Start: Mexico City Finish: Havana
Physical rating: Low
Special diets catered: Vegetarians
Tour code: QVBAC
Group size: 1 - 16
Tour operated in:
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From city to country to coast, this is the perfect taste of Mexico and Cuba. Arrive in the mad metropolis of Mexico City and meander your way through jungle and ruins to the relaxed beaches of the Yucatan Peninsula, unravelling the magnificent mystery of the ancient Maya civilisations along the way. Jump across to the charming streets of Havana, where old-time American automobiles, richly scented Cuban cigars and an eclectic tapestry of architectures evoke a colourful past. Between the small-village vibes of Vinales and the fascinating charm of Trinidad, discover Cienfuegos and its blend of Caribbean and Parisian flavours. With plenty of time to swim, snorkel, cycle and hike, this Lonely Planet Experience combines Central America's most colourful and exciting destinations.
Location: Mexico City
Meals: No Meals
Bienvenidos a Mexico City! This is one of the world's largest urban centres, a bustling metropolis with so many influences, offering a huge variety of museums, galleries and architectural delights, along with pumping nightlife and unparalleled street food. Your Lonely Planet Experience begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm, but if you arrive early, perhaps head to the Zocalo – the massive central square – and check out the Aztec ruins and colonial architecture nearby. There are also plenty of parks, plazas and gardens to relax in and adjust to the Mexican way of life.Optional Activities:-Mexico City - Palace of Fine Arts (Palacio de Bellas Artes) (entrance fee) (Closed Mondays)-Mexico City - National Museum of Anthropology (entrance fee) (Closed Mondays)
Wake up in Mexico City, ready for a leader-led walk to orientate yourself to the city, as well as to explore its historic centre. Pass by the Metropolitan Cathedral, Zocalo, National Palace, Bellas Artes, Paseo de la reforma and more. After exploring the main historic sights of Mexico’s capital, you sure would have worked up an appetite. For lunch, sample some authentic soft corn tacos from two different vendors – some of the best you’ll ever taste. The rest of the day is free for you to explore as you wish. If you’re looking for something to do in the evening, why not join the Mexican Night Out Urban Adventure tour and get among Mexico's Holy Trinity of entertainment: cantinas, mariachi and lucha libre wrestling.Included Activities:-Mexico City - Leader-led Taco Crawl-Mexico City - Leader-led City Tour of Historic CenterOptional Activities:-Mexico City - Mexican Night Out: Cantinas, Mariachi & Lucha Libre - Urban Adventures-Mexico City - Frida Kahlo Museum (entrance fee)-Mexico City - Metropolitan Cathedral (entrance fee) - Free-Mexico City - Torre Latino 360° Lookout (entrance fee)-Mexico City - Diego Rivera Murals in the National Palace (entrance fee) - Free
Enjoy free time this morning to get in any last-minute exploration. Your group will head to the bus station in the late afternoon to catch a local bus to Puebla (approximately 2.5 hours), and if you're the grazing type, make sure you bring some snacks along for the journey. The local buses in Mexico aren't the colourful school buses seen in other areas of Central America – most are comfortable, coach-style vehicles equipped with bathrooms. The air conditioning will be blasted often, so don't forget to bring a jacket. On arrival in Puebla, your leader will take you out for an orientation walk and run through some common Spanish phrases to help you make the most of the days ahead. This will come in handy with an evening visit to La Pasita bar, where you’ll have the opportunity to taste pasita – a sweet liqueur made of raisins in one of Puebla’s most famous bars. Salud!Included Activities:-Leader-led Informal Spanish Lesson-Puebla - Leader-led orientation walk-Puebla - Visit to La Pasita BarOptional Activities:-Puebla - Lucha Libre Show (Mondays only) from
Puebla is a rapidly growing city featuring many well-maintained churches and buildings from the colonial period, and today is free for you to discover the city at your leisure. Though there are enough churches to visit a different one every day for a year, two of the best examples are Santa Domingo Church and the Rosary Chapel, located in town. Further afield lies the Great Pyramid of Cholula, containing over eight kilometres (five miles) of tunnels, with the enormous Popocatepetl Volcano serving as a backdrop. In town, Puebla also has plenty of markets where you can brush up on your bargaining skills or pick up some local handicrafts.Optional Activities:-Puebla - Santo Domingo Church and Rosary Chapel (entrance fee) - Free-Puebla - San Pedro Art Museum (entrance fee)
