Mexico | The Maya

Ruins of Palenque
Ruins of Palenque
Temple of Kukulkan, Chichén Itzá
Temple of Kukulkan, Chichén Itzá
Usumacinta river
Usumacinta river
Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Cupolas of the old basilica and cityscape of Mexico City
Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Cupolas of the old basilica and cityscape of Mexico City
Tulum Ruins by the Caribbean Sea
Tulum Ruins by the Caribbean Sea
Iglesiade Santa Lucía San Cristóbal de las Casas
Iglesiade Santa Lucía San Cristóbal de las Casas
Mayan ruins in the site of Palenque
Mayan ruins in the site of Palenque
Colonial Campeche
Colonial Campeche
Boat at sunset by the Bosque Azul Lake in the Lagunas de Montebello National Park Chiapas
Boat at sunset by the Bosque Azul Lake in the Lagunas de Montebello National Park Chiapas
View over the jungle site at Palenque, from one of the high temples
View over the jungle site at Palenque, from one of the high temples
Temple facade in Uxmal
Temple facade in Uxmal
Ruined Mayan city of Tonina
Ruined Mayan city of Tonina
Macuilxochitl, god of pleasure, gambling and excess
Macuilxochitl, god of pleasure, gambling and excess
Chichén Itzá, center for the worship of Kukulkan, the feathered serpent
Chichén Itzá, center for the worship of Kukulkan, the feathered serpent
Reconstruction of one of the murals of Bonampak: a procession of Maya chiefs
Reconstruction of one of the murals of Bonampak: a procession of Maya chiefs
Cabanas on the beaches of the Caribbean - a fitting finale to our tour
Cabanas on the beaches of the Caribbean - a fitting finale to our tour

Of all Mesoamerican civilisations, the Maya have enjoyed the most enduring hold on the popular imagination. For a long time, their jungle-clad ruins remained intriguing, yet shrouded by mystery. However, recent progress in the decipherment of Maya writing has unlocked many of their secrets, revealing a society as complex and fascinating as their art, and architecture had previously suggested.

This is one of Andante’s most adventurous trips, starting with the superb museums of Mexico City, travelling via the uplands of Chiapas, along the great river of  Usumacinta, before driving up the Yucatan peninsular. This is a thrilling journey through the rich and colourful landscapes of Mexico.

  • View the Aztec Templo Mayor
  • Encounter enduring Maya traditions among the Chiapas communities
  • Discover Palenque, which is considered by many as the most beautiful of all the Maya cities
  • Travel in 4x4s and then by motor launch boat to reach the remote site of Yaxchilán, famous for its remarkable architecture
  • Explore the ball court, observatory, sacred well, and the great pyramid of Kukulcan at the awe-inspiring city of Chichén Itzá

Themes

  • The New World
  • Historic Churches

Itinerary 2019

Day 1

Fly into Mexico City and transfer to our hotel close to the Plaza de Armas in the Spanish Colonial center.

Hotel: Hampton Inn & Suites Mexico City
Meals: Snack in hote room due to late arrival

Day 2

The day begins with exploration of the remains of the Templo Mayor, once the sacred heart of Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital, combined with a visit to the excellent museum. In the afternoon we walk a short distance to the National Palace to see Diego Rivera’s magnificent murals.

Hotel: Hampton Inn & Suites Mexico City
Meals: All meals included

Day 3

Most of our day will be spent at the National Museum of Anthropology, one of the finest museums in the world, with collections spanning every era of Mexico’s richly-textured past. Having our lunch at the museum allows us to continue our visit here. Later in the afternoon, we return to our hotel with some free time to relax ahead of dinner.

Hotel: Hampton Inn & Suites Mexico City
Meals: All meals included

Day 4

This morning we fly south to Tuxtla Gutiérrez, on the edge of the beautiful Chiapas Highlands. Stopping for lunch in Chiapa de Corzo, we drive on to the handsome Colonial town of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, the great centre of traditional Maya culture. Later in the afternoon we can take a look at the products of the many hundreds of local Maya weavers who come in here from nearby villages.

