sand beaches.Days 2-3 Chichen Itza/MeridaChichen Itza was once a city of the pre-Columbian Maya civilisation; its ruins are wonderfully preserved and this captivating site provides a wealth of things to see. Founded in 1542, Merida still retains much of its old-world charm with a well-preserved Old Town, wonderful museums and city streets alive with art and culture.Days 4-5 PalenqueBuilt around 100BC, the incredible ruins of Palenque were virtually swallowed by the jungle until their excavation, where some of the finest examples of Maya architecture were discovered.Days 6-8 San Cristobal de las CasasWith winding cobblestone streets and colonial Spanish architecture, San Cristobal de las Casas maintains a lovely old-world feel mixed with strong indigenous roots.Days 9-10 PanajachelPanajachel, located on beautiful Lake Atitlan with distant volcanoes looming in the background, has a thriving market, good eateries and many water-based activities to enjoy.Day 11 San Jorge La LagunaSan Jorge La Laguna is a small, picturesque village situated in a valley near Lake Atitlan, where welcoming locals live traditional lives.Days 12-13 AntiguaAffectionately known as 'Chichi', Chichicastenango is a vibrant and colourful town famous for its wonderful market held on Thursdays and Sundays. Declared a World Heritage site due to its well-preserved buildings, Antigua is a bewitching city sheltered between three volcanoes with wonderful food and atmospheric streets.

DepartingFrom 02-May-2015 to 12-Jan-2017

13 days
FROM $1,255*
13 days FROM $1,255*

Mexico Unplugged

Mexico

Days 1-2 Mexico CityModern meets ancient in Mexico City. This former Aztec capital is full of incredible sights, rich in culture and home to a famed food scene which is definitely worth discovering.Days 3-4 PueblaWith a compelling history still reflected in its wealth of colonial buildings and churches, Puebla is a delight - especially its cuisine, which gave the world mole poblano.Days 5-7 Oaxaca/Overnight BusOaxaca is a culturally diverse city with beautifully preserved colonial buildings, impressive archaeological sites, amazing markets and one of the most respected art scenes in Mexico.Days 8-9 San Cristobal de las CasasWith winding cobblestone streets and colonial Spanish architecture, San Cristobal de las Casas maintains a lovely old-world feel mixed with strong indigenous roots.Days 10-11 Palenque/Overnight BusBuilt around 100BC, the incredible ruins of Palenque were virtually swallowed by the jungle until their excavation, where some of the finest examples of Maya architecture were discovered.Days 12-13 MeridaFounded in 1542, Merida still retains much of its old-world charm with a well-preserved Old Town, wonderful museums and city streets alive with art and culture.Days 14-15 Chichen Itza/Playa del CarmenChichen Itza was once a city of the pre-Columbian Maya civilisation; its ruins are wonderfully preserved and this captivating site provides a wealth of things to see. With azure waters, powdery beaches and a European feel, Playa del Carmen is a resort city close to Cancun but without the party atmosphere.

DepartingFrom 02-May-2015 to 14-Jan-2017

15 days
FROM $1,275*
15 days FROM $1,275*

Holy Guacamole

Mexico

Day 1-3: Mexico CityBienvenidos a Me-hi-co City! Initiation mission: try as many Mexican delicacies as humanly possible. This means you’re having pambazos for breakfast, camotes for morning snack, tacos for lunch, chicharrones for afternoon tea and burritos for dinner. In between mouthfuls, check out the Teotihuacan ruins.Day 4-5: PueblaJump on a bus to pretty Puebla, a city packed with churches (they’ve got 70 in the city centre alone). If you’re feeling particularly holy, grab a map and get your cathedral on before heading market-side for local, hand-painted ceramics and piping hot street food.Day 6-7: Oaxaca/Overnight BusGet cosy with the locals as you take the 5-hour bus ride to Oaxaca. This is the place to shop for colourful textiles and margarita flavours (because pillowcases and alcohol are survival necessities). Consider escaping to the Mont Alban ruins for a little peace and quiet after the haggling frenzy. Snag a window seat on your overnighter to San Cristóbal De las Casas.Day 8-9: San CristobalSay ‘hola’ to San Cristóbal, your pastel-hued highland home for the next two days. It’s surrounded by a bunch of traditional Tzotzil and Tzeltal villages; if you’ve ever wanted to learn how to suture a wound using human hair, this is the place to get the insider know-how.Day 10-12: Palenque/Overnight BusKick on to Palenque (6 hrs) and check out the impressive 1300-year-old Mayan Palace. It comes with a soundtrack of screeching parrots and monkeys for a real ‘day in the jungle’ vibe.Day 13: MeridaIt’s an early morning arrival in Merida, which means you get a good chunk of time to explore the famous ‘White City’ of Yucutan. When you’re not sampling the delicious elotes (corn on the cob) sold from bicycle carts on street corners, maybe hunt down one of the hidden cenotes and take a dip in the crystal clear fresh water.Day 14-15: Chichen Itza - Playa del CarmenCancun – people either hate it or love it. We're guessing after two days of snorkelling, diving, swimming, tanning, seafood, cocktails and freshly squeezed juices, you'll be leaning towards the latter. In between all of the Caribbean cruising, squeeze in a trip to Chichen Itza, one of Mexico’s most famous Mayan ruins. Take a selfie at the top, you know you want to.

