Discovery tours are all about exploring & experiencing the world with like-minded people, dipping your toe beneath the usual tourist surface & discovering the real essence of a region. They are genuinely innovative, exciting & imaginative tours that offer that little bit more to travellers.
Our Basic tours offer superb value and are ideal for those who are happy to forgo some creature comforts in favour of an authentic and fun experience. Under the leadership of a fully trained tour leader, you will enjoy all the highlights and freedom of independent travel with the convenience, security and companionship of a small group. All accommodation is based on twin share. If you are a solo traveller you will share with another solo traveller of the same sex. Single supplements are available on some trips. If you are interested in booking a single supplement please contact us to check availability.
Bienvenidos! Welcome to Mexico.
Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm on Day 1.
Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
Modern meets ancient in Mexico City - the world's fastest growing urban centre. Although crowded and smoggy, the former Aztec capital offers a great variety of impressive museums, galleries and architecture. Head to the city centre and see Aztec ruins or take the subway right through one of the temples. If you prefer to get out of the city and escape the crowds, take a day-trip to the canals and gardens of Xochimilco. In the evenings, explore Mexico's exciting night life. Learn some dance moves from the locals, or try out your own to the music of a mariachi band.
The following morning your leader will take you on an orientation tour of the city, followed by a free afternoon. On our last day there is an optional day trip to Teotihuacan.
Located 50 kilometres northeast of Mexico City are the 'must-see' archaeological ruins of Teotihuacan - the site of the massive Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon which dominate the skyline. This was once the country's biggest ancient city and capital of the Aztec people, who ruled over the largest empire in the pre-Hispanic era. Guarded by mountains this magnificent city is thought to have been founded early in the 1st century AD and reached its peak around AD 500, when its influence extended down to Guatemala and as far north as present-day Texas. With the help of a local guide we have time to stroll down ‘The Avenue of the Dead’, uncover its many wonders and imagine what life must have been like nearly 2000 years ago. We will also visit Virgen de Guadalupe, the city’s major religious landmark.
Hotel (2 nts)
This morning and most of the afternoon are free to continue exploring Mexico City. Later in the afternoon we take taxis to Mexico City's bus station and catch a local bus (approx 2.5 hours) to Puebla. Please make sure you bring bottled water and snacks for the journey. Tonight and tomorrow are at your leisure to discover Puebla.
Although a rapidly growing city, Puebla has managed to combine modern development with its colonial past and there are plenty of well-maintained churches and colonial buildings to admire. Head to the markets to brush up on your bargaining skills and take some fantastic photos. This is a great place to pick up hand-painted tiles and other handicrafts. If you're looking for something more active, go for a hike near one of the area's looming volcanoes. After a day sightseeing and shopping, why not try some mouth-watering mole Poblano, a dish that is famous all over Mexico and that originated in Puebla, or try your hand at making it yourself at an optional cooking class.
Hotel (2 nts)
Today we travel by local bus (approx. 5 hours) to Oaxaca. We have two free days here and your group leader will assist you to make the most of your free time in this fascinating city.
A beautiful old colonial town, Oaxaca is full of graceful arcades and colourful markets largely populated by descendents of the Zapotec and Mixtec Indians, who come here to sell their colourful woven blankets and shawls. Oaxaca is also known for its well-respected arts scene, including folk art, fine art and dance. Explore the markets and narrow, cobbled streets or simply sit in the square drinking the local mescal and tequila, and watch life go by.
Outside the city the spectacular mountain top temples of Monte Alban are just a short distance away.
Monte Alban was inhabited over a period of 1,500 years by a succession of cultures (Olmecs, Zapotecs and Mixtecs) and it is an outstanding example of a pre-Columbian ceremonial centre. The terraces, dams, canals, pyramids and artificial mounds of Monte Alban were literally carved out of the mountain.
Our hotel is within walking distance to some of Oaxaca's nightlife hot spots, so that you can make the most of it.