Hotel: Hotel Casa Mexicana
Meals: All meals included

Day 5

A full day begins with a visit to Chamula, one of the most fiercely independent of all Maya towns. Here, famously, the local community have been largely left to run their own affairs. The use of the church of San Juan is a symbol of this. The Catholic clergy are absent most of the year and instead traditional Maya priests or shamans minister to the local population. On most days the interior of the church is packed with chanting priests and their clients. Candles flicker, pine needles cover the floor and on occasion a chicken will be sacrificed. We return to San Cristóbal for lunch with some free time to enter Santo Domingo church, stroll along the cobbled streets of the local market or visit a small new museum devoted to Maya textiles. In the early evening we visit the museum at the Casa Na Bolom, where we also have dinner.

Hotel: Hotel Casa Mexicana
Meals: All meals included

Day 6

We drive east to Toniná, a spectacular site perched in the hills above the fertile Ocosingo valley. On the periphery of the Maya area, it seems to have been one of the longest lasting Maya cities, possessing the very latest Maya ‘Long Count’ date known, from 15 January 909 AD. Other hieroglyphic evidence points to Toniná having engaged in sporadic warfare with Palenque, some 100 kilometres to the north and the direction in which we are heading.

Hotel: Hotel Villa Mercedes
Meals: Box breakfast, picnic lunch & dinner included

Day 7

A full day amongst the ruins of Palenque, beautifully positioned on the lower slopes of a range of jungle clad hills and with magnificent views across the floodplain of the Usumacinta River. The city possesses art and architecture of remarkable quality, most famously in the well preserved ‘Palace’ complex and the ‘Temple of the Inscriptions’, where Palenque’s greatest king, Pacal, lies buried in a massive sarcophagus. Abundant hieroglyphic texts here have been crucial in piecing together the story of Palenque’s rulers, a dynasty that lasted from c. 430 to 800 AD.

Hotel: Hotel Villa Mercedes
Meals: All meals included

Day 8

This morning we travel in 4x4s first to the famous Maya site of Bonampak, best known for the remarkable preservation of its vividly painted murals. From Bonampak we continue to the Usumacinta River and a journey by motor launch downriver to the jungle site of Yaxchilán, constructed within a horseshoe bend in the river. It is a remote and atmospheric place, many of the buildings well-preserved though devoid of some of its famous carved lintels. A number of these were removed by the British explorer Alfred Maudslay in the 1880s and are now to be seen in the ‘Mexican Gallery’ of the British Museum.

Hotel: Hotel Villa Mercedes
Meals: All meals included

Day 9

Today we drive north to the coastal city of Campeche, founded by Spanish settlers in 1540 and with a fine Colonial centre which we will explore in the afternoon.

Hotel: Hotel Plaza Campeche
Meals: All meals included

Day 10

We begin our day with a visit to the still remote site of Edzná. It has a very grand plaza, a five-storey main temple complex or Acropolis and it also originally possessed a complex system of dams and canals constructed as early as 150 BC. The city endured until the time of the conquest but was then abandoned and lay undiscovered until 1907. Our next stop is Sayil, a ruined Late Classic city extensively mapped in the 1980s which led to estimates of a peak population here of some 12,000 at the city’s height around 850 AD. John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood came here and were impressed by the seemingly Old-World style and proportion of the architecture, especially the multi-roomed palace structures, their façades decorated with pillars and clusters of columns. Before travelling on to Uxmal, we finish the day at Kabah, a small site best known for its ‘House of the Masks’ – a structure whose façade is decorated with hundreds of stone masks that probably represent the long-nosed Maya Rain God Chaak.

Hotel: Hotel Hacienda Uxmal
Meals: All meals included

Day 11

We devote the morning to Uxmal, especially renowned for the elegance of its architecture and the exceptional state of preservation of the buildings, commented upon by visitors from the 16th century onwards. John Lloyd Stephens was greatly impressed and felt that it formed a completely ‘new order’ of architecture, ‘not unworthy to stand side by side’ with the architectural traditions of the Old World. The tallest structure, looming above the site, is the so-called Pyramid of the Magician, built in five separate stages. But the city’s two major glories are the so-called ‘Nunnery’ quadrangle, made up of 4 rectangular range structures with multiple doorways around a central courtyard, and the magnificent House of the Governor, constructed on a broad platform and at a different angle to other structures, facing east towards the most southerly rising point of Venus as Morning Star. A recently deciphered inscription above the central doorway confirms this purposeful astronomical orientation. In the afternoon we continue to Mérida, the Yucatán’s cultural capital, where we will have some free time to investigate the city centre.