DepartingFrom 02-May-2015 to 14-Jan-2017

15 days
FROM $1,275*
15 days FROM $1,275*

Mayan Encounter

Mexico

Day 1 Playa del CarmenWith azure waters, powdery beaches and a European feel, Playa del Carmen is a resort city close to Cancun but without the party atmosphere.Days 2-3 TulumSitting on a cliff with views of an azure ocean, Tulum not only has spectacular Maya ruins to discover but some of Mexico's finest beaches to frolic on.Days 4-6 Caye CaulkerA small island with no cars, white-sand beaches and crystal-clear waters, Caye Caulker is an idyllic place to while away some time and soak up the very relaxed vibe.Days 7-8 San IgnacioA friendly place with a multicultural feel, San Ignacio is a wonderful base to explore the gorgeous countryside that surrounds the town.Day 9 TikalLocated on an island in Lake Peten Itza, Flores is a wonderful place to explore with its red roofs, historical buildings and cobblestone streets. Once a powerful Mayan city, Tikal was abandoned in the 10th century and sank into the surrounding jungle. It's now alive with jungle wildlife and awe-inspired visitors.Days 10-11 Rio DulceMeaning 'sweet river' in Spanish, Rio Dulce is a town (also known as Fronteras) and a river with clean waters, a unique lifestyle and wonderful wildlife.Day 12 AntiguaDeclared a World Heritage site due to its well-preserved buildings, Antigua is a bewitching city sheltered between three volcanoes with wonderful food and atmospheric streets.Day 13 Chichicastenango/San Jorge La LagunaAffectionately known as 'Chichi', Chichicastenango is a vibrant and colourful town famous for its wonderful market held on Thursdays and Sundays. San Jorge La Laguna is a small, picturesque village situated in a valley near Lake Atitlan, where welcoming locals live traditional lives.Day 14 PanajachelPanajachel, located on beautiful Lake Atitlan with distant volcanoes looming in the background, has a thriving market, good eateries and many water-based activities to enjoy. Go for a swim, wind surf, hike, kayak, go horse riding, or for the really adventurous, paragliding. The surrounding area is dotted with villages which can be reached on foot or by boat. Watch women weaving at Santa Catarina Palopo or explore the colourful markets of Santiago Atitlan, In each village the local Indian life has changed little over the last few hundred years. Each village has its own typical dress and make all the textiles themselves in designs passed down through generations.Days 15-17 AntiguaFeel as if time has stood still among the narrow, cobbled streets, grand churches, Spanish colonial architecture and fascinating ruins of captivating Antigua.

