Day 1. Mexico City
Arrival, reception and transfer to the deluxe Four Seasons Hotel. Dinner at the hotel.
Day 2. Mexico City
After breakfast, a guided city tour through Mexico City, starting from The Zocalo, the historical centre of Mexico City. The tour includes the National Palace, famous for its colourful murals by one of Mexico's greatest artists, Diego Rivera; the Cathedral Metropolitana, perhaps the most impressive in all of Mexico. Built by the Spanish in the 1520s, it was erected directly above the sacrificial ceremonial site of the Aztecs where rows of skulls were displayed. After a delicious lunch a visit to the world famous anthropological museum, (National Museum of Anthropology closed on Mondays).
Return to your hotel for dinner.
Day 3. Mexico - Teotihuacan - Oaxaca
After breakfast, excursion to the fabulous archaeological site of Teotihuacán lying in the valley of Mexico. This is the world famous site of the huge pirámides del Sol y de la Luna (Pyramids of the Sun and Moon), and was once Mexico's largest ancient city and the capital of what was probably the country's largest pre-Hispanic empire. The site's main 'road' is the famous Avenue of the Dead, a monumental 2km (1.2miles) thoroughfare lined with the former palaces of Teotihuacán's elite. To its south is the pyramid-bedecked La Ciudadela, believed to have been the residence of the city's supreme ruler. Enclosed within the citadel's walls is the Quetzalcóatl Temple, with its striking serpent carvings.
Heading north, the avenue passes the world's third-largest pyramid: the awe-inspiring, 70m (230ft), 248-stepped Pyramid of the Sun. The pyramid was originally painted a suitably sun-drenched, bloody red. The avenue terminates at the Pyramid of the Moon, flanked by the 12 temple platforms of the Plaza de la Luna. Nearby are the beautifully frescoed Palace of the Quetzal Butterfly, the Jaguar Palace and the Temple of the Plumed Conch Shells. Teotihuacán's most famous mural, the Paradise of Tláloc, is in the Tepantitla Palace, a priest's residence northeast of the Pyramid of the Sun. The site also has a museum to help make sense of it all. After the tour, lunch before transfer to the airport for the flight to Oaxaca.
Arrival and transfer to the magnificent Camion Real Hotel, one of the finest in the whole of Mexico.
Dinner at the hotel, which was the former convent of Santa Catalina, built in 1576, and which has kept its pristine Spanish Baroque architecture.
Day 4. Oaxaca
After breakfast, tour of this Spanish-built city, complete with its narrow streets, it has a special atmosphere - at once relaxed and energetic, remote and cosmopolitan. Situated in the rugged southern state of the same name, Oaxaca has a large indigenous population, flourishing markets and some superb colonial architecture. Not least of Oaxaca's attractions are its abundant local handicrafts and the conviviality of the local cafes. Centre of town is the shady, arcaded zócalo and the major landmark is the Iglesia de Santo Domingo, the most splendid of Oaxaca's many churches. The city also has a clutch of worthy museums exploring Oaxacan culture and the lives of famous former inhabitants such as Benito Juárez. After lunch, a visit to the the 2,500-year-old Zapotec ruins of nearby Monte Alban. Return to your hotel for dinner.
Day 5. Oaxaca - Tuxtle - San Cristóbal de las Casas
After breakfast, flight to Tuxtla and transfer to your magnificent colonial hotel in San Cristóbal de las Casa, the San Juan de Dios Parador, a tour of this handsome colonial town in the pine-clad Valle de Jovel is surrounded by the classic Mayan villages of the Chiapas highlands. It's a delightful place with a fine plaza and an assortment of churches, including the beautiful, pink Santo Domingo. Popular pursuits include stocking up at the local weavers' co-op, sampling delicious organic coffee and horse riding in the hills. Lunch and dinner at the hotel, in the elegant and luxuriously appointed restaurant "AGAPANDOS". It specializes in the high art of Mexican and European cuisine along with traditional Chiapas and Mediterranean cooking utilizing seasonally fresh and organic produce from the gardens of Parador San Juan de Dios. The restaurant is constructed in the old flourmill located on the property and decorated with candles and chimneys.
