- Visit the most historic neighborhoods in Mexico City
- Tour Spanish-colonial cities like Morelia, Guanajuato, and Querétaro
- Hike up the massive pyramids at Teotihuacán
- Enjoy the history, culture, and cuisine of Oaxaca
- Explore the ancient Zapotec city of Monte Albán
|Day 1||Arrive in Mexico City||Mexico City|
|Day 2||Walking Tour of Mexico City, Optional Activities||Mexico City|
|Day 3||Visit Xochimilco & Coyoacán||Mexico City|
|Day 4||Mexico City to Morelia||Morelia|
|Day 5||Morelia City Tour, Transfer to Guanajuato||Guanajuato|
|Day 6||Walking Tour of Guanajuato||Guanajuato|
|Day 7||Transfer to San Miguel de Allende, Walking Tour||San Miguel de Allende|
|Day 8||Free Day in San Miguel de Allende||San Miguel de Allende|
|Day 9||City Tour of Querétaro||Teotihuacán|
|Day 10||Explore the Pyramids of Teotihuacán||Cholula|
|Day 11||Puebla City Tour & Talavera History||Cholula|
|Day 12||Transfer to Oaxaca, Guided City Tour||Oaxaca|
|Day 13||Visit Monte Albán, Handicrafts & Clothing Workshops||Oaxaca|
|Day 14||Free Day in Oaxaca||Oaxaca|
|Day 15||Depart Oaxaca|
Day 1: Arrive in Mexico City
Day 2: Walking Tour of Mexico City, Optional Activities
In the morning, meet your guide for a three-hour walking tour of Mexico City. Founded in 1521 by the Spanish, before that it was Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Empire, founded in 1325. In the historic center, you'll see remnants of Spanish conquest and Aztec temples centered around the Plaza de la Constitución, also known as Zócalo. Around this massive public square, you'll visit the Metropolitan Cathedral (which dates to 1573), the 16th century National Palace, and the ruins of the 14th century Templo Mayor, a main temple of the Aztec Empire.
After the museum, continue exploring Mexico City on your own. Perhaps visit Chapultepec Park. At 1,695 acres, this is one of the largest urban green spaces in the world. It's also one of the oldest, as it was once a retreat for Aztec rulers. Besides lakes and gardens, the park contains nine museums, a zoo, and an amusement park. Or visit one of DF's many markets selling fresh produce and other goods. The biggest is Central de Abasto, which contains 2,000 businesses across 810 acres. Afterward, relax at a café in the bohemian enclave of La Condesa and admire the stunning art nouveau architecture.
Day 3: Visit Xochimilco & Coyoacán
Today you'll visit two of Mexico City's most colorful neighborhoods. First, travel to the south of the city for a two-hour tour of Xochimilco. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has been settled since pre-colonial times and is known for its tranquil canals—remnants of the rivers that crossed the valley floor of Mexico and were used by the Aztecs for transport. The visit includes riding down these canals on a trajinera (a brightly painted, gondola-like boat). As you float down these waterways, you'll nibble on antojitos (Mexican snacks) while boats filled with mariachis float past and serenade you.
You'll also learn about the area's ancient history, such as the Aztecs' ingenious techniques for growing food on the fertile riverbeds. One such technique is the chinampa, a type of floating garden that's still in use today. Even the name Xochimilco is an Aztec word that translates to "Place of Flowers."
Day 4: Mexico City to Morelia
In the morning, your driver will pick you up at the hotel for the four-hour drive north to Morelia, the capital of the state of Michoacán. Like the historic center of Mexico City, Morelia is a well-preserved colonial city featuring no shortage of 16th-century Baroque buildings. None is more impressive than the Metropolitan Cathedral, known for its soaring twin bell towers. It's also constructed of the famous pink stone mined in Morelia. The city's nickname is La Ciudad de la Cantera Rosa, which translates to "The City of the Pink Quarry."
Upon arrival in Morelia, you'll check into your hotel and have free the remainder of the day.
Day 5: Morelia City Tour, Transfer to Guanajuato
After breakfast, you'll head out on a three-hour walking tour of Morelia's historic center. There's a lot to see around this UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are some 249 historic monuments considered of prime importance, and you'll find many around the Plaza de Armas, the main plaza home to well-manicured gardens, wide pathways, and fountains. Besides the main cathedral, other landmarks near here include the Jardín de las Rosas, a park with more beautiful gardens lined with cafés and fronted by the Templo de Santa Rosa de Lima, a beautiful church dating to the 16th century.
