Real Mexico


Real Mexico

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Make new amigos in Mexico with this 14-day exploration from the sprawling Mexico City to the coastal Playa del Carmen. This overland adventure covers the best of the mex – from the colourful architecture and weaving cobblestoned laneways of Oaxaca to the highland charm of San Cristobal de las Casas. Discover the lush jungle and ruins of Palenque, the lively hub of Merida and the gems of the Caribbean. Stay in an eco-lodge in Lacanja’s wilderness, then soak up heaps of free time to get active (or laze in speakeasy bars). Not to mention a visit to the new Wonder of the World – Chichen Itza! All of this, plus streetside tacos, tostadas and tejates and you’ll see, hear, feel and taste the real Mexico.

Trip Name
Real Mexico
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  • Head deep into the jungle to the lush wilderness of Lacanja River during your stay at an eco-lodge, which supports the local indigenous community in the forest of the Lacandon area. Maybe opt to raft through the waterfalls and backwaters or take a guided hike.
  • Tour the historic site of Chichen Itza – one of the new Seven Wonders of the World – and learn why these ancient Maya ruins are the most important in all of Mexico.
  • Experience the bustling nature and bright colours of local Mexican markets. Wander the stalls, snap some photos and pick up traditional handicrafts in Oaxaca and Merida.
  • Indulge in some delicious Mexican cuisine, with an included taco crawl and marquesitas tasting and some optional cooking classes (not to mention the huge range of fresh seafood, hot street food and everything corn!)
  • Kick back, get active or explore this amazing region with loads of free time – maybe go snorkelling in the paradisical waters of Playa de Carmen, discover the ruins of Uxmal from Merida or take day trips to some archaeological sites and ancient Maya ruins.
  • By travelling on this trip, you’ll learn about our Intrepid Foundation partner, Gastromotiva. Donations help them provide nutritious, balanced meals for vulnerable people in Mexico. Intrepid will double the impact by dollar-matching all post-trip donations made to The Intrepid Foundation.


ITINERARY CHANGES Our itineraries are updated regularly throughout the year based on customer feedback and to reflect the current situation in each destination. The information included in this Essential Trip Information may therefore differ from when you first booked your trip. It's important that you review this information prior to travel so that you have the latest updates. Due to weather, local conditions, transport schedules, public holidays, political unrest or other factors, further changes may be necessary to your itinerary once in-country. Your group leader or local representative will keep you up to date with any such changes once your trip is underway. 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 for some of what might be available. Prices are approximate, are for entrance fees only, and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability, and maybe on a join-in basis. 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 let your group leader or local representative know you are interested at the Welcome Meeting 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. Although it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Medium and high-risk activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and group leader or local representative are unable to assist you with organising these activities. Activities that contravene our Responsible Travel policies are also not listed. Please remember that the decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.

