Toltec Warrior Sculptures, Tula
Toltec Warrior Sculptures, Tula

Archaeological Tours

Central Mexico: Mesoamerican Mysteries

You don’t always have to cross oceans and continents to discover the world’s finest archaeological sites. Journey through the lands of the ancient indigenous civilizations of Mesoamerica as we cross frontiers of time into lost pre-Columbian worlds, whose dramatic histories and great monuments can fuel the imagination and open doors to new worlds.

The Aztec Empire, along with the preceding Toltec and Olmec cultures, is at the heart of this tour and the formidable legacy that they have left behind will be sure to impress archaeology lovers. The mighty Aztecs dominated the region for 200 years with their vivid culture and their highly organized society until the Spanish Conquistadors arrived in the 16th century and brought the Empire to a sudden and brutal end. We will also visit a panorama of provincial towns further south in Oaxaca, each built upon regional cultural traditions with ancient pre-Aztec roots — none more impressive than the vast Zapotec site of Monte Albán.

What's included?

  •  Expert scholar & tour manager
  •  Accommodation
  •  Local transport & private transfer to/from airport and group hotel
  •  Entries & tips
  •  Meals - as per the itinerary
  •  Four lectures from your expert scholar
  •  A name badge, luggage strap and bag tag
  •  A study guide, reading list, and other useful tour documentation compiled by your expert scholar and your Archaeological Tours team

Led by...

Dr William Saturno

Dr William Saturno

Dr William Saturno received his BA from the University of Arizona and his PhD from Harvard University and has been leading tours with us for over eight years. He is an expert in Mayan Civilization.

Full Price
$6,195

Today's Price
$5,995

Saving
$200

Deposit: $1,250 Single supplement: $1,150

Tour highlights:

  • Trace the captivating stories of the ancient civilizations of the Aztec, Toltec, Olmec, Zapotec, and Mixtec civilizations amid the wide horizons of central Mexico
  • Uncover the elaborate reliefs carved into the columns and friezes at El Tajín, considered among Mexico’s most important Classic-era sites
  • Enjoy a remarkable performance of the Danza de las Voladores de Papantla, a dizzying high-flying ritual dance
  • Stroll through legendary Teotihuacan – ‘birthplace of the gods’ – and explore the impressive Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon
  • Journey through jungle ruins and immerse yourself in the rich culture and heritage of Mesoamerican Mexico

Tour details

Dates December 5 2020 - December 18 2020
Duration 14 days
Cost
Full Price
$6,195
Today's Price
$5,995
Saving
$200
Deposit: $1,250 Single supplement: $1,150 Balance due by September 12 2020
Activity Level
Tour code B20MEC

Book Now or call 866-740-5130 if you have any questions

December 5 2020: Itinerary

We arrive in the vast metropolis of Mexico City and transfer to our hotel. The remainder of the day is free and a group dinner follows.

Meals include: Dinner

Hotel: Sheraton María Isabel, Mexico City

Today, we visit the National Museum of Anthropology. Its grounds cover 20 acres and the museum features one of the world’s largest collections of archaeological, ethnological, and anthropological artifacts from Mexico and the surrounding Mesoamerican area. Two of the many fascinating exhibits are the monolithic Stone of the Sun, thought to be a 16th century Aztec calendar, and the Olmec heads.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Sheraton María Isabel, Mexico City

We have an early start this morning as we drive to the archaeological ruins of the pyramid site at Tula, once a major city that reached its zenith as the capital of the pre-Aztec Toltec Empire from about 900 to 1150 CE. Here, we learn about the legends that surround Tula as we explore the Temple de Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli - on which stand the giant basalt figures representing the plumed serpent god Quetzalcóatl (dressed as a Toltec warrior), especially linked to Tula and one of the primary deities in the ancient Mesoamerican pantheon. After lunch, we return to Mexico City for an afternoon in the city’s main square, the Zócalo, and the surrounding area.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Sheraton María Isabel, Mexico City

Today, we return to the Zócalo to unravel the history of the Templo Mayor archaeological site and museum. Here, in the 15th century opening ceremony alone, Aztec priests offered 4,000 prisoners to the Aztec gods as human sacrifices. The temple was torn down by the Spanish Conquistadors in 1521 to make way for the new cathedral. In contrast, at the colonial-style National Palace nearby, we study vivid reminders of Mexico’s turbulent past as depicted in the vast murals of artist Diego Rivera’s highly politicized “The History of Mexico” series. After lunch at the Zócalo, we have free time for personal exploration.

