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Colonial Highlands Tour, with Mexico City + Yucatan


XYE14M
14 NIGHTS
FROM £1,795
International flights quoted separately
Absord the culture & cuisine of this fascinating country starting in Mexico City, with its ancient pyramids dating back to 300BC & Anthropological Museum with its treasure trove of Olmec, Atzec and Mayan artefacts. Then explore the charming Colonial Highlands on a small group tour, before relaxing on the Riviera Maya. Two departures per month, with dual language English & Spanish guides.
Mexico City Photo Teotihuacan Pyramids Yucatan Colonial Highlands
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Mexico City
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Teotihuacan Pyramids
• 
San Miguel de Allende
• 
Dolores Hidalgo
• 
Guanajuato
• 
Zacatecas
• 
Guadalajara
• 
Tequila Region
• 
Patzcuaro & Morelia
• 
Riviera Maya
• 
Mexico City
• 
Teotihuacan Pyramids
• 
San Miguel de Allende
• 
Dolores Hidalgo
• 
Guanajuato
• 
Zacatecas
• 
Guadalajara
• 
Tequila Region
• 
Patzcuaro & Morelia
• 
Riviera Maya
Day 1
Arrive at Mexico City Airport where you will be met and transferred to this high altitude city, that is the oldest capital in the Americas and one of the largest cities in the world.
 
Check into your hotel and embrace this colourful and vibrant city, originally established by the Aztec Indians (the 'Mexica').
Day 2
Today enjoy a full day tour of the highlights of Mexico City.
 
At the heart of the city is the Zócalo (or Plaza de la Constitución), a huge central square built by the conquering Spanish over the ceremonial centre of the vanquished Aztec city of Tenochtitlán. Ruins of the 13th century Templo Mayor can be seen here, as well as the baroque Metropolitan Cathedral built by the Spanish and the National Palace, which houses historic murals by the famous Mexican painter Diego Rivera. There is a dense concentration of museums and art galleries in this area.
 
West of the Zócalo the historic centre stretches through the main commercial district, past the National Art Museum to the Tower of Latin America skyscaper and the Palace of Fine Arts, with its magnificent Art Deco interior. Both overlook Alameda Central Park, which is the oldest public park in Mexico.
 
Leaving the city, we make a brief stop at the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe - one of the most important Catholic pilgrimage sites on the American continent.
 
Afterwards we continue 1-hour to the mysterious Teotihuacan Pyramids, ancient archaelogical ruins that are a UNESCO World Heritate site. This enormous city was built in 300 BC but was inexplicably abandoned centuries before the arrival of the Aztecs, who called it the Birthplace of the Gods. This is one of the most impressive archaeological sites in the Americas and includes the third largest pyramid in the world, constructed according to precise astronomical measurements and filled with sacrificial victims.
 
You can climb the magnificent Pyramids of the Sun and Moon and view the Butterflies Temple, the Avenue of the Dead and Temple of Quetzalcoatl. Admire the majestic plazas and stone temples, covered with stone statues and faded murals, before returning to Mexico City.
 
Note: Try and avoid visiting the pyramids on a Sunday, as it is free for locals so very crowded.
Day 3
At leisure to independently explore the sights of colourful Mexico City, before joining your tour.
 
The world class National Museum of Anthropology in Chapultepac Park is not to be missed, with its many ancient Olmec, Aztec, Mayan and other pre-Colombian artefacts - including the Stone of the Sun (the Aztec calendar stone) and the statue of Xochipilli. Chapultepec Castle is nearby.
 
The Palace of Fine Arts with its magnificent dome is well worth a visit, as well as the historic Frida Kahlo Art Museum (or Blue House) dedicated to her work. With its numerous world class museums, dramatic art murals, thriving music scene and exploding culinary scene, in Mexico City you will be spoilt for choice.
 
You can also enjoy a boat ride on a colourful 'trajinera' through the canals of Xochimilco, a small village south of the city. These canals are all that is left of the lake on which Mexico City was originally built, and will give you an interesting cultural glimpse into modern urban life.
 
