Mexico, Guatemala & Beyond

Mexico, Guatemala & Beyond

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Embark on a comprehensive adventure through Mexico and Central America, travelling through cities and wandering off the beaten path. Having explored Mexico City and the ancient city of Teotihuacan, delve into the ruins of the Zapotec Capital before engaging with the traditional native communities of San Cristobal. Marvel in awe at the ruins of Palenque, Uxmal and Chichen Itza before exploring Guatemala’s crystal clear seas and swimming holes, tiny villages bursting with Latin American verve, and dense jungles where Maya temples have stood for centuries. Capture the lingering spirit of Mesoamerica with the land, ruins and culture that coloured this empire of old.

THIS COMBINATION TRIP WILL BE DISCONTINUED IN 2019. The ‘Mexico in Depth’ (PSMI) sub trip that is a part of this combination trip will continue to run in 2019, however will be changed. There will be a new standalone Guatemala trip ‘Guatemala Highlights’ (PSGH) replacing the other sub trip; Please check back in a few months for more details on this itinerary.

Trip Name
Mexico, Guatemala & Beyond
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  • Your 3-night Feature stay at Hotel Geneve in Mexico City is a property with more than 100 years of history. This elegant 'museum hotel' is located in the Pink zone, close to restaurants and shops
  • Get up close and personal with the country's diverse heritage, from the extraordinary Aztec temples of Teotihuacan to the colourfully-dressed Maya folk of the hills of San Cristobal
  • Compare Mexico City's heady street-food scene to subtler forms found in Oaxaca
  • Blaze the trail in Belize and enjoy a superb array of nature-based activities. Cruise across a lagoon on a guided birdwatching excursion, and hike through the forest to a hidden Maya burial ground
  • The brightly painted houses of Flores are a reflection of the radiant colours that stretch across the town at sunset. Enjoy lakeside drinks while the sun sinks below the horizon
  • Overlooked by the majestic Volcan de Agua, Antigua is a cobblestoned maze of colourful buildings, leafy town squares and ornate churches. An ‘crop-to-cup’ tour of a local coffee farming co-op completes the experience
  • Step back in time in Suchitoto, learning the history of El Salvador from those who have lived through it. Learn cigar rolling from 98-year-old Nina Victoria, and hike through Cinquera Rain Forest Park to meet a former FMLN guerrilla fighter
  • Sit down to lunch in the delightful garden setting of El Jardin de Celeste. This restaurant on the famous ‘Flowers Route’ of El Salvador is arguably the country’s best
  • Immerse yourself in the unique cultures surrounding Lake Atitlan, attending artist workshops and visiting a local church and market
  • Your 2-night Feature stay at Hotel Atitlan in Panajachel has lake-facing balconies with a rustic Spanish colonial style as well as a manicured botanical garden and volcano views


Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Essential Trip Information a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. If you have any queries, please contact your travel agent or our staff. We are here to help you! Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary from time to time. OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES: A selection of optional activities that have been popular with past travellers are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are approximate, are for entrance only and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability and it may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination, so some pre-planning for what you are most interested in is advised. When it's recommended that travellers pre-book these activities, look for a note in the Special Information section of the day-to-day itinerary. For most, they can either be organised independently on the day, or just let your leader know you are interested and they can assist. Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. This means that it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, however we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with organising these activities. The decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.