Journey by local bus to Oaxaca, arriving after approximately 5 hours. Oaxaca (pronounced ‘wuh-haa-ka’) is a beautiful, old colonial town full of graceful arcades and colourful markets. You'll find Zapotec and Mixtec influences around the city as ancestors have populated this region for thousands of years. Your leader will take you on a quick orientation walk to show you the ropes then the next couple of days are free for you to explore. The city is known for its arts scene, particularly its folk and fine art, but you'll also discover a grungier side to Oaxaca including some incredible examples of street art. Walk the narrow, cobbled streets, or maybe sit back in one of the squares, sipping mezcal and watching the world go by.Included Activities:-Oaxaca - Leader-led orientation walk
There's an opportunity today to visit the spectacular temples of Monte Alban just outside of Oaxaca. Monte Alban was inhabited for 1500 years by the Olmec, Zapotec and Mixtec peoples, and this World Heritage site is an outstanding example of a pre-Columbian ceremonial centre, with terraces, dams, canals and pyramids carved out of the mountain. Alternatively, why not take a day tour out to Mitla Ruins, relax at the mineral springs and calcified waterfalls of Hierve el Agua, and stop by a local mezcal distillery. In the evening, if you've any energy left, you could have a go at plating up some delicious local fare during a cooking class, or just head out for some food with your fellow travellers and enjoy the town's lively atmosphere.Optional Activities:-Oaxaca - Monte Alban archaeological site (entrance fee)-Oaxaca - Santo Domingo Cultural Centre (entrance fee)-Oaxaca - Cooking Class
Accommodation: Overnight bus
Use today to take part in whatever optional activities you couldn't fit in yesterday or enjoy a relaxed day in town at your leisure. This evening the group will take a first-class overnight bus to the highland town of San Cristobal de las Casas – a journey of approximately 13 hours. There'll be a toilet, reclining seats and plenty of leg room. The bus is air conditioned, so be sure to bring a jacket on board. Please keep in mind that though the bus is comfortable, the road from Oaxaca to San Cristobal has some very winding sections, so if you suffer from motion sickness this is the time to have your medication handy.
Location: San Cristobal de las Casas
The bus will arrive in San Cristobal de las Casas early this morning. Leave your luggage at the hotel and begin exploring this highland town, hidden in green Chiapas valley surrounded by pine trees. Your leader will take you on a tour around town and point out all the important places, then the rest of the day is free for your own adventure. Take in the cobblestone streets and colonial architecture, and soak up the old-world feel mixed with strong, pre-Hispanic roots. Stroll through the market, chat with the locals and maybe buy some of the colourful weavings they are known for, before grabbing a drink and some food with your fellow travellers. Included Activities:-San Cristobal de Las Casas - Leader-led City TourOptional Activities:-San Cristobal de Las Casas - Amber Museum (entrance fee)
The villages surrounding San Cristobal are home to the indigenous Tzotzil and Tzeltal communities, who still maintain a strong sense of tradition both in dress and custom. Today you'll visit the village of San Juan Chamula, home to the fascinating Iglesia de San Juan. This church, with its pine-covered floor and air thick with incense, is often frequented by shamans who come to carry out cleansings using firewater and ancient prayer. Please note that there is a strict ban on cameras inside the church. Outside, the village is alive with colourful markets that sell local handicrafts and great street food. If you would like to try something more active, your leader can help organise an optional boating trip in the Sumidero Canyon, which is as old and impressive as the Grand Canyon, or a canyoning adventure through El Chorreadero (both at your own expense).Included Activities:-San Juan Chamula - Maya Church (entrance fee)-Zinacantan - Maya Church (entrance fee)Optional Activities:-Sumidero Canyon - Boat Excursion (entrance and transport)
Travel along a windy road by private vehicle to Palenque (approximately 6 hours), stopping en route at the Agua Azul waterfall for a refreshing swim. Once you've arrived in Palenque, the afternoon is free for you to relax or explore. Situated in a steamy jungle, Palenque is a central town located close to the nearby Maya ruins of the same name, which you'll have a chance to check out tomorrow.Included Activities:-Agua Azul - Waterfall Visit (entrance fee)
Location: Palenque, Mérida
Today you have the chance to visit the Palenque archaeological zone. Situated on a hilltop, the ruins date back to AD600 and are some of the most impressive Maya relics in Mexico. As you walk among the temples (closed-toe shoes recommended), listen out for the eerie calls of howler monkeys echoing from the jungle. There are many ruins which are still un-excavated and remain hidden in the forest, and you can opt to take a guided tour of the ruins or through the surrounding jungle on your own Indiana Jones-style adventure. This afternoon, travel by private vehicle to the historic town of Merida (approximately 8 hours), the capital of the Yucatan region. Included Activities:-Palenque - Palenque Ruins (entrance fee)