Another highlight of Morelia is its historic Acueducto (aqueduct). Made of the same pink stone as most of the city's historic buildings, it was constructed in 1785, features 253 arches that rise 26 feet (8 m), and runs about a mile (2 km). Outside of Europe, it's one of the most impressive Roman-style aqueducts in the world. You'll also stop at the Mercado de Dulces, near the Plaza de Armas. This is where to come for artisanal candies, handicrafts, clothing, and other items that make great souvenirs.After the tour, you'll hop back in the car for the 2.5-hour trip north into the Mexican state of Guanajuato and the capital city of the same name. Once here, you'll check into your hotel, located in the heart of this historic colonial city.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 6: Walking Tour of Guanajuato
Today, embark on a two-hour walking tour of another UNESCO colonial city: Guanajuato. There's much local and national history to experience here. The region of Guanajuato is rich in minerals, like silver, which is a principal reason it was the site of the rebellion that kicked off the first battle in the Mexican War for Independence. On September 28, 1810, rebels stormed the Alhóndiga de Granaditas (a large grain silo), filled with Spanish soldiers protecting stores of silver. After much carnage, the rebels succeeded in overtaking the silo, thus bolstering the momentum of the independence movement.
You'll visit this silo on a tour of Guanajuato's historic center. Another highlight is the Callejón del Beso (Kiss Alley), where legend says that couples who kiss on the third step of the stairway enjoy happiness for seven years. There's also the University of Guanajuato. Founded by the Jesuits in 1732, it's famous for the 133 steps leading up to its white-washed main building. For a bit more color, there's the bright yellow Guanajuato Basilica, the most iconic church in the city, which dates to 1671. It sits on the Plaza de la Paz (Plaza of Peace), home to a small park.
Day 7: Transfer to San Miguel de Allende, Walking Tour
In the morning, you'll take a 1.5-hour drive west to San Miguel de Allende. This colorful heritage city of around 175,000 inhabitants is yet another historical highlight of central Mexico. Like Guanajuato and Morelia, San Miguel is known for its abundance of Spanish-colonial buildings, cobbled streets, tree-filled plazas, crafts markets, and art galleries. You'll visit all the major highlights on a walking tour of the historic center, led by a bilingual guide.
Probably the most famous site you'll see is the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel. You can't miss this bright-pink cathedral, located in the city's heart. It was built in 1683 in the neo-Gothic style, and its multiple towering spires form the most iconic part of San Miguel's skyline. The church overlooks El Jardín (also known as the Zócalo), the city's main plaza, filled with laurel trees and surrounded by shops and restaurants. This lively plaza is excellent for people watching and is often filled with live music, dance performances, mariachi bands, and local artists and vendors selling their wares.
Day 8: Free Day in San Miguel de Allende
Today you'll have free to explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Besides the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, there are many other attractions. For example, north of El Jardín, there's the Fabrica la Aurora. This former textile mill is now a haven for artists and art lovers. The complex features paintings and sculptures by local artists, a cultural center, various shops, restaurants, and even art classes and parties.
You can also visit the La Cañada de la Virgen archeological site. It was a city inhabited by the Otomi indigenous people, and its ruins date to around 540. Or you could drive an hour northeast from San Miguel to Mineral de Pozos. This abandoned mining town was designated one of Mexico's Pueblos Magicos (Magical Towns). The Spanish claimed the area from the indigenous around 1576 when they discovered silver in the ground; however, the population steadily declined once the mines were exhausted. Still, today there are remains of conical ovens built by the Jesuits back in the 16th century.
Day 9: City Tour of Querétaro, Transfer to Teotihuacán
In the morning, your driver will take you an hour south to Santiago de Querétaro. Like many other cities in this part of central Mexico, Querétaro's well-preserved historic center has led to it becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You'll see its many highlights on a three-hour guided walking tour as you stroll Querétaro's cobbled streets. One highlight is the city's 18th-century Aqueducto. Commissioned by the Spanish just like in Morelia, this version features 74 aches reaching 94 feet (28.5 m).
In the nearby historic center of Querétaro, your guide will take you to several heritage buildings. You'll see awe-inspiring temples and convents (many of which have been converted into museums), colorful homes dating to the 17th and 18th centuries, plus ornate plazas and gardens. Taken together, it creates a living historical record of Spanish-colonial Mexico. Also included on tour are stops at a historic hacienda and the neoclassical Republic Theatre. The latter was built in 1845 and has hosted important historical events like the premiere of the Mexican national anthem.
Day 10: Explore the Pyramids of Teotihuacán
After breakfast, you'll head out on a five-hour walking tour of Teotihuacán, one of the most incredible archeological sites in the country. Known as the "City of the Gods," this 8-sq-mile (20-sq-km) site was founded as early as 400 BCE, meaning it long pre-dates the Aztecs. During its heyday (around 500 CE), it was home to 200,000 people and over 2,000 buildings, making it the largest city in the western hemisphere. Many of the great pyramids here have been restored to near-total glory.