All meals included

Hotel: Sheraton María Isabel, Mexico City

This morning, we drive to the capital’s Tlatelolco district, site of a ruined Aztec city – where, after the massacre of thousands, the final Spanish conquest of the Aztecs took place in 1521. A mass grave dating from the period was unearthed here in 2009. We now head 30 miles northwards to visit Teotihuacán. Originally an abandoned city stumbled upon by the Aztecs, Teotihuacán at its peak became the largest and most influential city in the pre-Columbian Americas, thriving for about 700 years until between 300 and 600 CE. On arrival, we take in the scale and atmosphere of the complex before checking in to our hotel outside the site and catching up over dinner.

All meals included

Hotel: Villas Teotihuacan Hotel & Spa, Teotihuacan

Our day is devoted to ancient Teotihuacán’s magnificent site. Following its “main street” – the “Avenue of the Dead” – we visit three awe-inspiring structures: the Temple of Quatezalcóatl (the Plumed Serpent), the great Pyramid of the Sun (the world’s third largest pyramid), and the smaller Pyramid of the Moon. The last two have extensive views from their summits, reached by steps. In the afternoon we visit the Mural Museum, which showcases original murals and reconstructions from the site. The remainder of the day is free to explore Teotihuacán or to relax at our nearby hotel.

 

All meals included

Hotel: Villas Teotihuacan Hotel & Spa, Teotihuacan

This morning, we enjoy a scenic drive east to the state of Veracruz and the imposing jungle ruins of El Tajín, the long-abandoned city of the Totonac people. The temples, palaces, ball-courts, and pyramids of this sacred “City of the Thunder God” embody a distinctive architecture characterized by elaborately carved reliefs on columns and friezes. Our exploration here includes a visit to the informative modern museum. Later, we enjoy a traditional Totonac pole-flying (and gravity-defying) dance performance by the amazing “Voladores de Papantla” before we transfer to our hotel in nearby Poza Rica.

All meals included

Hotel: Hotel Fiesta Inn, Poza Rica

We turn south this morning to Xalapa, capital of Veracruz, where we visit the Museo de Antropologia de Xalapa, surpassed in reputation only by its Mexico City counterpart. The collection’s focus is on the main pre-Hispanic civilizations from the Gulf coast, principally the Olmecs, the Totonacs, the Huastecs, and Classic Veracruz. Set amid a 10-acre hillside garden, the museum houses 3,000 archaeological finds, with its amazing centerpiece – the 17 colossal Olmec heads from San Lorenzo, Teotihuacán.

All meals included

Hotel: Hotel Posada Coatepec, Xalapa

After breakfast we travel west on to Puebla, with a stop at Cantona ruins. A fortified city occupied for around 400 years until approximately 1000 CE, this archaeological site was one of the largest urban settlements ever discovered in Mesoamerica. Here, in a breathtaking desert-and-mountain setting, we trace its story amid a series of small pyramids, multiple ball-courts, private residences, and a network of cobbled roads. After lunch, we drive down to Puebla for our two-night stay. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is one of Mexico’s oldest cities, with a rich colonial heritage and a wealth of well-preserved architecture in its center - at its most distinctive in the 16th century cathedral.

Meals include: Breakfast

Hotel: Hotel NH, Puebla

This morning we travel to one of Mexico’s most unusual ancient sites – nearby Cacaxtla, whose vividly-painted murals depicting military life over 1,300 years ago are among the best-preserved of their kind from the pre-Hispanic Mesoamerican world. After lunch, we explore Puebla’s superb Museo Amparo, an attractive historical museum housed in an 18th century baroque hospital that outlines the history of Mexico by means of an excellent collection of pre-Columbian artifacts and colonial Mexican art. We then continue to the city’s “Barrio del Artista” (Artists’ Quarter), once part of a bustling colonial-era market, and is now home to painting studios, exhibition halls, and cafés. The remainder of our day is ours to spend at leisure in Puebla.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Hotel NH, Puebla

We leave Puebla this morning on the 200 mile drive to Oaxaca – a long but scenic ride, broken by stops along the way. After an afternoon arrival, we begin with an orientation visit to the city’s Museum of Oaxacan Cultures, whose displays bring the history and culture of Oaxaca to life. Of special interest will be the Mixtec hoard, a dazzling discovery of royal jewels, carved bone, and crystal goblets, retrieved from nearby Monte Albán. After, there’s time to relax or to explore Oaxaca. A UNESCO-listed site, the city has retained many of its native roots amid the fine colonial architecture.

