In 23 colourful days, discover the ancient histories and modern memories of Mexico and Cuba with local leaders and a small group of keen adventurers. Explore Mexico City and the great ruins of Teotihuacan, learn the colonial history of Puebla and Oaxaca before continuing south to San Cristobal. Walk through the magnificent Palenque Maya ruins, the beautiful Yucatan Peninsula and renowned Chichen Itza before flying to Havana – Cuba’s charming capital. Stroll past Havana’s faded buildings before visiting the Vinales region, known for tobacco growing and farming industries. Continue to Cuba's south in colonial Trinidad, listen to Cuban rhythms in the Casa de la Trova, and discover the memorials dedicated to revolutionary hero, Che Guevara, in Santa Clara.
Welcome to Mexico City! Arrive at Benito Juarez International Airport and meet a Peregrine representative for your included transfer. Once you have checked in to your hotel, meet your group leader and fellow travellers for a welcome meeting in the evening, usually around 6 pm, which will be followed by an optional group dinner at a nearby restaurant. If you happen to arrive early, consider exploring the city – the Leon Trotsky and Frida Kahlo museums are two popular sights worth checking out. Trotsky found refuge in Mexico City after being expelled from the Soviet Union, while Frida Kahlo is perhaps the best-known Mexican artist in history.
Today is a long but worthwhile day with a city tour starting at approximately 8.30 am. Visit the impressive National Museum of Anthropology before heading to the Zocalo (main square) for a trip to the Cathedral and National Palace. You’ll discover that Mexico City is an exciting mix of modern cosmopolitan glamour with remnants from both its ancient and colonial history. The tour will finish at approximately 3 pm, and in the evening your leader will take you on a taco crawl around town to try the locals’ favourite taquerias. You may not want to know the ingredients before you try them, but just trust your taste buds!
Travel by private vehicle to Teotihuacan, about 50 kilometres northeast of Mexico City. Here you'll discover the extraordinary ruins known as the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon, which dominate the skyline. This was once one of the country's biggest ancient cities and the Aztec capital. With the help of a local guide, you'll have time to stroll down The Avenue of the Dead to see fascinating clues as to what life here was like nearly 2000 years ago.
Farewell Mexico City at approximately 8 am and head south to Puebla. The drive takes about 3 hours, depending on local traffic, and your leader will take you on a walk around town on arrival. Puebla has retained its colonial heritage despite rapid growth and development, and you’ll visit Calle de los Dulces (Candy street) and El Parian (handicraft market), as well as the impressive Rosary Chapel and Town Hall Palace. Continue the journey south to Oaxaca (approximately 5 hours' drive) – a city renowned for its cuisine, vibrant art scene and traditional Mexican handicrafts.
Today, venture out of the city and take a guided tour of the Oaxaca region. Visit the Mitla ruins archaeological site – once the religious centre for Zapotec communities – and the Tule Tree, considered the world’s widest tree at over 11 metres in diameter. The Montezuma cypress’ gnarled trunk is over 1500 years old, roughly the same as the ruins! Continue to a beeswax candle-making workshop, learning age-old processes passed down for generations and the intricate designs that are created. Later, take part in a Zapotec weaving demonstration, which uses only traditional techniques, tools, patterns and organic dyes. Watch as local families meticulously craft folk clothing and rugs, some taking months to complete. You will learn the whole process from preparing and dyeing the yarn to traditional weaving methods. Here, enjoy a mostly plant-based lunch of regional Zapotec specialities. On your way back to Oaxaca, stop by an agave mezcal factory for a tasting. Once back in the city, your evening is free for you to relax and explore.
Be ready to rise early to fly to Tuxtla Gutierrez, the capital of the Chiapas state in southern Mexico. Travel by private vehicle to the Sumidero Canyon – an 800-metre deep canyon and World Heritage-listed site dating from the same time as the Grand Canyon. You’ll take a boat tour on the Sumidero River, the canyon’s architect, before continuing a further 1.5 hours to San Cristobal de las Casas. Expect to arrive by 7 pm, with the evening free for you take in the distinctive old-world feel courtesy of the Spanish colonial architecture and pretty, cobbled streets.
Embark on a half-day tour this morning to the Maya villages of San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan. Nestled in the highlands, these villages serve as marketplaces and religious ceremonial centres for indigenous communities who live in the surrounding hills. The local people have retained their traditional way of life and are often seen dressed in their own distinctive colourful costumes. You’ll explore these villages with a guide and learn more about the culture and history of these mainly Maya people.
