Explore Mexico City on a tour with your leader, visit the spectacular ruins of Teotihuacan, Chichen Itza and Tulum, learn some salsa steps in slow-paced Vinales, and take in the colours of Soroa, the valley known as the ‘Rainbow of Cuba’.. Discover traditional craft industries and the locals who produce them in Oaxaca and Zinacantan, and meet a Maya family in the secluded Laguna Chabela for a traditional tortilla making demonstration.. Your local leader will help you learn the story of the Cuban Revolution, as well as a visit to the memorials dedicated to revolutionary hero Ernesto Che Guevara in Santa Clara.. Enjoy the old-world charm of your feature stays in Oaxaca and Merida – magnificent mansions turned boutique hotels, and walk in the glamourous footsteps of the famous and infamous during your feature stay at the iconic Hotel Nacional de Cuba in Havana.
Uncover little pockets of paradise on a 23-day Premium adventure through Mexico and Cuba. Explore Mexico City and the great ruins of Teotihuacan, learn the colonial history of Puebla and Oaxaca before continuing south to Puerto Morelos. Walk through magnificent Maya ruins, the beautiful Yucatan Peninsula and renowned Chichen Itza before flying to Havana – Cuba’s captivating capital. Experience Havana in all its faded glory, uncover the easy beauty of rural Vinales, wander the cobblestoned streets of Trinidad and soak up the coastal vibe of Cienfuegos. Find a common thread with the locals and discover the warmth and charm of these neighbouring nations.
Welcome to Mexico! Your adventure begins in Mexico City, the vibrant beating heart of the country. You will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel, where you will meet the rest of your group and local leader for a 6pm welcome meeting. Your hotel in Mexico City is housed in a beautiful building from the 1890s and the location is truly one of the city’s best. The buzzing Zocalo Plaza and spectacular National Cathedral are right on your doorstep; views of which can be admired from your hotel’s rooftop restaurant and bar. After your meeting, head out for dinner with your leader and small group. Tonight you will have the chance to sample a tempting array of local dishes during a tour of local street food stalls and taquerias with your leader. From tacos and tostadas to tamales and quesadillas, the city’s fresh food scene will surprise and delight even seasoned travellers. End the evening with some sweet treats at the city’s oldest churreria.
Today will be spent getting to know Mexico City on a tour with your knowledgeable leader. From cosmopolitan glamour to ancient and colonial history, there’s a lot to see, so rise early and head out to the National Museum of Anthropology where your leader will walk you through the different stages of the country’s past. Continue to the Zocalo Plaza, the lively main square of the city. Visit the National Cathedral to hear its story and marvel at its impressive Gothic architecture, then continue to the sprawling National Palace. This spot first held a palace built by an Aztec emperor in the early 16th century, and now houses the offices of Mexico’s president. Enjoy an evening at leisure. There’s no doubt that the food here is best experienced like a local, so be sure to ask your leader for some excellent dinner recommendations this evening.
Depart Mexico City and travel to Teotihuacan. Here you'll discover the extraordinary ruins known as the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon, which dominate the skyline. This was once one of the country's biggest ancient cities and the Aztec capital. Join an expert local guide and stroll down The Avenue of the Dead to see fascinating clues as to what life here was like nearly 2000 years ago. After lunch continue to Puebla. Stop off on the way to visit a local family who produce beautiful stonework carved form obsidian, a naturally occurring volcanic glasslike rock. Take some time to admire their striking pieces and speak to the family about their craft. Arrive in Puebla, a charming city that has retained its colonial heritage despite rapid growth and development. Set out for a walk around town and visit Calle de los Dulces (Candy street) and the El Parian handicraft market, as well as the impressive Rosary Chapel and Town Hall Palace. Mexican food is deliciously diverse and Puebla is no exception. Head to a marvellous restaurant for dinner this evening, where a local chef serves up creative food in an elegant setting – the mole here comes highly recommended.
After breakfast, drive out to the fascinating Cholula archaeological site. Meet with an expert local guide and tour the complex, including the Great Pyramid of Cholula – if you include its basement, this is the largest pyramid in the world. Explore the excavated areas around the pyramid and the maze of tunnels beneath it while learning how the structure was built to honour the god Quetzalcoatl. For lunch today, stop off at a wonderful restaurant serving up organic dishes made with locally sourced produce to minimise their impact on the environment. The rest of the day is free for your own explorations – you may like to join your leader for a visit to a local artisan to discover more about the Talavera pottery tradition.
Today you will make the journey to Oaxaca, a colourful and captivating city rich with history and culture. Arrive in the late afternoon and settle in to your feature stay accommodation for the next three nights – the beautiful Casa de Sierra Azul. Converted from a 19th-century colonial mansion, traditional charm emanates from every corner of this hotel, from its ivy-clad courtyard to original frescoes and stone fountain. Each room is wonderfully unique and individually decorated, but they all feature gorgeous high ceilings and modern amenities. Just a stone’s throw away from the city’s main Zocalo, bursting with interesting cafes, musicians and artisans, there’s no better base for your time in Oaxaca. Head out for an orientation walk with your leader to get a feel for the city, stopping by the delightful local markets of Benito Juarez and 20 de Noviembre, then enjoy a free evening for further explorations. The best way to get to the heart of Oaxaca’s culture is to taste its food, so your leader will be happy to offer up some great local recommendations for dinner.
