Mexico Unplugged

StudentUniverse  »  Mexico Unplugged

Mexico Unplugged

from £890
Duration: 15 days
Countries: Mexico
Travel through Mexico from Mexico City to Playa Del Carmen. Discover the heart of Mexico’s Aztec, Zapotec, Mayan and Spanish cultures on this two-week journey spanning ruins and beaches.
Summary

Mexico Unplugged

Day 1 Mexico City

Bienvenidos! Welcome to Mexico. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting today at 6 pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask 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 - one of the world's largest urban centres. Although crowded and smoggy, D.F. (Distrito Federal) offers a great variety of museums, galleries and architecture, along with exciting nightlife and delicious street food. If you arrive into the city early, head to the Zocalo, the city's huge central square, to see Aztec ruins and colonial architecture or relax in one of the many parks, plazas or gardens.

Day 2 Mexico City

This morning your leader will take you on an orientation walk around the city, followed by a free afternoon. If you like art, the Friday Kahlo Museum is a must-see. Another fascinating activities is a boat tour through the canal district of Xochimilco.

Alternatively, you can choose to take an optional day trip to the archaeological ruins of Teotihuacan, 50 kilometres out of the city. Founded in the 1st century AD, Teotihuacan was once the capital city of the Aztecs. The city reached its peak in AD 500, when its influence extended down to Guatemala and as far north as present-day Texas. A local guide will lead you down 'The Avenue of the Dead', pointing out the historic Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon. You'll also visit the religious landmark of the Virgen de Guadalupe.

Day 3 Puebla 

This morning and most of the afternoon are free to continue exploring Mexico City. Later in the afternoon, take a taxi to the bus station and catch a local two-and-a-half hour bus to Puebla. Please make sure you bring bottled water and snacks for the journey.

Local buses in Mexico aren’t the colourful school buses you’ll see in other areas of Central America. Most of the buses we use in Mexico are comfortable coach-style vehicles, with a bathroom and seats for all passengers. Local buses tend blast the air conditioning so remember to pack a jacket in case you get cold.

Day 4 Puebla

Today is free to discover Puebla at your leisure. Although a rapidly growing city, Puebla features many well-maintained colonial churches and buildings. Two good examples are the Santa Domingo Church and Rosary Chapel. Head to the markets to brush up on your bargaining skills and pick up some hand-painted tiles or 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 mole Poblano, a dish native to Puebla and famous all over Mexico? You could even try making it yourself during an optional cooking class.

Day 5 Oaxaca

Today travel by local bus to Oaxaca (approximately five hours). You'll have two full free days here. Your leader will provide ideas for activities and help you to make the most of your time. A beautiful old colonial town, Oaxaca is full of graceful arcades and colourful markets. The markets are populated by descendents of the Zapotec and Mixtec Indians selling colourful woven blankets and shawls. Oaxaca is also known for its arts scene, including folk art, fine art and dance. Explore the narrow, cobbled streets or simply sit in the square drinking mescal as the world goes by. Your hotel is within walking distance of Oaxaca's nightlife hot spots.

Day 6-7 Oaxaca/Overnight Bus 

Spend the next two days exploring Oaxaca. Perhaps visit the spectacular mountain top temples of Monte Alban just outside the city. Monte Alban was inhabited for 1,500 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 literally carved out of the mountain. Alternatively, you could take a day tour out to the nearby Mitla Ruins, the mineral springs of Hierve el Agua and a mezcal distillery. Back in town, why not whip up something delicious at a cooking class?

On the evening of Day 7, take a first-class overnight bus to San Cristobal del las Casas (approximately 13 hours in total). First-class buses in Mexico are quite comfortable. They are equipped with toilets and reclining seats with plenty of leg room. They are always air-conditioned, so make sure you take a light jumper with you as it may get cold on board.

Day 8-9 San Cristobal de las Casas

Arrive into San Cristobal early in the morning. Check-in at the hotel isn't usually until midday, so if you can't check in on arrival, leave your luggage and start exploring San Cristobal. Today and tomorrow are at your leisure. As always, your group leader will help you arrange to take part optional activities.

