Mexico: Mayans, Aztecs & Conquistadors Day of the Dead Festival (Romerillo)

Resort: Mexico: Mayans, Aztecs & Conquistadors Day of the Dead Festival (Romerillo)
Operator: Exodus
Destination: Caribbean and Central America
Price From: £3549.00


Journey through Mexico’s pre-Columbian temples, colonial towns, higlands and

Few countries can compete with Mexico when it comes to unleashing the inner
Indiana Jones in each of us. Jungle clad temples and abandoned ancient
civilisations make way to colonial era towns with cobbled streets and Spanish
architecture. This fusion of history has led to Mexicos unique culture
from the art of Frida Kahlo to Oaxacas succulent cuisine. Uncover the
countrys historical and cultural layers as we journey from the highlands
of Mexico City to the jungles and beaches of the Yucatan via the lands of
Aztecs, Zapotec, Mayas and Conquistadors.

This relates to the special Day of the Dead Festival departure which is one
day longer and spends the day celebrating the Day of the Dead festivities in


* Day of the Dead Festival in Romerillo
* Mexico’s intense culinary and artistic traditions
* From ancient temples and cities to colonial town
* Highlands, jungles and coastlines


Day 1
Fly to Mexico City

Those on the group flights normally arrive in Mexico City in the evening.
Land only passengers can arrive at any time.

*Hotel Regente or similar*

Day 2
Coyoacan Neighbourhood, Frida Kahlo and Xochimilco Canals

Today we head out for a day of exploring the bohemian side of Mexico City.

We start off by making our way to the south of the city and a particular
house hidden behind cobalt blue walls known as Casa Azul. This is where the
acclaimed artist Frida Kahlo was born, grew up and, eventually, lived with
her muralist husband, Diego Rivera until she died in 1954 at the age of 47.
Now a museum, the colonial house, set around a luxuriant garden, doesnt
only showcase the collections and personal effects of the two great artists
but is a window into the life of affluent Mexican bohemians in the first half
of the 20th Century.

Next, we visit the quaint neighbourhood of Coyoacan (meaning place of
coyotes) with its pebbled streets, colonial churches, bustling little markets
and quiet squares. This area was inhabited before the arrival of the Spanish
and it is said that the conquistador, Hernan Cortes, made this the first
capital of New Spain.

Finally, we enjoy a relaxing ride on a pre-Hispanic boat along the peaceful
waters of the Xochimilco Canals. These scenic waterways would have been used
by the Aztecs and today see us enjoying a relaxing journey past floating
gardens and little floating kitchens selling local food.

We finally return to our hotel in the late afternoon.

*Hotel Regente or similar*

Day 3
Teotihuacan and Mexico City’s Old Town

The ancient city of Teotihuacan reached its zenith around 1,000AD when it was
the 6th biggest city in the world with a population of about 125,000. Amongst
the avenues and structures are the pyramids of the Sun and the Moon, the 3rd
and 4th largest in the world. We explore this impressive archaeological zone
with an expert local guide to unearth some of the sites secrets.

Returning to Mexico City, we visit the historic centre on a walking tour
based around the Zocalo (main square) and the Cathedral Metropolitana.Our
exploration will start in the capitals main square, known as the Zcalo,
but officially named the Plaza de la Constitucin. Considered one of the
biggest squares in the world, and just as it was an important gathering place
for the Aztecs, it remains so in modern day Mexico, often hosting book fairs
and concerts. On the North side of the Zcalo is the Metropolitan
Cathedral. The largest Cathedral in the Americas, it was constructed over the
Aztec temple, the Templo Mayor, as a sign that the Spanish were now in
power. We continue to The Palacio Nacional, which not only contains the
offices of the President, the Federal Treasury and the National Archives but
also murals depicting pre-Hispanic life and a large mural filling the central
stairway depicting the entire history of Mexico from the conquest on. Our
tour finishesoutside of The “Palacio de Bellas Artes”. Construction of
this massive neoclassical building began in 1904, on the remains of the Santa
Isabel convent, under the Italian architect Boari. It has an art nouveau
style and its facade is made of marble from Carrara.

*Hotel Regente or similar*

Day 4
Museum of Anthropology and History; on to Puebla

Before leaving Mexico City behind we visit the Museum of Anthropology and
History with its impressive collection of artefacts from Mexicos many
civilisations.Starting our journey south we head towards the city of Puebla
(about 4.5hrs). In the late afternoon we arrive in Puebla de los Angeles, the
City of Angels so called because of a legend that claims angels came down
from heaven to place the cathedrals bells in the towers when builders were
unable to do so. The colonial city is known for its traditions, especially
its handicrafts, including blue-and-white pottery, and its cuisine that is
some of the best in Mexico.

