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Mexico's throwing a party and everyone's invited - even the dead! Travel from Oaxaca to San Cristobal del las Casas and pumping Playa del Carmen, taking in the after-dark antics of the famous Day of the Dead celebrations. Commune with spirits at a Oaxacan graveyard, wander through markets jangling with skeletons, and discover the ancient Aztec customs behind Mexico's most iconic (and awesome) festival. After farewelling the dearly departed, explore mountains, check out some hidden Caribbean caves and then carve up the dance floor in Playa.
Day 1: Oaxaca
Can you smell that? The heady aroma of spices, garlic, smoked meats and vegetables should alert you to the fact that you’ve arrived in the food capital of Mexico. A welcome meeting at 3 pm will get you acquainted with your fellow travellers and local leader – they’ll have all the best recommendations for places to eat and drink so you can dive in mouth first this evening. Please let us know in advance If you're going to be late to the meeting, we'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information, so please have all these details for your leader. Afterwards, join your leader on an orientation walk. The city is full of colonial arcades, leafy tree-shaded streets and colourful markets. You might want to fuel up to explore on tasty regional specialties – from cactus fruit to baked chili and lime grasshoppers and heavenly Oaxacan cheese.
Day 2: Oaxaca
Today you’ll see all the different sides of Mexico’s Day of the Dead festival. Although Die de los Muertos is celebrated all over Mexico, Oaxaca is known for its particularly lavish celebrations, with festivities taking place up to a week before November 1st and 2nd. Your tour leader will take you shopping for an outrageously loud costume to wear at tonight’s festivities, then you can get your face painted or visit the giant sand tapestries at the Museo del Palacio (which are made just for Dia de los Muertos).
Day 3: Oaxaca
November 1st is the most traditional and culturally fascinating day of the Day of the Dead celebrations. On this day families prepare altars for their deceased loved ones, which they display at homes and over graves at cemeteries. Start things off with a reflective visit to a local cemetery and see the many shrines created by the local families. It’s not unusual to see shrines decorated with the deceased’s favourite items (such as toys and trinkets), as well as alcohol, food and candles. Afterwards, soak up the unique festival vibes on a guided walk through town with your local leader, visiting local houses, markets and plazas to see all the different and colourful celebrations.
Day 4: Oaxaca / Overnight bus
Today you're free to explore Oaxaca at your own pace. Perhaps head to the spectacular mountain top temples of Monte Alban just outside the city. Monte Alban was inhabited for 1,500 years by the Olmec, Zapotec and Mixtec peoples, and is an outstanding example of a pre-Columbian ceremonial centre. If you don’t feel like an excursion, you can also stay in town and take part in a cooking class. In the evening, catch an overnight bus to San Cristobal del las Casas. Don't worry, they have toilets, air-conditioning and seats that recline.
Day 5: San Cristobal de las Casas
Roll into San Cristobal del las Casas in the early morning and be greeted by the town’s candy-coloured architecture. This highland town will be your home for the next two days. Hotel check-in isn’t until midday, but you’ll be able to store your luggage at the hotel and start exploring the city with your leader on an orientation walk. In the afternoon, pay a visit to the small town of San Juan Chamula and its church. Don’t come expecting your standard stiff service, though. The floor is covered with pine needles and the air is thick with the smell of incense. Shamans regularly come here to conduct cleansing ceremonies using firewater, ancient prayers and chickens. Photography is strictly prohibited as a sign of respect for traditional customs, but if you're lucky enough to catch a service the mental pictures will stick with your forever. Return to San Cristobal del las Casas in the evening and perhaps experience a taste of authentic regional cuisine at one of the many local restaurants.
Day 6: San Cristobal de las Casas
Today is another free day and your group leader will be on hand to help you arrange some optional activities. The villages surrounding San Cristobal del las Casas are home to Tzotzil and Tzeltal groups, who maintain their tribal origins through their traditional costumes and customs. You can explore these villages and learn more about their way of life on an adrenaline-fueled mountain bike ride. Another option is a canyoning trip to ‘El Chorreadero’. This six-hour excursion ventures a kilometre inside a (dry) cave and follows a river through a number of cascades, pools and rappels. This is a memorable experience but not recommended if you’re claustrophobic or have a fear of heights. You can also choose to stay in town and check out the local museums, such as at the award-winning Museo de la Medicina Maya showcasing the history of indigenous healing techniques.
Day 7: Playa del Carmen
Rise and shine! The glorious sun, sand and surf of Playa del Carmen is waiting for you. It will take half a day of travel by buses and planes, but it's worth it. A 1.5-hour drive will take you from San Cristobal to Tuxla Gutierrez Airport where you will board a flight to Mexico City. Get on another flight to Cancun and after about 2.5 hours in the air, another airport transfer will get you to Playa in the evening. If you have the energy you might want to check out one of the many bars and clubs that line the sandy shores.
Day 8: Playa del Carmen
Pop on some swimming gear and get ready for a day of snorkelling. First up is Akumal, located a short drive south of Playa del Carmen. Every day dozens of sea turtles come here to munch on seaweed, which is prolific in the area. Spend up to an hour snorkelling with these amazing creatures before moving on to a nearby cenote (sinkhole) to swim in hidden water caves. Finish the day back in Playa del Carmen, maybe sipping an ice cold margarita by the beach.
Day 9: Playa del Carmen
This Mexican adventure comes to an end today. There are no activities planned for the final day and you are free to depart the accommodation at any time. If you’d like to spend some extra nights here, let us know at the time of booking and we’ll be happy to organise the accommodation for you. If you want to experience Playa del Carmen like a local, why not join one of our dedicated Urban Adventure one-day tours. Find out more at www.urbanadventures.com.
- Oaxaca - Day of the Dead celebrations
- Oaxaca - Leader-led Orientation Walk
- Oaxaca - Day of the Dead celebrations
- Leader-led Informal Spanish Lesson
- San Juan Chamula - Maya Church (Entrance Fee)
- San Cristobal de Las Casas - Leader-led City Tour
- Zinacantan - Maya Church (Entrance Fee)
- Playa del Carmen - Leader-led Orientation Walk
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The trip was both both educational and exciting. I very much enjoyed the sights and culture.
The itinerary was just as I expected! The guide was very good as were the accomodations
Intrepid did such a great job. I never had to worry about where I was supposed to be and it felt so good not to worry about a thing but just to enjoy myself. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable about culture and history.
Taiwan people very friendly. Accommodation were centrally located and easily accessible. Did extra activities then in brochure which was greatly.
Larus our tour guide did an excellent job and was very attentive to our needs. He is very knowledgeable and has a great sense of humor.
Our guide Tarang chandola was exceptional. Courteous, knowledgeable, organized, polite, professional and went above and beyond taking care of our needs and requests offen anticipating what that might be. He made sure we all had the best possible time and offered suggestions to meet the needs of everyone on the tour. This made the trip even more enjoyable.
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