Note: Try and avoid visiting museums on a Sunday, as they are free for locals so very crowded.
Day 4
Today we leave Mexico City and travel 4.5-hours to the art and cultural centre of San Miguel de Allende in the Colonial Highlands.
 
We stop along the way at Santiago de Queretaro, a beautiful colonial city that played an important role during the Mexican War of Independence and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This city was founded in 1531 by Franciscan monks at an important crossroads, and four of the most significant events in Mexican history have taken place here. Plans for Mexican independence from Spain were devised here in 1810; the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was ratified here in 1848, ending the Mexican-American War and surrendering 55% of Mexico’s territory to the United States; in 1867 the Austrian Archduke Maximilian was executed on a hill overlooking the city; and the Mexican Constitution was signed here in 1917.
 
The city has a wealth of outstanding 17th and 18th century buildings, including the ochre San Francisco Church and the baroque Church of Santa Rosa de Viterbo. The historic centre has charming stone streets with fountains, lovely colonial mansions, pedestrian walkways (andadores) and quaint plazas that are little changed since colonial days.
 
We continue to San Miguel de Allende, known for its rich traditions in which events and festivals play an important role, as this is a town that has preserved its ancient culture.
Day 5
We leave San Miguel de Allende today and travel 2-hours to the charming colonial city of Guanajuato.
 
We drive via the town of Dolores Hidalgo, the cradle of Mexican independence. It was here, at daybreak on 16 September 1810, that the priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla famously initiated the call to take up arms against the colonial Spanish. We take a brief tour of this historic centre and visit some of the most significant buildings used during the Mexican War of Independence.
 
On arrival in Guanajuato enjoy a tour of this former silver mining city that is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is regarded as one of the most beautiful colonial cities in Mexico, with its narrow cobbled alleyways and shaded plazas dotted with sidewalk cafes. Admire the picturesque historic centre with its basílica, university and underground streets (former riverbeds); view the famous Callejón del Beso (Alley of the Kiss) and enjoy panoramic views from the El Pipila monument.
Day 6
This morning we travel 4-hours from Guanajuato to the former silver mining city of Zacatecas, whose prosperity is reflected in its ornate colonial buildings and churches.
 
In the Historic Centre we view the Cathedral, built in rose stone during the 18th century and one of the pearls of Mexican baroque architecture. We also visit the Plaza de Las Armas and Cerro de la Bufa Hill, with its wonderful view over the city.
 
From here we visit Mine of El Eden, an old silver mine, taking a train that travels 2,000 feet underground - passing unique rock formations, displays of mineral deposits and antique mining machinery.
Day 7
In the morning enjoy a scenic 4.5-hour drive to Guadalajara - Mexico's second largest city and a significant industrial and commercial centre, but also the birthplace of traditional Mariachi folk music and the tequila drink.
 
In the 1950s many older buildings were razed to allow for wider avenues, modern buildings and shopping centers, but fortunately the most beautiful older buildings were left intact. A stroll through the city will give you an appreciation for its green spaces and public art in its many parks and plazas. At the heart of Guadalajara is the cathedral which, with its twin pointed towers and central dome, it is the most recognisable landmark on the skyline.
 
On arrival we visit the neighbourhood of San Pedro Tlaquepaque, once an independent village but now a part of the city. Its residents are famous for manufacturing the finest handicrafts in the the state, including pottery and glassblowing. It is home to a large number of galleries, with a rich collection of extraordinary pieces of Mexican folk art.
Day 8
This morning enjoy a tour of the historic centre of Guadalajara, with its beautiful cathedral surrounded on all four sides by plazas.
 
Plaza Guadalajara faces the church and has a central fountain with two lions whose paws are resting on the trunk of a tree, the city's coat of arms. To the south is Plaza de Armas with its art nouveau bandstand and matching lamp posts. The adjacent Government Palace has a lovely baroque facade and a spectacular mural in the interior main staircase, which was painted by Jose Clemente Orozco. The innovative Degollado Theatre is also very interesting. To the north of the cathedral is the Rotondo de los Jaliscienses Ilustres (Rotunda of Illustrious Men), a green space holding a circular monument with seventeen ribbed columns, with statues of famous local citizens.
 
