Discover the history and culture of Mexico, from ancient civilisations to colourful folk traditions and the birth of a modern culture, epitomised by Frida Kahlo and Diego Riviera. This new 18-day tour begins in Mexico City and then travels through Oaxaca and on to the Yucatan Peninsula. It explores the multiple layers of Mexico’s history, taking you to the ancient sites of the Aztecs and Mayans, the fusion of cultures following Spanish colonisation at Puebla, and the survival of folk culture in Mexico’s villages. The tour is timed to coincide with the spectacular Days of the Dead celebrations in Oaxaca.
Teotihuacan’s vast and mysterious pyramid complex, dating from the 1st century BC
The UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites of Monte Alban and Chichen Itza
Stay in the heart of Oaxaca city, during the Days of the Dead celebrations
Colourful colonial architecture in Puebla and its exquisite tile-covered churches
A boat trip through the jungle to the remote pyramids of Yaxhilan
The contrasts of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, in life and art
The natural beauty of Mexico’s highlands, Popocatepetl Volcano and Celestun’s flamingos
Days 1–4: Mexico City and the Aztec precinct. Diego Rivera’s murals in Coyoacan, Teotihuacan’s pyramids.
Days 5–10: Travel to picturesque Puebla and on to flower-festooned Oaxaca for the Days of the Dead. Archaeology at Mitla and Monte Alban; the market town of Ocotlan de Morelos.
Days 11–14: Mountainous San Cristobal de las Casas and surrounding indigenous communities. Ancient Palenque, Bonampak and Yaxchilan in the jungle. Coastal Campeche.
Days 15–18: The Yucatan Peninsula from a historic hacienda, the Maya at Uxmal and Chichen Itza, a boat trip to view flamingos and colonial Merida.
The tour begins at our hotel in Mexico City and ends at our hotel in Merida. Qantas and United Airlines offer flights to and from Mexico City, with connections through the USA. A connecting flight from Merida to Mexico City is required at the end of the tour with Aeromexico. Contact us for quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the symbols B, L and D.
Friday October 25: Arrival in Mexico City
Flights arrive into Mexico City in the late afternoon and early evening. After time to check in and freshen up, we meet for a light dinner in our hotel. We have an early night in anticipation of a full day’s activities tomorrow. Overnight Mexico City. (D)
Saturday October 26: Around the Zócalo
After a short introductory talk in our hotel we make our way to the zócalo, the grand central square which is the historic heart of Mexico City, to see the famous Diego Rivera murals in the National Palace. We also visit the vast colonial Cathedral nearby as well as the extant remains of the Aztec City which once stood on the spot. We enjoy our welcome lunch on a terrace overlooking the zócalo. In the afternoon we head to the Anthropological Museum in the Chapultepec area. Here we can see archaeological artifacts from Oaxaca and the Maya area as well as presentations on the ethnography of living cultures in Mexico. After our visit we remain in the area and enjoy an aperitif at the Hotel Camino Real, an eye-catching modernist building designed by architect Ricardo Legorreta in 1965. Overnight Mexico City. (B, L)
Sunday October 27: Coyoacán
This morning we transfer by coach to the beautiful leafy suburb of Coyoacán where we visit ‘the Blue House’, the Museum of Frida Kahlo and close by the house of her friend and lover, Leon Trotsky. Coyoacán has a colourful history and we have time to stroll along the lovely streets lined with colonial mansions, past the studios formerly occupied by Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo and to have lunch here (not included), before returning to our hotel to freshen up for an evening performance of the Ballet Folklorico at Bellas Artes. Overnight Mexico City. (B)
Monday October 28: Teotihuacan
Our full day excursion takes us to Teotihuacán, an extensive archaeological site northeast of Mexico City. Teotihuacán was one of the most powerful centres in Mesoamerica and its importance is reflected in the vast monuments on the site, including the Temple of Quetzalcoatl and the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon, laid out according to geometric and symbolic principles. After our visit we return to Mexico City via the historic shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Tepeyac Hill. The shrine contains a celebrated Roman Catholic icon of the Virgin Mary, one of the most popular religious and cultural images in Mexico. Returning to the hotel we meet for a lecture on the Aztecs. Overnight Mexico City. (B)