Prepare for a long travel day as you depart San Cristobal de Las Casas and travel north to Palenque. You’ll visit the Agua Azul waterfall on the way, so wear or pack your swimmers in your day pack. Cool off in the turquoise waters before continuing towards Palenque and expect to arrive around 6 pm. Situated in the jungle, Palenque is the jump-off point to the nearby Maya ruins of the same name which you’ll visit tomorrow. Tonight enjoy an included dinner together.
Today you’ll meet a local archaeologist for a memorable visit to the ruins of Palenque. Archaeologists have been hard at work uncovering the secrets of this ancient city, but around 90% of the site remains unexcavated and concealed in the forest. Sitting on a hilltop surrounded by thick trees, the ruins date back to AD600 and are some of the most impressive Maya relics in Mexico. The area gives you an idea of what the Spanish invaders must have seen when they first came across the hidden ruins, and try to listen out for the eerie calls of howler monkeys and the echoes of screeching parrots as you walk through the jungle. After lunch, you’ll continue driving 6 hours north to Campeche, the last long travel day on this itinerary.
Campeche is a port city located on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and was once the most important seaport for the Spanish conquerors. Campeche’s history is well-preserved and it was awarded World Heritage status as an urbanisation model of a baroque colonial town and because of the defensive walls and fortification system, a result of ongoing pirate attacks throughout the 16th and 17th centuries. Your leader will take you on a tour of the city in the morning, and the afternoon is yours to continue exploring or catch some rays and take a dip in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Continue along the coast this morning to visit the Celestun Bird Sanctuary and Biosphere Reserve where you'll take a guided boat tour. Here, near extensive beaches lined with coconut trees, you'll see a variety of coastal birds. Depending on the season (usually November–March), you may be lucky enough to witness thousands of flamingos painting a pink streak across the landscape. Arrive at the historic town of Merida in the evening and take an orientation walk with your leader before finding some Yucatan cuisine for dinner. Merida, founded in 1542, is the Yucatan capital and retains much of its old-world charm. Take in the splendour of its many colonial buildings and learn more about the Maya heritage of the town.
Today is a free day to explore the many sights of Merida and your leader will be able to recommend some good options. There are several museums including the impressive Regional Museum of Yucatan, and the streets are perfect for strolling and enjoying the city’s art and culture. Hang out in the green and shady Plaza Grande, with the 16th-century cathedral on one side and City Hall, the State Government Palace and Casa Mantejo on the other. For a taste of Merida's 19th-century glory, take a walk along the mansion-lined Paseo de Montejo. The outdoor market is another essential visit with an array of hammocks and Maya replicas for sale, plus a selection of mouth-watering local foods including a Yucatan specialty, cochinita pibil (little pig).
Depart Merida at 6.30 am and arrive at Chichen Itza when the doors open at 8 am. Named as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, Chichen Itza is considered the most important archaeological vestige of the Maya-Toltec civilization in Yucatan by UNESCO. You’ll take a two-hour guided tour of what is perhaps the most famous Maya site in Mexico, dominated by the Temple of Kukulkan, or El Castillo, a Mesoamerican step-pyramid. You’ll also visit Ik Kil, one of the most beautiful cenotes (freshwater natural rock pools) in Mexico. After an option to swim (remember to pack your swim gear in your day pack again), enjoy a buffet lunch. Continue approximately 3 hours to the Caribbean coast and Playa del Carmen. Blessed with azure waters, powdery beaches and an almost European feel, Playa del Carmen is a popular resort town famed for its coral reefs and excellent diving.
Take today to enjoy Playa del Carmen as you see fit. Kick back with a book, stroll along the white sands or snorkel in crystal-clear waters. For adventures further afield, take a ferry across the turquoise seas to Cozumel, explore another cenote or take a guided tour of the nearby Tulum ruins. In the evening, settle in beachside and watch the world go by with a margarita in your hand.
Say goodbye to your leader in Mexico and board an unaccompanied flight to Cuba. Arrive at Havana's Jose Marti International airport, where you'll be transferred to your hotel. There will be a welcome meeting at approximately 6 pm this evening. After check-in, please look for a collection of folders opposite reception where companies can leave communication for their travellers. The folder should be named 'Peregrine Adventures' and inside there will be a copy of the welcome letter for you to read. The welcome letter will detail where your tour briefing will take place. The briefing is usually followed by an optional group dinner. If you arrive early, most activities in Cuba can only be booked through the tourist desk in the lobbies of the larger hotels or direct with the venue. Otherwise, there are plenty of good museums to check out, including the Museo de la Revolucion and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes.
