Ancient Aztec & Mayan Cities plus Colonial Gems

This Southern Mexico tour is a great introduction to this diverse country. Rich in Aztec & Mayan culture, as well as Spanish Colonial heritage, this region of Mexico also boasts lovely beaches and great food.

Day 1 – Arrival to start your Mexico tour

Our Southern Mexico tour starts in Mexico City. After a meet and greet at the airport, we transfer you to your hotel in the historic center.

The main square "Zocala" in Mexico City is huge
The main square “Zocala” in Mexico City is massive

Mexico City is one of the largest cities in the world, and it is also the oldest urban center in the Western Hemisphere. In ancient times, Mexico City was known as Tenochtitlan by the Aztec nation that inhabited it. The Spanish conquistador, Hernan Cortes, and his band were amazed by the sight of the huge, imposing temples that the Aztecs had built. There is a wide range of hotel accommodation in the central historic area of the city where you will be staying. For example, the NH Hotel or the Plaza Florencia are two of our regular hotels. Just let us know which standard of lodging you would like and we can provide suggestions for you to choose from.

Your next three nights will be spent in bustling Mexico City, a metropolis very different from the ones you are used to, we imagine!

Day 2 – Exploring Mexico City

Today, you will have the chance to wander the bustling streets of this mind-boggling city and also visit the world-famous Anthropological Museum.

Mexico City is the political, financial and cultural nerve center of Mexico, and to understand the country you need to spend some time here. Perhaps more than any city on earth, it is at the intersection of the First and Third Worlds, with all the thrills, spills and surprises that this suggests.

Mariachi bands are not just a cliche, they are living tradition
Mariachi bands are not just a cliche, they are living tradition

Ask us for more ideas on things to do today. In the evening, you should make a trip to Plaza Garibaldi to see and hear the many Mariachi bands playing.

Day 3 – Mexico City and Aztec Teotihuacan

Today you will enjoy a full day city tour with a visit to the breathtaking pyramids of Teotihuacan.

When Cortes reported back to King Carlos V in Spain, he found it difficult to convey the scale of what he was seeing. Imagine the surprise of the monarch at learning that “one of the plazas is twice the size of that of Salamanca”, and “the principal pyramid is taller than the tower of the cathedral at Seville”, or that the stone and wood craftsmanship that adorned these monuments “could nowhere be bettered”.

You will be shown some of these sights by your local guide, before being dropped off at your hotel for another evening at leisure.

Day 4 – Exploring Oaxaca

After breakfast, you will be taken to the airport for your short flight to the lovely old Colonial city of Oaxaca in the south of Mexico.

Upon arrival, you will check in to your hotel in the traditional center of the city. You will then be free to wander the center, shopping, eating, drinking and just taking in the air of the place. This really is a lovely old place to sit around in one of the leafy plazas and people-watch, before going out for dinner and a few drinks and reading up on the cultural and historical highlights the area has to offer.

We can recommend the beautiful Casa Catrina or the Hostal de la Noria in Oaxaca as lodging options.

Day 5 – Sightseeing in Oaxaca | Monte Alban

Take a deep breath and prepare yourself for a mind-blowing day of sightseeing to the impressive archaeological sites of Monte Alban, which sits on a mountain that rises from the middle of the valley floor — or, rather, divides two valleys.

Monte Alban is a wonderfully restored ancient site near Oaxaca
Monte Alban is a wonderfully restored ancient site near Oaxaca

From here you can see all that lies between you and the distant mountains and imagine what living here centuries ago must have been like.

Day 6 – Oaxaca – San Cristobal de las Casas

During the morning, you will fly to the city of Tuxtla Gutierrez to get you quickly to a new area of Mexico and connect with your vehicle which will drive you to San Cristobal de las Casas.

On the way, we will visit the enormous Sumidero Canyon where we will take a boat ride through the canyon itself. You can enjoy many great photo opportunities so make sure you have your camera charged.

The Day of the Dead celebrations are world-famous
The Day of the Dead celebrations are world-famous

We will spend the next two nights in laid-back San Cristobal de las Casas, in one of our recommended hotels such as the Parador San Juan boutique hotel or the Hotel Cuidad Real in the town center.