Day 1 - Mexico City
Arrive at Mexico City’s Benito Juarez International Airport, where you'll be transferred to your hotel. A complimentary transfer is included with your trip. Please ensure you provide your flight details to your booking agent at least 14 days prior to travel so the transfer can be organised. In the evening (about 6 pm) you will meet your tour leader and the other members of your group for a pre-tour briefing. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place, and have your insurance details and next of kin information ready for collection. This meeting will be followed by an optional group dinner at a nearby restaurant. There are enough activities to do in Mexico City to keep you busy for a week, so you may want to consider to arrive to Mexico City a day or two before the start of your trip. Some of the most popular activities in Mexico City (apart from the ones included in this trip) are: Leon Trotsky Museum - Having come second best to Stalin on the race to the helm of the Soviet Union, Trotski was expelled and found refuge in Mexico City - where he was eventually murdered. The entrance fee includes free guided tours in English. Ask about it at the ticket box. An Uber taxi from your hotel to the museum should cost you approximately MXN 100. Perhaps visit the Frida Kahlo Museum for a deeper understanding of this renowned Mexican artist. Bear in mind that queues can be long to enter this museum (we recommend you book tickets online), particularly on weekends. An Uber taxi from your hotel to the museum should cost approximately MXN 160 each way. This museum is closed on Mondays. If you prefer to get out of the city and escape the crowds, take a trip to the canals and gardens of Xochimilco. An Uber taxi should cost about MXN 300 to get there.
Day 2 - Mexico City
Today is a long but worthwhile day. You'll start a city tour of Mexico City at approximately 8.30am. First off is the impressive National Museum of Anthropology, before heading to the Zocalo (main square) for a visit to the Cathedral and National Palace. You will discover that Mexico City is an exciting mix of modern cosmopolitan glamour with remnants from both its ancient and colonial history. Your city tour will finish at approximately 3pm so make sure you carry some snacks and water. Mexico is synonymous with tacos, so this evening (at approximately 7pm) your leader will take you on a 'taco crawl' around town. Explore a variety of tastes from locals' favourite "taquerias". Warning - you may not want to know the ingredients in your taco before you try them! Just trust your taste buds. This activity should take between 1 to 1.5hrs After Tacos, your leader may suggest taking a taxi to Plaza Garibaldi, where for about MXN 200 you can get a Mariachi band to perform for you!
Day 3 - Teotihuacan/Mexico City
Travel by private minivan to Teotihuacan - about 50 kilometres northeast of Mexico City. Here you'll discover the extraordinary Aztec ruins known as the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon which dominate the skyline. This was once one of the country's biggest ancient cities and the Aztec capital. With the help of a local guide, you'll have time to stroll down ‘The Avenue of the Dead’ to see fascinating clues to what life here was like nearly 2,000 years ago. Return to Mexico City after lunch (not included) and spend another afternoon exploring this vibrant metropolis.
Day 4 - Oaxaca
At approximately 8am you'll farewell Mexico City and head south to Puebla. The drive takes about 3 hours depending on local traffic. Once in Puebla, your leader will take you on a walk around this town which has retained its colonial heritage despite rapid growth and development. The walk will include a visit to the Calle de los Dulces (Candy street), El Parian (handycraft market) as well as a couple of colonial buildings that remain a testament to Puebla's proud history, such as the Town Hall Palace and the Rosary Chapel. You will have lunch in Puebla (not included) before continuing south to Oaxaca, another 5hrs drive. Oaxaca is renowned for its cuisine and vibrant art scene. It's also an excellent place to browse for traditional Mexican handicrafts, as descendants of the Zapotec and Mixtec Indians sell an array of bright woven blankets and shawls here.
Day 5 - Oaxaca
This morning your leader will take you on a tour of Oaxaca including Santo Domingo Church, Zocalo and local art and craft galleries. You'll arrive at the 20 de Noviembre market in time for lunch, where you can search through the many local restaurants for whatever you feel like – perhaps focus on the famous grilled meats hall. In the afternoon, travel out of the city (approximately 1hr drive) and visit the nearby village of Teotitlán del Valle. The settlement is famous for its weaving, particularly of colourful rugs. Here you'll visit a workshop and see a weaving demonstration. Later, learn about a peculiar tradition not many have the opportunity to witness when visiting Oaxaca: beeswax candle making! You will visit a local shop that keeps this centenary tradition alive to learn about the technique involved in the making of these delicate candles and maybe have a go at it yourself! Finish up at an artisanal mescaleria. Unlike other mainstream mescalerias, here you will have the opportunity to meet an experienced "palenquero" and learn about the production of this famous Mexican drink made from cactus. Needless to say, you'll taste some of the best mescal in the area. Salud!