All meals included

Hotel: Hotel Quinta Real, Oaxaca

This morning we take a short drive to Yagul - one of just four locations named as Natural Monuments by the Mexican government and occupied from around 500 CE until the arrival of the Spanish. Highlights include several multi-chambered tombs, a beautiful “juego de pelota” ball-court, and the stunning views from the hilltop fortress ruins. After lunch we continue to neighboring Mitla, which rose to preeminence after nearby Monte Albán was abandoned, only to be largely dismantled later by the Conquistadors. Famed today for its intricate and symbolic mosaics and fretwork, Mitla (meaning “Place of the Dead”) was an important Zapotec religious center whose high priests almost certainly performed human sacrifices. Our afternoon ends with a visit to nearby Teotitlán del Valle village to watch a fascinating demonstration of local weaving skills.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Hotel Quinta Real, Oaxaca

Our final full day opens with a visit to Monte Albán, which, for almost a thousand years until its mysterious decline, was the socio-political center of the Zapotec world. Today its extensive array of hilltop ruins puts Monte Albán among Mexico’s most prominent archaeological sites. We visit the site museum, featuring original stone carvings and a wealth of other discoveries from the complex, before our return to Oaxaca for an afternoon at leisure. In the evening, we meet up for a special farewell dinner at our hotel.

All meals included

Hotel: Hotel Quinta Real, Oaxaca

We transfer to Oaxaca airport for our individual flights home or onward travel.

Meals include: Breakfast

December 5 2020: Additional Info

December 5 2020: Accommodation

Offering an outdoor pool and a restaurant, Sheraton Maria Isabel Hotel Towers has a privileged location and is set in the heart of Mexico City's financial district on Paseo de la Reforma Avenue. WiFi is available.

Each room here will provide you with air conditioning, a minibar and cable channels. The beds boast a custom-designed plush mattress, a comforter and plush pillows. The elegant and spacious bathrooms may either have a bath or a shower. Extras include a desk, a safety deposit box and ironing facilities.

Situated just outside of Mexico City, and moments away from the ancient ruins of Teotihuacán, Villas Teotihuacan Hotel & Spa features a tropical-style swimming pool, a gift shop and conference rooms.

Villas Teotihuacan Hotel & Spa is located right on the Avenue of the Dead, in the Teotihuacán archaeological zone. It is just seconds away from some of the country's most famous landmarks, including the Pyramid of the Sun.

Rooms at the Villas Teotihuacan Hotel & Spa feature colonial-style décor with wooden furnishings. All rooms offer views of the gardens.

Guests can enjoy a meal in the Poza Rica Hotel restaurant. There is also a bar and room service is available.

The hotel offers a laundry service and has a 24-hour reception. An airport shuttle service is available for an extra charge. There is easy access to the city’s main access motorways. 

Located in central Coatepec, this hotel offers an outdoor pool, as well as a hot tub and sauna, for an extra cost. Built in classic Mexican style, the rooms, suites and villa have traditional furniture.

All rooms in Posada Coatepec have a private bathroom with bath, as well as a cable TV. Free bottled water is provided.

The Maria Enriqueta Restaurant offers classic Mexican specialties, as well as international dishes. You can also choose to dine in your room.

About 60.3 miles southeast of Mexico City, this NH property is located just steps away from the magnificent Historical Center of Puebla, nominated “Cultural Heritage of Humanity”; also in walking distance from the downtown area, main shopping centers and industrial parks of this colonial city.

NH Puebla Centro Histórico´s 180 rooms are finely appointed with vanguard décor, complimented with fine gastronomy and free WiFi. 

This 100% smoke free hotel is located in Oaxaca de Juárez, just 150 yards from Santo Domingo de Guzmán Church. It offers a 24-hour reception and air-conditioned rooms with satellite TV and WiFi.

The rooms at the Quinta Real Oaxaca feature tiled floors, colonial-style décor and extra cushions. Each one comes with a safe and private bathroom with a hairdryer.

December 5 2020: Enquiries

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January 11 2020

Dr William Saturno

Led by Dr William Saturno

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