Explore the ruins of Chichen Itza and wonder at the pyramids, carvings and observatory, all of which give a sense of just how complex and advanced this ancient city was.. Encounter one a unique kind of modern Maya culture in San Juan Chamula, a Tzoyzil community where the locals practise a blend of animism, Catholicism and ancient ritual.. Ease into life in Guatemala with a stay in lakeside Panajachel and enjoy free time to explore the myriad highland villages or get active on the water.. Climb step pyramids carved from limestone over 1300 years ago during a locally-guided tour of the Palenque ruins, an abandoned Maya city surrounded by thick jungle.
Travel from coast to highland via ancient ruins, colourful colonial towns, lakeside market towns and modern Maya villages on this 11-day tour through some of the key highlights of Mexico and Guatemala. Kick off from the coast then snake down through the Central American highlands, clambering over crumbling temples, falling in love with colourful colonial architecture and feasting on dishes like cochinita pibil (pork, annatto and citrus) and elote (grilled corn). With plenty of walking tours and chances to interact with local people, this immersive tour is the perfect introduction to two incredible countries.
Breakfast Included: 5 Lunches Included: Dinner Included:
Playa del Carmen
Bienvenidos! Welcome to this beachside playground. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm where you'll meet your tour leader and travel group. If you have time, why not kick off your shoes and walk along one of Playa's beaches. The evening is yours. Full of energy and craving a party? Try one of the many clubs that line the beachfront. Don't despair if you're not a techno-head, you can find a venue for every taste here, from rock and roll to jazz.
Chichen Itza / Merida
Rise and shine! At 8 am take a private minivan to the Maya ruins of Chichen Itza, and on the 3-hour journey you can practice your Spanish and spot charming villages. You’ll have a good couple of hours to explore the remains of Chichen Itza, an ancient city that fuses of religion, architecture and geometry. Then, travel on to the Yucatan capital of Merida for a beguiling dose of old-world charm. After a 2-hour ride, take a brief tour of the town centre and main attractions and then do as you please for the rest of the evening.
Founded in 1542, Merida retains much of its old-world charm with a well-preserved Old Town, wonderful museums and city streets alive with art and culture. Hang out in the green and shady Plaza Grande, with the twin-towered 16th-century Cathedral on one side and City Hall, State Government Palace and Casa Mantejo on the others. For a taste of Merida's 19th=century glory go for a walk along the mansion lined Paseo de Montejo. Mornings are the best time to visit the outdoor markets. It's a great place to try out the local food specialities, like cochinita pibil (barbecue pork) or the head-blowingly spicy El Yucateco hot sauce. Merida is also the gateway to the Maya ruins of Uxmal and there is an opportunity to visit these impressive ruins. Little is known about the site's origins but it is thought the city was founded around AD500.
Today we have an early start in order to jump on one of the very comfortable first- or second-class buses heading to Chiapas. These buses are equipped with bathrooms and TVs, though you may want to spend your journey staring out the window. There's plenty to admire in the landscape of Mexico's South, particularly once you reach the mountainous region of Chiapas. There will also be time for an informal Spanish lesson. Arrive at your hotel in the evening and get some rest for tomorrow—a day full of archaeological wonder.
Today we will hit the ruins with a local guide in Palenque to give you all the information that you need on the impressive Maya city state, entry fee included. The pyramids and structures that formed this once thriving hub are now swallowed by jungle. Whilst walking amongst the ruins it is often possible to hear the eerie calls of howler monkeys echoing from the jungle, giving an added dimension to this magnificent site.
San Cristobal de las Casas
After breakfast you'll grab a seat on a bus bound for San Cristobal de las Casas.The roughly 5-hour journey will be broken up with a refreshing dip in the the turquoise waters of the multi-tiered Agua Azul falls. Continue southward to San Cristobal de las Casas and explore this lovely city in a guided tour. With winding cobblestone streets and colonial Spanish architecture, San Cristobal maintains a lovely old-world feel mixed with strong indigenous roots. Maybe make a note of any particular points of interest during your tour, which you can then come back to during your free evening.
San Cristobal de las Casas
Travel to nearby San Juan Chamula, you'll find an insular indigenous community where life is heavily informed by a spiritual blend of ancient ritual, animism and Catholicism. Make sure to visit the church, where the floor is covered with pine needles and the air is heavy with incense. Shamans come here to carry out cleansings with firewater, ancient prayer and sometimes chickens. There are also markets with colourful handicrafts for sale. Back in town, why not go for a stroll and try to spot the cafe with the most locals in it for a taste of the traditional 'elote', a corn cob which makes a common snack in the highlands of Chiapas.
Lake Atitlan / Panajachel
Now entering Guatemala! From San Cristobal we head down by shuttle bus. It takes about 4 hours to get to the Guatemalan border, just make sure you have your passport ready and the tour leader will give you detailed instructions on what to do once at the border. Continue on to Lake Atitlan, and settle in Panajachel which has a thriving market, good eateries and many water-based activities to enjoy. The surrounding area is dotted with villages which can be reached on foot or by boat. After a leader-led orientation walk, why not pick one and start exploring? In each village the local 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.
Today is wide open for you to continue exploring this fascinating region of Guatemala. You could go for a swim or hire a kayak, soaking up the sun and the breathtaking mountain views. If you're feeling adventurous, you could jump on the zipline that takes you through lush forest and spits you out over the lake. Just chat to your leader about the various optional activities you can partake in today.
The old colonial capital of Guatemala, Antigua remains the cultural centre of the country. Its cobbled streets, local markets, colonial buildings, and indigenous marimba music emanating from the many bars and restaurants create a fantastic atmosphere. After a 4-hour drive, an orientation walk will get you started in the city, then it's up to you. If you're into salsa dancing or you'd like to learn some steps, Antigua is the place to be. Many dancing schools offer hourly lessons that give you the preparation to hit the discos at night and show your moves.
If you plan on staying in Antigua for a day or two more, have a chat to your booking agent and they will be able to help you with securing extra accommodation (subject to availability). Even though your tour is officially over, we still have stuff to recommend! The ‘Holy Guatemole! Food & Market Tour’ with Urban Adventures, for example, is a great way to immerse yourself in Guatemala’s food culture.