Selected departures available from April to June 2020
It’s often said that the wealth of a country is to be found in its history and culture, in which case Mexico is truly blessed with an abundance of riches. Mexico has not only managed to perfectly blend its indigenous and Spanish cultures, but it has also developed its own unique identity.
Although part of Latin America, Mexico’s history is rather different – while other nations shared the same liberators or insurgents and succeeded in gaining independence without suffering terrible losses, Mexico unfortunately lost a sixth of its inhabitants in the fight for liberty.
Before the Spanish conquest, ancient Mexico was constantly fought over by different powerful cultures, the most advanced of which is collectively known as Mesoamerica. The ‘mother culture’ was the mysterious Olmec civilisation, which greatly influenced later Mexican civilisations. Then came mighty Teotihuacán, whose city stretched as far south as modern-day El Salvador. Perhaps the most famous are the Mayans, who not only attained astonishing heights of architectural and artistic expression, but also excelled in the sciences. Next we have the military-minded Toltecs who inspired the Aztecs, well-known for being accomplished artists and architects.
Our eye-opening tour takes you from the heart of cosmopolitan Mexico City to the rugged mountains of the northern states of Chihuahua and Sinaloa via one of the world’s great rail journeys, the El Chepe Express. Of course, we travel back in time to several UNESCO World Heritage sites to discover Mexico’s ancient civilisations. Along the way, we are rewarded with some of the most spectacular sights, such as the breathtaking Sierra Madre Occidental mountains, the mesmerising rock formations of Creel, and Copper Canyon, Mexico’s lesser-known but certainly no less impressive answer to the USA’s Grand Canyon. You’ll certainly treasure all these experiences for many years to come.
Arrive at the airport for your overnight flight to Mexico City from London Heathrow.
On arrival this morning, we check-in early and enjoy breakfast at the four-star Hotel Galería Plaza Reforma, where we stay for three nights. Well-located close within walking distance to many of Mexico City’s main sights, this modern hotel has two restaurants and a swimming pool.
Later today we are introduced to the capital on a walking tour through its historic centre. Centro, as locals affectionately call it, is Mexico City’s beating heart. Lose yourself in the bustle of Plaza de la Constitución, the sweeping main square known as the Zócalo, which once served as the ceremonial site for the Aztecs. To the north of the square is the jaw-dropping cathedral, the largest in Latin America and built over the Aztec Templo Mayor, whose imposing stone ruins dominate the heart of Centro. Marvel at the National Palace, residence of the ruling class since the Aztec Empire and built with materials from the original palace that belonged to Tenochtitlán ruler Moctezuma II.
Art aficionados are in for a treat this afternoon as we head to the colonial suburbs of Coyoacán to visit its most well-known highlight. Tucked away on a quiet residential street is La Casa Azul, the birthplace and final home of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. The striking blue building has since been converted into a museum dedicated to her life and work, which includes a vivid collection of pieces by Kahlo and her husband Diego Rivera, another prominent Mexican artist. After our visit we take a leisurely walk to explore more of Coyoacán’s bohemian charms.
Lunch is included today.
We delve a little deeper into Mexico’s past on our visit to the National Museum of Anthropology, renowned for the world's largest collection of ancient Mexican art, as well as many objects dating from the pre-Hispanic era. The building itself is a superb example of contemporary Mexican architecture, with a long rectangular courtyard bordered on three sides by two storeys of display halls. Take your time discovering the origins of Mexico’s ancient civilisations, from the Olmecs and Mayans to the Toltecs,and Aztecs as well as the Zapotecs.
There’s free time today to personalise your holiday and perhaps experience the world-famous Folkloric Ballet of Mexico City at the white-marbled Palace of Fine Arts.
The morning is devoted to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Teotihuacán, an ancient Mesoamerican metropolis and once the most powerful city in the region, settled as early as 100 BC. Once spread across eight square miles in a mountain-ringed valley, this famed archaeological site boasts palaces and pyramid-temples of astonishing technological comparable to the largest of Egypt. Most of what can be seen today lies along the impressive Avenue of the Dead. The astonishing Pyramid of the Sun is the world’s third-largest pyramid and was painted a brilliant red in its heyday, which must have been an extraordinary sight at sunset, while the smaller yet perhaps more gracefully proportioned Pyramid of the Moon doubled as a stage for ritual sacrifices and burial ground for the victims.
In the afternoon we drive to the outskirts of Mexico City to visit the revered Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, dedicated to the patroness of the Americas and the most visited Catholic pilgrimage site in the world. Millions of pilgrims come to pay their respects to the Virgin, whose image was miraculously imprinted on the cloth of a native named Juan Diego to authenticate his vision and her request for a church to be built in her honour.
