Day 1: Bienvenido (Mexico City)
Welcome to the capital of Mexico – a place that has reinvented itself in recent years, embracing its tumultuous history and building an avant-garde culture that is resplendent in its artistic neighbourhoods, chic cafes, colonial facades and a pulsing hipster scene. Check in to your hotel and take the night off, before we begin our Mexican fiesta tomorrow.
Day 2: Historical Trails (Mexico City)
Begin with a trip down Mexican history as we visit some of the most fascinating monuments in and around the city. Begin at the Three Cultures Plaza, a convergence of Aztec, Spanish and contemporary Mexican influences. Continue to the Shrine of Guadalupe, one of Latin America's most revered religious shrines. And then head out of the city to the ancient city of Teotihuacan, about an hours’ drive. Held sacred by the Aztecs, the city is full of impressive temples, palaces and pyramids, including the Quetzalpapalotl Palace Complex, the Temple of the Feathered Conches, the Pyramid of the Moon, and the immense Pyramid of the Sun, ranked among the biggest in the world.
Day 3: Ground Zero (Mexico City – Oaxaca)
Head out of Mexico City and fly to Oaxaca, a fascinating mix of colonial, indigenous and ancient cultures, which will be our mainstay for this trip. As we drive into the city, you will notice ornate buildings and churches, elegant archways, decorative wrought iron balconies and charming plazas, standing next to colourful buildings, bohemian bars and eclectic street art. With its charming regional flavour, Oaxaca is undoubtedly the best place in Mexico to experience the surreal celebrations of Day of the Dead.
Today, we learn a bit about the history and culture of the city on a daylong tour. We will visit the Santa Domingo church; a wonderful example of the city’s lavish baroque architecture and then stop at Casa Juarez, where Mexico's great liberal reformer and president Benito Juarez once lived. Next, head to Zócalo, the main square and centre of the historic town; and end the tour at an open-air bazaar, where locals by Day of the Dead ornaments and decorations including colourful strings of beads, bunches of vibrant marigolds and the iconic illustrated sugar skulls.
Day 5: Festive Preparations (Oaxaca)
As the preparations for the festival get underway, we visit a Day of the Dead altar and learn about the symbolism it represents. Visit the nearby traditional town of Zaachila, known for its wall art and beautiful murals featuring Day of the Dead art. The local Thursday market in Zaachila remains largely unchanged for centuries – an excellent spot to experience the sights, sounds and smells of the city during the festive season. In the evening, visit one of the oldest towns of the Oaxaca Valley, Xoxocotlan, home to the tombs of the old and new cemetery of San Miguel, and celebrate with flowers and candles alongside the villagers.
Day 6: Spirited Away (Oaxaca)
Today, we visit the craft centre of Oaxaca, the town of Teotitlan del Valley, renowned for its weaving wares and handicrafts dating to pre-Hispanic times. Visit the workshop of a traditional candlemaker to witness this exemplary art form, and how the candles are especially crafted for the festival. In the afternoon, drive northeast of the valley to the village of Soledad Etla to be a part of the magnificent Comparsa Parade. Walk with the jubilant parade alongside 10 feet stilt walkers dressed as spirits, marching bands playing loud ‘banda’ music and locals in elaborate costumes. You can stop by local vendors for a bite to eat, on the way.
Day 7: Digging Deep (Oaxaca)
Explore the extraordinary archaeological site of Monte Alban today – a must-see in the area. This collection of temples, palaces, terraces, dams, canals and pyramids has been carved out of the mountain. The ancient city is centred around the Great Plaza, an open area on the mountain top which offers breath-taking views of the surroundings. Look down for a spectacular view of the valleys that we have spent the last few days in.
Today, visit the Mitla archaeological site, Hierve El Agua springs and the Tule Tree. On a guided tour, we will explore the beautiful buildings unique geometric stone patterns of Mitla. Next are the mineral springs of “Hierve El Agua”, a fascinating geological site that resembles huge frozen waterfalls, formed by the petrified minerals from the water. On the way back to Oaxaca, make a stop at the Tule tree, one of the world’s largest trees thought to be more than 2000 years old.
Day 9: Flavours of Oaxaca (Oaxaca - Mexico City)
What’s travel without some great food? Learn about the intricacies and refined techniques of local Oaxacan cuisine today. Led by a local host, we will first visit a local market to taste and buy the ingredients; which will then be used in the kitchen to cook up a delicious 4-course meal. In the afternoon, you will be transferred to the airport for a flight back to Mexico City.
Day 10: Exploring Mexico City
Soak up the culture and history of Mexico City as we spend our last day exploring the area. Built on top of the ruins of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, the city's main square and centre point is the Zocalo, one of the largest public squares in the world. Stop by the Metropolitan Cathedral (the largest church in Latin America) and the Palacio Nacional (home to a series of murals by Diego Riviera); drive along the famous boulevard, Paseo de la Reforma; and in the afternoon, visit one of the most highly regarded museums within the Americas, the National Museum of Anthropology and get lost in the treasures of the Aztec culture.
Day 11: Farewell Mexico City
Transfer to the airport for your flight back home.