Mexico Unplugged, 15 Days
Valid for select departures 1 August 2019 - 31 December 2020
15 day Intrepid small group tour departing Mexico.
13 nights accommodation in Hotels.
1 night onboard an Overnight bus.
Private vehicle, Public bus, Local bus, Overnight public bus & Taxi
Mexico City - Leader-led orientation walk.
Puebla - Leader-led orientation walk.
Leader-led Informal Spanish Lesson.
Oaxaca - Leader-led orientation walk.
San Cristobal de las Casas - Leader-led city tour.
Maya village - San Juan Chamula Church (Entrance Fee).
Maya village - Zinacantan church (Entrance fee).
Agua Azul waterfall - Visit with option to swim (Entrance fee).
Palenque - Palenque Ruins (Entrance and Transport).
Merida - Leader-led orientation walk.
Chichen Itza Ruins - Entrance Fee.
Playa del Carmen - Leader-led orientation walk.
Day 1 Mexico City. Bienvenidos a Mexico City This is one of the world's largest urban centres, a melting pot of modern and ancient offering a huge variety of museums, galleries and architectural delights, along with thumping nightlife and unparalleled street food. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm, but if you arrive early then perhaps head to the Zocalo - the massive central square - and check out the Aztec ruins and colonial architecture. There are also plenty of parks, smaller plazas and gardens to relax in and adjust to your new life in Mexico.
Day 2 Mexico City. After sleeping off last night's tacos, your leader will take you on a walk around town and point out the metro, ATMs and other need-to-knows. The rest of the day is free for you to explore as you wish. Art fans will want to check out the Frida Kahlo Museum, while history buffs may want to take an optional trip to the archaeological ruins of Teotihuacan. The ruins are located 50 km out of the city and a local guide will lead you down the 'Avenue of the Dead', pointing out the famous Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon. There's also time to visit the Virgen de Guadalupe. In the evening, why not join the Mexican Night Out Urban Adventure, in which you can get among Mexico's Holy Trinity of entertainment: Cantinas, Mariachi and Lucha Libre wrestling. Sip some tequila at a cantina, shuffle and sway to Mariachi music and watch masked wrestlers dive, fly, writhe, and grandstand for the audience for a truly loco night out.
Day 3 Puebla. Enjoy free time for a final exploration of Mexico City. The group will head to the bus station in the late afternoon to catch a local bus to Puebla (approx. 2.5 hours), and if you're the grazing type, please make sure you bring some snacks along for the journey as well as some water. The local buses in Mexico aren't the colourful school buses seen in other areas of Central America - most are comfortable, coach-style vehicles equpiped with bathrooms. The air conditioning will be blasted often, so don't forget to bring a jacket too. On arriving in Puebla, your leader will take you out for an orientation walk and run through some common Spanish phrases to help you make the most of the days ahead.
Day 4 Puebla. Puebla is a rapidly growing city featuring many well-maintained churches and buildings from the colonial period, and today is free for you to discover the city at your leisure. Though there are enough churches to visit a different one every day for a year, two of the best examples are Santa Domingo Church and the Rosary Chapel, located in town. Further afield lies the Great Pyramid of Cholula, containing five miles of tunnels and ancient history with the enormous Popocatepetl Volcano serving as a backdrop. Puebla also has plenty of markets where you can brush up on your bargaining skills or pick up some local handicrafts. In the evening, why not try some mole poblano, a native Puebla dish that's famous all over Mexico. Perhaps you could even try making it yourself during an optional cooking class.
Day 5 Oaxaca. Journey by local bus to Oaxaca, arriving after approximately five hours. Oaxaca is a beautiful, old colonial town full of graceful arcades and colourful markets, in which you'll find the Zapotec and Mixtec people whose ancestors have populated this region for thousands of years. As always, your leader will take you on a quick orientation walk to show you the ropes then the next couple of days are free for you to explore. The city is known for its arts scene, particularly its folk and fine art, but you'll also discover a grungier side to Oaxaca including some incredible examples of street art. Walk the narrow, cobbled streets, or maybe sit back in one of the squares, sipping mezcal and watching the world go by.
Day 6 Oaxaca . There's an opportunity today to visit the spectacular temples of Monte Alban just outside of Oaxaca. Monte Alban was inhabited for 1500 years by the Olmec, Zapotec and Mixtec peoples, and this World Heritage site is an outstanding example of a pre-Columbian ceremonial centre, with terraces, dams, canals and pyramids carved out of the mountain. Alternatively, why not take a day tour out to the nearby Mitla Ruins, the mineral springs of Hierve el Agua and a local mezcal distillery. In the evening, if you've any energy left, you could have a go at plating up some delicious local fare during a cooking class, or just head out for some food with your fellow travellers and enjoy the town's atmosphere.
Day 7 Oaxaca. Use today to take part in whatever optional activities you couldn't fit in yesterday, or enjoy a relaxed day in town instead, strolling the pretty streets and people-watching from local cafes. This evening the group will take a first-class overnight bus to the highland town of San Cristobal de las Casas, a journey of approximately 13 hours. There'll be a toilet, reclining seats and plenty of leg room, as well as air conditioning so be sure to bring a jumper onboard. Please keep in mind that though the bus is comfortable, the road from Oaxaca to San Cristobal has some very winding sections and if you suffer from motion sickness, this is the time to have your medication handy.