Lunch is included today.
Departing Mexico City, we fly north to Los Mochis in the state of Sinoloa and drive northeast to the colonial town of El Fuerte, the gateway to Copper Canyon.
We stay two nights with breakfast at the three-star superior Hotel Posada del Hidalgo, a characterful colonial mansion rumoured to be the birthplace of the legendary Zorro – there’s even a statue of the masked hero in one of the palm-fringed courtyards. This 19th-century hacienda enjoys a central location and features traditional-style rooms with wooden beams and tiled floors. There is a partial open-air restaurant serving Mexican cuisine and a selection of local wines.
Early this morning we embark on an adventure by river raft float along the grand River Fuerte, which bisects a dry subtropical forest home to an abundance of flora and fauna. If luck is on our side, we may even spot some of the many exotic birds such as the squirrel cuckoo, social flycatcher as well as the great egret.
In the afternoon we enjoy an orientation walking tour of El Fuerte town, which sits on the riverbanks of the Fuerte. Centred on a handsome, palm-lined plaza surrounded by brightly painted colonial mansions, El Fuerte is as enchanting as they come. It was founded in the 16th century and named after a hilltop fort that was built to ward off the Native Americans. Our tour ends at the replica of the original fort, now converted into a charming museum where you can learn about the town’s history or simply take in fantastic views over El Fuerte and the river below.
Lunch is included today.
Get ready for one of the world’s great rail journeys today as we board the El Chepe Express, a six-car luxury train equipped with reclining seats, a restaurant, a bar and terrace that affords vast panoramic views whilst enjoying the fresh air of the Sierra Tarahumara Mountains. Our five-and-a-half-hour journey takes us from El Fuerte to Divisadero through the ruggedly beautiful Copper Canyon in the breathtaking Sierra Madre mountains. Head to the terrace to enjoy the spectacular vistas through large open windows as we traverse bridges and wind through tunnels, passing awe-inspiring scenery.
We stay one night at the three-star superior Hotel Mirador Posada Barranca, perched dramatically on the edge of Copper Canyon. All rooms come with a cosy private balcony terrace where you can soak up the incredible views. Enjoy one of the many cocktail choices for a sundowner whilst the sunlight draws to a close over the canyon. Dinner is included tonight.
Awake this morning to extraordinary views of the vast Copper Canyon from the comfort of your balcony terrace. We take a short drive for a closer look at the Copper Canyon, a labyrinth of six main canyons where tropical fruit trees thrive in the deep ravines while the higher ground is carpeted in alpine vegetation. One of Mexico’s lesser-known gems, the green-hued Copper Canyon is Mexico’s answer to the Grand Canyon, larger and in certain places as locals claim, deeper. You have the option of taking a cable-car ride or zip-line experience through the canyon (subject to availability and season).
After an included lunch, we drive to Creel in a local traditional school bus. We stay for one night at the three-star Best Western Plus, The Lodge at Creel.
Today we discover Creel’s picturesque high sierras and valleys, home to the indigenous Rarámuri people. Have your camera at the ready as we pass through the Valley of the Mushrooms (hongos) and the Valley of the Frogs (ranas), which both feature fascinating rock formations. A short drive takes us to the tranquil waters of Lago Arareko, a U-shaped lake whose name means ‘horseshoe’ in the native language, surrounded by fragrant pine trees and natural sculptures.
Our journey then continues past lush farms and apple orchards to Chihuahua City, where we have an orientation tour of the colonial centre – one of the best places to learn about the Mexican Revolution. The city is said to be the favoured home of folk hero Francisco ‘Pancho’ Villa, who served as provisional governor of the state of Chihuahua. During the tour we see grand colonial buildings, attractive plazas and architectural jewels, such as the Baroque cathedral with a façade carved in the elaborate Churrigueresque style. A picnic lunch is included today.
We bid farewell to Chihuahua and fly south to Oaxaca via Mexico City, where we stay three nights at the three-star Holiday Inn Express Oaxaca-Centro Historico, within walking distance of the city’s historic centre.
Early evening we enjoy a tram tour through Oaxaca, an elegant city that oozes colonial charm. Regal churches and fashionable artisan shops blend beautifully with bohemian bars and characterful street markets. The ornate Baroque façade of Templo de Santo Domingo is part of Oaxaca’s beautiful Dominican monastery, which today houses the excellent Museum of Oaxacan Cultures.