In the afternoon we visit the Tequila Region, which has given its name to the famous Mexican drink. We visit a hacienda where the process of converting agave into this famous drink will be explained and where you can taste the end product.
Day 9
This morning we travel 3.5-hours from Guadalajara to the pretty colonial city of Morelia.
 
Our first stop is at Los Tres Potrillos (The Three Colts) ranch, the home of Vicente Fernandez - the 'Frank Sinatra of Mexico' who is famous for his cowboy songs.
 
We continue to colonial Patzcuaro, the former capital of the kingdom of Purépecha. Here we visit the House of the Eleven Patios, the Basilica of Our Lady of Health, the Gertrudis Bocanegra Library, with its murals painted by Juan O'Gorman, and a typical market in Don Vasco de Quiroga Plaza.  
 
In the afternoon we travel by bus to Morelia, the gorgeous capital of the State of Michoacán.
Day 10
This morning enjoy a tour of historic Morelia, known as the city of 'cantera rosa' (pink stone).
 
With its narrow streets lined with well-preserved 17th and 18th century buildings, the historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site. View the imposing baroque-style cathedral, with its soaring twin towers that preside over the main square - the Plaza de Armas. Also see the Government Palace, the Clavijero Palace and aqueduct, and the Church of the Gualupita.
 
Afterwards we drive 4.5-hours back to Mexico City, with drop off at your hotel.
Day 11
Transfer to Mexico City Airport for your onward flight.

You will be met at Cancun Airport and transferred 1.5-hours to your beach resort on the spectacular Riviera Maya.
 
Check into your hotel and relax on the shores of the Caribbean Sea with its warm turquoise waters, sandy beaches and wonderful snorkelling and diving.
Day 12
Today we recommend driving 3-hours to Chichen Itza (meaning 'Entrance to the Witches Well') for an optional full day tour to the most famous Mayan Ruins in Mexico.
 
The focal point of the Northern Mayan lowlands empire from AD 600 until AD 1200, this city had the most diverse population in all the Mayan world. Therefore there are a wide variety of architectural styles at this site.
 
The most spectacular pyramid is El Castillo with its rich cosmological symbolism - all four sides have 365 steps (number of days in a solar year), 52 rectangles (years in a Mayan century) and 18 terraces (months of their religious calendar). Other structures include the enormous Ballcourt, the Observatory, Temple of a Thousand Columns, Kukulcán Temple, Warrior’s Temple, Convent of the Nuns, El Mercado (market place) and the Sacred Cenote (pool) where human sacrifices were carried out.
Days 13 To 14
At leisure to relax at your tropical resort on the spectacular Riviera Maya, lapped by the crystal clear turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea.
 
The Great Mayan Reef (Mesoamerican Barrier Reef) stretches from the tip of the Yucatán Peninsula to the islands off the coast of Honduras and is the largest coral reef in the northern hemisphere. Hundreds of species of fish and many endangered and protected marine animals are found here – including Loggerhead, Leatherback, Green, Hawksbill and Olive Ridley sea turtles, Whale sharks and West Indian manatees – making this a paradise for snorkelling and diving.
 
There are many optional activities in this holiday area, including snorkelling at Xel-Ha waterpark (the largest natural aquarium in the world); zip lining at Xplor adventure park; day visits to the famous archaeological sites at Chichen Itza or Tulum; the Mayan caves in Aktun Chen; Sian Ka'anor biosphere reserve and Xcaret cultural theme park.
 
Try a Mayan spa treatment or simply stroll along Fifth Avenue and absorb the holiday atmosphere of Playa del Carmen with its wide variety of bars, restaurants and shops.
Day 15
Transfer 1.5-hours to Cancun Airport for your flight home.

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