Day 6 - Oaxaca
This morning you'll take a cooking class to get to grips with some regional specialties. The tour starts at approximately 10am with a visit to the local market – wandering past stalls of everything from cactus fruit to grasshoppers, Oaxacan chocolate, and then heavenly Oaxacan cheese - queso oaxaca – and pick up some supply ingredients for you class. Then you'll visit a local house and try your hand at cooking some regional delicacies. No doubt there will be some kind of corn involved – it's been a staple of Mesoamerican cuisine for over 7,000 years. After feasting on your creations, the rest of the afternoon in the city is free. Perhaps continue the day's food theme by visiting Calle de los Dulces, or 'Sweets Street', to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Day 7 - San Cristobal de las Casas
Take a noon flight to Tuxtla Gutierrez. before travelling by minivan to the Sumidero Canyon, an 800-metre deep canyon carved out by the Sumidero River and dating from the same time as the Grand Canyon - the boat tour takes approximately 2hrs. Then continue driving a further 1.5hrs to San Cristobal de las Casas where you can expect to arrive by 7pm. In the evening, take in the distinctive old-world feel here, which comes from the Spanish colonial architecture and pretty, cobbled streets.
Day 8 - San Cristobal de las Casas
This morning embark on a half day tour to the Mayan villages of San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan. These villages, nestled in the highlands, serve as marketplaces and religious ceremonial centres for the indigenous people who live in the surrounding hills. The local people have retained their traditional way of life and are often seen dressed in their own distinctive colourful costumes. You will explore these villages with a guide and learn more about the culture and history of these mainly Mayan communities.
Day 9 - Palenque
Today is a long travel day as you depart San Cristobal de Las Casas and travel north to Palenque. On the way you will visit the waterfalls at Agua Azul and Misol Ha. Today's driving time adds up to approximately 8hrs. You should expect to arrive to Palenque at about 6pm. Situated in hot jungle, Palenque is the jump-off point to the nearby Maya ruins of the same name – you'll visit them tomorrow.
Day 10 - Palenque Ruins / Campeche
Today you will meet a local archaeologist for a memorable morning visit to the ruins of Palenque. Archaeologists have been hard at work uncovering the secrets of this ancient city, but around 90% of the site remains unexcavated and concealed in the forest. Sitting on a hilltop surrounded by thick trees, the ruins date back to 600 AD and are some of the most impressive Maya relics in Mexico. As you walk among the temples, listen out for the eerie calls of howler monkeys and screeching parrots echoing through the jungle. The area gives you a real idea of what the Spanish invaders must have seen when they first came across the hidden ruins. After lunch, continue driving north to Campeche. This will be your last long travel day on this itinerary - approximately 6 hours.
Day 11 - Merida
In the morning, continue along the coast to visit the Celestun Bird Sanctuary and Biosphere Reserve where you'll get to go on a guided boat tour. Here, near extensive beaches lined with coconut trees, you'll see a variety of coastal birds. Depending on the season (usually Nov-Mar), you may be able to witness the magnificent sight of thousands of flamingos painting a pink streak across the landscape. Arrive into the historic town of Merida in time for dinner (not included). Merida was funded in 1542 and it still retains much of its old-world charm. Take in the splendour of its many colonial buildings and learn more about the Maya heritage of the town.
Day 12 - Merida
Today is a free day to explore the many sights of Merida and your guide will be able to recommend some good options. Perhaps visit some of the museums, including the impressive Regional Museum of Yucatan and stroll the city streets which are alive with art and culture. Hang out in the green and shady Plaza Grande, with the 16th-century cathedral on one side and City Hall, State Government Palace and Casa Mantejo on the other. For a taste of Merida's 19th-century glory, go for a walk along the mansion-lined Paseo de Montejo. The outdoor market is another essential visit, with an array of hammocks and Mayan replicas for sale, plus a selection of enticing local cuisine, including the dish cochinita pibil ('little pig').
Day 13 - Playa del Carmen / Chichen Itza
