From the relentless energy of Mexico City – at 2240 metres one of the world’s highest capitals – you’ll find the ultimate contrast in the stillness and timelessness of the Monte Alban and Mitla archaeological sites at Oaxaca.
The next surprise out of the Mexican hat is Merida with its huge flocks of pink flamingos, petrified forest and Mayan site of Uxmal – rivalled only by the mighty Chichen Itza. Then there’s Playa del Carmen offering you the ultimate relaxation of white beach, blue sea and a 200 mile long coral reef.
Arrive in Mexico in the early evening. After checking into your hotel you can set about discovering the exuberant, cultured, energetic life of Mexico City. The pavement cafés and cantinas all call you in; the markets and boutiques, pyramids and monuments, galleries and museums also beckon.
Optional tours will guide you around this 2240 metre high city, as well as showing you Teotihuacan and the absorbing Museum of Anthropology.
Stay: Two nights in a deluxe room at Hotel Las Alcobas.
A short domestic flight takes you to a completely different Mexico. At Oaxaca – the Jade City – you’ll be inspired by Monte Alban and Mitla archaeological sites. You’ll meet the direct descendants of the ancient Zapotec and Mixtec peoples and immerse yourselves in their colourful Saturday markets selling hand-embroidered clothing, black clay pottery and fabulous jewellery.
Stay: Three nights in a double room at Casa Oaxaca.
After Oaxaca you fly – via Mexico City – to Merida for another complete change of scenery. Here you’ll find yourself amongst great colonies of pink flamingos at the Celestun Flamingo Reserve. You’ll visit the petrified forest of Peten before travelling on to the mighty Mayan site of Uxmal with its huge walls, elaborate stucco and detailed facades.
The entwined serpents of Nun’s Courtyard, the masks of Chac the rain god, the Governor’s Palace and the temples of the Magician and the Turtles all take you back in time. Even older are the Lol-Tun Caves, home to the Mayans in the 6000 BC to 150 AD period, with the Dzibichaltun Mayan Temple Complex giving you an even deeper insight into the culture – as well as a cenote you can bathe in. Merida – built in 1542 – stands on the site of an ancient Mayan town.
Stay: Three nights in a double room at Hacienda Merida VIP.
The theme of ancient history made tangible is continued at Chichen Itza – originally a Mayan city that became the capital of the Toltec Empire in the 12th century AD. Today it is still a marvel of temples, statues and magnificent pyramids, built in differing architectural styles. The Chichen Itza Pyramid is one of the last and greatest built by the Mayans.
Stay: One night in a standard room at Hacienda Chichen.
Playa del Carmen
After a final visit to the Pyramid of Kukulkan, the Hall of 1000 Pillars, the Playing Field of the Prisoners and the Temple of Chac Mool you’ll set off for another complete change of scenery. At Playa del Carmen you’ll have about two miles of usually deserted beach to amble along. White sand, whispering palms and blue skies complete the picture of castaway utopia; but you can also take a guided tour to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve and go kayaking, hiking or snorkelling.
A 200 mile reef offers you endless potential for snorkelling and diving, watching multi-coloured fish and marine creatures. You can even plunge into freshwater cenotes or inland caverns.
On day 14 you’ll be driven to Cancun airport for your flight back home.
Stay: Four nights in a garden view room at Esencia.