Founded in 1542 on the site of Tho (an ancient Maya city), the colonial city of Merida retains much of its old-world charm thanks primarily to its people and architecture. Take an orientation walk with your leader, then enjoy free time for the rest of the day. Maybe take an optional trip to the Merida Contemporary Art Museum for an interesting perspective on contemporary life in the city. Or perhaps just spend some time wandering the Plaza Grande: a green, shady square enclosed by a 16th-century cathedral, City Hall, the State Government Palace and Casa Mantejo, or the outdoor markets where you can local food specialities like the seriously spicy El Yucateco hot sauce.Included Activities:-Merida - Leader-led orientation walkOptional Activities:-Merida - Fernando Garcia Ponce-Macay Contemporary Art Museum (entrance fee) - Free
Today you can choose to visit the Maya ruins of Uxmal, a 1-hour drive from Merida, on an optional tour which includes transport and a local guide. Not much is known about the site, but it's thought that the city was constructed around AD700, was home to around 25,000 people and once dominated the region along with Chichen Itza. Much of the site is decorated with masks of Chac, the rain god, and important buildings include the Pyramid of the Soothsayer, the Quadrangle of the Nuns, the Governor's Palace, the House of the Tortoises and the Ball Court. Alternatively, you can choose to visit the Celestun Bird Sanctuary, which is home to vast flocks of flamingos, herons and over 200 different bird species.Optional Activities:-Merida - Dzibilchaltun Ruins Tour (entrance, guide and transport)-Merida - Uxmal Ruins tour (inc. shared transport and guide)-Merida - Celestun Bird Sanctuary (entrance and transport)
Location: Chichen Itza, Playa del Carmen
Travel to Playa del Carmen by private vehicle, stopping en route for an included visit to the Maya ruins of Chichen Itza (this first part of the drive will take about 2 hours). Named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, Chichen Itza contains both Toltec and Mayan ruins lying alongside each other. The famous El Castillo pyramid dominates the site and there is also a large ball court where games used to be held. Nearby, excavations of the Well of Sacrifice revealed treasures of jade, copper and gold as well as many human and animal bones. The group will spend 2–3 hours at Chichen Itza before continuing on to Playa (approximately 3 hours). After a quick orientation walk, pick a place to kick back with a margarita and watch the sun go down.Included Activities:-Chichen Itza - Archaeological site (entrance fee, no guide)-Playa del Carmen - Leader-led Orientation Walk
Accommodation: Standard guesthouse
Say goodbye to the shores of Playa del Carmen and transfer to Cancun Airport for your included flight to Havana, Cuba. You’ll then be transferred to your accommodation. There may be time to get out and about in this colourful city before you meet your new group tonight – most activities can be booked through the tourist desk of larger hotels or directly at 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. Tonight, there will be another welcome meeting at approximately 6 pm, where you’ll meet your Cuban group leader and new travel crew, and this is generally followed by an optional group dinner.Optional Activities:-Havana - Tourist Bus Day Pass-Havana - Museum of the Revolution (entrance fee)-Havana - National Museum of Fine Arts (entrance fee)-Havana - Old Havana Street Eats - Urban Adventures (entrance fee & guide included)
This morning, join your leader on an two-hour walking tour around Old Havana – a district that reflects an eclectic mix of colonial, baroque and neoclassical architecture. Founded in 1519 by the Spanish, this area within Cuba’s capital remains virtually unchanged. Wander through Havana’s oldest square at Plaza de Armas, stroll around the buildings that frame 16th-century Plaza Veija, admire the basilica of San Francisco de Asis and visit the Havana Cathedral with its elaborate baroque facade. After your walking tour, take a taxi to the bus station and head west to Vinales (approximately 4 hours). This charming rural village is your base for the next couple of days, so why not do as the locals do – drink rum and dance the night away.Included Activities:-Havana - Leader-led walking tour of Old Havana-Vinales - Leader-led orientation walk
