Day 1 - Mexico City
Arrive at Mexico City’s Benito Juarez International Airport and be transferred to your hotel. Your arrival transfer must be pre-booked. Please ensure you provide your arrival flight details at least 15 days before the start of the trip.
Settle in and, if you have time, take a stroll to get a feel for this vibrant and rapidly growing capital where the ancient and modern collide.
In the evening, usually around 7 pm, you will meet your leader and other members of your group for a pre-trip meeting. The exact time and place of the meeting can be found at the hotel reception. This meeting will be followed by an optional group dinner at a nearby restaurant.
Day 2 - Mexico City
Enjoy a guided city tour. You'll visit the Metropolitan Cathedral, Zocalo, National Palace and Museum of Anthropology. After that, the day is yours to spend as you please.
There are enough activities to do in Mexico City to keep you busy all day. Some of the most popular activities in Mexico City (apart from the ones included in this trip) are:
La Casa Azul (Frida Kahlo Museum) - for a deeper understanding of this renowned Mexican artist. Bear in mind that queues can be long to enter this museum, particularly on weekends. An Uber taxi from your hotel to the museum should cost approximately MXN 160.
Closer to your hotel (about 1km) you'll find Plaza Garibaldi, where for about MXN 200 you can get a Mariachi band to perform for you!
Anahuacalli Museum - In the 1930's Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo's set in motion the plan to "give back" to Mexico two museums: The first one, La Casa Azul (Frida Kahlo Museum) and second one Anahacalli which hosts more than 50 thousand Pre-Hispanic pieces collected by Diego Rivera.
Leon Trotsky Museum - Having come second best to Stalin on the race to the helm of the Soviet Union, Trotski was expelled and found refuge in Mexico City - where he was eventually murdered. The entrance fee includes free guided tours in English. Ask about it at the ticket box. An Uber taxi from your hotel to the museum should cost you approximately MXN 100.
If you prefer to get out of the city and escape the crowds, take a trip to the canals and gardens of Xochimilco. An Uber taxi should cost about MXN 300 to get there.
Day 3 - Teotihuacan/Mexico City
Today we vist Teotihuacan, about 50 kilometres northeast of Mexico City. Here we'll discover the amazing Aztec ruins known as the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon which dominate the skyline. This was once the Aztec capital, and one of the biggest cities in the world. Stroll down ‘The Avenue of the Dead’ and see the clues to what life was like here nearly 2,000 years ago.
We return to Mexico City for one last night in town.
Day 4 - Puebla/Oaxaca
Today we travel by private vehicle to Oaxaca. On route, we'll stop in Puebla, a town of palpable colonial heritage despite rapid development. Time permitting you'll have a chance to visit the local markets, where some excellent hand-paint tiles are available.
Continue on to Oaxaca, the beautiful colonial city known for its cuisine and lively art scene. It's also a great place to browse for traditional Mexican handicrafts, with descendants of the Zapotec and Mixtec Indians selling an array of bright woven blankets and shawls.
Enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of the streets and take the opportunity to feast on some regional delicacies. From the delicious banana-leaf-wrapped ‘tomales’ to the spicy baked chilli and lime grasshoppers, there's no shortage of unique and delicious fare, usually sold by the lovely old ladies of the markets.
Day 5 - Oaxaca
Today we'll take on a city tour of Oaxaca which includes a visit to Santo Domingo Church, Zocalo, and local art and craft galleries. The plan is to arrive to the colourful 20 de Noviembre market in time for lunch, where you can search through the many local restaurants for whatever you feel like – perhaps focus on the famous grilled meats hall.
In the afternoon we'll visit the nearby village of Teotitlán del Valle. The settlement is famous for its weaving, particularly of colourful rugs. Here you'll visit a workshop and see a weaving demonstration.
Finish up at an artisanal mescaleria for a taste of some of the best mescal in the area. Salud!
Day 6 - Oaxaca
today is a free day for you to explore Oaxaca at will. Perhaps you want pay a visit to the archaeological site of Monte Alban. The Zapotec civilisation began construction of this city around 200 BC, and Olmecs and Mixtecs have inhabited it at different times. Have your camera ready to go, because up here you can get an amazing view across the three legs of the valley of Oaxaca.
Season depending, a folkloric ballet performance is a also a great optional activity. There's also the Santo Domingo Cultural Centre which is worth a visit.
Day 7 - San Cristobal de las Casas
Today we fly from Oaxaca to Tuxla Gutierrez and continue by private vehicle to San Cristobal de las Casas (1.5 hr drive)
Once in "SanCris" take a walk and soak up the strong old-world atmosphere of this town, which is due in no small part to the grand Spanish colonial architecture, prominent indigenous cultures and winding cobblestone streets.