Hotel: Gamma Mérida El Castellano
Meals: All meals included

Day 12

We remain in Mérida in the morning to visit the new Mundo Maya Museum. This very good and comprehensive museum covers the history of the Yucatan from earliest times to the Colonial period. It has some splendid exhibits, such as an arresting, larger than life-size ‘chac-mool’ sculpture from Chichén Itza, depicting a reclining warrior with head twisted dramatically sideways and with a large receptacle for offerings in his belly. This afternoon we head for Izamal to visit the impressive Franciscan Monastery, built on top of a large Maya pyramid, which is most famous as the home in the 1550s and 60s of the great Spanish chronicler and extirpator of Maya ‘idolatries’, Diego de Landa.

Hotel: Hotel Villas Arqueologicas Chichén Itza
Meals: All meals included

Day 13

Today we encounter one of the most visited and impressive of all Maya cities: Chichén Itzá. It is a vast and still mysterious site where archaeological work has been ongoing for many years. We will enter early in the day to marvel at the immense Ball Court and the ‘Castillo’ or Temple Pyramid at the heart of an enormous plaza and to follow the great stone causeway to the sacred ‘Cenote’ or well. Into this natural sink hole in the limestone the Maya cast jades, precious metalwork and sacrificial victims which lay undiscovered until the early 20th century, even though the site was known and marvelled at by early Spanish visitors, including Diego de Landa. After lunch we continue to the walled city of Ek Balam, a lesser-known site, but where major discoveries have been made over the last decade or so. These demonstrate that Ek Balam was a major power in northern Yucatan in the Maya Classic period and may have had close ties to Chichén Itza. Here one can climb the steps of the largest pyramid for a marvellous view of the surrounding jungle.

Hotel: Hotel Villas Arqueologicas Chichén Itza
Meals: All meals included

Day 14

We spend our morning at the ruins of Cobá, which was once a very important city. More than 30 carved stelae have been found here, some with images of Cobá’s rulers. But the limestone is very soft and very few inscriptions are readable. Thus, the details of its history are lost to us. The site is characterised by clusters of buildings linked together by sakbes or stone causeways. At the end of one of these is the tallest Pyramid here, known locally as ‘Nohoch Mul’ or the ‘Big Hill’. At its summit is a temple structure with a stucco image of a figure plunging to earth, known as the ‘Diving God’. Further Diving Gods are to be seen at the small walled coastal site of Tulum, which we visit in the afternoon. Tulum seems to have been an important port late in the Maya period and is described from the sea by the first Spaniards who sailed along here in 1518, just before the conquest of the Aztecs. We spend our last night here in a hotel on the beach not far from Tulum.

Hotel: Hotel Los Lirios Tulum
Meals: All meals included

Day 15

A leisurely morning at our beach-side hotel, before we transfer to the airport for our individual flights home or onward travel.

Meals: Breakfast & light lunch included

Itinerary 2020

Day 1

We fly in to Mexico City and transfer to our hotel close to the Plaza de Armas in the Spanish Colonial centre.

Hotel: Hampton Inn & Suites Mexico City
Meals: Snack in hote room due to late arrival

Day 2

The day begins with exploration of the remains of the Templo Mayor, once the sacred heart of Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital, combined with a visit to the excellent museum. In the afternoon we walk a short distance to the National Palace to see Diego Rivera’s magnificent murals.

Hotel: Hampton Inn & Suites Mexico City
Meals: All meals included

Day 3

Most of our day will be spent at the National Museum of Anthropology, one of the finest museums in the world, with collections spanning every era of Mexico’s richly-textured past. Having our lunch at the museum allows us to continue our visit here. Later in the afternoon we return to our hotel with some free time to relax ahead of dinner.

Hotel: Hampton Inn & Suites Mexico City
Meals: All meals included

Day 4

This morning we fly south to Tuxtla Gutiérrez, on the edge of the beautiful Chiapas Highlands. Stopping for lunch in Chiapa de Corzo, we drive on to the handsome Colonial town of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, the great centre of traditional Maya culture. Later in the afternoon we can take a look at the products of the many hundreds of local Maya weavers who come in here from nearby villages.

