Cantona archaeological site
Cantona archaeological site

Central Mexico: Mesoamerican Mysteries


14 days From $5,995

March 2 2019

You do not always have to cross oceans and continents to discover the world’s finest archaeological sites. Despite its relatively modest distances this journey through the lands of the ancient indigenous civilizations of Mesoamerica crosses frontiers of time into lost pre-Columbian worlds whose dramatic history and great monuments can fire the imagination today as powerfully as any other further afield.

For archaeology-enthusiast travelers the fascination of our tour will be rooted primarily in the almost mystical legacy left by the fabulous Aztec Empire and its influential Toltec and Olmec predecessors, vividly recorded in tales of the grandeur of Tenochtitlan, their island capital. The mighty Aztec culture and highly organized society remained dominant for 200 years – only to be brought to a sudden and violent end in the 16th century by the Spanish conquistadors. Traveling south, we also visit a panorama of provincial towns, each built upon regional cultural traditions with ancient pre-Aztec roots – none more impressive than the vast Zapotec site of Monte Alban.

Mexico’s days of gold-bedecked warriors in resplendent headdress may have long vanished but its distinctive cultural heritage still finds vibrant expression in a wealth of lively festivals, markets and craft and mural-painting skills.

What's included?

  •  Expert Scholar & Tour Manager
  •  Accommodation
  •  Meals - as per the itinerary
  •  Local Transport
  •  Entries & Tips

Led by...

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.

Book Now $5,995
Includes deposit: $500 Single supplement: $1,150

Tour highlights:

  • Trace the story of the ancient civilizations of the Aztec, Toltec, Olmec, Zapotec and Mixtec civilizations amid the wide horizons of middle Mexico
  • Stroll through legendary Teotihuacan – ‘birthplace of the gods’ – and explore the awesome Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon
  • Uncover the elaborately carved reliefs etched into the columns and frieze at El Tajín, 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
  • Journey through jungle-clad ruins and immerse yourself into the rich culture and heritage of Mesoamerican Mexico

Tour details

Dates March 02 2019 - March 15 2019
Duration 14 days
Cost $5,995
Single supplement: $1,150
Deposit: $500 , balance due by 08 December 2018
Activity Level Easy-Going
Tour code A19MEC

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

March 2 2019: Itinerary

We arrive in the vast metropolis of Mexico City and transfer to our first hotel. We take the rest of the day to relax after our flight, before coming together for dinner as a group.

Meals include: Dinner

Hotel: Sheraton María Isabel, Mexico City

We spend the full day at Museo Nacional de Antropología, one of the finest museums of its type and the most visited in Mexico. The Museum contains one of the world’s largest collections of archaeological and anthropological artefacts from pre-Hispanic Mayan civilizations to the Spanish conquest. The building itself is surrounded by a huge pond, a courtyard and a large concrete umbrella. The site demands more than a flying visit, so we take our time to explore its many halls before. We pause for lunch and afterwards, we see the famous Stone of the Sun, thought to be a 16th-century Aztec calendar, or the colossal Olmec heads: giant prehistoric sculptures that easily dwarf those who come to see them.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Sheraton María Isabel, Mexico City

An early start sees us driving north to the wonderfully preserved pyramid site of Tula, which reached its height as the capital of the Toltec Empire between the fall of Teotihuacán and the rise of Tenochtitlan. The feathered serpent god Quetzalcoatl is linked to this city, whose worship was widespread from central Mexico to Central America. As we explore the Temple de Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli, atop which stand the giant basalt figures representing Quetzalcoatl dressed as a Toltec warrior, we will try to unravel the many legends that surround the city. We enjoy lunch in Tula, before returning to Mexico City to spend the afternoon in the city’s central square and surrounding streets. The Zocalo, the political and religious heart of the city, was once the site of an Aztec ceremonial center, and remains an exciting hub of activity and outstanding architecture.

All meals included

Hotel: Sheraton María Isabel, Mexico City

This morning we return to the Zócalo, for an in-depth look at Templo Mayor – a site considered to be the center of the Aztec universe. In its 15th-century opening ceremony alone, some 4,000 prisoners were offered to the gods as human sacrifices. The temple was destroyed by the Spanish in 1521 in order to pave the way for the new cathedral. We find further echoes of colonial destruction amid the tranquility of the nearby National Palace, where we view the vast murals of Diego Rivera’s highly-politicized series, The History of Mexico. Following lunch at the Zócalo, the afternoon is left free for us to wander the rest of the center at our leisure. Step into the city’s cathedral, explore the bustling shops and boutiques, or marvel at some of the lop-sided buildings which are slowly subsiding into the marshy ground beneath the capital.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Sheraton María Isabel, Mexico City

We depart for Tlatelolco this morning, a ruined Aztec city at which a mass grave dating from the Spanish conquest was unearthed in 2009. Around 50 bodies have so far been found here, with analysis and accompanying artefacts suggestive of a group of warriors. Afterwards, we continue on to Teotihuacán, known as the “place of the gods.” Teotihuacán appeared between the years 200 and 150 BCE and reached its highpoint of development between 300 and 600 AD, when it was the most influential political, religious and cultural power in Meso-America. We begin to take in its highlights before checking into our nearby hotel and catching up over dinner.