Day 7 – San Cristobal de las Casas

Today we will visit the Tzotzil – Maya villages of San Juan Chamula and Zinacatán, where indigenous Indian culture and tradition is still maintained.

Religion in the area is a mixture of Catholicism and native Tzotzil. The native people believe that the world is a cube supported by four columns and surrounded by water. Gods are considered inhabitants of the moon, heaven, and the mother sun.

This visit will be followed with a walk through the beautiful, Colonial streets of San Cristobal de las Casas.

Zona Peatonal Avenida Guadalupe

Day 8 – Travel To Palenque

Today, we will continue to the ancient Maya site of Palenque. This mystical site is set in the foothills of the Tumbalá mountains, perched on a ledge overlooking the swampy plains that stretch northward all the way to the Gulf coast.

Palenque was at its height of power between 500 and 700 AD when its influence extended throughout the basin of the Usumacinta River. The elegance and craftsmanship of the buildings, as well as the beauty of the sculpted reliefs with their Mayan mythological themes, allow you to appreciate the creative genius of this civilization.

On the way, we will also visit “Agua Azul” Waterfalls for a possible dip, if you like.

Upon arrival, and depending on your preferences, perhaps you will be staying in the Mision Palenque or the Hotel Cuidad Real in Palenque.  We have a number of great lodging options for all budgets.

Day 9 – Palenque – Villahermosa – Merida

It is a new day and there is nothing like a morning visit to the astonishing archaeological site of Palenque.

After this visit, we will drive to Villahermosa, founded in 1596 by the Spaniards on the banks of the River Grijalva.  From here we take a flight to Mérida, built more than 450 years ago on the site of T’ho, an ancient Mayan city. This will be our base for the next three nights from where we will explore the most important archaeological sites of the Yucatán Peninsula.

Merida is a lovely city with plenty of hotels to choose from: we recommend the lovely Hotel Casa Lucia and the luxurious Casa de Balam.

Day 10 – In Merida

Today we will visit Uxmal, which means “built three times” in the Mayan language, and though its name is a mystery, its beauty is not.  As a World Heritage site, it is one of the best restored and maintained ruins on the Yucatán Peninsula, and certainly one of the most magnificent. Its architecture is characterized by low horizontal palaces set around courtyards, decorated with rich sculptural elements and details.

Day 11 – Chichen-Itza & Cancun

It is time to visit one of the most amazing and famous historical sites in the world. Recently named one of the new 7 Wonders of the World, the mysterious and ancient archaeological site of Chichen Itza is sure to be a highlight of your Mexico tour.

Chichen Itza is one of the most recognizable ancient sites in the world
Chichen Itza is one of the most recognizable ancient sites in the world

The name Chichen Itzá is a Mayan word: CHI (mouth) CHEN (well) and ITZA (of the witch water). Some say this is because people were often thrown into the nearby cenote (well or pool) as sacrifices, and those who survived were believed to be seers.

After lunch, we will continue to the beach resort of Cancun. Your last night will be spent here. We recommend the Hilton for our 5-star clients or the Maya Caribe for more budget-oriented travelers.

Enjoy the beach and vibrant nightlife in this city.

Day 12 – Cancun – Mexico City and home

You will spend your final morning on your Mexico tour relaxing in Cancun. Cancun is a coastal city in Mexico’s easternmost state, on the Yucatán Peninsula. It is located on the Yucatan Channel that separates Mexico from the island of Cuba and the region is sometimes known as the Mexican Caribbean or the Mayan Riviera.

From Cancun, you will be provided with transport to the airport, where there will be connecting flights to Mexico City for your journey home.

If you wish to spend more days at the beach in Cancun or any other part of the coast, just let us know and we will arrange that for you, giving you all the options.

Note: A tour to Brazil, Peru for Machu Picchu, or Ecuador for the Galapagos is easily combined with this Mexico tour.

*Please note that the price listed above represents the lowest budget rate we can offer for a minimum of 2 people traveling, during the lowest season, sharing rooms in budget 3* hotels, with shared tours & services. Flights are quoted separately according to dates and season. 

For solo travelers, the ‘single supplement charge’ applies (essentially to pay for having your own hotel room and airport transfers).  Ask your travel consultant for more information.