Day 1 - Mexico City
Bienvenidos! Where better to start a Meh-i-co exploration than in Mexico City – one of the world's largest urban centres. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm tonight. If you arrive early, Mexico City has plenty of museums, galleries and diverse architecture to keep you busy. Maybe check out the Chapultepec area with its many museums, hop on one of the colourfully painted boats that cruise through the canal district of Xochimilco or head to the National Palace for a look at the intricate murals of Diego Rivera. After your meeting tonight, you might want to seek out some tacos for dinner and try to place your order in Spanish! Then head out to explore the vibrant nightlife – your trip leader will have the best recommendations.
Day 2 - Mexico City
Maybe grab some chilaquiles (a type of breakfast nachos) this morning, then join your leader for an orientation walk around the historic centre of the city. Mexico City can feel overwhelming due to its sheer size and volume of people, but your leader will know where to go. Walking makes you hungry, so it’s time to head on an included taco crawl and sample a couple of tacos from local street food vendors. The afternoon is free for you to enjoy – if you like art, the Frida Kahlo Museum is a must-see, and for all museum lovers, there's also the Museum of Anthropology or the Palace of Fine Art. Don’t forget to snack your way around the city too, munching on tostadas, tortas, and chicharrones. Alternatively, you can take an optional day trip to the archaeological ruins of Teotihuacan, 50 km out of the city. A local guide will lead you down The Avenue of the Dead, pointing out the historic Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon.
Day 3 - Oaxaca
Take a public bus to the smaller but no less beautiful city of Oaxaca (pronounced ‘wuh-haa-ka’). This colourful town in the south is full of colonial buildings, colourful arcades and busy markets. You’ll head out on a leader-led orientation walk to get your bearings when you arrive. With two full days to come, you’ll have heaps of time to explore the narrow, cobbled streets in the city, as well as the culture and natural beauty of the surrounding area. Indigenous Zapotec and Mixtec selling colourful woven blankets and shawls populate the markets – a great place to shop for textiles, as well as margarita flavours. Here, you’ll also find some tasty regional food specialties – everything from cactus fruit to spicy baked chilli and lime grasshoppers. Make sure you pick up a tejate (a maize and cinnamon-flavoured chocolate drink served cold).
Day 4 - Oaxaca
The city (and state) of Oaxaca is yours to explore on this free day. Perhaps head to the spectacular mountaintop temples of Monte Alban just outside the city. Monte Alban was inhabited for 1500 years by the Olmec, Zapotec and Mixtec peoples and is an outstanding example of a pre-Columbian ceremonial centre. The settlement's terraces, dams, canals and pyramids were carved out of the mountain. You’d better have your camera ready because up here you can get a fantastic view across the three legs of the valley of Oaxaca. Alternatively, you could take a day tour of the nearby Mitla Ruins. Mitla (the Nahuatl word for ‘underworld’) is an important Zapotec archaeological site and was the main religious centre for the Zapotec people. For something more relaxing, drop by the springs of Hierve el Agua – a series of mineral pools and calcified waterfalls dotted on top of a mountain, providing sweeping views of the Mexican countryside.
Day 5 - Oaxaca / Overnight bus
Today is another full day in Oaxaca, but you will board an overnight bus later tonight to the mountain-top village of San Cristobal de las Casas. You’ve got today to bask in the colour and sights of Oaxaca, so why not test out your culinary skills at a delicious cooking class? Otherwise, check out the artisan stores in the markets and around town, or head to the historic Templo de Santo Domingo – a grand stone church with a large forecourt.
Day 6 - San Cristobal de las Casas
This afternoon, say ‘hola’ to San Cristobal, your pastel-hued highland home for the next two days. Your leader will point out the main things to know on a leader-led orientation walk this morning. With its winding cobblestone streets snuggled in the Chiapas highlands, San Cristobal de las Casas has an old-world feel mixed with strong pre-Hispanic roots. After your walk, you’ll head to the colourful Santo Domingo textile market with your group – one of the best spots to shop for jewellery and clothing! After, maybe wander to a local cafe and check out their baked goods or try some pox (a traditional corn-based liquor, often flavoured with other ingredients).
Day 7 - San Cristobal de las Casas
There’s no alarm clock needed this morning as today is yours to explore San Cristobal de las Casas at your own leisure. Perhaps, take in the cobblestone streets and colonial architecture, and soak up the old-world feel mixed with strong, pre-Hispanic roots. If you're in the mood for adventure, you can take a trip to Sumidero Canyon, where you can take a boat down the mighty Rio Grijalva. Or you might like to get things pumping with further exploration of the villages by mountain bike. 
Day 8-9 - Lacanja River
Today, you’ll travel along a windy road by private vehicle to Lacanja River, stopping at Agua Azul (blue water) waterfall on the way (providing road conditions allow). Here, you'll have the option to swim in the cascading pools. Then, brush up on your Spanish during the drive with an informal leader-led Spanish lesson. When you arrive, the afternoon and tomorrow are free to relax or explore. A few optional activities are on offer, including a rafting experience over Lacanja River waterfalls and backwaters and to the nearby archaeological site, then travelling back through the jungle and past the waterfalls of Moctuniha. There are also some excellent guided hikes available – just ask your leader. During your time here, you’ll see another side to Mexico, staying right in the middle of the jungle in an eco-cabana, which supports the local community.
Day 10 - Palenque
This morning, drive to Palenque. When you arrive, you’ll head to the archaeological zone and visit the ruins of Palenque. Sitting on a hilltop surrounded by thick trees, the ruins date back to AD600 and are some of the most impressive Maya relics in Mexico. As you take a self-guided walk among the temples, listen out for the eerie calls of howler monkeys and screeching parrots echoing from the jungle. There are many ruins that are still un-excavated and remain concealed in the forest. You can opt to take a guided tour of the ruins or through the surrounding jungle to a hidden waterfall (at an extra fee). The area gives you a great idea of what the Spanish invaders must have seen when they arrived. This feels like real Tomb Raider stuff!
Day 11 - Merida
Today, head north on a local bus to the old-world Merida – founded in 1542, this city has a large indigenous population, with approximately 60% of Merida residents of Maya background. Head out on an orientation walk with your leader and wander through the Old Town, checking out some museums and the city streets, alive with art and culture. Hang out in the green, shady Plaza Grande, with the 16th-century cathedral on one side and City Hall, State Government Palace and Casa Montejo on the other. Along the way, you’ll get to taste a marquesita (a crepe rolled like a taco and filled with cajeta, condensed milk, jam, chocolate or edam cheese). After, enjoy a free afternoon. For a taste of Merida's 19th-century glory, maybe walk along the mansion-lined Paseo de Montejo. When you get hungry again, there's a bicycle cart on almost every corner selling elotes (corn on the cob) doused in salt, chilli, cheese, lemon juice or other toppings. If you haven’t noticed already, this place really likes corn!
Day 12 - Merida
Today, you’re free to explore Merida – the gateway to the Maya ruins of Uxmal. Maybe a tour of the ruins is on the cards, including a guide and shared transport. Little is known about the site’s origins, but it’s thought that the city was founded around AD500. Much of the site is decorated with masks of the rain god Chac. You can also visit a nearby bird sanctuary or hunt down one of the hidden cenotes (stunning natural sinkholes filled with water) and take a dip in the crystal-clear fresh water. If you decide to stay in the city, why not throw yourself into the dancing culture? Every Sunday, the town's streets are transformed into an open-air dance floor, with salsa and merengue bands providing the music. There are also some great local speakeasy bars to hang out in, blasting salsa music and serving good vibes.
Day 13 - Chichen Itza / Playa del Carmen
This morning, head to the Yokdzonot cenote for a refreshing swim in the blue waters and a laze in the sun. Surrounded by hanging vines and lush greenery, this is the perfect spot to cool off before your visit to an exciting bucket list destination. After your dip in the cenote, continue to the most well-known archaeological site in Mexico and one of the new Seven Wonders of the World – Chichen Itza. This site is considered the most important example of the fusion of Maya and Toltec traditions in Yucatan. See the Caracol (a circular stellar observatory), the Great Ball Court (the largest field in Mesoamerica), the main sight in El Castillo (a step pyramid dominating the centre of the site) and many more historic ruins (and absolutely don’t forget your camera!). Later, you’ll continue to the resort hub of Playa del Carmen. Blessed with clear waters, powdery beaches and a European feel, you can spend your time here snorkelling among the mangroves or in underground caverns, tanning, or strolling along the white sands of the playa (beach). Your leader will take you on an orientation walk around the city when you arrive. With your free afternoon, why not lay down a towel and bask in this tropical paradise? You can also take a ferry to Cozumel – an island famous for its reef. Tonight, feast on seafood, kick back with your group and watch the waves with a margarita in hand.
Day 14 - Playa del Carmen
With no activities planned for today, your trip comes to an end – but that doesn’t mean your adventure has to! Today is a perfect day to travel south on a half-day tour to the Tulum archaeological site, which is quite unique because of its placement on the side of a cliff overlooking the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. If you wish to spend more time in Playa del Carmen, just reach out to your booking agent to book additional accommodation (subject to availability).

