This packed eleven-day itinerary offers the best of Central Mexico's culture and nature, from volcanoes to the ocean. You'll go hiking in the national park, visit Mexico City's best museums, and walk through a forest of cactuses. There's also time for moments of relaxation — kick back on Mazunte's beaches, enjoy a leisurely sunset walk in the forest, and take in the best of Oaxaca's foodie scene.

Highlights

  • See volcanoes when you hike in Popo-Izta National Park
  • Go biking in Teotihuacán to see ancient pyramids
  • Create your own Alebrije statuette
  • Taste authentic mezcal in the place where it's made

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Mexico City, City Center Walking Tour & Street Food Tasting Mexico City
Day 2 National Museum of Anthropology & Chapultepec Castle Mexico City
Day 3 Biking in Teotihuacán "The City of the Gods" & Overnight in Cholula Cholula
Day 4 Hiking in Popo-Izta National Park, Free Time in Cholula Cholula
Day 5 Walk in a Cactus Forest: Tehuacán-Cuicuitlan Biosphere Reserve Oaxaca
Day 6 Visit Monte Albán & Create Your Alebrije, Mezcal Tour Oaxaca
Day 7 Oaxaca to San José Del Pacífico, Hike in San Jose's Cloud Forest San José Del Pacífico
Day 8 San José Del Pacífico to Mazunte, Free Day in Mazunte Mazunte
Day 9 Biominuliscence at Manialtepec Mazunte
Day 10 Rescue & Release of Sea Turtles at La Escobilla Mazunte
Day 11 Mazunte to Puerto Escondido, Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Mexico City, City Center Walking Tour & Street Food Tasting

Tacos with carnitas and chicharrón
Tacos with carnitas and chicharrón

Welcome to Mexico City! Explore the historic center of the Mexican capital on a walking tour to learn about the city's history, its art, and its architecture. 

Start with a visit to the impressive Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts), the symbol of Porfirio Díaz's rule, then continue through Madero's pedestrian street until you reach Plaza de la Constitución, better known as Zócalo. It's one of the largest squares in the world and is home to a number of important historical buildings and monuments, such as the Metropolitan Cathedral, the archeological site of the Templo Mayor, and the National Palace.

To get a feel for the real México you have to venture into a local market, the heart of each neighborhood. You'll visit the nearby market, navigated by your guide to help you find the best street tacos. Taste the city's best street food, smell the cooking food from each stall, and soak up the vibrant atmosphere as you peruse like a local — this is the real Mexico City. 

Day 2: National Museum of Anthropology & Chapultepec Castle

Sculptures inside the museum
Sculptures inside the museum
Meet your guide in the morning for a dive into Mexico's past with a visit to the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico's largest and most-visited museum. Two of its main exhibits, the Aztec and Mayan exhibits, best illustrate the history of the indigenous people of Mexico — their lives, culture, and history prior to (and after) colonization. 

After the museum visit, transfer to Chapultepec.

Spreading over almost 1,480 acres, Chapultepec Woods constitutes one of the most important natural reserves in Mexico City. Chapultepec Castle, located on the highest part of one of the reserve's hills, is a Neo-classical building that has been expanded and remodeled since its construction as a summer palace for the Viceroys. In 1940 it was fitted to house the National Museum of History. As you learn about Mexico's history, enjoy the amazing views of the city from the castle's windows.

Day 3: Biking in Teotihuacán "The City of the Gods" & Overnight in Cholula

Aerial view of the historic site
Aerial view of the historic site
After an early breakfast, you will be picked up at your hotel start your biking tour. Your destination is Teotihuacán — "the place where men become gods" — an archeological site located in the State of Mexico, between the towns of San Martin de las Piramides and San Juan Teotihuacan, 30 miles (48 km) northeast of Mexico City.

Your tour starts at the Valley of Teoticuacán, where your guide will walk with you through the mural route, where you can see the ancient barrios of Tetitla, Atetelco, and Tepantitla. Next, continue to the archaeological zone to see the pyramids and Palace of the Butterflies.

During the visit, you'll also have the opportunity to try pulque, a traditional alcoholic beverage made from the fermented sap of the maguey (agave) plant. In addition, you'll visit a cactus products factory to learn about all the different products that are made with the plants.

In the late afternoon following the tour transfer to Cholula, located approximately two hours away. Once you arrive at your hotel, take the rest of the day to rest and relax after your adventure. 

Day 4: Hiking in Popo-Izta National Park, Free Time in Cholula

View of the volcano from the plains
View of the volcano from the plains
Spend the day captivated by the beauty of the two of Mexico's most iconic volcanoes, Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl. Although the hike can be challenging, the views along the way. You'll walk under the shadows of the volcanoes together with your guide, who will tell you about the history and geology of these volcanoes.

Your destination is Paso de Cortés, which sits at 12,040 ft (3,670 m) of elevation; some points of the hike reach up to 12,795 ft (3,900 m) of elevation.

The hike will take approximately five hours, and the trail is best for travelers with a moderate level of fitness as the elevation adds another level of difficulty. However, the views from the top reward those persistent enough to make it to the end of the trail. 

Enjoy some free time to continue enjoying Cholula on your own. 