Today you leave Merida at 6am and arrive to Chichen Itza by 8am in time for breakfast. After breakfast you will take a 2hr tour of Chichen Itza. This is possibly the most famous Maya site in Mexico. Recently named one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, Chichen Itza has both Toltec and Mayan ruins lying alongside each other. The famous El Castillo (Temple of Kukulkan) pyramid dominates the site. Not far from the temple is the ‘ball court’ where many disputes are were settled by way of a ball game that employed only the elbows, hips and wrists. Stone carvings depicting violence suggest it was not some casual sport. Nearby, excavations of the Well of Sacrifice offered up treasures of jade, copper and gold, as well as many human and animal bones. Following a guided tour of the site, continue to the Caribbean coast and the resort town of Playa del Carmen (approximately 3 hours). Blessed with azure waters, powdery beaches and a European feel, Playa del Carmen is a resort city close to Cancun but with less of a party atmosphere.
Day 14 - Playa del Carmen / Tulum / Playa del Carmen
Spend the day exploring the Yucatan Peninsula. Travel out to ruins of Tulum (approximately 1 hour). This ancient Maya city was once an important trading port, protected against invaders by a high wall. Situated on a cliff overlooking a white sandy beach, it offers wonderful views and photo opportunities. Wander around the ruins with your guide, learning about the castle, temple and other structures within. On the way back to Playa del Carmen, perhaps stop at a hidden cenote for a refreshing swim. These stunning natural sinkholes are filled with crystal clear fresh water and make for a memorable dip. Back in Playa del Carmen, enjoy the last of your time reading a book at a beachside bar or taking a stroll among the trendy holidaymakers lining the shore. In the evening, why not head out with the group to reflect on your experiences and indulge in one final meal.
Day 15 - Playa del Carmen
Today is a free day. With azure waters, powdery beaches and a European feel, Playa del Carmen is a resort city. Spend your time snorkelling crystal clear waters, diving in underground caverns or strolling along white sands. In the evening, kick back and watch the waves with a margarita. For adventures further afield take a ferry across the turquoise seas to Cozumel, an island famous for its reef diving.
Day 16 - Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary
Make the journey from Playa del Carmen across the border to Belize (approximately 4 hours). Settle into your accommodation – the small, family-run Crooked Tree Lodge. It is located approximately 2 hours' drive past the border. Nestled among coconut palms and bullet trees in the heart of Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary (and on the edge of Crooked Tree Lagoon), this lodge is ideally located for wildlife viewing. Spot squirrels, iguanas or perhaps even crocodiles.
Day 17 - San Ignacio
Wake early and embark on a birdwatching excursion, travelling by boat on the lagoon. Some 250 resident or migratory neotropical birds inhabit this reserve, among them the Jabiru stork (the largest flying bird in the Western Hemisphere). Afterwards, drive to the San Ignacio area (approximately 2.5 hours). Here the afternoon is yours to spend as you please. Relax and unwind at the excellent Pooks Hill Lodge, situated on 300 acres of lush Belizean forest in the foothills of the Maya Mountains.
Day 18 - San Ignacio
Enjoy a day of free time. Perhaps go birdwatching, swimming, hiking or walking. A highly recommended option is a day trip to the ATM (Actun Tunichil Muknal) Cave. This begins with a hike (approximately 45 minutes) up the Roaring River Valley and through the rainforest of the Tapir Mountain Preserve. After reaching the cave entrance, you are taken on a tour of the ‘Xibalba,’ the fascinating Maya underworld. This includes a ‘Cathedral’ chamber which used to be a Maya ceremonial and burial ground.
Day 19 - Flores
Bid farewell to Belize and head to the Guatemalan border (approximately 1 hour). Once you have crossed into Guatemala, continue to Flores (approximately 2 hours). After settling in, visit Yaxha, an archaeological site situated on the shores of Yaxha Lagoon in the Maya Biosphere Reserve. Surrounded by dense jungle, Yaxha is home to more than 500 buildings, including the impressive Twin Pyramids. Perhaps climb temple 216 for beautiful views across the lagoons, forest and other temples. Afterwards, sit back at a picture-perfect spot by the lake and, over a glass of wine, farewell that same sun the Mayas worshiped hundreds of years ago.
Day 20 - Tikal / Flores
Embrace an early start (about 7 am) for a leader-led tour of Tikal. Home to some of the world's most magnificent Maya ruins, Tikal's five major temples rise above the jungle canopy while an array of smaller structures remain hidden in the undergrowth. Explore the highlights of the area, including Temple I, which is perhaps the iconic image of Guatemala. This area is a repository of Maya wisdom, containing insights into traditional medicine, astrology, agronomy and architecture. The jungles thrum with life, with toucans and macaws swooping between trees and monkeys crashing through the canopy. Those interested can climb to the top of the ruins for unsurpassed vistas over the forest. Return to Flores early in the afternoon (approximately 2 pm) and enjoy free time to stroll the cobblestone streets, shop for locally-made souvenirs or swim in Lake Peten Itza.
Day 21 - Flores / Guatemala city / Suchitoto