Trip Dates

StartEndPrice FromRoom Type
01-05-202414-05-2024AUD $ 2,105-
15-05-202428-05-2024AUD $ 2,030-
12-06-202425-06-2024AUD $ 2,030-
03-07-202416-07-2024AUD $ 1,928-
07-08-202420-08-2024AUD $ 1,986-
28-08-202410-09-2024AUD $ 2,030-
04-09-202417-09-2024AUD $ 2,030-
09-10-202422-10-2024AUD $ 2,105-
16-10-202429-10-2024AUD $ 2,105-
06-11-202419-11-2024AUD $ 2,105-
13-11-202426-11-2024AUD $ 2,105-
20-11-202403-12-2024AUD $ 2,190-
18-12-202431-12-2024AUD $ 2,190-
25-12-202407-01-2025AUD $ 2,190-
01-01-202514-01-2025AUD $ 2,300-
22-01-202504-02-2025AUD $ 2,300-
05-02-202518-02-2025AUD $ 2,215-
19-02-202504-03-2025AUD $ 2,215-
05-03-202518-03-2025AUD $ 2,215-
09-04-202522-04-2025AUD $ 2,215-
23-04-202506-05-2025AUD $ 2,215-
14-05-202527-05-2025AUD $ 2,130-
11-06-202524-06-2025AUD $ 2,130-
02-07-202515-07-2025AUD $ 2,130-
16-07-202529-07-2025AUD $ 2,130-
13-08-202526-08-2025AUD $ 2,130-
27-08-202509-09-2025AUD $ 2,130-
10-09-202523-09-2025AUD $ 2,130-
08-10-202521-10-2025AUD $ 2,215-
22-10-202504-11-2025AUD $ 2,215-
05-11-202518-11-2025AUD $ 2,300-
12-11-202525-11-2025AUD $ 2,300-
19-11-202502-12-2025AUD $ 2,300-
17-12-202530-12-2025AUD $ 2,300-
31-12-202513-01-2026AUD $ 2,300-


Hotel (10 nights),Overnight public bus (1 night),Cabin (2 nights)


Private vehicle,Public bus,Local bus,Overnight public bus,Taxi