A 2-week adventure to discover one of the world's finest cuisines! You'll start in the Capital City trying some of the best street food that Mexico has to offer. Moving across the country, you'll sample some of the regional specialities, such as 'mole poblano' and 'tlayudas' and a twist on the classic quesadillas. Discover the many ways that food plays a huge part in the local traditions, as well as the history behind this fascinating country. Mexican cooking class - Prepare a classic dish with a mother and son team, using a selection of fresh ingredients that you'll purchase from one the many local food markets. Making tamales - Learn the traditional methods of creating these corn-based delicacies with a local family in Zinacantan. Street Tacos - Sample Mexico City's soft corn tortillas, filled with tasty local ingredients
Arrive in Mexico City, the capital of Mexico and truly the heart and soul of the country. With so much rich history to discover, the city is filled with historic buildings, landmarks and the largest number of museums in the world. Due to the number of evening flights into the international airport, your Leader plans to do the welcome meeting on the morning of day two, and will leave a message in reception with details on timings and everything else that you'll need for the day. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to arrive into Mexico City at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Mexico City International Airport (MEX) which is approximately a 30 minute drive from the hotel. If your flight arrives earlier in the day, perhaps you might choose to have a stroll around Alameda Central, Mexico City's oldest municipal park, or visit the Templo Mayor Museum, which is known for its exhibits relating to the Aztec civilization.
On our first day in Mexico City we visit the downtown including the Zocalo (main square) and the Cathedral, built on top of Tenochtitlan - the old Aztec capital. During our tour around the city we will be introduced to one of Mexico's most famous exports - the tacos. We'll experience some of the best and most authentic basket tacos, known as 'tacos de canasta', at the city's local taquerias. These soft-shelled tacos are normally filled with marinated pork, beef or chicken as well as more unusual ingredients such as cactus leaves and flower petals. We can spice these up with some of the wonderful homemade chilli sauces, of which there are usually several heats to choose from. This afternoon we drive to Coyoacan in the south of Mexico's Federal District, famous for its coffee and churros culture. Founded in the seventh century and later conquered by the Mexica, the "place of coyotes" retains its small-town charm with cobbled streets, colonial churches and colourful markets.
Leaving this city we will drive north out to the mysterious pyramids of Teotihuacan. Although abandoned thirteen centuries ago, they are still an unbelievable sight. Once the largest city in the Americas with perhaps 100,000 inhabitants, its influence continued through Middle America, and Maya craftsmen borrowed its decorative motifs and building designs. Centuries later the Aztecs revered Teotihuacan as 'the Place of the Gods'. Following our visit we will continue our short journey east to the city of Puebla passing between three of Mexico's most recognisable volcanoes, Ixtaccihuatl, Popocatepetl and La Malinche. On the journey, we'll visit a local cactus farmer's family, who cultivate the nopel cactus and its fruit, Xoconochtli. We'll learn about how these leaves are handled and used in salads, as well as some of the products derived from the fruit.
We start our day with a visit to Puebla's Sweet Street - the 'Calle de los Dulces'. Puebla is a great stop for those with a sweet tooth and the city has an entire road dedicated to producing and selling sweets and biscuits. This will then be followed by a visit to the former convent of Santa Rosa, the alleged home of the creation of the 'mole poblano'. Both Oaxaca and Puebla claim to be the creators of mole, pronounced 'mo-leh', and it comes in many forms and colours. The most famous is the dark chocolate one from Puebla. A good mole is thought to have over 20 ingredients in its mix including chilli, tomatoes, garlic, cinnamon and many more, and is normally poured over chicken or tacos. We will have the opportunity to sample the local varieties over lunch today, before driving south through cactus country to Oaxaca, one of the most charming colonial cities in Mexico. Arriving in the early evening, our first stop will be to try 'tlayudas', a large crunchy tortilla topped with refried beans, lettuce, avocado and meats of your choice such as grilled steak, chilli pork and cheese.
