But step into one of the classic archeological sites at Oaxaca – Monte Alban or Mitla for example – and the ‘Jade City’ will introduce you to a much older civilisation.
At Palenque there are ruins dating back to 100 BC and a cavern with a waterfall and subterranean swimming pool. At Merida and Chichén Itza there are Mayan palaces, temples, bizarre statues and strange deities - whilst Tulum combines ancient history with modern luxury and a sublime beach.
London – Mexico City
Depart from London Heathrow just after midday to arrive in Mexico City in the early evening. You’ll be driven to your luxury hotel in the trendy La Condesa District, nestled in a quiet side street in Mexico Park. You will have plenty of time to soak up the irresistible energy, rich culture, bustling bazaars and superb museums of this distinctly colonial city. And when you’ve had your fill of the city, full day excursions will take you beyond its boundaries to find fascinating archaeological treasures like the Teotihuacan pyramids and the shrine of Guadalupe.
On the third day you will be driven to San Angel, a picturesque neighbourhood with narrow cobbled streets and colourful houses. If you’re visiting on a Saturday you can browse the artisan market, before strolling through Cayoacan where you will find an array of historic buildings. Finish with a visit to Frida Kahlo’s Blue House.
Stay: Three nights in a deluxe room at the Hippodrome Hotel – bed & breakfast
Today you take a short flight to Oaxaca – the ‘Jade City’ that was founded in 1522 and still features some world class archaeological sites; Monte Alban and Mitla being the most prominent amongst them. But actually you’ll be surrounded by living examples of the history that underlies Oaxaca, because the people here are direct descendants of the original Zapotec and Mixtec residents of the region. More evidence of the local traditions are to be found at the Saturday Indian Market where you’ll be able to bargain for superb examples of Mexican hand-embroidered clothing, jewellery and black clay pottery.
Stay: Three nights in a double room at Casa Oaxaca – bed & breakfast
San Cristobal de las Casas
Fly from Oaxaca via Mexico City to Tuxtla Gutierrez and you’ll be met and taken to your hotel, pausing on the way for an enchanting river cruise through the Sumidero Canyon. You’ll be staying in the heart of San Cristobel – your hotel is actually next to the Amber Museum – so the next day you can explore the city before visiting the Indian villages of San Juan Chamula and San Lorenzo Zinacantan. The first is a fascinating Tzotzil-speaking community, whilst Zinacantan is famous for its flower growing, vividly patterned woven textiles and its history of trading salt for amber, cacao and quetzal feathers.
Stay: Two nights in a deluxe room at Bo Hotel – bed & breakfast
Now you can experience a modern take on a Mayan palace complex. You’ll be driven to see the stunning Agua Azul Waterfalls, before journeying on to Palenque and a resort that features waterfalls that echo those of the ruins at Palenque, plus a pre-Hispanic design and superb contemporary amenities.
The real Palenque is close by, a site described by UNESCO as “an incomparable achievement of Mayan art”. Your guide will show you this ruined Mayan city that dates back to around 100 BC and today still features well preserved buildings, carefully conserved by anthropologists as well as local people. The following day will see you exploring the ancient Maya cities of Bonampak, known for its well preserved murals, and Yaxchilan – one of the most powerful Maya cities during the Late Classic Period.
Stay: Two nights in a junior suite at Quinta Cha Nab Nal – bed & breakfast
After a final exploration of Palenque in the morning you fly off to Merida. Enjoy a city tour of this quaint town with its typical colonial-period buildings, pretty streets and graceful plazas. Must-sees include the Zocalo square, the cathedral, the Monument of the Homeland and the Museum of the Maya World, each revealing Merida’s history and importance in both colonial and modern-day Mexico.
Stay: Two nights in a double room at Casa Lecanda – bed & breakfast
One of the world’s most noted Mayan cities awaits. Chichén Itza was originally a Mayan city until the 12 century AD when it became the capital of the Toltec Empire. A vast pyramid-like building, imposing reclining statues and strangely carved columns remain, making this one of the country’s most important sites. You’ll be staying close by, in a hotel with its own exclusive private entrance to the Maya temples.
Stay: One night in a double room at the Lodge at Chichen Itza – bed & breakfast
Rise early and take another trip to the Chichén Itza ruins before the sun climbs high in the sky. Then drive off to Tulum and complete relaxation. You’ll be staying in a luxurious, eco-friendly hotel just 10 km from the classic Mayan ruins at Tulum, but you’ll also be perfectly positioned to take wildlife tours of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve and dive on a 200 mile coral reef. Water sports like snorkelling and kayaking are also available, but you may wish to simply soak up some sun on a white-sand beach.
Stay: Four nights in a waterfront suite at Jashita Hotel – bed & breakfast
Cancun – London
You’ll fly out of Cancun in the afternoon, arriving at London Gatwick the following morning.