Discover Mexico & Cuba
Travel DatesDepartures year round
Sale EndsDec 31, 2023
Day 1: Mexico City
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 adventure 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.
Day 2: Mexico City
Wake up in Mexico City, ready for a leader-led walk to orientate yourself to the city. Pass by the Metropolitan Cathedral, Zocalo, National Palace, Bellas Artes, Paseo de la reforma and more. After exploring the main sights of Mexico’s capital, you sure would have worked up an appetite. For lunch, join your local leader on a ‘taco crawl’ around town to taste Mexico City’s delicious street-food staple, tacos al pastor, among plenty other delicious treats. After eating your way around the city, the rest of the day is free for you to explore as you wish. In the evening you could visit the famous Plaza Garibaldi or sip cocktails with your fellow travellers in one of the many trendy bars in the city, whatever takes your fancy.
Day 3: Puebla
Start the day with a visit to the community of San Pedro Tlahuac, home to Nahuatl descendants who keep their way of life alive. The community practices traditions from pre-Columbian times, including chinampa farming, fiestas and ancient ceremonies. After an included lunch, your group will head to the bus station in the late afternoon to catch a local bus to Puebla, 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 handy Spanish phrases to help you make the most of the days ahead. Put your newly learnt Spanish skills to the test 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!
Day 4: Puebla
Puebla is a rapidly growing city featuring many well-maintained churches and buildings from the colonial period. 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.
Day 5: Oaxaca
Today we journey by local bus to Oaxaca. 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 and some incredible examples of street art. Walk the narrow, cobblestone streets, or maybe sit back in one of the squares, sipping mezcal and watching the world go by.
Day 6: Oaxaca
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, visit a traditional weaving arts town, and stop by a local mezcal distillery. In the evening, if you've any energy left, you could head out for dinner with your fellow travellers and enjoy the town's lively atmosphere.
Day 7: Oaxaca / Overnight Bus
Use today to take part in any optional activities you couldn't fit in yesterday, you could have a go at plating up some delicious local fare during a cooking class or enjoy a relaxed day in town at your leisure. This evening the group will take an overnight bus to the highland town of San Cristobal de las Casas. Reclining seats and toilet are available on the bus. 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.
Day 8: 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 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. We’ll also stop by the town of Zinacantan to explore another local church. Your visit to Zinacatan church will reveal a fascinating mixture of Christian and Mayan religion, which helps you understand some of the local culture in this region. The rest of the day is free for your own adventure. 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.
Day 9: San Cristobal de las Casas
There’s no alarm clock needed this morning as today is yours to explore San Cristobal de las Casas at your own leisure. Perhaps, take in the cobblestone streets and colonial architecture, and soak up the old-world feel mixed with strong, pre-Hispanic roots. Or try something more active and ask your leader to help organise an optional boating trip in the Sumidero Canyon, which is as old and impressive as the Grand Canyon (at your own expense).
Day 10: Palenque
Travel along a windy road by private vehicle to Palenque, stopping en route at the beautiful Agua Azul cascades and Misol-Ha 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 close to the nearby Maya ruins of the same name, which you'll have a chance to check out tomorrow.
Day 11: Palenque Ruins / Merida
Today you visit the Palenque archaeological zone. The stunning Mayan temples of Palenque are quite rightly considered a must-see during any trip to Chiapas, or indeed Mexico. 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, the capital of the Yucatan region.
Day 12: Merida
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 head to the outdoor markets where you can find local specialities like the seriously spicy El Yucateco hot sauce.
Day 13: Merida
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. 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 could choose to take an optional guided tour to Las Coloradas – the incredible pink lagoon that’s home to flocks of flamingos.
Day 14: 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. 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 a few hours at Chichen Itza before continuing on to Playa del Carmen. After a quick orientation walk around Playa del Carmen with your local guide, pick a place to kick back with a margarita and watch the sun go down.
Day 15: Havana
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.
Day 16: Vinales
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.
Day 17: Vinales
This morning, enjoy a walking tour through farms, tobacco plantations and lush cultivated lands for an insight into rural life in Vinales. Learn more about the simple lifestyle here and see first-hand the farmers who grow tobacco for some of the world’s most expensive cigars. 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 or explore one of the Americas’ largest cave complexes up in the mountains.
Day 18: 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. Follow your leader on a walking tour in this charming town and visit a local pottery workshop and learn about the special pottery work in Trinidad.
Day 19: Trinidad
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.
Day 20: 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!
Day 21: Havana
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 Head out tonight to a night live music venue with your leader and why not celebrate the end of your adventure in Cuba with some salsa dancing.
Day 22: Havana
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.