Our day begins early with visit to the markets of Benito Juarez and 20 de Noviembre, thought to be one of the best places to try the traditional food of Oaxaca, such as 'quesadillas con flor de calabaza' - cheese and pumpkin flower stuffed tortillas - and deep fried grasshoppers. As well as sampling food in the market it is a great place to purchase the many ingredients central to Mexican cooking like tomatoes, moles and chillies. We will then visit the Casa del Mezcal to try a little pre-lunch tipple of the local fire water. Mezcal means 'oven-baked agave cactus' and you will have a chance to the see the process of how this is made later today, at our lunch stop. Our lunch today will be at the 'Caldo de Piedra' restaurant, named after an ancient cooking techique where raw fish, shrimp and vegetables are cooked when a red hot stone is added to the broth. You may wish to visit the Mixtec-Zapotec site of Mitla, which can be done on a public bus.
Today we have our first-hand experience in a Mexican kitchen when we join a mother and son team for a cooking class. We start the day by going to one of the city's food markets, where we will see the enormous selections of fresh ingredients used in Oaxacan cooking. The son, Chef Gerardo, will accompany us to describe all the different ingredients, and help you buy those needed for the meals you will be preparing. With our ingredients in our shopping bags we head back to Chef Gerardo's house to prepare three separate dishes, which we will then eat for lunch. The daily menu may vary, but you will may be learning to prepare a local type of mole, or learning how to stuff chillies. This afternoon has been left free to explore Oaxaca further, or you may wish to head out of town to explore the complex of temples, pyramids and enigmatic rock carvings at Monte Alban, a high spur that looms over the fertile valley. This mystical site was created by Zapotec Indians, who flourished here a thousand years ago.
Today is a full day's journey through the mountainous Sierra Madre range, through the hot and windy isthmus of Tehuantepec and on to our hotel in Chiapa del Corzo, the provincial capital of Chiapas state, which we will explore over the next few days. There are plenty of stops to stretch our legs, eat and drink during the 10 hour journey.
We start the day by driving up the scenic mountain road to San Cristobal de las Casas. On route we will visit San Juan Chamula, where they practice an interesting blend of Catholicism and traditional Maya beliefs, before continuing to Zinacantan and to the house of Antonia. At Antonia's house we will be taught how to make an indigenous dish known as tamales. Tamales are eaten everywhere in Mexico, however each state has its own recipes. They are a corn-based dough, stuffed with either a sweet or savoury filling and steam-cooked in corn husks or banana leaves. This type of tamales are eaten throughout the year, but particularly as a traditional dish over the Christmas period. Antonia and her family will teach you how to make corn husk tamales stuffed with beans and 'hoja santa' - the sacred leaf. Following this we will head to San Cristobal where you will have some free time to explore this highland town this afternoon.
We will start our day with a visit to the food market. In contrast to the markets of Oaxaca, the ingredients differ here in San Cristobal as do the traditional meals. You will see a range of produce such as coffee and cacao and our Tour Leader will explain their use in local food. According to the Popol Vuh, the book on the creation of the Maya, man was created from yellow and white corn. Corn grows throughout the Chiapas highlands and is used today as their main ingredient in traditional indigenous cooking of the Tzotzil and Tzeltal communities. There is a unique atmosphere to this small colonial town, high in the scenic Chiapas range. The indigenous groups from the surrounding hills fill the town and marketplace with their colourful dress including the distinctive Tzotzil Indians who still retain much of their Maya customs and language. They are noted for their bright textiles and weavings in bold designs and this is the place to bargain for some colourful souvenirs. This afternoon you may wish to visit Na Bolom, the House of the Jaguar, which is dedicated to the preservation of the Lacandon tribe and displays many of their artefacts, or the Kakaw Museum where you can learn about the history and production of chocolate in the area and take part in a chocolate workshop. This evening we will visit a local restaurant where you will have the opportunity to sample the local firewater known as Pox (or aguardiente in other areas); its name comes from the Mayan Tzotzil language and means sugar cane liquor medicine. Pox is made of corn, sugar cane and wheat, very important in Mayan culture for its ceremonial uses.