Begin with a walk along the Calzada de Los Muertos (Avenue of the Dead), Teotihuacán's main path, which runs about a mile (2 km) and connects the site's major structures. Then hike up the 248 steps of the Pyramid of the Sun, the most prominent structure at 215 feet (66 m). Continue to the Pyramid of the Moon, which towers 140 feet (43 m). Afterward, visit the Temple of Quetzalcoatl (Temple of the Feathered Serpent), which features representations of the feathered serpent deity carved into its sides. The remains of 100 bodies that date to around 200 CE were discovered under the temple and were possibly sacrificial victims.
Day 11: Puebla City Tour & Talavera History
In the morning, your driver will pick you up for the ride south from Teotihuacán to Puebla. This city's well-preserved colonial center has earned UNESCO World Heritage status. More than that, it's the site of the famous Battle of Puebla, which occurred on May 5, 1862. It was in this area that Mexican forces repelled French invaders, and the nation has been holding its annual Cinco de Mayo celebrations ever since. Today you'll enjoy a three-hr guided tour of Puebla's historic center.
Start at the 17th-century Cathedral, which overlooks the Zócalo de Puebla (main plaza) and is a fine example of Mexican Baroque architecture. Continue to a talavera (hand-made pottery) workshop followed by the Palafoxiana Library, which dates to 1646 and is one of the first libraries in the Americas. You'll also visit other locales like the Calle de Los Dulces (home to an array of artisanal sweet shops), the Barrio del Artista (the city's Arts District), and Barrio de Los Sapos (a historic neighborhood where you can shop for antiques), as well as the El Parián handicrafts market, the largest such market in the city.
Day 12: Transfer to Oaxaca, Guided City Tour
After breakfast, you'll hop in the car for the five-hour drive south to Oaxaca. This is the capital and largest city in the Mexican state of the same name. Despite being founded by the Spanish in 1532, it has many pre-Columbian archeological sites. It is home to the Zapotec and Mixtec indigenous peoples, which define the state's culture. Upon arrival, you'll stretch your legs on a 3.5-hour guided city tour to discover this incredible city's cultural, historical, and gastronomic richness.
The tour includes visiting the 18th-century stone Aqueduct, the historic (and colorful) Garcia Vigil street, and the Seminary of the Holy Cross. The latter is where Benito Juárez studied as a teenager. Juárez was a member of the Zapotec Nation and Mexico's first indigenous president. He's considered the father of modern Mexico, as he guided the country through revolutions and invasions. Further on, you'll find El Templo del Carmen Bajo, a charming 16th-century church.
Day 13: Visit Monte Albán, Handicrafts & Clothing Workshops
In the morning, head to the ruins of the great Zapotec city of Monte Albán for a three-hour tour. "Great" may be an understatement, as this pre-Columbian site is one of the most important ancient cities in Mesoamerica. Not only is it one of the largest (it covers 4 sq miles/10 sq km), but it was founded way back in the 6th century BCE and was the capital city of the Zapotec people for a staggering 13 centuries (500 BCE to 800 CE). Situated atop a hill in the Oaxaca Valley, you'll tour landmarks like the North Platform, the Great Plaza, Los Danzantes (bas-relief stone sculptures depicting dancers), ball courts, and more.
After Monte Albán, head out on a five-hour tour of four Oaxacan villages. Each locale you'll visit is famous for some form of artisanal craftsmanship. First up is Coyotepec, known for its stunning pottery made from black clay. Continue to San Antonio, famous for its traditional blouses and dresses. Next is Jalietza, where women weave cotton fabrics in an artistic backstrap loom method that dates to antiquity. Finally, you'll stop in Tilcajete to witness the making of their popular wood-carved alebrijes—colorful folk-art carvings and sculptures often depicting fantastic creatures.
Day 14: Free Day in Oaxaca
Enjoy the day to take in more of this singularly wonderful city's rich culture and history. It's home to fascinating museums like the Textile Museum of Oaxaca, which celebrates tradition and craftsmanship while giving urban and rural artisans a venue to display their artistic creations. You could also stop by the Ethnobotanical Garden (entrance only with a local guide), home to diverse flora, including many cacti. If you have a sweet tooth, sample traditional Oaxacan spiced hot chocolate. Then grab a cup of esquite banquetero (Mexican street corn) on your walk back to the hotel.
Oaxaca boasts some of the best food in the country, and you'd be remiss if you didn't indulge. Traditional dishes include tlayudas (a kind of giant grilled quesadilla), tetelas (stuffed corn tortillas folded into triangles), tamales Oaxaqueños (tamales wrapped in banana leaves ) chapulines (fried crickets often served with guacamole), and of course mole. Oaxaca isn't the birthplace of this spicy, savory cacao (cocoa) sauce—that honor goes to Puebla. However, the region has developed seven signature styles of the dish utilizing various chiles that result in different colors, from negro (black) to verde (green).