Excitement mounts this morning as we drive to the UNESCO World Heritage archaeological site of Monte Albán, where the ancient Zapotecs once ruled as far back as 500 BC. One of the most significant Mesoamerican cities, Monte Albán was the political, cultural and religious centre of the Zapotec and Mixtec civilisations. Our local guide will bring to life the astonishing pyramids, temples and plazas, which are visible from anywhere in the central part of the Valley of Oaxaca. The magnificent hilltop site affords astounding panoramic views over the valleys to the mountains in the distance.
After an included lunch back in Oaxaca, we have an orientation tour of its historic centre. Walking through the attractive streets allows us to get up close to its fabulous churches, charming squares and lively cocktail bars.
We drive southeast and call at Santa Maria del Tule to see the world’s widest tree. Dominating the El Templo de Santa Maria de La Asuncion (Temple of the Virgin Mary) church grounds of the town centre is the Tree of Tule, an impressive Montezuma cypress that measures roughly 137 feet in girth. Local Zapotec legend holds that the tree was planted some 1,400 years ago by a priest of the Aztec God of air and wind, Ehecatl.
Oaxaca is renowned for its mezcal, a popular drink made from the agave plant and once considered the poor man’s alternative to tequila. A visit here would not be complete without a tasting, so we visit one of the many agave fields of Santiago Matatlán to learn all about this king of Oaxacan drinks. Locals hold a near-spiritual reverence for mezcal, which must be respected while enjoyed.
Another highlight awaits us after a traditional local rustic lunch. Heading back towards Oaxaca we explore the ancient ruins of Mitla, which was settled by the Zapotecs and the Mixtecs until the Spanish arrived in the 1520s. While Monte Albán was most important as the political centre, Mitla was perhaps the primary religious centre, controlled by high priests who performed human sacrifices. What makes Mitla stand out from other Mesoamerican sites are the beautiful mosaics that adorn the tombs, friezes and even entire walls. Some 14 different designs symbolise the earth and sky, a serpent and other important creatures.
Enjoy our last morning at leisure. Take some time to meander the streets admiring the array of art galleries.
Alternatively take the option to head out of Oaxaca for the morning to see local arts and crafts visiting small towns including Coyotepec, where the Dona Rosa black pottery is produced without a potter’s wheel, a skill native to the Oaxaca region. To be booked and payable locally.
We check-out late in the afternoon before transferring to the airport for our overnight flight to London Heathrow via Mexico City.
We arrive back in the UK after a truly memorable tour.
The price of this holiday is per person, based on two people sharing a room. Single rooms are subject to availability, at the relevant supplement. The price includes:
Copper Canyon cable-car ride or zip-line experience
During our visit to the magnificent Copper Canyon, take an exhilarating cable-car ride or, if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, a zip-line through the canyon. Subject to season and availability.
Folkloric Ballet in Mexico City
Experience the world-famous Folkloric Ballet of Mexico City at the Palace of Fine Arts. Witness folkloric dances with music and costumes that reflect the traditional culture and various regions of Mexico.
Both experiences are to be booked and paid locally.
We want to ensure you make the correct choice before you book your holiday with us. If you have any concerns regarding the suitability of the holiday due to reduced mobility we would encourage you to call us to discuss these concerns. General information on mobility in connection with our tours can be found here.
Whilst the travelling schedule shall pose no problems for people of any age in normal physical health, we would point out that in visiting a number of historical sites, paths may be uneven and uphill and we often enjoy walking tours of the main sights. Therefore, this holiday may not be suitable for clients of greatly impaired mobility. In the tropics temperatures and humidity levels will also be quite high for most of the year. Please consult your GP regarding the appropriate inoculations required for India at least a month before departure.
British passport holders do not require a visa however all visitors require a tourist card (FMM Forma Migratoria Multiple) for completion upon entry and departure, for immigration purposes.
The FFM form can be completed in advance at https://www.inm.gob.mx/fmme/publico/en/solicitud.html
Whilst care has been taken to ensure that the information provided relating to visa requirements is true and correct at the time of publication, changes in requirements after this time of publication may impact on the accuracy of this information. therefore, whilst we strive to provide the most up-to-date information, we strongly suggest that you re-confirm requirements with the relevant embassy prior to travel.
All transfer times listed here are approximate, and dependent on traffic. If you have a question regarding transfer times please don't hesitate to contact us.
|Arrival airport||First hotel location||Transfer time||Final hotel location||Departure airport||Transfer time|
|Mexico City International Airport||Mexico City||1 hr||Oaxaca||Mexico City International Airport||45 mins|