The following evening we take a first class bus (approx. 13 hours) to San Cristobal del las Casas. First class buses in Mexico can be quite comfortable. They are equipped with seats that recline and have more leg room than regular buses. They usually make a quick toilet stop every 4 to 5 hours, however they normally also have a toilet at the rear of the bus, which you may use in case of an emergency. They are all air conditioned, so make sure you take a light jumper with you as it may get a bit cold on board.
Hotel (2 nts), Overnight bus (1 nt)
We arrive in San Cristobal early in the morning. Check in at the hotel is usually not until midday, so if we can't check in upon arrival, we will be able to leave our luggage and start exploring San Cristobal straight away. The remainder of today and tomorrow are at your leisure and, as always, your group leader will assist you arrange the many optional activities.
With winding cobblestone streets and colonial Spanish architecture, San Cristobal de las Casas maintains a lovely old-world feel mixed with strong indigenous roots. The surrounding villages are populated with Tzotzil and Tzeltal Indians who maintain their tribal origins through their varied traditional costumes and customs. There is time here to explore the villages, perhaps by mountain bike. If you take a day trip to San Juan Chamula, make sure to visit the church. The floor is covered with pine needles and the air is heavy with incense. Shamans come here to carry out cleansings with firewater, ancient prayer and sometimes chickens. There are also markets with colourful handicrafts for sale. Take the opportunity to go for an optional day trip to Sumidero Canyon. Back in town, go for a stroll and try to spot the cafe with the most locals in it for a taste of the traditional 'elote', a corn cob which makes a common snack in the highlands of Chiapas.
Hotel (2 nts)
Today we travel on a windy road by local bus to Palenque (approx. 6 hours) The afternoon is at your leisure to take part in any of the optional activities in town.
The following day we visit the ruins of Palenque.
Palenque is situated on a hilltop in an area of hot jungle and is home to possibly the most impressive series of Mayan ruins, which date back at AD600. Whilst walking amongst the ruins it is often possible to hear the eerie calls of howler monkeys echoing from the jungle, giving an added dimension to this magnificent site. The temples are superb relics of Mayan culture and there are many ruins here still un-excavated and hidden in the surrounding forest.
Nearby are the Agua Azul and Misol-Ha waterfalls, perfect for cooling off after the heat of the temples.
Although not far apart, Misol-ha and Agua Azul waterfalls could hardly be more different. Misol-ha is 35 metres high and falls in a long drop to a pool below. Here it is possible to walk underneath the falling water to the cataracts on the other side. Agua Azul on the other hand is low and wide, with multiple, smaller cascades falling over limestone. The river here runs for miles and is a spectacular blue colour from the minerals in the limestone. Take a dip in the turquoise pools, but be sure to follow local advice on where to swim, as the current in some areas is very strong.
On our last evening here we transfer to the bus station and board an overnight bus to Merida.
Hotel (1 nt), Overnight bus (1 nt)
Founded in 1542, Merida still retains much of its old-world charm with a well-preserved Old Town, wonderful museums and city streets alive with art and culture.
We take a local bus (approx. 8 hours) to Merida. The following day is free for you to explore this colonial city.
Hang out in the green and shady Plaza Grande, with the twin-towered 16th century Cathedral on one side and City Hall, State Government Palace and Casa Mantejo on the others. For a taste of Merida's 19th century glory go for a walk along the mansion lined Paseo de Montejo. It's a great place to try out the local food specialities, like cochinita pibil or the head-blowingly spicy el yucateco.
Merida is also the gateway to the Maya ruins of Uxmal and there is an opportunity to visit these impressive ruins. Little is known about the site's origins but it is thought the city was founded around 500AD. Much of the site is decorated with masks of the rain god Chac. This is no great surprise as the area has a lack of natural water supplies and the city relied on rain water.
The local people from Merida are very relaxed and they like dancing! Every Sunday some of the roads are turned into an open air dance floor with a variety of Salsa and Merengue bands.
Accommodation for these nights is a hotel in the historical centre of town.
Hotel (2 nts)
We travel to Playa del Carmen, stopping enroute for an optional visit to the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza (approx. 2.5 hours), recently named one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.