Hotel: Hotel Casa Mexicana
Meals: All meals included

Day 5

A full day begins with a visit to Chamula, one of the most fiercely independent of all Maya towns. Here, famously, the local community have been largely left to run their own affairs. The use of the church of San Juan is a symbol of this. The Catholic clergy are absent most of the year and instead traditional Maya priests or shamans minister to the local population. On most days the interior of the church is packed with chanting priests and their clients. Candles flicker, pine needles cover the floor and on occasion a chicken will be sacrificed. We return to San Cristóbal for lunch with some free time to enter Santo Domingo church, stroll along the cobbled streets of the local market or visit a small new museum devoted to Maya textiles. In the early evening we visit the museum at the Casa Na Bolom, where we also have dinner.

Hotel: Hotel Casa Mexicana
Meals: All meals included

Day 6

We drive east to Toniná, a spectacular site perched in the hills above the fertile Ocosingo valley. On the periphery of the Maya area, it seems to have been one of the longest lasting Maya cities, possessing the very latest Maya ‘Long Count’ date known, from 15 January 909 AD. Other hieroglyphic evidence points to Toniná having engaged in sporadic warfare with Palenque, some 100 kilometres to the north and the direction in which we are heading.

Hotel: Hotel Villa Mercedes
Meals: Box breakfast, picnic lunch & dinner included

Day 7

A full day amongst the ruins of Palenque, beautifully positioned on the lower slopes of a range of jungle clad hills and with magnificent views across the floodplain of the Usumacinta River. The city possesses art and architecture of remarkable quality, most famously in the well preserved ‘Palace’ complex and the ‘Temple of the Inscriptions’, where Palenque’s greatest king, Pacal, lies buried in a massive sarcophagus. Abundant hieroglyphic texts here have been crucial in piecing together the story of Palenque’s rulers, a dynasty that lasted from c. 430 to 800 AD.

Hotel: Hotel Villa Mercedes
Meals: All meals included

Day 8

This morning we travel in 4x4s first to the famous Maya site of Bonampak, best known for the remarkable preservation of its vividly painted murals. From Bonampak we continue to the Usumacinta River and a journey by motor launch downriver to the jungle site of Yaxchilán, constructed within a horseshoe bend in the river. It is a remote and atmospheric place, many of the buildings well-preserved though devoid of some of its famous carved lintels. A number of these were removed by the British explorer Alfred Maudslay in the 1880s and are now to be seen in the ‘Mexican Gallery’ of the British Museum.

Hotel: Hotel Villa Mercedes
Meals: All meals included

Day 9

Today we drive north to the coastal city of Campeche, founded by Spanish settlers in 1540 and with a fine Colonial centre which we will explore in the afternoon.

Hotel: Hotel Plaza Campeche
Meals: All meals included

Day 10

We begin our day with a visit to the still remote site of Edzná. It has a very grand plaza, a five-storey main temple complex or Acropolis and it also originally possessed a complex system of dams and canals constructed as early as 150 BC. The city endured until the time of the conquest but was then abandoned and lay undiscovered until 1907. Our next stop is Sayil, a ruined Late Classic city extensively mapped in the 1980s which led to estimates of a peak population here of some 12,000 at the city’s height around 850 AD. John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood came here and were impressed by the seemingly Old-World style and proportion of the architecture, especially the multi-roomed palace structures, their façades decorated with pillars and clusters of columns. Before travelling on to Uxmal, we finish the day at Kabah, a small site best known for its ‘House of the Masks’ – a structure whose façade is decorated with hundreds of stone masks that probably represent the long-nosed Maya Rain God Chaak.

Hotel: Hotel Hacienda Uxmal
Meals: All meals included

Day 11

We devote the morning to Uxmal, especially renowned for the elegance of its architecture and the exceptional state of preservation of the buildings, commented upon by visitors from the 16th century onwards. John Lloyd Stephens was greatly impressed and felt that it formed a completely ‘new order’ of architecture, ‘not unworthy to stand side by side’ with the architectural traditions of the Old World. The tallest structure, looming above the site, is the so-called Pyramid of the Magician, built in five separate stages. But the city’s two major glories are the so-called ‘Nunnery’ quadrangle, made up of 4 rectangular range structures with multiple doorways around a central courtyard, and the magnificent House of the Governor, constructed on a broad platform and at a different angle to other structures, facing east towards the most southerly rising point of Venus as Morning Star. A recently deciphered inscription above the central doorway confirms this purposeful astronomical orientation. In the afternoon we continue to Mérida, the Yucatán’s cultural capital, where we will have some free time to investigate the city centre.