DepartingFrom 02-May-2015 to 16-Jan-2017

17 days
FROM $1,295*
17 days FROM $1,295*

Mayan Sun–Southbound

Playa Del Carmen

Day 1 Playa del CarmenArrive in at any time. Check into our hotel and enjoy the city. Shuttles and buses from the Cancún airport are easy to find and reasonably priced. Please try to arrive before 6pm for an important group meeting where you can meet the Chief Experience Officer (CEO) and the other group members. This once sleepy village is quickly becoming a destination among sun worshippers worldwide. Stroll along the cool, white sands of the Caribbean coast, spend your time snorkelling or diving in underground caverns, or simply sipping on cool margaritas and catching some rays. Playa del Carmen is also known for its vibrant nightlife.Day 2 Playa del CarmenJust off the coast is the island of Cozumel, renowned for its world-class diving. Take the ferry from Playa del Carmen (30 to 75 minutes depending on the boat) across the turquoise waters and explore the towns and the reefs of the island. For a first dose of ruins, Tulúm is just a 45-minute drive south of Playa. Aside from its unusual late Mayan architecture, it offers possibly the most appealing setting for any ruins, as it is located on a palm-fringed, white-sand beach, where you can even go for a swim within the ancient walls.Day 3-5 Caye CaulkerFor many years Belize has been a relatively unknown destination, and tourists have only recently begun to explore this fascinating country. Mention Belize and you may conjure up visions of unbelievably clear blue waters, diving and snorkelling along the barrier reef and remarkable marine life. Belize also boasts huge swaths of jungle, ancient Mayan ruins, and above all, friendly, easygoing people. Belize is all this and much more! As a peaceful, democratic and English speaking country, Belize is an anomaly in the region; it seems in many ways not to belong in Central America at all. In many ways, Belize has more in common with its Caribbean rather than its Latin neighbours, although it has plenty of distinctively Central American features as well. Its unique blend of cultures includes Maya, Mestizo, African, European, Arabic and Asian. English is the first official language (as a former British Colony) and Spanish runs a close second, though the locals speak Creole the majority of the time. Caye Caulker is a relaxed and easy-going island with friendly and welcoming local residents. The main street is a sandy pathway through the centre of town surrounded by small bakeshops, seafood stands and bars. There is not much to do on the island except relax and explore the reef. Snorkel and dive boats leave daily for full or half-day outings to the reef, Hol Chan Marine Reserve, the Blue Hole and manatee spotting tours at Swallow Caye. The barrier reef is the world's second longest (after Australia’s) and offers some truly amazing sights including coral canyons and an astonishing range of tropical fish, Manta Rays, sharks and barracudas, as well as the more mundane, edible varieties of fish. Estimated Travel Time: 12 hours Approximate Distance: 480 kmDay 6-7 San IgnacioFrom the town of San Ignacio, opportunities abound for exploring Belize’s little known inland scenic beauty. With your free time here, you may choose to explore the area by foot, canoe or horse, take a caving trip, or visit the Mountain Pine Ridge Area and swim in its inviting pools and rivers. As a peaceful, democratic and English speaking country, Belize is an anomaly. It seems in many ways not to belong in Central America at all. To an extent, it is more a Caribbean nation than a Latin one, looking out from the coast rather than inland for its trade and alliances. On the other hand, it has plenty of distinctively Central American features. It offers a unique blend of cultures that includes, in a tiny population, people of Maya, Mestizo, African, European, Asian and Arab descent. Aside from the rich and lyrical local Creole, Spanish is also spoken throughout the country. For many years Belize has been a relatively unknown destination, and only recently have tourists begun to discover its wonders, including the western hemisphere’s longest barrier reef (second only to Australia’s). The San Ignacio/ Mountain Pine Ridge area is the highlight of the trip for some travellers to Belize. The Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve covers almost 500 square kms (310 square miles) and only controlled logging is allowed. Interesting stops include Hidden Valley Falls, spectacular waterfalls dropping more than a 300 m (984 ft) over the granite edge of the jungle. Further along you will cross the Rio On, and a climb over an assortment of worn boulders and rocks will bring you to a delightful site with waterfalls and several warm water pools. The Mountain Pine Ridge area is also renowned for its system of caves, the biggest and most famous being the Rio Frio Cave. There is an enormous arched entrance into the kilometre-long cave, the largest in Belize. Also well worth a visit, the Cave of the Stone Scepter, Actun Tunichil Muknal involves a 45-minute jungle hike to the opening of the cave, wading across a river three times before the adventure begins! Inside the cave, you’ll