Today, venture out of the city and take a tour of the Oaxaca region. Visit the Mitla ruins archaeological site – once the religious centre for Zapotec communities – and the Tule Tree, considered the world’s widest tree at over 11 metres in diameter. The Montezuma cypress’ gnarled trunk is over 1500 years old, roughly the same as the ruins. Stop off in Tule town to try some Mexican ice cream – an important part of Mexico’s culinary history, this hand-churned ice cream is up there with the best of them. Perhaps try some Mexican vanilla, fresh fruit sorbet or even a scoop seasoned with chili. Continue to a beeswax candle-making workshop, learning age-old processes passed down for generations and the intricate designs that are created. Later, take part in a Zapotec weaving demonstration, which uses only traditional techniques, tools, patterns and organic dyes. Watch as local families meticulously craft folk clothing and rugs, some taking months to complete. You will learn the whole process from preparing and dyeing the yarn to traditional weaving methods. Here, enjoy a mostly plant-based lunch of regional Zapotec specialities. On your way back to Oaxaca, stop by an agave mezcal factory for a tasting before returning to the city in the late afternoon.
Enjoy a free day to take in the sights, sounds and tastes of Oaxaca. There’s something here to suit every interest – speak to your leader about arranging a visit to the Monte Alban archaeological site, a local cooking class or a street art cycling tour. You may like to head to one of the city’s many markets to browse stalls of coffee, spices and crafts made by local artisans. In the evening, it’s time for a send-off in style as you head just outside of the city for a special dining experience. Your venue for this evening looks like a typical Oaxacan house, but for the lucky few in the know, opening the front door will reveal an award-winning restaurant like no other. Enjoy an amazing menu of traditional Mexican dishes with a five-star twist, curated and cooked by a world-renowned chef. With the kitchen station right next to the tables, you’ll have the opportunity to chat to the chef while watching your dishes come to life. This final dinner will certainly be one to remember.
Today you will catch a flight from Oaxaca to Cancun, transferring on arrival to Puerto Morelos, a charming seaside town on the Yucatan Peninsula, known for its stunning turquoise waters. You will be collected on your arrival at Cancun International Airport and transferred to your hotel. A meeting will take place here at 6pm to welcome any new travellers joining you for the next part of your adventure. The Yucatan’s bountiful Caribbean coastline means it is home to some of the freshest seafood in the country, and after your meeting you will head to one of the best restaurants in Puerto Morelos to sample some yourself. Here you can enjoy a traditional feast of fresh fish, mussels, shrimp and clams.
After breakfast, depart Puerto Morelos and head to the secluded Laguna Chabela. Here you will meet a local Maya family who have lived here for generations. Gain a deeper understanding on their way of life as you tour their farm, see what they grow and learn how they live off the land. Enjoy a demonstration on how to make delicious tortillas in the Coba style then sit down to a traditional lunch. In the afternoon, continue to the city of Valladolid, known for its delightful pastel coloured colonial buildings. On arrival, settle in to your hotel. Set on the city’s main square, the charming hotel was converted from a 16th century colonial house and offers a perfect base for your explorations. The main square is flanked by excellent local restaurants serving up classic Yucatan cuisine – you may like to try one out for dinner this evening.
Merida - Chichen Itza
This morning will be spent exploring the fascinating complex of Chichen Itza. Named as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, Chichen Itza is considered the most important archaeological vestige of the Maya-Toltec civilization in Yucatan by UNESCO. Meet with a local historian for a guided tour to uncover the secrets of what is perhaps the most famous Maya site in Mexico, dominated by the Temple of Kukulkan, or El Castillo, a Mesoamerican step-pyramid. After your visit, you will be treated to a special lunch with a local family in the town of Piste. Here you will enjoy a traditional Pibil feast, a Maya style of cooking that involves barbecuing underground, which the family have perfected over generations. After lunch, visit a beautiful cenote for a swim, then continue to the historic town of Merida. Founded in 1542, the city is the Yucatan capital and retains much of its old-world charm. Your feature stay accommodation for the next two evenings is the magnificent La Misión de Fray Diego – a 17th century mansion turned boutique hotel. Spacious rooms flaunt elegant decor with traditional touches, surrounding a glowing courtyard with a wonderful swimming pool. Enjoy exceptional service and a privileged location in the heart of the city.
This morning you will join your leader on a walking tour of downtown Merida to take in the splendour of its many colonial buildings and learn more about the Maya heritage of the town. Visit the market for a look at local life, and stop by the city museum, Montejo's House and the cathedral. Step inside the Palacio del Gobierno to admire the murals by Fernando Castro Pacheco, a famous Mexican artist from Merida. The paintings depict the history of the city and interactions between the Maya and the Spanish. The afternoon is free for further discoveries – you may like to relax in the green and shady Plaza Grande, or browse the outdoor market selling Maya replicas. Regroup for dinner at a fantastic local restaurant serving up Yucatan specialties – the sopa da lima (lime soup) is especially delicious here.
After breakfast, drive to the Celestun Bird Sanctuary and Biosphere Reserve. One of the first places migratory birds arrive for the winter, the reserve offers a birdwatching experience like no other. Here you will meet with a local conservationist to tour the area, learn about its unique flora and fauna and hear about the conservation efforts taking place in the region. Look out for the Yucatan woodpecker, Mexican sheartail, tropical mockingbird and depending on the season (usually November–March), you may be lucky enough to witness thousands of flamingos painting a pink streak across the landscape. Return to Merida for an afternoon at leisure. For a taste of Merida's 19th-century glory, you may like to take a walk along the mansion-lined Paseo de Montejo. Be sure to ask your leader for some great local recommendations for dinner this evening.