One of the most impressive Mayan sites, Chichen Itza contains both Toltec and Mayan ruins lying alongside each other. The famous El Castillo pyramid dominates the ruins and the site also has the largest ball court where games used to be held, the losing players in which would not have escaped with their heads. The games are depicted in carvings on the walls. Nearby, excavations of the well of sacrifice offered up treasures of jade, copper and gold as well as many human and animal bones.
We have about 2-3 hours to spend at Chichen Itza before we travel onwards to Playa (approx. 3.5 hours).
With azure waters, powdery beaches and a European feel, Playa del Carmen is a resort city close to Cancun but without the party atmosphere. Spend your time snorkelling among the mangroves, diving in underground caverns or strolling along the white sands. In the evenings 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.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
In order to make the most of what Playa has to offer, we strongly recommend that you extend your stay in Playa del Carmen for one or two extra days. Please contact us if you need us to assist you with additional accommodation. If you can afford a few extra days in Playa, you may want to spend time snorkelling among the mangroves or strolling along the white sands. For adventures further afield take a ferry across the turquoise seas to Cozumel, an island famous for its reef diving.
Hotel (1 nt)
International flights, departure transfers, departure and airport taxes, visas, all other meals, all optional tours or activities during free time, transfers outside of the tour program, travel insurance, tips and items of a personal nature.
Discovery tours are all about exploring & experiencing the world with like-minded people, dipping your toe beneath the usual tourist surface & discovering the real essence of a region. They are genuinely innovative, exciting & imaginative tours that offer that little bit more to travellers..
This tour is operated by our partners Intrepid.A necessary bugbear of adventure travel, visas can appear complicated, costly and confusing to apply for. Imaginative Traveller recommend applying for visas with a professional visa service who can guide you though the process and take care of lodging and collecting your passport with multiple embassies, so we have teamed up with The Visa Machine.The Visa Machine ‘live and breathe’ visas and have the expertise to provide current and accurate information and arrange the correct visas for your trip, quickly and at a good price.Please click here for more information.
We strongly recommend you visit your doctor to discuss health requirements for your trip. They will advise you regarding the appropriate inoculations. In some places anti-malaria medication may also be required. Some vaccines need to be administered a few weeks before departure so allow yourself plenty of time. Obtain a certificate of vaccination and carry this with you on this trip. A dental check up is also highly recommended.
Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
You will need to take cash to cover all additional expenses not included in your tour cost. These include food, drinks, optional sightseeing, tips, laundry, souvenirs and possible delays. If in doubt, bring more than you think you will need. It is always useful to carry an additional amount for emergencies. If there is a medical emergency you are sometimes required to pay at the time; providing your claim falls within the scope of your policy, your insurance company will make reimbursement laterYou must have extensive travel insurance as a condition of booking with us, and without evidence of a valid policy you won’t be allowed to start your trip. Please click here for more information.
Responsible tourism is at the heart of Imaginative Traveller. For 20 years we have taken customers to places around the world in social and environmentally responsible manner, ensuring everyone involved respects and maintains the natural and often delicate balance of the destination.As travellers ourselves we are well aware of the impact that tourism can have and whilst economic gain from tourism is often fundamental to a country, it should never be at the expense of its culture or the environment. It is our aim to provide journeys that have minimal negative and maximum positive impact on the places we visit. We do not believe that, as visitors, we should impose our own cultures on others; rather that we should experience foreign cultures and appreciate them for what they are.We believe giving something back is essential. We therefore work with our customers and the people we visit to ensure the benefits go directly to contribute to local cultures and environmental conservation. This is not only good the communities we visit but it also gives our travellers more enriched adventures.For further information about responsible travel please click here.
Please note hurricane season is June to November when landslides, mudslides, flooding and disruptions to essential services can occur. Intrepid monitors situations as they arise, and may need to change itineraries or activities in response to these natural weather occurrences.
At Imaginative Traveller we always aim to provide accurate information for our travellers. Unfortunately information such as the price of optional activities is occasionally subject to change, and this means that we are constantly revising our trip notes. In order to ensure that you have the most up to date information for your trip we suggest that you check the trip notes for your tour around one month before departure.
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