With its winding cobblestone streets and colonial architecture, San Cristobal de las Casas maintains an old-world feel mixed with strong pre-hispanic roots. The surrounding villages are home to Tzotzil and Tzeltal groups who maintain their tribal origins through their traditional costumes and customs. You might like to explore the villages 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 chickens. There are also markets selling colourful handicrafts. Another option is a day trip to Sumidero Canyon. Back in town, wander to a local cafe and try an 'elote', a traditional highland corn snack.

Day 10 Palenque

Today travel along a windy road for six hours by local bus to Palenque. Once you've arrived, the afternoon is free for you to relax or explore. Situated in hot jungle, Palenque is the jumping off point to the nearby Mayan ruins of the same name. You'll have tomorrow to check them out.

Day 11 Palenque/Overnight Bus

Today you have the chance to visit the ruins of Palenque. Situated on a hilltop, the ruins date back to 600 AD and are some of the most impressive Mayan relics in Mexico. As you walk among the temples, listen out for the eerie calls of howler monkeys echoing from the jungle. There are many ruins which are still unexcavated and remain hidden in the forest. You can opt to take a guided tour of the ruins or through the surrounding jungle.

This evening, transfer to the bus station and board an overnight bus to Merida. The journey should take around eight to nine hours in total.

Day 12-13 Merida

Early this morning arrive into the historic town of Merida. Founded in 1542, Merida still retains much of its old-world charm. Wander through the Old Town, check out some museums 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 others. For a taste of Merida's 19th-century glory, go for a walk along the mansion-lined Paseo de Montejo. Mornings are the best time to visit the outdoor markets, where you can stock up on hammocks and Mayan replicas. This is also a great place to sample local food specialities, such as 'cochinita pibil' or the extremely spicy El Yucateco hot sauce.

Merida is the gateway to the Maya ruins of Uxmal. A tour of the ruins includes transport and a local guide. Little is known about the site's origins but it is thought the city was founded around 500 AD. Much of the site is decorated with masks of the rain god Chac. You can also visit a nearby bird sanctuary or a variety of other ruins. Merida's locals love dancing. Every Sunday the town's streets are transformed into an open-air dance floor, with salsa and merengue bands providing the music.

Day 14 Chichen Itza/Playa del Carmen

Today, travel to Playa del Carmen, stopping en route for an included visit to the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza. Recently named one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, Chichen Itza contains both Toltec and Mayan ruins lying alongside each other. The famous El Castillo pyramid dominates the site. There is also a large ball court where games used to be held. Nearby, excavations of the Well of Sacrifice offered up treasures of jade, copper and gold as well as many human and animal bones. The group will spend two to three hours at Chichen Itza before continuing on for three-and-a-half hours to Playa.

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. On your last night of the trip, kick back with a margarita and watch the sunset.

Day 15 Playa del Carmen

Today your adventure comes to an end. There are no activities planned and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. In order to make the most of what Playa del Carmen has to offer, however, we strongly recommend that you extend your stay for a few extra days. Please contact us if you need us assistance booking additional accommodation. Spend your time snorkelling among the mangroves, diving in underground caverns or strolling along the white sands. For an adventure further afield, take a ferry across to Cozumel, an island famous for its reef diving.


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Details

Further Details

More information about this gap year opportunity...

Price details:

from £890

Phone:

Call 0333 333 9952 to enquire or book

Highlights

Embrace a kaleidoscope of colour at a Mexican market
Toe-tap to a mariachi band in Mexico City
Take a ride on a bright and bouncy local bus
Escape the Mexican heat in San Cristobal de las Casas
Bask on Playa del Carmen’s white sand beaches
Try Oaxaca’s famous chocolate and cheese
See the impressive ruins of Chichen Itza

Transport

Bus, Overnight Bus

Accommodation

Hotel (12 nights), Overnight bus (2 nights)

About StudentUniverse

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If you’d like to get in touch to chat about your travels, even if you’re in the preliminary stages and you’d just like some advice, give us a call on 0333 333 9923 or submit an enquiry to StudentUniverse – we’d love to hear from you.

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Colourful textiles

Colourful textiles

Mayan pyramid

Mayan pyramid

Playa del carmen beach

Playa del carmen beach

San cristobal

San cristobal

Tour map

Tour map

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