23 days

Ancient Civilisations

Ancient Civilisations

UNESCO World Heritage-listed Antigua Guatemala

Flores on Lago Petén Itzá

UNESCO World Heritage-listed Mayan city of Tikal

The palm-fringed island of Caye Caulker

Mexico City

1200-year-old cliff-top ruins of Tulum

Teotihuacan's Pyramids of the Sun and Moon

UNESCO World Heritage-listed Mayan ruins of Palenque

San Cristobal de Las Casas' Chiapas indigenous culture

UNESCO World Heritage-listed pre-Hispanic city of Uxmal

The Zapotec ruins of Monte Albán and Spanish city of Oaxaca

UNESCO World Heritage-listed Chichen-Itza

Regional Anthropology Museum of the Yucatan

Trip rating
  • The small town of San Juan Chamula is home to the indigenous Tzotzil Maya People, whose religious rituals blend pre-Hispanic traditions with Catholicism. Step inside the church of San Juan, where worshippers stick candles to the floor with melted wax and kneel on a carpet of pine branches and empty soda bottles. As they chant prayers, they drink ceremonial cups of soda. Coke is believed to have spirutal powers and burping is considered a way of expelling evil spirits from the body.

    Why we love it

    • This is our most comprehensive tour in Mexico and Central America
    • Having explored Mexico City and the great ruins of Teotihuacan we discover the delights of Puebla and Oaxaca.
    • From Monte Alban we visit the ruins of the Zapotec capital before continuing southward to the town of San Cristobal, complete with its traditional Indian communities.
    • The magnificent Palenque Mayan ruins are next and then comes the Yucatan Peninsula with stops in Merida and the Mayan sites of Uxmal and Chichen Itza.
    • Having discovered ritzy Cancun and the sun-drenched beaches of the Caribbean we continue via the stunning seaside ruins of Tulum to Tikal, deep in the Guatemalan jungle, before finishing up in Antigua.

    Itinerary

    Day 1 - Mexico City

    • On arrival at Mexico City’s Benito Juarez International Airport you will be transferred to a hotel in the heart of the downtown area. In the evening (usually around 6pm) you will meet your tour leader and the other members of your group for a pre-tour briefing.
    • Please check the notice board at the hotel reception for confirmation of the exact time and place of the meeting. This meeting is generally followed by an optional group dinner at a nearby restaurant.
    Hotel Majestic or similar

    Day 2 - Teotihuacan - Mexico City

    • 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 of the complex.
    • This was once the country's biggest ancient cities, 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 500 AD, when its influence extended down to Guatemala and as far north as present-day Texas.
    • With the help of a local guide, you will 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.
    • You will also visit Virgen de Guadalupe, the city’s major religious landmark. After your exploration you will return to Mexico City in the afternoon.
    Hotel Majestic or similar
    Breakfast

    Day 3 - Mexico City

    • Mexico City is an exciting mix of modern cosmopolitan glamour with remnants from both its ancient and colonial history. Situated in the middle of a vast valley, this energetic metropolis, with a population exceeding 20 million, is one of the largest cities in the world.
    • There is a saying that if it happens in Mexico, it happens in Mexico City!
    • Following a city tour, you will have a free afternoon to discover the city's myriad of neighbourhoods and historic buildings.
    Hotel Majestic or similar
    Breakfast

    Day 4 - Puebla

    • This morning you will travel by private minivan to Puebla.
    • Puebla has managed to maintain its colonial heritage despite rapid growth and development. There are a plethora of churches and colonial buildings that remain a testament to its proud history.
    • You will spend time at the local markets, a great place to hunt down hand-painted tiles and other handicrafts, take colourful photos and try your hand at bargaining.
    • To finish off a busy day, perhaps refuel with the local specialty, mole Poblano, a dish famous across Mexico. You may prefer to learn how to cook this famed dish for yourself at an optional cooking class.
    Hotel Colonial or similar
    Breakfast

    Day 5 - Oaxaca

    • This morning you will travel by minibus to the colonial city of Oaxaca. If you're interested in purchasing traditional Mexican handicrafts, this is the place!
    • Oaxaca is famous for its colourful markets and unique shopping opportunities, as well as its relaxed, laid-back feel. It is also a great place to try out some regional delicacies, from ‘mole’ sauces and banana leaf-wrapped ‘tomales’ to the baked chilli and lime grasshoppers. These are sold by the little old ladies at the markets, with each of them declaring that their creation is best!
    • If the frenzy of finding a bargain becomes too much, chill out in one of the many laid-back cafés and soak up the ambience by observing everyday life passing by.
    Hotel Oaxaca Real or similar
    Breakfast