Time permitting you may want to visit Sumidero Canyon, a gorgeous, 800-metre-deep canyon carved out by the Sumidero River. It's roughly as old as the Grand Canyon!
Day 8 - San Cristobal de las Casas
Take a tour around the Mayan villages of San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan. Nestled in the highlands, these villages serve as marketplaces and religious ceremonial centres for the indigenous folk who live in the surrounding hills. The local people have retained their traditional way of life and can often be seen wearing their own distinctive, colourful costumes. As you explore these villages with a guide, we'll learn more about these mostly Mayan communities.
The rest of the time in SanCris is free for you to explore town. You may want to pay a visit to the Na Bolom Museum, a small museum/research centre which was the home of anthropologist and photographer Gertrude Duby-Blom and her archaeologist husband Frans Blom. While Frans explored Mayan sites all over Chiapas, Trudy studied, photographed and fought to protect the scattered Lacandon people. Today, apart from a hotel and a museum, the house provides free accommodation to Lacandon people that make their way to San Cristobal for work, studies or medical reasons.
Alternatively, you may want to visit the amber (jade) museum, which displays and sells beautifully carved items and insect-embedded pieces.
Day 9 - Palenque
Say goodbye to San Cristobal de Las Casas as you head for Palenque. On the way we'll visit Misol-ha – a fast-moving waterfall where water plunges 35 m, crashing into the pool below. Later, make tracks to the low and wide Agua Azul, which flows slowly over limestone rocks. Remember to pack your swimsuit for a quick dip in the afternoon. Otherwise, take a stroll around the beautiful surrounding area.
Once in Palenque, enjoy some free time exploring the town.
The local Zapatista movement in the region around Palenque has been quite active in recent months, occasionally holding protests or blocking roads. Our local operations team is constantly monitoring this situation to ensure the safety of our passengers and leaders. In some cases we might need to use an alternative route from San Cristobal to Palenque to avoid this activity - more so to bypass long traffic delays than any real danger. It's also possible that the Misol-Ha and Agua Azul waterfalls will not be accessible at the time we are scheduled to visit.
Day 10 - Palenque/Merida
Today, early in the morning you will visit the archaeological site of Palenque. Located on a hilltop in an area of hot jungle, these are some of the most astounding Mayan ruins in the region, dating back as far as AD 600. Some of the ruins remain unexcavated and are hidden in the surrounding forest. Enjoy a guided tour of the site. As you explore this lost city keep an ear out for the strange calls of howler monkeys reverberating through the jungle.
In the early afternoon we drive north to Merida (approximately 7 hours).
Day 11 - Merida
In the morning, travel west out to the coast before taking a boat ride and visit the Celestun Bird Sanctuary and Biosphere Reserve (approximately 1.5 hours). Here, near extensive beaches lined with coconut trees, you’ll likely be able to witness the magnificent sight of thousands of flamingos painting a pink streak across the landscape.
In the afternoon there’ll be some time to explore the many sights of Merida. Perhaps visit some of the museums, including the impressive Regional Anthropology Museum of the Yucatan, and stroll the city streets which are alive with art and culture. Hang out in the green and shady Plaza Grande, with the 16th-century cathedral on one side and City Hall, State Government Palace and Casa Mantejo on the other.
For a taste of Merida's 19th-century glory, go for a walk along the mansion-lined Paseo de Montejo. The outdoor market is another essential visit, with an array of hammocks and Mayan replicas for sale, plus a selection of enticing local cuisine, including the dish cochinita pibil ('little pig') or the mind-blowingly spicy El Yucateco hot sauce.
If you can't visit enough Mayan sites, you may want to head for the ancient ruins of Uxmal. Here you'll visit the amazing Palace of the Governors, considered by many to be the best example of classic Mayan architecture. You'll also see the mystical Pyramid of the Magician, comprising five super-imposed temples
Day 12 - Chichen Itza/Playa del Carmen
Chichen Itza is our first stop today. This is possibly the most famous Mayan site in Mexico. You'll see the marvellous Temple of Kukulkan standing over the ruins. Not far from the temple is the ‘ball court’, where many disputes are known to have been settled by way of a ball game that employed only the elbows, hips and wrists. Stone carvings depicting violence suggest it was not such a casual sport. Following a guided tour of the site, continue to the resort town of Playa del Carmen.
Day 13 - Tulum/Playa del Carmen
Today we spend the day exploring the Yucatan Peninsula. Travel out to ruins of Tulum (approximately 1 hour). This ancient Maya city was once an important trading port, protected against invaders by a high wall. Situated on a cliff overlooking a white sandy beach, it offers wonderful views and photo opportunities. Wander around the ruins with your guide, learning about the castle, temple and other structures within.