Take an early morning transfer to Flores Airport for an 8 am flight to Guatemala City (approximately 1 hour). From here, make the journey Suchitoto via the El Salvadorean border (approximately 6 hours). It's a long travel day, but the destination is well worth it. With its festive atmosphere, stately colonial-era architecture, shaded plazas and lack of traffic, Suchitoto is a dream to explore on foot. The town overlooks the Embalse Cerron Grande (also known as Lago Suchitlan) which is a haven for migrating birds – particularly falcons and hawks.
Day 22 - Suchitoto
Enjoy a guided city tour which involves a mix of walking a transport (approximately 3 hours). Learn some of the city's history along the way. During the civil war, Suchitoto became virtually a ghost town, the battles at nearby Guazapa compelling most of its inhabitants to flee for safety. Grim times that they were, this abandonment actually helped to preserve the city's colonial architecture that you'll be admiring today. You also make a visit to Los Tercios waterfalls and rock formation, attend a cigar rolling demonstration with the 98-year-old Nina Victoria, and enjoy lunch at a local pupusa's restaurant. Enjoy some free time in afternoon.
Day 23 - Suchitoto
In the morning, hike through the nearby Cinquera Rain Forest Park with a local guide (approximately 2 hours). The trail you hike is somewhat steep but takes you to a former guerilla camp. The park was created by the former FMLN guerillas and their families to protect the forest from loggers. When the hike is over, you can cool off by taking a dip in a nearby swimming hole. Meet with one of the original guerilla fighters to learn his story and ask questions about the civil war in El Salvador. Afterwards, enjoy some free time. You might like to spend the afternoon boating, kayaking or attending a local indigo dying workshop.
Day 24 - Antigua via Ruta de las Flores
Drive to the renowned 'Ruta de las Flores' (Flowers Route) (approximately 2.5 hours). This is one of the country's premier attractions, full of verdant coffee plantations, tiny towns bursting with colour, and of course the wildflowers from which the area takes its name. For lunch, stop in at what may well be El Salvador's best restaurant, El Jardin de Celeste. After a leisurely repast in this idyllic garden setting, head off to the border and cross back into Guatemala (approximately 4 hours). Arrive in Antigua in the early evening.
Day 25 - Antigua
As you'll come to appreciate, Guatemala’s volcanic soils and altitudinous valleys offer just the right conditions for coffee cultivation, and today you'll visit a coffee farm to see just how its's done. From a bean plant nursery to the plantation itself to a cupping lab where you will be offered a freshly brewed sample, this is a rare chance to sip coffee straight from the source.  How you spend the rest of your time in Antigua is up to you. Due to its historical relics, pleasant ambience and friendly locals, the town is a popular one among travellers. There are a number of interesting markets to peruse, plus no shortage of restaurants and cafes to check out – be sure to sample the country's other important bean: chocolate! If you’re feeling adventurous, perhaps finish off this journey to the tune of some salsa at one of the local dance spots.
Day 26 - Lake Atitlan
Encircled by emerald mountains and misty volcanoes, Lake Atitlan has often been ranked one of the world's most beautiful lakes. Here your accommodation boasts incredible views across Atitlan's reflective waters and surrounding peaks. Spend the day cruising around by boat and stopping in at local villages – San Juan La Laguna included – and visit local artist workshops. Meet local artists Antonio and Angelina Coche and learn from them about your Maya 'Nahual', a local equivalent of the zodiac that assigns animal spirits based on birth date. You might even want to try painting your own symbol. Along the way you will see that life in many of the villages around the lake has changed very little over the past few centuries. In some you'll see locals still getting around in traditional garb that incorporate designs passed down through generations, and the atmosphere is peaceful and unpretentious.
Day 27 - Lake Atitlan
Visit Santiago Atitlan, a peaceful town located on the southern shores of the lake between the volcanoes Toliman and San Pedro. This is the largest town on the lake; more importantly it's the home of the Maya god, Maximon. As a town with a strong indigenous identity, Santiago Atitlan hosts a Holy Week each year which sees Maximon's effigy moved from one house to another. While in Santiago Atitlan you’ll visit a local church to learn about the local customs and history of this traditional town, also stopping in at a local market to watch the day's business being carried out. Arrive back at your hotel at approximately 3 pm.
Day 28 - Antigua
Enjoy free time in the morning, then travel back to Antigua (approximately 3 hours). The afternoon is free to spend as you wish. Perhaps enjoy a final (optional) dinner with your fellow travellers.
Day 29 - Antigua
Your comes to an end today after breakfast.

Trip Dates

StartEndPrice FromRoom Type


Feature stay (5 nights),Comfortable Hotel (23 nights)


Private vehicle,Boat,Plane