Tuesday October 29: San Francisco Acatepec & Tonantzintla
We depart Mexico City this morning and make our way through a mountain pass to the picturesque colonial city of Puebla. Weather permitting, we should enjoy views of the majestic volcano of Popocatépetl. On the way we will stop to see the extraordinary tiled churches of San Francisco Acatepec and Santa María Tonantzintla, superb examples of both local craftsmanship and the region’s blended Spanish-indigenous influence. Arriving in Puebla we visit the Talavera de la Luz to see tin glazed ceramics being made and have time for a leisurely orientation stroll around its famous square before meeting for dinner in a nearby restaurant to sample the famous local mole. Overnight Puebla. (B, D)
Wednesday October 30: Puebla
After a talk in our hotel, the morning is free to visit the many interesting museums in the centre of Puebla, including the atmospheric Museo José Luis Bello y González, displaying a unique collection of ceramics, the Amparo museum or the craft market. After lunch we depart Puebla and make our way through more dramatic mountain scenery to Oaxaca City, arriving in the late afternoon. There is time to relax before we meet in the evening for a drink and dinner in the hotel courtyard. Overnight Oaxaca. (B, D)
Thursday October 31: Mitla
We depart Oaxaca early and make our way to the archaeological site at Mitla where we admire the elaborate and intricate mosaic fretwork that covers tombs, panels, friezes and even entire walls. Small, finely cut stone pieces, fitted together without the use of mortar, form an amazing variety of geometric configurations. There is a good market here for souvenir shopping at a reasonable price. On return to Oaxaca city we enjoy an afternoon walking tour taking in the church of Santo Domingo and the adjoining cultural centre before our night time visit to the cemetery of Santa Maria Atzompa to witness the candle-lit vigil of the Day of the Dead. Overnight Oaxaca. (B)
Friday November 1: Ocotlán & Craft Villages
Friday is market day in the town of Ocotlán de Morelos, about an hour’s drive from Oaxaca. At the entrance to the town we visit the Aguilar sisters to learn about their famous pottery skills. We admire the art in the Rodolfo Morales museum and enter the nearby church before visiting the bustling market and having lunch here at Frida’s stall, much like the locals would. After refreshment we head off to the village of Santo Tomás Jalieza to meet celebrated weaver Crispina Navarro Gómez and her family, who will demonstrate traditional back-strap weaving. Time permitting, we also stop off in the wood-carving village of San Martín Tilcajete. Overnight Oaxaca. (B, L)
Saturday November 2: Teotitlan del Valle
Our excursion today is to Teotitlóan del Valle, a Zapotec town famous for its fine woven textiles. We drive via Santa Maria del Tule to see the ancient ahuehuete tree that stands outside the church. This remarkable cypress, which has a circumference of over 160 feet at its base, is said to be between 2000 and 3000 years old. After a demonstration of the dyeing and weaving with natural dyes from the weavers, we enjoy traditional Oaxacan fare at a charming local restaurant and then visit the cemetery to see the beautiful flower displays left over from the Days of the Dead. Overnight Oaxaca (B, L)
Sunday November 3: Monte Albán
This morning we visit the spectacular hilltop archaeological site at Monte Albán. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this was one of the earliest cities in Mesoamerica. Founded around 500 BC, Monte Albán was the administrative capital of the Zapotecs and was later re-used by the Mixtecs. After our visit we head to the airport for the flight to Tuxtla Gutierrez for the next leg of our journey in the South. To avoid torturous road travel our coach will have gone ahead the day before with our main luggage. On arrival in the hilltop town of San Cristόbal de las Casas we enjoy dinner in a nearby restaurant. Overnight San Cristóbal. (B, D)
Monday November 4: Chiapas
To start the day, we take a short drive to the Tzotzil-Maya villages of San Juan Chamula and Zinacantán, with their unique cultural traditions. In the afternoon we explore San Cristóbal, one of Mexico’s best-preserved Spanish colonial towns. After an orientation walk there is free time to enjoy the historic town centre with its exceptional architecture, fine church and to shop for amber and other silver goods among women in their distinctive traditional dress. Overnight San Cristóbal (B)