Leaving the highlands today we travel to the humid, hot jungles of Palenque. On route we will stop by a traditional cacao ranch where you will visit and see how the fruit grows and is processed into chocolate. After exploring the ranch we will try some deep fried mojarra (fresh water bream) for lunch in an ideal setting overlooking the lake Nezahualcoyotl. There is a vegetarian option for non-fish eaters. We will then continue towards the Gulf of Mexico, through the state of Tabasco, on to Palenque.
This morning we will start early with a guided visit to the famous jungle ruins of Palenque, a fascinating and important Mayan site. Once the choking forest was cleared, the ruins revealed the tomb of the high priest Pakal, his body adorned with a marvellous jade death mask - one of the most prized relics of the Maya culture, discovered only in 1952. Only 1% of the site has been excavated, and with its shroud of the steamy rainforest it has an aura of deep mystery. In the early afternoon we drive along the Gulf coastline to the pleasant colonial city of Campeche, the state capital and once one of Spain's main ports in Mexico. On route we will stop for a ceviche lunch at the fishing village of Champoton. We will first have a demonstration on how the ceviche is prepared. Meaning 'meat cooked in vinegar', ceviche is made up of raw fish or seafood marinated in lime juice, onions, peppers and other spices. Peru is famous for its ceviche, but it is actually found throughout Central America, and this Mexican version is equally as delicious. We will then continue to Campeche; the afternoon is left to wander around the old port where defensive walls and fortresses are still in evidence. Campeche, although less visited than many parts of the Yucatan, boasts one of the most elegant and well-maintained colonial quarters with 18th and 19th century houses painted in soft pastel colours.
We start with a short drive to Uxmal. Encircled by hills, Uxmal is expansive in its design, with majestic palaces, temples, pyramids and long geometrical friezes that rank amongst the most splendid examples of ancient American art anywhere. The incredible Pyramid of the Magician and the beautiful Governor's Palace must also rate as two of the finest examples of Mayan art on the entire continent. Today we will visit this extraordinary site, spending some time exploring what for many is considered the crowning glory of Puuc architectural style, with its classical lines and abstract designs. Leaving Uxmal behind we will continue to the village of Abala, where we will be invited to enjoy a pibil lunch in a local villager's house. Pibil means 'cooked underground', and it is a technique where the meat is wrapped in a banana leaf, marinated in a sour orange and annatto sauce and baked in a barbeque pit for several hours. Following lunch we continue on to Merida, a city famed for its beautiful Spanish-Moorish style architecture. Known as the 'White City', Merida is the capital of the state of Yucatan and its centre reflects its colonial heritage, with a church or mansion on every street and its plazas alive with markets, entertainment and visitors.
After a later start we drive to the colonial backwater of Izamal. Here we will have lunch at restaurant Kinich - situated in one of the great houses of Izamal this is reputed to be one of the best restaurants on the Peninsula to enjoy the Yucatecan specialities such as lime soup, stuffed cheese, pork or chicken pibil style and 'relleno negro', black turkey stew. This afternoon we will return to Merida, where we will spend the afternoon sampling more street food and wandering the markets where you can try the local 'marquesitas' - an unusual sweet wafer, stuffed with melted cheese and sprinkled with optional caramel sauce. We will also have the opportunity to visit the Colon ice cream parlour, which has been making ice cream and cakes for over 100 years; there will be lots to choose from!
The trip ends in the morning at our hotel in Merida. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Merida at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from Manuel Crescencio Rejon International Airport (MID) which is approximately a 20 minutes\ drive from the hotel.
8 Lunch(es) 2 Dinner(s)
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