Day 1 - Mexico City
Bienvenidos! Welcome to Mexico.
Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm on Day 1.
Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
Modern meets ancient in Mexico City - one of the world's largest urban centres. Although crowded and smoggy, D.F. (Distrito Federal) offers a great variety of impressive museums, galleries and architecture, along with exciting night life and delicious street food. Head to the Zocalo, the city's huge central square, to see Aztec ruins and colonial architecture, relax in one of the many parks, plazas and gardens or take an Urban Adventure with an expert local guide.
Day 2 - Mexico City
Enjoy a guided walk taking in some of the most iconic sights of the city, including a visit to the Zocalo in the historic centre of Mexico City, Templo Mayor, the Government Palace and the Metropolitan Cathedral.
The rest of your day is free. If you prefer to get out of the city and escape the crowds, take a trip to the canals and gardens of Xochimilco. In the evening, explore Mexico's exciting night life. Learn some dance moves from the locals, or try out your own to the music of a mariachi band.
Day 3 - Mexico City
Travel out of town by subway and bus for a guided tour of the ancient city of Teotihuacan.
Located 50 kilometres northeast of Mexico City are the 'must-see' archaeological ruins of Teotihuacan - the site of the massive Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon which dominate the skyline. This was once the country's biggest ancient city and capital of the Aztec people, who ruled over the largest empire in the pre-Hispanic era. Guarded by mountains this magnificent city is thought to have been founded early in the 1st century AD and reached its peak around AD 500, when its influence extended down to Guatemala and as far north as present-day Texas. With the help of a local guide we have time to stroll down ‘The Avenue of the Dead’, uncover its many wonders and imagine what life must have been like nearly 2000 years ago.
Day 4 - Queretaro
Travel to Queretaro (approx 3.5 hrs), where the bustling city streets give way to a pretty scene of plazas and museums. On arrival, your leader will take you on a walking tour to orientate you to the city.
Queretaro's downtown area was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996 and the town has been at the centre of several important events in Mexican history. This was where the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was ratified in 1848, ending the Mexican-American War and ceding a large amount of territory (including what is now New Mexico, Arizona and California) to the USA. Queretaro was also where Austria's Archduke Maximilian was executed in 1867, and was where the Mexican Constitution was signed in 1917.
Day 5 - Queretaro
Spend a free day exploring the pedestrian streets, plazas, churches and museums of Queretaro, or alternatively, head out on a day tour along the wine and cheese route. Several wineries and cheese farms allow visitors and let you see the different stages of production, as well as sample different varieties of wines and cheeses. Another option is to take a trip to Pena de Bernal, an imposing rock formation, considered to be the world's third largest monolith after Gibraltar and Brazil's Sugar Loaf. The village at the foot of the rock is a charming town with cobblestone streets and colourful houses as well as artisan and food stalls selling wool blankets and ponchos, quinces, guavas and peanut candy.
Day 6 - San Miguel de Allende
Today we journey to historic San Miguel de Allende (approx 1.5 hrs). On arrival your leader will take you on an orientation tour of this picturesque colonial town, and will also take you inside the Independence Museum to learn about the town's role in the Mexican War of Independence.
Spend free time strolling the cobblestone streets, visiting the numerous galleries, and admiring the colonial architecture and see why the city received World Heritage status in 2008.
Day 7 - Guanajuato
Continue on to the colourful streets of Guanajuato (approx. 2 hrs). Today you leader will take you on a walking tour of the city to get you acquainted with the colonial mansions, tree-filled plazas and cobblestone streets. The historic heart of the city has a very European feel with sidewalk cafes, museums, theatres, markets and monuments, as well as neoclassical and baroque architecture. This afternoon we will visit the Alhóndiga de Granaditas (Regional Museum of Guanajuato), which was originally a grain storehouse, then a fortress, and the site of the first major rebel victory in Mexico's War of Independence. Today it is a musuem showcasing the history and art of the region. Especially impressive are José Chávez Morado's murals on the staircases.
Day 8 - Guanajuato
Spend a free day strolling around the historic downtown photographic the colourful houses of Guanajuato. Alternatively, discover the city's silver mining history at La Valenciana mine. Silver was first discovered in Guanajuato in the 1600s and La Valencia sunsequently became one of the richest and most productive silver mines in the world. You can see an example of the wealth generated from the mine in the adjacent church.
You may also like to visit the Museo de las Momias, or Mummy Museum. Many mummified bodies have been found in the ravines around Guanajuato, due to the soil and weather conditions that prevail in the area. The mummies date from the mid-1800s up until the 1950s and the museum has over 100 in its collection.