Enjoy free time in picturesque Vinales, which you'll soon see is home to some of Cuba’s best scenery. Together, your group will decide the best time to take an included informal Spanish lesson where you’ll learn some simple greetings like ‘hola’ and ‘hasta luego’, plus how to order an all-important ‘cerveza’ (beer)! The rest of the day is yours to soak up the slow, old-world pace of rural Cuba, where donkeys plod along the dirt roads. You might like to cruise around the area on a bicycle, hike through the tobacco fields or explore one of the Americas’ largest cave complexes up in the mountains. If you select the valley walk, you'll learn more about the lifestyle here and meet the farmers who grow tobacco for some of the world's most sought after and expensive cigars.Included Activities:-Leader-led Informal Spanish LessonOptional Activities:-Vinales - Live music venues (entrance fee) from-Vinales - Cueva del Indio - Cave Visit including boat trip (entrance fee included, no transport)-Vinales - Salsa Dance Lesson (per hour)-Vinales - Half-day Valley tour on foot including Tobacco Farmhouse-Vinales - Farm-to-table dinner at an eco-friendly ranch
Location: Bay of Pigs, Trinidad
Today, travel by private vehicle to the World Heritage-listed city of Trinidad. En route, you’ll stop at the Bay of Pigs for a dip in the crystal-clear Caribbean Sea, and if there’s time you can hire snorkel gear and swim among the tropical fish that call these waters home. Be sure to ask your local leader about the Bay of Pigs Invasion – a battle between the USA and Cuban revolutionaries which resulted in the first defeat of a US-backed takeover in Latin America. Continue to Trinidad where you'll spend the night.Included Activities:-Bay of Pigs - Coastal swim stop-Trinidad - Leader-led orientation walk
Trinidad is a standout destination for many visitors to Cuba, in no small part to well-preserved colonial buildings, friendly locals and its old-school feel. Today, you’ve got the full day to do as you please. 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! Hiking and cycling are equally good options, and there are some excellent walking trails in the nearby Sierra del Escambray mountains. For an insight into the colourful post-revolutionary period, why not visit the Museo Nacional de la Lucha Contra Bandidos and the Casa de los Martires de Trinidad. Nearby is the sprawling Valle de los Ingenios, where sugar plantations stretch out as far as the eye can see. In the evening, your leader will take you to a local bar for a rum tasting – Cuba is home to some of the best!Included Activities:-Trinidad - Rum Tasting in a Local BarOptional Activities:-Trinidad - Live Music Venues (entrance fee) from-Trinidad - Musical Instrument Lesson (guitar, double bass, tres, percussion) per hour-Trinidad - Trek to El Nicho Waterfall (entrance fee, guide and transport included)-Trinidad - Ancon beach shuttle bus
Location: Santa Clara
This morning, travel by private vehicle to the historic city of Santa Clara – less crowded and slower paced than the bustling Havana, and home to all things Che Guevara. First, visit the Che Guevara mausoleum and memorial; the final resting place of the physician-turned-guerrillero leader. Che's remains were brought to rest here after they were found in a remote corner of Bolivia in 1997, where he was assassinated by the CIA-backed Bolivian army. The memorial is home to an impressive bronze statue of Che bearing his rifle, and inside the museum you can learn about his amazing life and see photos and exhibits such as his famous black beret. Afterwards, your leader will take you on an orientation walk of the town and point you in the right direction. If there's time, why not take the short walk up to one of the best lookout spots in town, Loma del Capiro, where you can share sweeping views of the city with a statue of – you guessed it – Che Guevara! Included Activities:-Santa Clara - Che Guevara Mausoleum and Museum (entrance fee)-Santa Clara - Leader-led Orientation WalkOptional Activities:-Santa Clara - Derailed Train
In the morning, travel back to Havana by bus (approximately 4 hours) where you’ll return to your guesthouse to enjoy some free time. If you’re a cigar aficionado, you might like to purchase a tour for tomorrow morning of one of Cuba’s best tobacco factories where they produce a range of top-quality Montecristo, Partagas and Romeo y Juliet cigars. Tonight’s again up to you, so why not head out with the group and hit the town for a night of salsa.Optional Activities:-Havana - Buena Vista Social Club Performance (entrance fee)-Havana - Cigar Factory Tour (entrance fee and guide)
There are no activities planned for today, so you are free to leave your guesthouse at any time, provided you comply with any internal check-out times. This doesn’t mean your adventure has to come to an end! If you’ve got time, consider heading out in a 1950s convertible on a Classic American Car Tour of Havana with Urban Adventures. Take to the streets in style as you cruise through the capital – visit urbanadventures.com/havana-tour-classic-american-car-tour-of-havana for more information and to book.Optional Activities:-Havana - Murals & Mosaics: Community Projects Tour - Urban Adventures (entrance fee & guide included)-Classic American Car Tour of Havana - Urban Adventures (guide & transport included
3 breakfasts, 1 lunches
Hotel (13 nights), Overnight bus (1 night), Standard guesthouse (7 nights)
Private vehicle, Public bus, local bus, Overnight public bus, Taxi
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