Tuesday November 5: Villahermosa
We depart San Cristóbal this morning and make our way to Palenque via Villahermosa and the Olmec site of La Venta Museum Park. This park was created in 1958 when oil exploration threatened an important ancient site in Tabasco. The most significant finds at la Venta were moved to this site for conservation. On arrival in Palenque we enjoy an illustrated talk before dinner in our hotel. Overnight Palenque (B, D)
Wednesday November 6: Bonampak & Yaxchilan
We have an early start for our full day tour of the ancient Maya sites of Bonampak and Yaxchilán. Bonampak is renowned for its brilliant coloured murals, painted around 800AD; Yaxchilán for its extraordinarily detailed stone sculptures. Our journey will take us into the rainforest, accompanied by the sound of howler monkeys and tropical birds, and includes a boat trip along the Usumacinta River to the remote site with lunch by the river. We return to Palenque in the late afternoon. Overnight Palenque. (B, L)
Thursday November 7: Palenque
This morning we make our way to Palenque itself, one of the loveliest of all the cities built by the ancient Maya, set in dense rainforest. We visit the site and the excellent museum then make our way to the coastal town of Campeche, founded in 1540 by the Spanish as they began their conquest of the Yucatán Peninsula. Dinner tonight is in a popular local restaurant. Overnight Campeche. (B, D)
Friday November 8: Uxmal
We take a short city tour of the elegant historical centre of Campeche this morning before heading on to Uxmal, a designated UNESCO World Heritage site. Our tour of this celebrated Maya ceremonial centre includes the massive Pyramid of the Magicians, the tallest structure on the site. We continue to Mérida in the later afternoon. Dinner tonight is in our hotel, the beautiful converted Hacienda Misne. Overnight Mérida. (B, D)
Saturday November 9: Celestún
Today we drive through small villages to the unique coastal wetlands of Celestún. Here, as we tour this special biosphere reserve by boat, we can see magnificent flocks of pink flamingos in their natural habitat. After lunch on the seafront we return to the centre of Mérida for a stroll around the square before heading back to the hotel. In the evening, we have a lecture on Maya culture on the Yucatán Peninsula. Overnight Mérida. (B)
Sunday November 10: Chichén Itzá
Today’s full day tour is to the exceptional site at Chichén Itzá, a UNESCO world heritage site. Here we will visit the magnificent El Castillo pyramid and one of the largest and best-preserved ball courts in the Mayan world. We return to the hotel via the colonial town of Izamal. Almost entirely painted in yellow, this historic town is famous for its Franciscan convent that was built in the 16th century over the top of one of the Mayan pyramids. Tonight, we head back to the centre of Mérida for our farewell meal in a local restaurant that specializes in regional cuisine. Overnight Mérida. (B, D)
Monday November 11: Departure
Our tour ends today after breakfast. There is a coach transfer to the airport for those flying back to Mexico City to meet outgoing international flights. Those wanting to extend their stay in Cancún or elsewhere should talk to the tour consultant about transfer options. (B)
A specialist in the art and culture of Mexico, she has curated exhibitions and published numerous books on this vibrant country.
She regularly lectures for the Arts Society (formerly NADFAS), and has led several cultural tours to Mexico.
Chloë studied languages at Trinity College, Dublin. A fluent Spanish-speaker, she has made ethnographic collections and carried out fieldwork in Mexico for the British Museum. In 2015 she guest-curated the exhibition ¡Viva México! Clothing and Culture at the Royal Ontario Museum, where she is a Research Associate. Based in London, she is a Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain.
Chloë has lectured for galleries, museums and cultural institutions in Australia, Great Britain, Canada, Ireland, Mexico and New Zealand. She has also worked on television documentaries for the BBC and Channel 4. Her many books include Arts and Crafts of Mexico (1990), Textiles from Mexico (2002), and Fiesta: Days of the Dead and other Mexican Festivals (2009). In 2016 the Mexican government awarded her the prestigious Ohtli medal to thank her for her commitment to Mexican culture.
