Mexico City to Cancun - Overland Trip

2 weeks: to (IMT-GSMC)

Intro

Mexico is a perfect destination of ours. Rich in culture, stunning scenery, colourful markets, great local transport, friendly people and the archaeological remnants of the great empires of the Aztecs, Toltecs and Mayas.

Our overland journey begins in Mexico City, where the colour and vibrancy of this bustling city will surely get you in the mood for our adventure. We visit the ‘can’t miss’ ruins at Teotihuacan before visiting the beautiful colonial cities of Puebla and Oaxaca. Next is the Zapotec ruins of Monte Alban before we come to the wonderful town of San Cristobel de Las Casas, home of the descendents of the ancient Maya. Further on are their ancestral ruins at Palenque. The ‘White City’ – Merida is our gateway to the state of Yucatan, the stunning Chichen Itza ruins and finally the beautiful blue waters and sandy beaches of the Caribbean coast.

Included

An experienced local leader in Mexico and there will be the services of local guides at some sites. All transport, accommodation, sightseeing and meals as indicated.

Itineraries

Day 1 - Mexico City

Your trip starts today in Mexico City. No activities are planned during the day, so you may arrive at any time. Please refer to your itinerary for the joining hotel name and address. There is a pre-departure meeting with your tour leader at 6:30pm this evening. Please check the notice board in the foyer of our joining hotel for any further details of this meeting and for any messages from your Gecko's tour leader. Please bring your passport and travel insurance documents to the briefing.

Day 2 - Teotihuacan Ruins

This morning we take a bus trip some 50 kilometres northeast of Mexico City to the 'must-see' archaeological ruins of Teotihuacan. This is the site of the massive ‘Piramides del Sol y de la Luna’ (Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon). It was also Mexico's largest ancient city and capital to the biggest pre-Hispanic Mexican Empire. Thought to have been built early in the 1st Century AD, records of the city’s origins have been lost in time. It is still an important pilgrimage site for many Mexicans who once believed that all of the gods once came together here to sacrifice themselves; acts which set the sun and the moon into motion, thus creating the so-called ‘Fifth World’. We also have time to discover the site's remaining buildings with the help of our local guide. We then return to Mexico City in the afternoon.

Day 3 - Mexico City

Mexico City is an exciting mix of cosmopolitan glamour and ancient and colonial history. Built over the foundations of the ancient Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, this seething metropolis of over 20 million people can be quite overwhelming. The streets are full of the hustle and bustle of people going about their daily business and Latin rhythms emanate from the street stalls and sidewalk shops. There is a saying that goes – ‘if it happens in Mexico, it happens in Mexico City’! Today our leader takes us on a morning walking tour of its historic heart, starting with the main square, known as the Zocalo. During Mexico’s colourful festivals, indigenous dancers circle the square and shamans perform spiritual cleansing rituals. It is one of the largest public squares in the world and marks the centre of the city. In the afternoon we have free time to discover the city's many impressive museums, galleries, plazas and public buildings.

Day 4 - Puebla

This morning we catch the bus for the two-hour ride to Puebla. There are few cities in Mexico that have preserved their Spanish colonial past like this place. It is surrounded by towering mountains and snow-capped volcanoes, whilst its historic centre is vibrant and lively with a relaxed atmosphere - a great place to view street performers and live bands. Puebla is also well-known for its hand-painted ceramics, known as ‘taverna’, and many of its buildings are covered in brilliant blue and white tiles with also brightly-coloured doors. We have a day at our leisure in this charming city to explore some of its 70 churches or thousand or so colonial buildings, catch up on some shopping or sample the local Puebla cuisine, which is delicious!

Day 5 - Oaxaca

Today we travel to Oaxaca. If you're interested in traditional Mexican handicrafts, this is the place. Oaxaca is famous for its colourful and unique shopping opportunities. You could lose yourself for hours meandering through the small shops and craft markets, which are filled with intricately designed textiles, hand-painted pottery and carvings splashed with vivid colour. This city is also renowned for its relaxed, laid-back feel. So if the frenzy of finding a bargain becomes too much, chill out in one of the many cafés and soak up the atmosphere of this wonderful city. The local cuisine here also offers plenty of new taste sensations and you may wish to sample some of its many varieties of margarita!