Day 6. - San Cristóbal de las Casas - Palenque
After breakfast, journey by road to the ancient ruins Palenque, situated near a town of the same name. This is Mexico's most breath-taking and stunning archaeological park. During the Mayan period, it was believed to be one of the most important cities of its day. The name Palenque was given to it by the Spanish; its original name, like so much of Mayan history, is shrouded in mystery.
The architecture here is nothing short of dazzling and being surrounded by lush tropical forest and jungle, this site has a serene, mystical atmosphere. Everything you will see here was built without the benefit of metal tools, the horse or the wheel. This place was created with nothing but the sheer tenacity of human labour.
The surrounding forest is also home to a huge variety of wildlife, which includes the colourful toucan and monkeys including howling monkeys.
Palenque contained tombs of ancient leaders and rulers, and still today, excavations are ongoing to uncover more of the mysteries and enigmas surrounding the ancient civilizations of the Maya. Some of the site is still cordened off to visitors as work to uncover the hidden treasures, reclaimed by nature over centuries of disuse, continues. Only a relatively small number of the estimated 500+ buildings have been excavated. Accommodation at the 4 star Chan Kah Resort Village, the best hotel in the vicinity.
Day 7. Palenque - Merida - Uxmal
Opportunity to return to the site for more personal appreciation before the main tourist groups arrive.
After, transfer to the airport for the flight to Merida and transfer to your hotel, the Hacienda Xcanatun a privately owned and operated small luxury hotel. Conveniently located, it is only minutes from Mérida; one of Mexico's most nostalgic colonial cities, similar to the city of Oaxaca. Merida combines colonial-era architecture with a rich Indian heritage. Many of the city's older buildings, date back to the 17th and 18th century, and have white and pastel exteriors and have earned the city its nickname, "WhiteCity".
After lunch, a visit to nearby Kabah and the pyramids of Uxmal, site of perhaps the finest of all Mayan cities, where you will also enjoy a sound & light show (8:30 pm).
Day 8. Merida - Chichen Itza
After breakfast, tour of Merida before heading toward Yaxcaba and your lodge for the night, Mayaland Hotel. This was the first Hotel built at Chichen Itza (in 1923), and with its superb location amidst the temples, the first within an ancient site in the world. Mayaland is a creation of Old Yucatan, built and operated by its original owners and their descendants in a style reminiscent of the hacienda nobility of a century ago. Lunch before a guided tour of this ancient Mayan city, dating back to 514 AD.
It is clear that a large Mayan community thrived here between around 700AD and 900AD, and built most of the structures in the southern area. However, the main buildings in the central area, including the Pyramid of Kukulkán, the Temple of the Warriors and the Ball Court, are Toltec in design and influence. Towering above the other buildings at 79 feet (24 m) high, the Pyramid of Kukulkán has a structured feel about it. Two of its sides have been completely restored, the other two were left to show the condition before work commenced. Each side had originally 91 steps, adding the platform at the top as a final step there are 365 in total one for every day of the year. Further evidence that this building was linked to the Mayan interests of astronomy and the calendar is demonstrated at the spring and autumn equinox. On these days the shadow of the sun playing on the stairs causes the illusion of a snake processing down the pyramid in the direction of the cenote. Naturally, it's an impressive sight, and there are usually thousands of people on the site at these times.
It's quite a climb to the top, but once you're there you'll have a terrific view of the rest of the ruins. The temple at the top of the pyramid has carvings of Chac, the rain god, and Quetzalcóatl, the serpent god. As at Uxmal, this temple was built over the top of an original structure and at limited times of the day (check at the entrance) you can enter the old temple via a passage under the northern stairway. Inside, you will see a sculpture of a jaguar, painted red and with jade eyes, exactly as it was discovered.
Day 9. Merida - Chichen Itza
A final day to visit this incredible site before the main throng of tourists arrive. Exclusive to your lodge, you enter Chichen Itza this morning through a private entrance, with the El Castillo pyramid in its majesty just around the bend. After your guided tour of the site's temples, platforms and ball courts, there is time for more personal reflection or as an alternative, a visit to lesser-known Ek-Balam, once a pivotal site in the public affairs of eastern Yucatan and a former burial site of Mayan royalty. Farewell dinner at your hotel.
Day 10: Chichen Itza — Cancun
After breakfast, transfer to Cancun for your return flight home or extend your stay for a few days at the Ikal del Mar, a secluded Caribbean resort, set amidst Mayan jungle. Ask for further details.