Hotel: Gamma Mérida El Castellano
Meals: All meals included

Day 12

We remain in Mérida in the morning to visit the new Mundo Maya Museum. This very good and comprehensive museum covers the history of the Yucatan from earliest times to the Colonial period. It has some splendid exhibits, such as an arresting, larger than life-size ‘chac-mool’ sculpture from Chichén Itza, depicting a reclining warrior with head twisted dramatically sideways and with a large receptacle for offerings in his belly. This afternoon we head for Izamal to visit the impressive Franciscan Monastery, built on top of a large Maya pyramid, which is most famous as the home in the 1550s and 60s of the great Spanish chronicler and extirpator of Maya ‘idolatries’, Diego de Landa.

Hotel: Hotel Villas Arqueologicas Chichén Itza
Meals: All meals included

Day 13

Today we encounter one of the most visited and impressive of all Maya cities: Chichén Itzá. It is a vast and still mysterious site where archaeological work has been ongoing for many years. We will enter early in the day to marvel at the immense Ball Court and the ‘Castillo’ or Temple Pyramid at the heart of an enormous plaza and to follow the great stone causeway to the sacred ‘Cenote’ or well. Into this natural sink hole in the limestone the Maya cast jades, precious metalwork and sacrificial victims which lay undiscovered until the early 20th century, even though the site was known and marvelled at by early Spanish visitors, including Diego de Landa. After lunch we continue to the walled city of Ek Balam, a lesser-known site, but where major discoveries have been made over the last decade or so. These demonstrate that Ek Balam was a major power in northern Yucatan in the Maya Classic period and may have had close ties to Chichén Itza. Here one can climb the steps of the largest pyramid for a marvellous view of the surrounding jungle.

Hotel: Hotel Villas Arqueologicas Chichén Itza
Meals: All meals included

Day 14

We spend our morning at the ruins of Cobá, which was once a very important city. More than 30 carved stelae have been found here, some with images of Cobá’s rulers. But the limestone is very soft and very few inscriptions are readable. Thus, the details of its history are lost to us. The site is characterised by clusters of buildings linked together by sakbes or stone causeways. At the end of one of these is the tallest Pyramid here, known locally as ‘Nohoch Mul’ or the ‘Big Hill’. At its summit is a temple structure with a stucco image of a figure plunging to earth, known as the ‘Diving God’. Further Diving Gods are to be seen at the small walled coastal site of Tulum, which we visit in the afternoon. Tulum seems to have been an important port late in the Maya period and is described from the sea by the first Spaniards who sailed along here in 1518, just before the conquest of the Aztecs. We spend our last night here in a hotel on the beach not far from Tulum.

Hotel: Hotel Cabañas Los Lirios Tulum
Meals: All meals included

Day 15

A leisurely morning at our beach-side hotel, before we transfer to the airport in Cancún for our individual flights home.

Meals: Breakfast & light lunch included

What's Included

  1. Expert Guide Lecturer
  2. Tour Manager
  3. Local Travel - Private a/c coach
  4. Meals - Most meals included
  5. Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in program; tips included
  6. Field Notes
  7. Hotels

Travel Information

Joining the Tour

For full information about how to join the tour, please click here.

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For full information about Passport validity and Visa requirements as well as Health and Vaccination information please click here.

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To book your tour without flights from the US, please call our team on 888 331 3476

2019 Tour Details

Mon 4th Nov - Mon 18th Nov

Available

Guaranteed Departure

$5,883

without flights

sgl supp: $935

MEX19A

Led By: David Drew

2020 Tour Details

Mon 2nd Nov - Mon 16th Nov

Available

$5,865

Full Price $5935 Save $70

without flights

sgl supp: $1,015

MEX20A

Led By: David Drew

Guide Lecturer

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