Day 6 - Monte Alban

A short drive from Oaxaca is the ancient Zapotec ruins at Monte Alban. The Zapotec civilisation began construction of this city some time around 200 BC and it reached its peak in terms of population and power between the years 300 AD and 700 AD. These magnificent ruins are perched on a flattened hilltop, 400 metres above the valley floor, affording superb 360-degree views over Oaxaca Valley and various surrounding villages. With the help of our local guide, we have plenty of time to explore remains of the plazas, tombs, palaces and temples that comprise this fascinating site. In the evening we board the overnight bus to San Cristobal de Las Casas, in the State of Chiapas.

Day 7 - 8 - San Cristobal de Las Casas

Nestled in a valley of pines, surrounded by mountains, San Cristobal is blessed with both beauty and charm. Chiapas is a stunningly scenic region of Mexico which is rich in both indigenous life and culture. San Cristobal’s meandering streets, colonial architecture and Indian soul all combine to make this a popular and enchanting destination for curious travellers. During our stay we have time to visit some of its beautiful churches, pick up a bargain or two at the weekly market and continue our search for the best taco in Mexico! We also visit a nearby highland village, where the indigenous inhabitants have their own distinctive and colourful dress. San Cristobal de Las Casas is sure to be a place to remember.

Day 9 - 10 - Palenque

Today we transfer to Palenque with stops at the beautiful blue waterfalls of Agua Azul and Misol Ha.Buried deep in dense rainforest the magnificent ruins of Palenque were unknown to the modern world until the late 18th century, when Mayan hunters told a Spanish priest about the great stone palaces that lay in the jungle. The priest's report and those of other early Spanish explorers helped to unearth one of the most amazing Mayan sites in Mexico. Only a small area of these exquisite ruins have to this day been excavated and the site continues to captivate archaeologists and visitors alike by continually revealing more and more of its mystical past with the discovery of more sculptures and remnants of buildings. We have the assistance of a local guide, who helps us to unveil the secrets of these ruins as well as describe the noble and mysterious history of the Mayan people.

Day 11-12 - Merida

We travel by bus for a full day to Merida, the capital of the State of Yucatan. Known as the 'White City' due to the large amount of limestone and white paint used, Merida was a centre for Mayan culture long since before the conquistadors arrived. These days Merida has a wonderful old world flavour which co-exists with cosmopolitan modernity in everything from architecture to fashion. It is a bustling, colonial city and in our time spent here, we are free to make our own discoveries. Our local tour leader will be able to recommend a number of sightseeing options, including the highly impressive Anthropological Museum. This palatial white mansion houses fascinating exhibits from all over the peninsula, along with depictions of Mayan rituals such as teeth sharpening jewel implantation and the practice of forehead-flattening for beautification purposes.

Day 13 - Chichen Itza - Cancun

We depart in the morning for the Caribbean Coast, en route visiting arguably the most famous Mayan site in Mexico. Chichen Itza derives its name from the deep, naturally occurring well, located near the centre of the site. During the heyday of this city, this well was used for human sacrifice! But it is the astounding and unique architecture - a result of the invasion by the Toltec people - that makes this site so incredible. The imposing Temple of Kukulkan dominates the site and affords fantastic views over the ruins. It is believed that this pyramid was built by the Mayans for astronomical and astrological purposes. It has a total of 365 steps, one for each day of the year, and at the equinox a shadow in the shape of a serpent is cast down the pyramid. The shadow moves with the rising and setting of the sun. After exploring this wonderful sight, we continue on our way to Cancun.

Day 14 - Cancun

Situated on the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, Cancun is renowned for its nearby beautiful Caribbean beaches and stunning Mayan ruins, not to mention some of the finest diving and snorkelling sites in the world. In the late 1960s, Cancun was merely a sliver of land 17 kilometres long. Visited only by local fisherman, it was separated from the coast by narrow channels. The Mexican government of the time saw the potential in its coastal character and undertook the task of developing it into the tropical island paradise that it is today. There are regular buses from our hotel in Cancun city to the beach, most famous being the beautiful beach of Playa del Carmen. We enjoy free time during our stay in Cancun to do as we please, which includes exploring or just relaxing.

Day 15 - Cancun

Your overland trip comes to an end after breakfast today. Don’t forget, this trip links in perfectly with our Complete Cuba and our Viva Cuba trips, so if you are joining Gecko’s in Cuba you will need to fly from Cancun to Havana on this day.



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