find a Mayan cermonial site. There you will be amazed by the natural museum of Mayan relics left just as it was by the Maya 1400 years ago. Ceramic pots, skulls, and calcified skeletons will enthrall even the most experienced speleologist. Days trips can also be arranged to Xunantunich,an impressive Maya ceremonial centre located on a natural limestone ridge providing a grand view of the entire Cayo District and Guatemalan countryside. The tallest pyramid on the site, El Castillo, has been partially excavated and explored, and the east side of the structure displays a unique stucco frieze. The plaza of the ceremonial centre houses three carved stellae. You can get a group together and hire a taxi to take you to the site. Getting there includes crossing a narrow river by a hand-cranked ferry which shuttles you across! There is a small fee to enter the grounds and a guide can give you the lowdown on the site. In San Ignacio the accommodation is a rustic Eco-Lodge, you will enjoy being totally surrounded by nature. Eat local belizean food, swim in the river that passes by and wake up to the sounds of belizean wildlife at your window. There are composting toilets and ceiling-less showers, this lodge is one of the most unique stops of your adventure. Estimated Travel Time: 3 hours Approximate Distance: 110 kmDay 8 FloresCross the border into Guatemala and you immediately notice the difference in culture, with its heavy Mayan influence and Spanish language. Here we have entered Guatemala’s northeast jungle Petén region. The descendants of the Maya of Chichén Itzá migrated to the Petén area several centuries after the collapse of the great Mayan cities in the Yucatán. En route to Flores, stop for a guided tour of the ancient city of Tikal. The sheer scale of the ruins at Tikal may at first seem daunting. If you make it only to the main plaza or spend an hour relaxing in deep contemplation, you certainly won't be disappointed. The central area, with its five main temples, forms by far the most impressive section. Explore beyond this and you can wander endlessly into the maze of smaller structures and outlying complexes hidden in the jungle growth. If your energy levels are high enough to make it to the top of Temple IV—the tallest structure in the Mayan world—spectacular views of the surrounding jungle canopy greet you. Peaks of the various temple complexes rise above the trees, giving a sense of the enormous scale of the site, impossible to gauge from ground level where the view is obscured by dense jungle. Occasionally you may spot toucans, macaws and other bright birds from this artificial perch within the greenery. Marvel at the engineering and organizational skills needed to construct this city within the jungle. It was in this region of great natural beauty that their descendants founded the city of Tayasal, on an island in Lake Petén Itzá. They lived here for about four hundred years, isolated and forgotten by the rest of the country, including the Spanish conquistadors. It was not until 1697 that this small city was finally conquered by a military expedition led by Martín de Ursúa, who stumbled upon the city by accident. The city of Tayasal was transformed into the city of Flores, officially founded by the Spanish in 1700. It remained an isolated area, relying on the subsistence farming of corn and beans and the gathering of chicle (gummy rubber obtained from trees). Despite the recent growth in the Petén, Flores remains a small island town, with narrow, cobble-stoned streets, small, brightly painted houses and friendly people. Few modern conveniences are embraced here, and though the island is now attached to the mainland by a causeway, many of the locals still get around by cayuco (dug-out canoe). All in all, Flores remains one of the most scenic and charming towns in the Petén. It is particularly attractive to visitors because of Lake Petén-Itzá, a large lake (12 km long and 3 km wide) offering all sorts of possibilities for fun including swimming, boating, fishing, bird watching, a small zoo and a nature preserve. Note that the rainy season in the Petén is generally from mid-May until early January. Be prepared to get wet during this time. Make sure you have plastic bags to wrap around the items in your daypack while hiking, and bring a good (light) waterproof jacket. Also make sure that you have strong insect repellent. The dry season runs January until mid-May. During this time you need to make sure you have adequate sunscreen. Estimated Travel Time: 2 hours Approximate Distance: 130 kmDay 9-10 Río DulceWe take the road past areas of dense jungle and arrive at Río Dulce, a small town on Lake Izabal and a port stop for boaters around the globe, on their way to/from Livingston and the Caribbean coast. There are plenty of opportunities for R & R. Aside from boating on Lake Izabal, there are optional tours in the area to view protected manatees, or you may opt to horseback ride through a rubber plantation, explore San Felipe fort, take the morning monkey kayak tour, relax in the thermal springs or hike through the jungle-strewn trails in the Chocón-Machacas Natural Reserve area. Estimated Travel Time: 7 hours Approximate Distance: 210 kmDay 