Guanajuato was also the birthplace of Diego Rivera, and his childhood home has now been converted into a museum, with the ground floor a reconstruction of how the home may have looked during Rivera's time, and the upper floors containing exhibitions of his art and sketches.
Day 9 - Guadalajara
Travel by bus to Guadalajara (approx 4 hours), where your leader will take you on a walk to introduce you to the city. Guadalajara is the second-largest city in Mexico and is also the home of mariachi and tequila. The city has a different feel to the colonial cities we have visited so far. Some of the colonial history remains, however it is intermingled with wide avenues and modern construction. A walk through the city centre reveals beautiful parks, plazas and public art, as well as the baroque Government Palace, and the cathedral which dominates the city skyline.
Day 10 - Guadalajara
Spend a free day soaking up Guadalajara's laidback ambience and people watching in the central plaza, or you may wish to pay a visit to the nearby town of Tequila. All of the world's tequila is produced in this region, and while you may have tried tequila before, it is another thing entirely to sample tequila in Tequila!
If tequila brings back too many bad memories, perhaps visit Guadalajara's fashionable Tlaquepaque neighbourhood and spend an afternoon shopping in the boutiques specialising in arts and crafts from all over Mexico. There are also many excellent restaurants in this part of town.
Day 11 - Patzcuaro
Drive south to Patzcuaro (approx. 4 hrs). Explore the city's pretty streets and impressive churches on an orientation walk. Later this afternoon you may wish to take a boat trip out to Janitzio Island. The boat takes about 20 minutes out to this popular island famous for its fishermen and the dominating statue of Jose Maria Morelos, a hero of Mexico's independence.
Day 12 - Morelia
Visit the World Heritage-listed stone ruins of Tzintzuntzan en route to Morelia (approx 1.5 hrs). These ruins were part of the Tarascan empire up until the conquest by the Spanish in the 1520s. The site that remains today was part of the ceremonial centre and contains a large plaza, and five circular pyramids which are iconic to the region.
On arrival into Morelia your leader will take you on a walk through the city, including a visit to the pink-stone cathedral, which houses one of the largest organs in Latin America.
Day 13 - Morelia
Morelia is a great place to just walk around and take in the atmosphere, as well as being a photographer's dream. The historic town has been used in countless movies as well as TV advertisements and is a popular place for wedding and family photographs. One of the most impressive sights is the the aqueduct that crosses the city, supported by 253 baroque-style arches. The music conservatory, housed in a former convent, is also well-worth a look, as are the chocolaterias and taquerias dotted throughout the city.
Day 14 - Mexico City
Return to Mexico City, perhaps with a stop en route to visit the breathtaking El Rosario Monarch Butterfly Reserve (in season - December to March). It's home to millions of these colourful beings from December to March each year. Outside of these months, you'll return directly to Mexico City, where you may wish to join the group for a farewell dinner.
Day 15 - San Jose
Fly to Costa Rica, where this tour will be joined by new travellers. There will be another Welcome Meeting at 6pm today. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place.
With over half the country's population living within its parameters, San Jose is a bustling city with lively markets, intriguing museums and a dynamic atmosphere. A good place to start exploring is the main plaza, a fantastic place to get comfy and do some people watching. Artisan booths are common here and you never know when there'll be a spontaneous art fair. Have a look at the Gold Museum which has an amazing collection of indigenous gold art. If these cultural gems get you in the mood for a bit of shopping head to the out door market in Plaza de la Cultura or the Central Market where you can buy anything from handicrafts to seafood.
Day 16 - Tortuguero National Park
We leave San Jose and descend to the Caribbean lowlands by local bus (approx 4 hours). The final section of our journey to the port at La Pavona is on an unsealed road. Then take a boat to Tortuguero National Park (approx. 1.5 hours).
This area has long been associated with the catching of turtle (tortuguero means turtle-catcher). The original indigenous inhabitants used turtles as a sustainable resource, but the arrival of Europeans led to major exploitation. Tortuguero National Park, established in 1970, is now home to 13 of Costa Rica’s 16 endangered mammals. Among them are manatees, ocelots and jaguars, as well as over 300 bird species. First and foremost, however, it is the nesting ground of the green turtle, which comes ashore between July and October to lay its eggs on the sandy beaches. Lesser numbers of the critically endangered hawksbill turtle, plus loggerheads, and giant leatherback turtles also nest within the park at different times of year.
Day 17 - Tortuguero National Park
Today your leader will lead you on a walk around the park's main paths. Keep your eyes peeled to spot monkeys, birds, frogs and perhaps a sloth or two.