    Day 6 - Monte Alban - Oaxaca

    • Today you will drive the short distance up a nearby hill to the ancient Zapotec ruins of Monte Alban, which looks out across the three legs of the valley of Oaxaca. The Zapotec civilisation began construction of this city around 200 BC and it reached its peak during the period between 300 and 700 AD, when the population was estimated to be around 25,000.
    • Monte Alban exercised political, economic and ideological control over the local communities and surrounding regions that include the peaks of three mountain ranges that converge in this valley.
    • With the help of your local guide, you will have plenty of time to explore the remnants of plazas, tombs, palaces and temples that make up this fascinating site.
    • We return to Oaxaca for the afternoon, which is free for you to explore at your leisure.
    Hotel Oaxaca Real or similar
    Breakfast

    Day 7 - Tehuantepec

    • This morning we drive south towards the Pacific coast on our way to Tehuantepec.
    • On the way we will stop to see the Tule Tree (an impressively large Montezuma cypress tree), a Mezcal factory, and the ruins at Mitla.
    • Mitla is an important Zapotec archaeological site and was the main religious centre for the Zapotec people. It was originally built as a gateway between the world of the living and the world of the dead and the name Mitla is derived from the Nahuatl word Mictlan, meaning ‘underworld’.
    • We spend the night in the town of Tehuantepec.
    Hotel Calli or similar
    Breakfast

    Day 8-9 - San Cristobal de Las Casas

    • Today we continue driving east into the state of Chiapas.
    • On the way we visit Sumidero Canyon, an 800-metre deep canyon carved out by the Sumidero River and dating from the same time as the Grand Canyon. We then continue on to San Cristobal de las Casas.
    • San Cristobal de las Casas has a distinctive old-world feel, thanks to the Spanish colonial architecture and pretty, cobbled streets. It also maintains its indigenous routes.
    • Villages like Chamula are tucked in to the highlands surrounding the San Cristobal, these essentially act as market places and places of religious ceremonial import for the local indigenous people who live in the neighbouring hills.
    • The traditional way of life has been preserved for the local people here, and you will have the opportunity to see them in customary dress. In order to gain a better understanding of these largely Mayan communities, you will have the chance to explore the myriad of surrounding villages on a cultural tour.
    Hotel Arrecile de Coral or similar
    Breakfast

    Day 10-11 - Palenque

    • Today you will travel by minivan to Palenque, where you'll visit the waterfalls of Misol-ha and Agua Azul.
    • 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 - 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.
    • The following day we visit the ruins of Palenque.
    • Situated on a hilltop in an area of hot jungle, lie some of the most incredible Mayan ruins in the region, dating back to AD600. The eerie calls of howler monkeys echo through the jungle as you wander among ancient ruins, further enhancing the majestic nature of this magnificent site. Some ruins remain unexcavated and hidden in the surrounding forest.
    Hotel Maya Tulpanes or similar
    Breakfast

    Day 12 - Campeche

    • Pack your swimsuits today as we drive north towards the Gulf of Mexico, where we stop at the beach for a swim. We then drive on to Campeche where we spend the night.
    • Campeche is a typical Spanish colonial harbour town, complete with walls and fortifications. A UNESCO World Heritage site, many of the town's buildings have been restored, and as a result it is one of the most picturesque towns in Mexico.
    • We take an orientation tour of the city and also visit the San Miguel Fort and museum.
    Hotel Baluartes
    Breakfast

    Day 13 - Merida

    • This morning we head into the ancient ruins of Uxmal to view the amazing Palace of the Governors, considered by many to be the finest example of classic Mayan architecture, and the mystical Pyramid of the Magician, which consists of 5 super-imposed temples.
    • We then continue on to the city of Merida, and take a tour of the city.
    • Known as the 'White City' due to its great use of limestone and white paint, Merida was a centre for Mayan culture long before the arrival of the conquistadors. Today Merida is a bustling city with much of its colonial influences intact.
    • You will have plenty of time to explore the many sights and your guide will be able to recommend a number of sightseeing options, including the highly impressive Regional Anthropology Museum of the Yucatan.
    Hotel del Gobernador or simiilar
    Breakfast