11-12 AntiguaAntigua is the old capital of Guatemala and as the seat of the Spanish colonial government, was once the most important city in all of Central America. Enjoy the beautiful architecture of this UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site. Your Chief Experience Officer (CEO) will take you on a brief orientation walk to help you get your bearings. While you're here, opt to take a mountain bike ride out into the countryside or explore the fascinating markets, shops and museums within the city. Enjoy an included group salsa lesson and practice your moves out at night. Once the third largest city in all of Spanish America, Antigua served as Guatemala’s capital city for more than 200 years until it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1773. Modern Antigua is a peaceful, partially restored colonial city that is a pleasure to explore. Walk through quiet cobble-stoned streets past rebuilt stucco homes with heavy, beautifully carved wooden entrances. It is a short 45 km from Guatemala City on a lovely winding road. The trip takes you through many small towns and villages, past red, tile-roofed huts and people in colourful traditional clothing. The natural scenery is some of the most beautiful anywhere, with high mountain peaks surrounding deep valleys and every inch of land covered with lush growth. Estimated Travel Time: 6 hours Approximate Distance: 290 kmDay 13-14 Panajachel/Lake Atitlán homestay (1D)Travel through the hills and fertile fields of the Guatemalan highlands to the shores of Lake Atitlán, one of the most beautiful spots in Guatemala. Twelve native villages, blue/grey mountains and three volcanoes line the shores of this lake resulting in a wonderful combination of unusual natural beauty and traditional culture. Panajachel is a relatively modern town with paved streets in its centre and a great deal of old world flavour and charm. The best way to see Panajachel is on foot, but pay attention to where you’re going as there aren’t any street signs. Visit the old churches and explore the back streets to see the more traditional side of Panajachel. You’ll have the opportunity to visit the villages on the lake by boat, departing in the mornings and returning in late afternoon. Get ready for spectacular views of the surrounding volcanoes, and everyday life in a highland village. The people of this area have received tourists for some timeand are friendly and ready to smile at strangers as readily as they will at a lifelong friend. The area is also ideal for outdoor pursuits like swimming, fishing, wind surfing, hiking, bird watching, kayaking, and horseback riding. We will overnight at a Planeterra-supported homestay in San Juan la Laguna. Tonight, the group will be spread out among a number of homes, and you will sleep in a local home, where dinner will also be provided. This once in a lifetime experience will really help you to gain a better understanding of the day-to-day life of the locals in this region. The Planeterra project - The Mayan Homestay Project is located in the village of San Juan. The project currently hosts G Adventures groups twice per week and another company’s group once per month. Planeterra's initiative here is to help more families get involved in the Posadas Mayas program and current families to have more space by remodeling and constructing new rooms. The project also includes investing in solutions that reduce environmental impacts associated with tourism (i.e. waste and water management) and developing other small businesses to be linked to the Posadas Mayas. Note: Please dress conservatively when visiting the villages and refrain from photographing religious ceremonies, or individuals who do not wish to be photographed. Estimated Travel Time: 4 hours Approximate Distance: 100 kmDay 15 AntiguaWe return to Antigua to spend more time to explore the city, shop, and check out optional activities in the area. The point of reference for finding one’s way around Antigua is the Central Park, which is directly in the centre of town and the place to be in the late afternoon/early evening. You can pick up a map from the tourist office located on the ground floor of the Palace of the Captains General on the south side of the Central Park. Explore the museums, the colonial buildings and other sites in this delightful town and don’t forget to try some famous Guatemalan coffee. Antigua offers three specialties that make shopping here very worthwhile. Textiles sold here and in the nearby towns are of the highest quality, beautifully designed and woven on foot looms or the rarer back strap loom. Jade, in the form of carved statues and jewelry, is sold in several factories and shops in town and silver jewelry is sold in the better shops and also in a silver factory in nearby San Felipe de Jesus. The city offers good buys in ceramics and antiques as well. Optional activities include visiting Macadamia nut and coffee plantations, biking around Antigua's surrounding hills and salsa lessons. Estimated Travel Time: 4 hours Approximate Distance: 80 kmDay 16 AntiguaDepart at any time. Antigua is only an hour’s drive from the capital, Guatemala City, and airport transfers are easily arranged locally.