This morning at 9 am you will be picked up from the infamous Hotel Nacional to see outer-Havana in a convoy of classic American vintage cars that cruises via points of intrerest such as the Malecon, Revolucion Square, Vedado and ending in Old Havana. Next, your leader will take you on a walking tour of the lovely Old Havana (approximately 2.5 hours). Go to the cathedral, Plaza de Armas, San Francisco de Asis, Plaza Vieja and Central Park. Now that you are orientated in Old Havana you have the rest of the afternoon to lunch at leisure and explore futher. Your leader can assist you to take a taxi if you wish to return to the hotel.
This morning drive west to Soroa (approximately 1 hour) to tour the beautiful orchid garden. A local expert will take you on a private tour of the gardens to identify the bird and plant species of this diverse area (approximately 45 minutes). You will easily see why the valley is known as the rainbow of Cuba. There will be time for lunch before continuing on to Vinales (1.5 hours), where tobacco and sugarcane fields lie side by side and limestone outcrops dot the landscape. Use this bus time to take part in an informal Spanish lesson so you can converse with the friendly locals throughout the rest of your trip. Check in to the guesthouses, leaving enough time to undertake a quick orientation walk. Later, perhaps enjoy the porch rocking chair and soak up the slow, old-world pace of rural Cuba as oxen plod gracefully along the streets.
At 9 am go on a guided walk through the farm lands of Vinales (approximately 3 hours), which you'll soon see is home to some extraordinary scenery – some of Cuba's best. Learn more about the tobacco industry and see a farmer whip a world class cigar in seconds. Take some time to find a local place for lunch, then regroup around 4.30 pm to embrace the rhythm and learn a few steps in a salsa dancing class. Next, head to the top of the valley for dinner at an eco-farm. Everything is grown organically on the farm itself so get ready for one of the freshest dinner experiences in Cuba!
Prepare for a long travel day as you board the comfortable bus at 8am towards Cienfuegos. Drive back through Havana before stopping in the Bay of Pigs for lunch (approximately 5 hours). After lunch, go for a dip in the crystal clear water or simply sit back and try to imagine the battle played out in this monumental bay. Ask your leader for insight into the botched USA Military counter-revolutionary invasion in the Bay of Pigs. Then it is just a short drive to Cienfuegos (approximately 1 hour), one of Cuba's prettiest coastal spots. Arrive some time after 5 pm and take a short orientation walk before visiting the Palacio del Valle, Cienfuegos' architectural pride and joy. Its grandiose carvings in Venetian alabaster strike an impressive pose in this beautiful seaside city.
Enjoy a free morning to explore. Then complete the two hour drive to Trindad. During a guided walk of the town (1 hour), take in its eye-catching combination of cobblestone streets, colourful houses and old-fashioned locals. It's a great town to explore on foot, and almost every scene offers superb photographic opportunities – from residents relaxing with huge cigars on their doorsteps to old Chevrolets cruising by. In the evening take a trip out of town to a local house for a homely and festive dinner. Be welcomed with the local drink; Canchanchara made from 'fire water', local honey and lime juice. There will even be a musician or two serenading you and your fellow travellers as you dine.
Today is a free day in Trinidad. For some beachside fun and perhaps a little snorkelling, head down to Playa Ancon. Just be careful you don't stand on a sea urchin! At some point while you're here, a great activity is to go to a folklore show at one of the town's numerous open-air venues. Cuba has a rich and varied music and dance tradition that draws roots from Spain, Africa and France, and this is your chance to experience it all first-hand, from the Mambo to the rumba.
Head inland to Santa Clara (approximately 1.5 hours) to lunch then visit the Che Guevara mausoleum. Here you'll see the statue of the iconic revolutionary leader looming. In the museum that accompanies the mausoleum, you'll find an intriguing spread of photos and other ephemera related to Che – letters, medical devices, firearms. Return to the capital (3 hours) for your final night to enjoy Havana.
Your trip comes to an end after breakfast this morning as there are no activities planned for today. However, you are required to comply with the hotel's internal check-out rules, so please factor that into your plans.
Minimum: 1 Maximum: 12
22 Breakfasts, 4 Dinners
Learn of the ancient Zapotec, Maya and Aztec histories with visits to the ruins of Teotihuacan, Mitla, Chichen Itza and Palenque, joined by specialist guides to further enhance your visit.
Discover traditional craft industries and the locals who produce them in Oaxaca and Zinacantan, learning about Zapotec woven fabrics, textile making, mezcal distilling and beeswax candle-making.
Understand the diversity of true Mexican food with experiences such as an included taco crawl in Mexico City and a Zapotecan family lunch in the Oaxacan countryside.
Take a flight to Havana and see all its faded glory on a guided walking tour, understanding the difference between country and city life in Cuba.
Wander the cobblestone streets and listen to Cuban rhythms in the Casa de La Trova in colonial Trinidad, and learn of the history of the Cuban Revolution in Santa Clara.
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