Day 8 San Cristobal De Las Casas. The bus will arrive in San Cristobal early this morning. Leave your luggage at the hotel and begin exploring San Cris, a small town hidden in green valley surrounded by pine trees. Your leader will take you on a tour around town and point out all the important facilities, then the rest of the day is free for your own exploration. Take in the cobblestone streets and colonial architecture, and soak up the old-world feel mixed with strong, pre-Hispanic roots. Stroll through the market, chat with the locals and maybe buy some of the colourful weavings the highland town is known for, before grabbing a drink and some food with your travel buds if you're up for it.
Day 9 San Cristobal De Las Casas. The villages surrounding San Cris are home to the Tzotzil and Tzeltal peoples, who still maintain a strong sense of tradition both in dress and custom. Today you'll visit the village of San Juan Chamula with your leader, home to the fascinating Iglesia de San Juan. This church, with its pine-covered floor and air thick with incense, is often frequented by shaman who come to carry out cleansings using firewater and ancient prayer. Please understand that there is a strict ban on cameras inside the church. Outside, the town of San Juan Chamula is alive with colourful markets that sell local handicrafts and delicious street food. If this visit doesn't appeal, your leader can help organise a boating trip in the Sumidero Canyon, which is as old and impressive as the Grand Canyon, or a canyoning adventure through El Chorreadero. Once you've returned to San Cris, why not hit up a local cafe for an 'elote', a traditional highland corn snack and the perfect treat after a big day.
Day 10 Palenque. Travel along a windy road by private vehicle to Palenque (approx 6 hours) today, stopping en route at the Agua Azul waterfall for a refreshing swim. Once you've arrived, the afternoon is free for you to relax or explore. Situated in a hot jungle, Palenque is the jumping off point to the nearby Maya ruins of the same name, which you'll have a chance to check out tomorrow.
Day 11 Palenque Ruins. Today you have the chance to visit the ruins of Palenque. Situated on a hilltop, the ruins date back to 600 AD and are some of the most impressive Mayan relics in Mexico. As you walk among the temples (closed-toe shoes recommended), listen out for the eerie calls of howler monkeys echoing from the jungle. There are many ruins which are still un-excavated and remain hidden in the forest, and you can opt to take a guided tour of the ruins or through the surrounding jungle. This afternoon, travel by private vehicle to the historic town of Merida (approximately 8 hours), the capital of the Yucatan region.
Day 12 Merida. Founded in 1542 on the site of Tho, an ancient Maya city, the colonial city of Merida retains much of its old-world charm thanks primarily to its architecture. Check-in to your hotel then take a wander through Old Town, strolling the buzzing streets and visiting the city's museums. It's also worth walking up, or down, the mansion-lined Paseo de Montejo for an insight into the city's 19th-century wealth accumulated from harvesting the henequen plant. Spend some time hanging in the Plaza Grande, a green, shady square enclosed by a 16th-century cathedral, City Hall, the State Government Palace and Casa Mantejo, and check out the outdoor markets where you can stock up on hammocks or sample some local food specialities like the seriously spicy El Yucateco hot sauce.
Day 13 Merida. Today you can choose to visit the Maya ruins of Uxmal, which lie just an hour's drive from Merida, on an optional tour including transport and a local guide. Not much is known about the site, but it's thought that the city was constructed around AD700, was home to 25,000 or so people and once dominated the region along with Chichen Itza. Much of the site is decorated with masks of Chac, the rain god, and important buildings include the Pyramid of the Soothsayer, the Quadrangle of the Nuns, the Governor's Palace, the House of the Tortoises and the Ball Court. You can also choose to visit the Celestun Bird Sanctuary, which is home to vast flocks of flamingos, herons and over 200 different bird species. In the evening, why not join in some dancing with Merida's locals. The town's streets are transformed into an open-air dance floor every Sunday, with salsa and merengue bands providing the tunes.
Day 14 Chichen Itza to Playa Del Carmen. Travel to Playa del Carmen by private vehicle, stopping en route for an included visit to the Maya ruins of Chichen Itza (this first leg will take about two hours). Named one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, Chichen Itza contains both Toltec and Mayan ruins lying alongside each other. The famous El Castillo pyramid dominates the site and there is also a large ball court where games used to be held. Nearby, excavations of the Well of Sacrifice offered up treasures of jade, copper and gold as well as many human and animal bones. The group will spend 2-3 hours at Chichen Itza before continuing on to Playa (approx three hours). Blessed with azure waters, powdery beaches and a European feel, Playa del Carmen is a resort city close to Cancun that also has bit of a party atmosphere. After a quick orientation walk, pick a place to kick back with a margarita and watch the sun go down.
Day 15 Playa Del Carmen. Your adventure ends today. There are no activities planned for the final day, but if you're lucky enough to have the time to spend a couple of extra nights in Playa del Carmen, make the most of it by snorkelling in the famous cenotes, strolling along the white sands or, for an adventure further afield, take a ferry across to Cozumel, an island famous for its reef diving.
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