DepartingFrom 01/01/2015 to 29/12/2016

16 days
FROM $1,299*
16 days FROM $1,299*

Mayan Discovery

Cancun

Day 1 CancúnArrive in Cancún at any time. Check into our hotel and enjoy the city. Please try to arrive before 6pm for an important group meeting where you can meet the Chief Experience Officer (CEO) and the other group members. Long a destination among sun-worshipping tourists and spring breakers, we only stay here long enough to meet and get primed for our adventure. As your fellow travellers are arriving at various times throughout the day, there are no planned activities other than a group dinner and info session. Look in the hotel lobby for notices on when/where the group meeting will occur. The heat and humidity of Cancún may affect you upon arrival, with a general sense of lethargy and/or loss of appetite. This is no cause for alarm, it’s simply a reaction to the heat. Be sure to drink plenty of water (cold bottled water is available everywhere) and do not attempt too much in any given day. We prefer fan-cooled rather than air conditioned rooms to avoid having to acclimatize to the heat and humidity every time you go outside. The famous resort of Cancún on the northeastern tip of the Yucatán Peninsula, is a thriving town with skyscraper hotels and crowded beaches. Prices are higher in Cancún than elsewhere in Mexico because everything must be transported into the city. We use it as a starting and finishing point, and try not to spend too much time in this massive resort area.Days 2-3 Chichén Itzá / MéridaDeparting Cancún at approx 9:00am under the already scorching sun, we stop for a guided tour of the famous Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá. Spend approximately two hours exploring this famous site, known for its huge stepped pyramids and elaborate stone carvings. The bus then continues on as we make our way to Mérida, the capital of the Yucatán State. Also known as la ciudad blanca (the white city), Mérida offers the ideal opportunity to learn about Mexico’s fascinating mix of cultural influences. The city of Chichén Itzá, estimated to be founded in 432 AD, houses some of the finest examples of Mayan architecture ever excavated, including El Castillo (The Castle). This 75-foot pyramid, also known as the Pyramid of Kukulcan, is famous for its balustrade of 91 stairs up each of the four sides, a ball court with a grandstand, and towering walls. At about 3:00 PM on the day of the vernal equinox (approx March 20) and the autumnal equinox (approx Sept 21), the sunlight lands directly on the main stairway in a series of triangles that form a serpent's body and ultimately connect with the stone-carved serpent's head at the bottom of the pyramid. The attention to detail, and fusion of architecture, science and religion within the structures and throughout the city planning, will no doubt impress you. We will have an included orientation walking tour of Mérida, the capital of Yucatán State, which was founded in 1542 on the site of the Mayan city of Tihoo. Its centre, the Plaza Mayor, or zocalo, is green and shady and surrounded by the twin-towered 16th Century Cathedral, the City Hall, the State Government Palace, and the Casa Montejo. There are several 16th and 17th century churches scattered throughout the city, as well as some interesting museums. Mornings are the best time to visit the busy and colourful markets. You can buy traditional crafts, such as hammocks or Guyabera shirts, and a good selection of Maya replicas. You can also try out new and wonderful food items. Be sure to stroll down the Paseo de Montejo (or take a caleche carriage ride). Together with many shops and restaurants, you will see stately mansions dating from the late 19th century. Nearby you will find the main shopping street, Calle 65. You are sure to find Mérida a fascinating and beautiful city to explore on foot. Mérida is also the gateway to the Mayan ruins of the Puuc Route. The most famous of these ruins, Uxmal, is one of the Yucatán’s many ancient treasures. Uxmal rivals Chichén Itzá both in scale and extent of excavation. Optional visit to nearby cenotes (water sink holes) where you can enjoy a refreshing swim in the crystal clear waters Approximate Distance: 320 km Estimated Travel Time: 5 hoursDays 4-5 PalenqueAfter a long day of travel we arrive at the monumental Mayan ruins of Palenque. The large sarcophagus containing the mummified remains of the Lord Pakal were found in 1952 by Mexican archaeologist Alberto Ruz and is only one of Palenque’s many treasures. The temples at this site, with fantastic comb-like decorations on their intact roofs, and the sculptured wall panels, are undoubtedly amongst the most exquisite achievements of the Maya. The ancient city holds over 200 buildings of varying size and complexity. Don’t forget to bring your camera and a bathing suit. There are many optional activities to choose from in this area. The famous Agua Azul and Misol-Ha waterfalls are approximately 45 minutes away from Palenque and are both well worth a visit. The 35-metre high Misol-Ha waterfall is set in the middle of lush jungle, with smaller falls just inside a nearby cave. Take a break from the heat with a swim in the stunning naturally formed pools at the waterfalls of Agua Azul, located just 15 minutes from Misol-Ha. The Highlands of southwestern Mexico retain a more traditional feel. Only about 210 km (130 miles) separate the Atlantic and the Pacific, at the hot heavily jungled Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Entering the state of Chiapas, you will see and feel its uniqueness. This is the richest area of Mexico in natural resources, yet it is also home to the poorest citizens of the country. The mountains of Chiapas are the birthplace of the revolutionary Commandante Marcos and the Zapatista movement. It is also home to some of Mexico’s poorest people, the majority of whom are of pure or mixed indigenous descent. Estimated Travel Time: 9 hours Approximate Distance: 620 kmDay 6 LacanjáLacanjá Chansayab is the largest Lacandón Maya village. It is located deep in the jungle with the Lacanjá river flowing nearby. A perfect starting off point for jungle hikes and excursions to the Mayan ruins of Yaxchilán and Bonampak, this little village is not on the traditional tourist trail. The Lacandón indigenous people are very friendly and welcoming. Some but not all wear a traditional lon white tunic, but many have switched to wearing more Western-style clothes. You will find some handmade crafts to purchase such as pottery, seed necklaces and wood carvings. Estimated Travel Time: 4 hours Approximate Distance: 240 kmDays 7-8 San Jose, Peten/Tikal (1D)Cross from Mexico into Guatemala by boat on the