*Hotel Colonial Puebla or similar*

Day 5
Puebla city tour and on to Oaxaca

We spend this morning discovering the city of Puebla which has been given
UNESCO World Heritage Site for its colonial architecture. We visit the Patio
de los Azulejos and the ex-Convent of Santa Rosa, both of which provide
classic examples of how talavera tiles were incorporated into
buildings, inside and out. Early settlers who came from Talavera de la Reina
in Spain introduced these tiles and associated ceramics. Today the glazed
pottery has become synonymous with Puebla.

After our city tour we continue our journey and drive towards another Mexican
World Heritage City, Oaxaca (about 4.5hrs). With a colonial centre of shaded
pedestrian streets, bright, clear light, indigenous traditions and a creative
atmosphere, Oaxaca has attracted and inspired many artists and artisans

The city boasts such sights as the beautiful zocalo (main square), the
Cathedral and the vast Convento de Santo Domingo, along with museums,
fascinating markets and charming inns.

**Hotel Oaxaca Real*or similar*

Day 6
Monte Alban and Oaxaca

Our next exploration of Mexican history takes us to the Zapotecan site of
Monte Alban. Whilst the name dates back to a Spanish landowner in the
16th-century, previous names come from the Mixtec word Sahandevul
meaning At the foot of the Sky or the Zapotecan Danibaan meaning
Sacred Mountain.

In 500 BC the Zapotecans moved into the Oaxaca region and began the
monumental task of levelling the top of a 1,600m high mountain that
intersects and divides three valleys. Here they built the city of Monte Alban
with a maze of subterranean passageways, rooms, drainage and water storage

We later return to Oaxaca and explore the cobbled streets and vibrant squares
and churches of the historical town. We also visit the Museum of cultures
Santo Domingo.

**Hotel Oaxaca Real*or similar*

Day 7
Learn how to create popular Mexican dishes

Oaxaca is possibly the most famed region in Mexico for its cuisine and we get
more acquainted with it as we head for a cooking class, learning dishes that
can easily be recreated at home. The exact menu can change but we generally
learn how to make two types of tortilla, three different salsas, guacamole,
mole, a starter, a soup, a desert and a drink. We visit a local market where
different ingredients are showcased and explained before returning to the
restaurant for our class and a succulent lunch.

The afternoon is free to wander around Oaxaca on your own.

**Hotel Oaxaca Real*or similar*

Day 8
Teotitlan del Valle, Mescal tasting and on to Tehuantepec

A short distance from Oaxaca is the village of Teotitlan del Valle known for
its colourful, hand-woven rugs and our first stop today. From here we
continue to the Don Agave distillery to taste some mescal. Distilled from
agave plants, mescal is different to tequila and is most popular in the
Oaxaca region. After this tasting we drive on to Tehuantepec where we spend
the night (total drive time is about 7hrs plus stops)

*Hotel Calli or similar*

Day 9
To San Cristobal

Drive to San Cristobal (about 6hrs plus stops).

One of Mexico’s most popular cities with visitors, San Cristobal de las Casas
is filled with cobbled stoned alleyways of whitewashed buildings with
red-tiled roofs that give onto plazas and picturesque arcades.

Arriving in San Cristobal in the afternoon, we have a short orientation tour
of the historic city before checking into our hotel.

*Hotel Casa Mexicana or similar*

Day 10
Free day in San Cristobal

Today is a free day to explore San Cristobal at your own pace. Wander the
colonial streets, take in the lively cafs, or buy handicrafts produced by
the local Tzotzil indigenous groups with their different colourful dress.
Its also possible to do an optional boat trip through the Sumidero Canyon
and/or visit one of the traditional Mayan communities who live in the
villages surrounding the city (see money section for prices).

*Hotel Casa Mexicana or similar*

Day 11
Day of the Dead Traditions and Festival in Romerillo

The Mexican Day of the Dead celebration is possibly the most vibrant and
colourful tribute to human mortality there is. Mexican’s pay tribute to the
dead, especially close relatives, visiting graves and congregating around
headstones to lay edible offerings alongside mounds of golden marigolds, the
‘Flor de Muerto’ (flower of the dead). Today will be full of new experiences
that will take you closer to understand the myth and history of the Day of
Dead and discover some of the festivities and traditions. As well as visiting
some cemeteries around San Cristobal de las Casas to see the altars and
tributes made to loved ones, we also plan to see some markets and bakeries
with ornaments and essentials for the Day of the Dead festivities. This is a
great chance to sample some specialities that are only on offer during this