    Day 14-15 - Chichen Itza - Playa del Carmen

    • Chichen Itza is arguably the most famous Mayan site in Mexico. Its name came from the deep, natural well known as a ‘cenote’ (sinkhole containing groundwater) located near the centre of the site, which was used during the city's heyday as a place for human sacrifices to appease the Mayan rain god Chaac!
    • The magnificent Temple of Kukulkan stands over the ruins and those feeling energetic can climb to the top and be rewarded with fantastic views over the entire site. Not far from the temple is the ‘Ball Court’, where it is believed many disputes were settled in a game with combatants hitting a ball by using only their elbows, hips and wrists. Stone carvings depict the violence of the play around the ball court walls, suggesting it was not such a casual sport. Following a guided tour of the site, you will continue to the resort town of Playa del Carmen.
    • 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.
    Hotel Playa del Carmen or similar
    Breakfast

    Day 16 - Tulum - Caye Caulker

    • You will venture to the cliff-top ruins of Tulum today. From the crumbling walls of the city ruins, you will enjoy breathtaking views across the coastline of the Carribean below.
    • Dating back to to the year 1200, these ruins are quite young by Mayan standards.
    • The largest of the temples here is Castillo. Once coated in stucco, painted and decorated with masks, this temple has also served as a fortress.
    • Temple of the Winds is perched over the water, and is reputed whistle when a hurricane approaches as a warning.
    • From here you will get back on the minibus and travel to Chetumal, where you'll catch a water taxi to the island of Caye Caulker.
    Anchorage Resort or similar
    Breakfast

    Day 17 - Caye Caulker

    • Just a short boat ride from the coast is the island group of the Belize Cayes.
    • You will be based at one of the more popular of the many islands here, Caye Caulker. From here you can arrange day trips to other Caye if you are in search of the best reefs for diving. You will notice that each of the islands has its own character, but there is an unmistakable Carribean charm about all of them. You may also choose to take a local boat out to the reef of Caulker itself.
    • There is a half-day of snorkelling on the reef included in your trip, where you will most likely see sharks, rays, fish and coral. You can upgrade this to a full-day snorkelling package at an additional cost if you wish - where you might also see turtles and manatees.
    • Spend the afternoon sipping cocktails overlooking the water, swimming off the Split, or perhaps shopping for local souvenirs.
    Anchorage Resort or similar
    Breakfast

    Day 18-19 - San Ignacio

    • You will stop at the Belize Zoo on the way to San Ignacio today.
    • The zoo was initially designed as a tool to teach the Belizean people about local animals and the benefits of conservation of their habitats. Though the zoo is quite small, all of the animals here are local, including jaguars, ocelots, toucans, harpy eagles and crocodiles.
    • From the zoo you will head on to San Ignacio (approx. 3 hours). It is situated in the highlands, and is surrounded by forest, waterfalls, rivers, and Mayan ruins, a beautiful place in its own right, and a great base for uncovering the beauty and history of the area.
    • You will have a free day here, when you can choose to partake in some optional activies. You may like to go on a day trip the impressive Mayan ceremonial centre, Xunantunich, where you can enjoy expansive views across the surrounding countryside. There is also a unique stucco frieze on the east side of the temple. Part of the joy of this optional trip is the hourney itself. You will take a hand-cranked ferry across the river.
    • You might prefer to spend a day exploring the Mountain Pine Ridge area - a region blessed with beautiful waterfalls, a remarkable cave system, and swimming holes. Tunichil Muknal is possibly the most intriguing of the caves in the area, it is essentially a living museum. You can wade into the cave through water to discover fasinating rellics including crystallised skeletons and ceremic pots presereved naturally by the cave for over 1400 years.
    • If you fancy a more adventurous day, canoeing or tubing through the jungle can also be arranged. Those seeking a more peaceful and relaxing experience might enoiy San Ignacio's butterfly garden.
    Hotel Midas or similar
    Breakfast