Usumacinta River before travelling by bus to San Jose, Peten, which enjoys a scenic setting on Lake Petén Itzá. Explore Lake Petén Itzá, and enjoy an included tour of the Tikal Ruins. The sheer scale of the ruins at Tikal may at first seem daunting. Even if you make it only to the main plaza or spend an hour relaxing in deep contemplation, you certainly won't be disappointed. The central area, with its five main temples, forms by far the most impressive section. If you start to explore beyond this you can wander endlessly into the maze of smaller structures and outlying complexes hidden in the jungle growth. If your energy levels are high enough to make it to the top of Temple IV, your senses won’t be disappointed! Occasionally, you may spot toucans, macaws and other bright birds from this artificial perch within the greenery. Otherwise, you may simply marvel at the engineering and organizational skills needed to construct this city within the jungle! A bilingual local guide will explain the natural and artificial wonders of this site during our foray into Tikal. Your hotel here is located lakeside and offers a cafe on site and wifi.Days 9-10 San Ignacio (1B)We move on to Belize, a country with a decidedly Caribbean flavour. The relaxed atmosphere of San Ignacio allows for options including horseback riding, canoeing, caving, or exploring the Mountain Pine Ridge area. Belize is an anomaly. Peaceful, democratic, English-speaking, it seems in many ways not to belong in Central America at all. And indeed, to an extent, it is more a Caribbean nation than a Latin one, looking out from the coast rather than inland for its trade and alliances. On the other hand it has plenty of distinctively Central American features as well. Above all, it offers a blend of cultures and races that includes Maya, Mestizo, African, European, and Asian. Spanish runs a close second as spoken language, with the rich local Creole. Belize consists of remarkable marine life, profuse jungle vegetation, ancient Mayan ruins, and above all, friendly and easy-going people. An optional visit to the Mountain Pine Ridge area is a highlight for some travellers to Belize. The Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve covers almost 500 square km (310 square miles) and only controlled logging is allowed. Interesting stops include Hidden Valley Falls, a spectacular waterfall dropping more than 300m (984 ft) over the granite edge of the jungle. Further along, you will cross the Rio On and a climb over an assortment of worn boulders and rocks that will bring you to a delightful site with waterfalls and several warm water pools. The area is also renowned for its system of caves, the biggest and most famous being the Rio Frio Cave. With its enormous arched entryway into the kilometre-long cave, this river cave is the largest in Belize. A day trip to the ridge can easily be arranged in San Ignacio. It's best to get together with a small group to split the costs of the guide and vehicle for the day. An optional day trip to the astounding Actun Tunichil Muknal cave will leave you with memories long after the adventure ends. Discover a wealth of archaeological and natural wonders lying within the cave chambers. The Maya used the cave for rituals and communication with their gods; clay pots used for ceremonies remain intact as well as evidence of human sacrifice. Make your way through one of the cave’s water systems using a helmet and headlamp. An experienced local guide will give us insight into the fascinating practices of the ancient Maya. You can also arrange a trip to the impressive Maya ceremonial centre of Xunantunich. Located on a natural limestone ridge, the site provides a grand view of the entire Cayo District and the neighbouring Guatemalan countryside. The tallest pyramid on the site, El Castillo, has been partially excavated and explored, and the east side of the structure displays a unique stucco frieze. The plaza of the ceremonial centre houses three carved stellae. You can get a group together and hire a taxi to take you the 14 km (9 miles) to the site. Getting there includes crossing a narrow river by a hand-cranked ferry which shuttles you across! There is a small fee to enter the grounds, and a guide will explain the site. A third alternative activity is to take a walk on the Pantí Trail. From Chaa Creek, visitors are welcome to take part in a self-guided walking tour set up by the herbalist, Rosita Arvigo, who has been practicing for 20 years. Anyone interested in holistic medicine will be fascinated with Rosita’s work at Ix Chel Farm. This can be arranged from San Ignacio, by taking a taxi to the farm. Estimated Travel Time: 3 hours Approximate Distance: 130 kmDays 11-12 Caye CaulkerCaye Caulker is a relaxed and easy going island with friendly and welcoming local residents. The main street is a sandy pathway through the centre of town surrounded by small bakery and seafood stands. The main activities on the island are relaxation and exploration of the reef. Snorkel and dive boats leave daily for full or half day outings to the reef, Hol Chan Marine Reserve, the Blue Hole and for manatee spotting tours. The reef is the world's second largest (after Australia) and offers some truly amazing sights including coral canyons and an astonishing range of tropical fish, manta rays, sharks and barracudas. You can also try your hand fishing and be rewarded with a fresh catch, then barbecue it on the beach...delicious! Estimated Travel Time: 4 hours Approximate Distance: 110 kmDays 13-14 Playa del CarmenOur final stop is Playa del Carmen, located on the beach just a 45-minute drive south of Cancún. The town is your last chance to enjoy some nightlife, buy last minute souvenirs and to relax and swim in the Caribbean Sea. There is also snorkelling and diving available, and long stretches of sandy beaches which are perfect for walking and relaxing after a hectic day. Just off the coast is the island of Cozumel, renowned for its world-class diving. Take the ferry from Playa del Carmen (30 to 75 minutes depending on the boat) across the turquoise waters and explore the towns and the reefs of the island. For a final dose of ruins, Tulúm is just a 45-minute drive south of Playa. Aside from its unusual late Mayan architecture, it offers possibly the most appealing setting for any ruins, as it is located on a palm-fringed, white-sand beach, where you can even go for a swim within the ancient walls. Estimated Travel Time: 12 hours Approximate Distance: 480 kmDay 15 Playa del CarmenDepart Playa del Carmen at any time. Note: Playa del Carmen is located just south of Cancún airport (45 minute drive) so you can head directly there without returning to Cancún.