Our day will also include some time at the Chamulan village Romerillo where
we can join in with festivities happening locally. In this area, the ancient
traditions of Day of the Dead haven’t changed in many years. Traditionally
the 31st of October is for cleaning graves – they are made to look fresh
(recently dug with dirt piled up and fresh pine needles laid to represent
eternal life), planks of wood to represent doors are then placed on top. On
November the 1st the festivities begin. Offerings including the deceased
favourite food and drink are placed on the graves to be shared with the
departed. The ‘doors’ are opened so that friends and family can have
conversations with their loved ones. There is mourning in evidence but also
smiles and laughter, and the experience is overwhelmingly life affirming and
uplifting. In Romerillo the cemetery is also covered with huge blue wooden
crosses decorated in chrysanthemums, which makes for a very colourful view.
By spending some time in Romerillo you will be exposed to a very authentic
and traditional Day of the Dead celebration.

**Hotel Casa Mexicana *or similar*

Day 12
To Palenque via Agua Azul

The road we take towards Palenque is very windy but picturesque. En route we
visit the waterfalls of Agua Azul (after about 5hrs driving plus stops). Agua
Azul is a group of beautiful waterfalls that create wonderful natural pools
and has been a protected area since 1980.

Following a stop at the falls its a further 2.5hrs to the town of
Palenque, named after the nearby impressive ruins.

*Hotel La Aldea del Halach Huinic or similar

Day 13
Palenque Ruins, on to Campeche

Emerging from the jungles of the Chiapas low-lying hills is one of
Mexicos most impressive ruins: the Mayan site of Palenque. The temples,
sanctuaries and pyramids, with their sculptured walls and ceilings are some
of the best-preserved and finest examples of Mayan buildings despite the
city-state having peaked over 1,300 years ago in the 7th century.

We explore this magnificent site before continuing on the road towards the
Yucatan Peninsula and the Caribbean town of Campeche (about 5hrs plus stops).

Yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the colonial towns best feature
are its impressive city walls built to protect it from the constant attacks
by English and Dutch buccaneers and pirates during the 16th and 17th

*Hotel Lopez or similar*

Day 14
Uxmal, traditional lunch and Merida

About two hours drive from Campeche is our second Mayan site: Uxmal. Quite
open, it is in contrast to the jungle-ruins of Palenque we visited yesterday.
This site, which dates to the late classic era (500-800AD) and features the
Pyramid of the Magician; the Nunnery Quadrangle with long, elaborately carved
facades; and a ball court where a traditional ball game was played, sometimes
ending in human sacrifice.

Having worked up an appetite we have lunch at a local Mayan family
restaurant. Here we get to eat Pollo Pibil and Cochinita Pibil slowly
cooked pork and chicken. The meat is roasted for about 5hrs along with
achiote paste and wrapped in banana leaves. This is a typical Yucatan dish
and representative of the local cuisine.

After lunch its about 1.5hrs drive to Merida. A number of the citys
buildings, including the cathedral, were built using Mayan stones found on
this site and, along traditional colonial architecture, features 19th century
houses built in a French style.

Arriving mid-afternoon we have a walking tour of Merida, returning later to
enjoy the main square which is particularly delightful at night.

*Hotel Caribe or similar*

Day 15
Tixkokob craft village, Izamal magic town and on to Chichen Itza

Our first stop is at the traditional Mayan village of Tixkokob where local
families practice the age-old craft of hammock weaving.

After learning about how hammocks are made we continue to the magic
town of Izamal. Once a Mayan settlement, the name means Place of the
God of Medicine. The town is covered in buildings painted yellow and white
and is known for the 16th century Franciscan monastery built on top of the
base of a huge Mayan pyramid (which was probably once larger than the
Castillo in Chichen Itza).

From here we transfer to Chichen Itza, possibly the best known and most
impressive of all Mayan sites (total drive time of about 3.5hrs plus stops).

**Hotel Chichen Itza*or similar*

Day 16
Chichen Itza visit; on to Cancun; end Cancun

Our final day starts with a visit the most famous Mayan temple city: Chichen
Itza. Having spent the night near to the site means we can get in nice and
early before the hordes of day-trippers coming from the beach resorts.

Chichen Itza served as the political and economic centre of the Mayan
civilisation and thrived from around 600 to 1200AD. The pyramid of Kukulkan,
the Temple of Chac Mool, the Hall of the Thousand Pillars and the Playing
Field of the Prisoners can still be seen today and demonstrate the
extraordinary commitment to architecture, space and composition. The pyramid
itself was the last, and possibly the greatest, of Mayan pyramids.

This afternoon we drive about 2.5hrs to Cancun airport in time for the group
flight. This is where the tours land only portion ends. Those who have
decided to extend there stay by visiting the beach will get picked up here.

Day 17
Arrive London

Arrive London

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