On the way back to Playa del Carman, we'll stop at a hidden cenote for a refreshing swim. These stunning natural sinkholes are filled with crystal clear fresh water and make for a memorable dip.
Day 14 - Playa del Carmen
Today is a free day for you to continue exploring the Riviera Maya or simply relax at the beach sipping a Margarita or two.
Day 15 - San Jose
Today you will be transferred to Cancun Airport in time to catch your flight to San Jose. This international flight is not included in the price of the trip and you must purchase it separately. Please contact us if you need any assistance pre arranging this flight.
An airport transfer from San Jose Airport (SJO) to your hotel is included. This transfer is only valid you have pre booked it. Please provide your flight details at the time of booking, or at a minimum 15 days prior to travel
There will be a meeting at 6pm to meet your Tour Leader and fellow travellers for this section of your trip. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place.
Following the meeting, there is generally an optional group dinner at a nearby restaurant.
Costa Rica’s capital sits in the centre of a lush, wide valley which has a comfortable subtropical climate. The streets of the town are laid out along a grid iron pattern, with avenidas running east to west and callés running north to south. Many of the most interesting buildings are in the region of Avenida Central – the Teatro Nacional is an elaborate confection of marble staircases, statues, frescoes and mirrors.
There are a number of interesting museums in the city; the Museo de Oro has a good collection of golden pre-Columbian figurines. The Mercado Central is the main market which dates back to 1881 – there are some good food stalls here as well as countless artefacts for sale.
Day 16 - La Fortuna/Arenal Volcano
A scenic drive by private minibus takes us to La Fortuna (approx 4-5 hrs).
La Fortuna is a small town situated just a few minutes away from Costa Rica's most famous volcano - the majestic Arenal. The views here are spectacular as the volcano is reflected on the lake for postcard perfect photos. Besides the panoramic views the town offers a range of other activities such as the 70 metre high La Fortuna waterfall, stunning lush forest, rare plants, animal watching and watersports on the lake.
Day 17 - La Fortuna/Arenal Volcano
Today is free for optional activities. Take a trip to the volcano, visit La Fortuna waterfall or take a canopy tour for a bird's eye view of the forest. Otherwise head out into the beautiful surrounds and explore by bike.
In the evening we include a visit to one of the hot springs in the area. Surrounded by lush foliage and naturally heated by the volcano, the springs are the perfect way to relax.
Day 18 - Monteverde
Travel by shared minibus and boat to the cool cloud forests of Monteverde (approx 4 hrs).
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 Cloud Forest Reserve. 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. Be sure to keep an eye out for the resplendent quetzal, one of the most elusive birds in the world.
In the afternoon, your leader will take you on a walking tour through the protected reserve.
Day 19 - Monteverde
Today you can choose from some great optional activities. Explore the forest canopy on a combination of suspension bridges and platforms built in the cloud forest. Another option is the Monteverde Butterfly Garden and the Hummingbird Gallery, a must for those with a penchant for these winged, coloured jewels of the forest.
At night you can choose to enjoy a night hike in Monteverde, hiking at dusk in the forest. Some of the wildlife you might see include porcupines, toucans and other sleeping birds, owls, agoutis, coatimundis, snakes, walking sticks, tarantulas, katydids, and an array of other cool insects. Of course, there are no guaranteed sightings, so don't expect all these creatures to be waiting just for you! Typically though this time of transition into night offers a good opportunity to view nocturnal mammals as well as diurnal animals as they prepare for night.
Day 20 - Manuel Antonio National Park
Travel by private minibus to Manuel Antonio National Park (approx 4-5 hrs). Situated on the Pacific Coast, the area of mangrove swamps and beaches now known as the Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio was first documented by Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon in 1519 during his (unsuccessful) search for the Fountain of Youth.
Long, white beaches extending around the headland of Punta Catedral are set against an evergreen forest backdrop that grows right up to the high-tide line. Incorporating 12 small islands scattered just off the coast where migrating whales can sometimes be observed, the park is home to hundreds of mammal and bird species in a region of lagoons and fertile mangrove swamps.
Day 21 - Manuel Antonio National Park
Your time here is your own to enjoy some of Costa Rica's finest beaches or you can enjoy some of the fine hiking trails through the tropical forest.
Day 22 - San Jose
We'll spend the morning in Manuel Antonio before returning to San Jose and your centrally located hotel. You can enjoy one last night out to celebrate the end of your journey.
Day 23 - 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