All meals included

Hotel: Villas Teotihuacan Hotel & Spa, Teotihuacan

Today is devoted to Teotihuacán, starting with visits to the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, Temple of the Sun, and Temple of the Moon – three world-renowned structures located alongside the intriguingly-named Avenue of the Dead. In the afternoon our tour continues, and includes a stop at the Mural Museum, which showcases dazzling original murals which have been recovered over a period of more than a century, and it also includes reconstructions from the site. Later we have free time to wander this ancient landscape at our leisure or relax at our hotel just outside of the site.

All meals included

Hotel: Villas Teotihuacan Hotel & Spa, Teotihuacan

Our day begins with a scenic drive east to El Tajín, the “sacred city of the god of thunder,” one of the most important in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. We explore the site in-depth, including the spectacular Pyramid of Niches. After exploring the amazing jungle ruins and touring the informative exhibits of the site’s modern museum, we round off our day by watching the Voladores de Papantla, pole-flying Totonac dancers who wow us with their gravity defying performances.

All meals included

Hotel: Hotel Fiesta Inn, Poza Rica

This morning we drive to Xalapa, home to the University of Veracruz, the city is renowned for Neoclassical buildings and lively cultural life. Here we visit the fabulous Museo de Antropologia de Xalapa, considered to be the second-best museum in Mexico, which houses 3,000 archaeological finds. The museum’s centerpiece is the 17 colossal Olmec heads from San Lorenzo and the museum itself is also home to a 40,000 square foot garden.

All meals included

Hotel: Hotel Posada Coatepec, Xalapa

After breakfast we travel to Cantona, a breath-taking archaeological site and the largest city to be discovered in Mesoamerica. During our tour we discover multiple ball courts, a series of small pyramids, a network of cobbled roads, and residences. Pausing for a local lunch, we resume our journey with a drive down to Puebla City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site best known for its ornate colonial cathedral.

Meals include: Breakfast

Hotel: Hotel NH, Puebla

This morning we head for Cacaxtla, famed for its intricate painted murals, most notably the “Battle Mural.” After lunch, we explore Museo Amparo, a superb historical museum charting the development of Mexico from the prehistoric. Later, we continue to Barrio del Artista and come across an ever-changing outdoor exhibition. The rest of the day is free to spend at leisure.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Hotel NH, Puebla

We leave Puebla this morning and drive to Oaxaca – a long but thrilling ride south, punctuated by stops along the way. Arriving in the afternoon, we begin with a visit to the Museum of Oaxacan Cultures, a set of engaging exhibitions. We pay particular attention to the Miztec hoard retrieved from Tomb 7 in nearby Monte Albán, a dazzling royal display of jewels, carved bone and crystal goblets. The rest of our day is free to spend at our leisure, take the time to explore the city further, soak in the cultural atmosphere or relax at the hotel.

All meals included

Hotel: Hotel Quinta Real, Oaxaca

This morning we rise for a trip to the tombs of Yagul, one of only four attractions declared to be Natural Monuments by the Mexican government. At Yagul we find a verdant, sprawling site, occupied from around 500 BC until the time of the Spanish conquest. After lunch we proceed to Mitla, a location renowned for its elaborate mosaics and fretwork. Evidence suggests that Mitla was an important religious center for the Zapotec people and was home to a high priest. Our day continues at Teotitlán del Valle, where we are privileged to view a demonstration of local weaving techniques. We return to Oaxaca later this afternoon.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Hotel Quinta Real, Oaxaca

Our final morning begins with a trip to Monte Albán. For almost a thousand years, this site was the prosperous socio-political center of the Zapotecs. Today its impressive collection of ruins makes it one of the country’s top archaeological destinations. While here we also explore the site’s museum, which displays finds from the complex, including original stone carvings. Next we travel back to Oaxaca for a free afternoon. Dip into its lively local markets, discover the charms of its finest churches, or rest in a shady corner of the Zócalos. We reunite this evening for a farewell dinner at our hotel.

All meals included

Hotel: Hotel Quinta Real, Oaxaca

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

Meals include: Breakfast

March 2 2019: Additional Info

March 2 2019: 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.

March 2 2019: Enquiries

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