Chloë led her first Mexican tour for Academy Travel in 2013. Visits to ancient archaeological sites and splendid colonial cities are combined with trips to small villages where craft and festive traditions endure. She remains fascinated by Mexico’s strong and enduring visual culture, and enjoys sharing her passion for Mexico with like-minded travellers.
We asked Chloë, what can we expect on a tour to Mexico?
“Modern Mexico has been shaped by well over 3,000 years of history. It’s wonderful to peel back the cultural layers, and see how much remains. On this trip we will enjoy Mexico’s dramatic landscapes, fine art and folk art, buildings and street markets, food and music — all the things that the artist Frida Kahlo loved. But we will also meet Mexicans in their homes and workshops.”
“The highlight will surely be the Day of the Dead, when Mexicans welcome back the souls of the departed. It is this fusion of artistic expression with human warmth and wit that makes Mexico so special. Past travellers have commented on my enthusiasm. Most have ended up sharing my affection and admiration for Mexican culture.”
What is included in the tour price?
Unless otherwise stated in the itinerary, our tours include the following:
Any flights mentioned in the itinerary that take place during a tour
Land travel by private air-conditioned coach. Where appropriate public transport is also used for short distance travel on some tours
All accommodation in hotels or apartments as stated in the itinerary
Breakfasts, lunches and dinners specifically stated as included in the itinerary
Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included
Background talks on tour, site notes and online resources
Services of tour leader throughout tour
All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary
Local guides at some sites
Tips for drivers, local guides and restaurants for included meals
Tours begin either at the arrival airport or the first hotel, depending on the itinerary. If you have booked your international flights with Academy Travel and arrive before the tour commences, we will provide airport to hotel transfers to the closest main city on your arrival, and to the closest airport at the end of the tour. These may be either individual or group transfers.
What is not included in the tour price?
Open-age tours do not include the following:
Return international/domestic air travel unless those flights take place during the tour
Special taxes and airport levies that can only be paid in cash at the destination. We will advise you of these charges (if any) before you depart
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required
Travel insurance. We require all participants to have comprehensive travel insurance. A typical policy for one of our tours will cost from $160 upwards, depending on your age, pre-existing medical conditions, the countries you are visiting and the overall length of your trip
Lunches and dinners not specifically mentioned as included in the itinerary
Personal expenses such as laundry and phone calls
Costs associated with any activity mentioned as “optional” in the itinerary, or any suggested free time activity
You will be asked to sign an acknowledgement of these conditions when you book a place on a tour.
A deposit of $500 per person is required to confirm your booking on a tour. Final payment of the tour fee, insurance and any additional travel will be due 60 days before departure.
If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:
More than 60 days before departure: $500*
60-45 days before tour start: 25% of total amount due
44-15 days before tour start: 75% of total amount due
14 days or less before departure: 100% of total amount due
*This amount may be credited to another Academy Travel tour within 12 months of the original tour you booked.
Unused Portions of the tour
We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.
Academy Travel requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. We offer a comprehensive policy with a reputable insurer if required.
Passport and Visa
A valid passport is required for all international travel. If you do not hold an Australian passport you may require a re-entry permit. Some countries require a visa to be issued before you depart Australia. We will advise you of all passport and visa requirements, but it is your responsibility to ensure that you meet passport and visa requirements before you depart.
Will the tour price change?
If the number of participants in a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates Academy Travel reserves the right to amend the advertised price. If this occurs you will be given the option of cancelling your booking and obtaining a full refund. If an Academy Travel tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all monies paid.
Will the itinerary change?
Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of Academy Travel make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make slight amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes as soon as they occur.
Full and final payment for the tour, airfare travel, insurance and any additional travel you book is due 60 days before departure. Payment may be made by bank deposit, cheque, cash or credit card. Please note there is a surcharge for payments made by credit card.
Academy Travel reserves the right to decline the booking or terminate the holiday of any traveller.