DepartingFrom 01/01/2015 to 18/12/2016

15 days
FROM $1,487*
15 days FROM $1,487*

Discover ancient ruins, tantalise your tastebuds and chillax

Playa del Carmen, on the Yucatán peninsular, is the ultimate beach destination with the beautiful azure sea lazily washing up against miles and miles of sand. Playa, as it is affectionately known, is a bit of a party town – a quieter alternative is nearby Tulum, where pre-Colombian Mayan ruins sit atop 12-metre cliffs overlooking the same beautiful Caribbean sea.

Mexico: Isla MujeresIsla Mujeres

However, the ruins at Tulum are far overshadowed by the monolithic temples at Chichen Itza and Teotihuacan. Chichen Itza is the largest Mayan city on the Yucatán, home to the captivating temple-pyramid of El Castillo. Teotihuacan is an enormous site north-west of Mexico City, where the imposing Temple of the Sun is the key feature, being the largest pyramid in all of Mexico.

Mexico: Coppen CanyonCoppen Canyon

Modern Mexican cities have something to offer every type of traveller – San Cristobal de las Casa has enough century-old houses, cobbled streets and colonial buildings to entertain history and architecture buffs; Oaxaca is home to the best Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) cultural celebration in the country; Guanajuato is nestled in the mountains of central Mexico and offers an escape back to nature. And of course vibrant Mexico City, the largest city on the North American continent, is a place where culture, politics, history, art and economics fuse together to create the vibrant powerhouse of Mexico. What more could you possibly want?

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