Day 18 - Sarapiqui
Early in the morning we travel to Sarapiqui in the heart of Costa Rica's banana growing region. First, transfer back to the port by boat (approx 1.5 hours), then continue to Sarapiqui by private minibus (approx 3 hours).
On the banks of the Puerto Viejo River and next to the Braulio Carrillo National Park, this budding town is surrounded by virgin forests, and banana and pineapple plantations. Sarapiqui is also known as one of the richest areas in Costa Rica for bird watching. The diversity of lowland bird life is impressive. A biological research station and several nearby forest lodges have made this undisturbed habitat accessible to scientists and travellers.
Day 19 - Sarapiqui
There is plenty of free time to explore the jungle that surrounds the town by mountain bike or on foot, or find a comfy spot to watch the colourful birdlife glide by. Alternatively you may wish to satisfy your sweet tooth on a chocolate tour.
Day 20 - Santa Rosa de Pocosol
Travel by private minibus to Santa Rosa de Pocosol (approx 2 hours) where we spend the night in a homestay. Just down the road is the Juanilama agricultural community where we have the option to get to know the local villagers, help with farm chores or take a cooking lesson. Several villagers have built comfortable rooms for guests next to their homes. All rooms have shared facilities. In order to make the most of this homestay experience, it may take a bit of effort from your side to break the ice first. Learn as many Spanish words as you can and get ready for some serious hand language signals.
Day 21 - La Fortuna/Arenal Volcano
Continue by private minibus to La Fortuna (approx 2 hours).
This small town is situated just a few minutes away from Costa Rica's most famous volcano - the majestic Arenal.
Day 22 - La Fortuna
Besides the spectacular views, La Fortuna offers a range of activities such as the 70-metre-high La Fortuna waterfall, stunning lush forest, rare plants, animal watching and watersports on the lake.
The volcano’s inner workings also mean that the area has a number of thermal springs where hot, lava-heated water gushes to the surface. These springs have been turned into a number of thermal pools and waterfalls, often surrounded by foliage, an ideal chance to relax.
Day 23 - Monteverde
Today take the scenic route to Monteverde (approximately 4 hours in total). Travel by shared minibus to Lake Arenal, which we'll cross by boat. On a clear day you'll see fantastic views of the surrounding area. On the other side of the lake, re-board the minibus and continue on to our destination.
Monteverde was founded as an agricultural community in 1951 by a group of North American Quakers; they cleared virgin forest to create verdant pastures ideal for dairy farming. These environmentally aware settlers were conscious of the danger that unrestricted settling and farming could cause to this precious habitat. Consequently they established a small privately-owned wildlife sanctuary, which has since grown to become the internationally-renowned Monteverde Cloudforest Biological Preserve. These forests are similar to rainforests, but instead of relying on rain for essential moisture, adequate water comes from the semi-permanent cloud that covers the region. It is lush and full of wildlife. This is truly a nature lover's paradise. More than 2,000 species of plants, 320 bird species and 100 different types of mammals call Montverde home.
Day 24-25 - Monteverde
Your leader will take you on a walking tour through the Monteverde National Park. Alternatively, walk through the canopy on suspension bridges or watch butterflies at play in the specially created butterfly garden. The local guides are very knowledgeable about the area and passionate about conservation and in the local communities there are several cooperatives worth visiting. More than 2,000 species of plants, 320 bird species and 100 different types of mammals call Monteverde home. Be sure to keep an eye out for the resplendent quetzal, one of the most elusive birds in the world.
Day 26 - Quepos
Travel to Quepos by private minibus (approx 5 hours).
Located close to the beautiful Pacific beaches and exotic wildlife of Manuel Antonio National Park, Quepos is a laidback town with a vibrant nightlife.
Day 27 - Quepos/Manuel Antonio NP
Spend your time here enjoying all that Manuel Antonio NP has to offer. Head out for a hike along its many trails, keeping one eye on the great views and the other looking for the abundant wildlife. Monkeys, armadillos, sloths and hundreds of birds are among the species you maybe be able to spot. The park also boasts turquoise seas and white sand beaches, perfect for swimming, kayaking, sailing or fishing. It would be easy to spend your whole time here in, or by, the water.
Day 28 - San Jose
Take a local bus back to San Jose (approx 4 hours). The buses in this region of hte country are a little more basic but this is a great opportunity to mix with Costa Ricans and get a feel for local life.
Arrive back in time for you to pick up some last minute souvenirs at the city's colourful and vibrant markets. Then we can head out for an optional dinner and a final night on the town sampling the huge variety of nightlife. The perfect way to end our adventure.
Day 29 - San Jose
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
Accommodation, Food (as stated), Transport, Selected Activities
Flights, Travel Insurance, Visa, Vaccinations or Personal Spending Money