    Day 20 - Tikal

    • You will continue by minibus to Tikal today.
    • Home to some of the most magnificent Mayan ruins, the Tikal National Park is awash with wonder. The five granite temples of Tikal tower above the impressive jungle canopy, while a veritable feast of smaller structures remain hidden among the jungle growth.
    • For those who are interested, climbing to the top of the ruins will provide you with unsurpassed views over the jungle, you may even glimpse of a toucan, macaw or other tropical bird.
    • You will stay overnight in the park, before a dawn tour of the ruins.
    Jungle Lodge or similar
    Breakfast

    Day 21-23 - Antigua

    • Once the capital of Spanish Guatemala, today, Antigua is a town of over 30,000 people nestled between three towering volcanoes. The captial was moved to Guatemala City after the earthquakes of 1773.
    • It is a very popular stop for travellers because of its historical relics, as well as the pleasant ambience and vibrancy of the local people. There are a number of interesting markets, restaurants and cafes; be sure to try the famous Guatemalan coffee! It is also a place renowned for its many Spanish language schools. There is no shortage of things to do and places to discover during your time here.
    • You will visit a women's cooperative while you are in town. Founded in 1992, the coopoerative is an independent, grassroots organisation designed to assist community development, health, education, clean water and income generation. Skills like cooking, weaving and textiles are employed by the women here to demonstrate traditional crafts.
    • Your trip will come to and end on Day 23 after breakfast.
    Hotel Posada del Hermano Pedro or similar
    Breakfast
  • What to Know

    What's Included

    • Local tour leader
    • Local guides
    • Arrival transfer
    • Transport
    • Sightseeing and entrance fees

    Not Included

    • Airport departure tax
    • Visas where required
    • Meals not included in the itinerary
    • Insurance
    • Laundry
    • Any optional tours or activities during free time
    • Tips and items of a personal nature
  • Map Itinerary

  • Past Travellers' Ratings & Comments

    At the end of each trip, we ask our travellers to provide feedback. We publish the positive, negative and neutral feedback on this page to give you an overall idea of what to expect on this trip.

    Ancient Civilisations

    Allan - Australia, 8 Jan, 2012
    5
    Overall Rating

    A great mix of Mayan sites and Mexican and Guatemalan towns and markets. Colour and life and history and good food.

    Ancient Civilisations

    Bronwyn - , 10 Jan, 2010
    5
    Overall Rating

     

    Most memorable part of the trip - the similarities and the differences between the ancient sites we visited... and the awe inspiring constructions we saw and climbed upon.

     

  • From our Blog

    Medal-worthy meals around the world

    Well, it's almost over for another four years. The 2012 London Olympics has provided us with high highs, low lows and the chance to see some underrated countries shine (way to go Kazakhstan!)

    The world is a big place, and seeing everyone come together for an event like the Olympics makes you...

    Read on...

    Three top destinations for chocolate lovers

    December is a time of indulgence. And what better way to get your fix than by taking a chocolate-fuelled trip around the globe. Marissa Cooke gives us three destinations for you and the sweet tooth in your life. And the best part is, after you've indulged you can get out on foot and walk it off with...

    Read on...

    Three festive treats from around the world

    Bring some flavours of the world to your table this Christmas, and try one of these three festive treats. We've scoured the globe for some tasty, exotic, colourful and downright delicious recipes to help spice things up this year. 

    It's not always easy to break with tradition, so...

    Read on...

    Traveller interview: Our Trans-Americas Journey

    Our friend, travel blogger Brendan van Son has interviewed Karen and Eric from the Trans-Americas Journey blog. Find out why they love El Salvador so much, what a cow's udder tastes like and how they came to live and work on the road:

    Tell us a little bit about yourselves.  Who are you...

    Read on...

    Say "I do" abroad!

    Why not make your big day a big deal, and head overseas to celebrate with family, friends or maybe just the two of you!

    We take a look at some of the most beautiful, romantic and unique places to get hitched around the world:

    Mexico
    With beautiful resorts, stunning beaches and...

    Read on...
From US $3920
*Per Person, Twin Share

Select a trip date below

Trip Start Dates
Trip Duration
Guaranteed Departure Start Date
Trip Selected:
Price: US $
Start:
End:
Discount price: US $

*Please note: To receive the discounted price for this departure, please enter the Promo Code at Step 4 of the booking form.

No Code available
View all departures

Trip at a glance

Trip Code PSAV
Group size 1 - 16
Start City: Mexico City
End City: Antigua

Contact an expert

1-800-663-5132We'll call you

Simply enter your details and we'll call you back within the next business day.