According to the legend, Cholula has more than 365 churches, one for each day of the year. It's characterized by a combination of pre-Hispanic and colonial features, and in 2012 it was nominated as a “Magical Town.”

To get more into this interesting culture and its history, one great option is to visit the iconic Great Pyramid and the ex-Franciscan Convent of San Gabriel. The Regional Museum of Cholula, where you will have the opportunity to appreciate the Quauhquechollan (declared a Unesco World Heritage Site) or the Talavera Pottery Museum are other great options. 

For a culinary exploration of the city, head to El Mercado de San Pedro. Since Cholula is a student town, there's a wealth of great restaurants, bars, and parks to choose from for a relaxing time.

Day 5: Walk in a Cactus Forest: Tehuacán-Cuicuitlan Biosphere Reserve

Walk through the cactus forest
Walk through the cactus forest

Meet your local guide-driver for the 2.5-hour transfer from Cholula to the Tehuacan-Cuicatlan Reserve, a protected natural area where biological, cultural, and historical richness converges. This place is great for wandering through the forests of columnar cacti, which are endemic (unique to this area).

Tehuacán is part of the Mesoamerican region and whose biodiversity and rich flora and fauna are found nowhere else on earth. In Nahuatl, Tehuacán means “Place of God.” More recently, it's been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its uniqueness. 

You'll spend your visit hiking through the area with your guide as you learn about the peculiarities of the cacti that live here, as well as the other species that characterize this ecosystem. 

After, transfer from the land of the cactus to Oaxaca, a city that's famed for its food and drink scene. It's another 2.5-hour drive away on a beautiful road through some of Mexico's best landscapes. 

Day 6: Visit Monte Albán & Create Your Alebrije, Mezcal Tour

An artist paints the alebrije
An artist paints the alebrije
Today you'll visit Monte Alban, an archaeological site located 5 miles (8 km) from the city of Oaxaca. The site was the ancient capital of the Zapotec people and one of the first cities in Mesoamerica (and one of the most populous during its heyday!)

Meet your guide for an exploration of the archaeological site to learn about the Zapotec culture and history. Afterward, visit the nearby village of San Martin Tilcajete to learn about the iconic alebrije handicrafts and try your hand at making some yourself. The alebrije are made of cardboard or paper, as well as wire or wood, and are then painted with vibrant colors. Popular shapes include animals, both real and fantastical.

Spend the afternoon learning about the process of producing mezcal, from the agave fields to the glass on the table. 

Start with a visit to Matatlán, where farmers bring offerings to the cross and offer their agaves in hopes of a favorable harvest. As you wander the fields you'll learn about the varieties of agave that are used in the production of the drink, as well as the growing and harvesting methods that lead to the best final product — a traditional mezcal cantarito

As you explore the agave landscapes, your tour will take you through the communities of small local producers, where you'll meet the people who produce the internationally renowned mezcal. Continue to Chichicapam, where a local family will welcome you to their table for a traditional meal.

Finally, end in Ocotlán, where you will visit a cantina that makes cured mezcal the old-fashioned way: by putting fruit in the mezcal bottles.

Day 7: Oaxaca to San José Del Pacífico, Hike in San Jose's Cloud Forest

Hike in San Jose's Cloud Forest
Hike in San Jose's Cloud Forest
San José del Pacifico is located in a mountainous region of Oaxaca so mountain views and scenic nature views are the norms.

Enjoy this 3-hour medium-level hike through the forest in San José del Pacífico accompanied by a local guide who will explain the flora and fauna of this rich natural region and take you to magnificent viewpoints. You'll hike to a small village through the misty cloud forest, then stop for some food and to take in the sights. 

Day 8: San José Del Pacífico to Mazunte, Free Day in Mazunte

Sunset on the beach
Sunset on the beach
Enjoy a free day in the town of Mazunte. Besides enjoying the multiple beaches this town offers, make time to visit the sea turtle sanctuary and aquarium, where you can learn about 6 of the 8 species of sea turtles in Mexico. You can also visit a natural and ecological cosmetics factory.

To end the day, you can't miss the sunset in Punta Cometa, which is about a 20-minute hike up the mountain next to Mazunte. 

Day 9: Biominuliscence at Manialtepec

Lighting the way
Lighting the way
Start your bioluminescence experience by meeting your guide at Puerto Suelo Beach near Puerto Escondido to enjoy a beautiful sunset. This experience has to be at night, and once the sun has set you'll embark on a boat and let the spectacle begin.

Bioluminescence, caused by the microorganisms that live in the water, will light up the water with the movement of the boat. Although this experience is beautiful on any night, it's particularly lovely on a new moon, when the sky is dark and the colors light up everything around you.

Day 10: Rescue & Release of Sea Turtles at La Escobilla

Baby Olive Ridley turtle
Baby Olive Ridley turtle
Today, you will engage in one of Oaxaca's natural phenomena and visit one of the most spectacular protected natural areas in the world.

Sail through the lagoon where you can admire all kinds of wildlife species such as vultures, storks, herons, crocodiles, and even turtles that filter in from the beach — your main destination.

Once you reach the beach, you will be part of the release of turtles or the massive nesting of adult turtles that, year after year, allows the preservation of the species.

Day 11: Mazunte to Puerto Escondido, Departure

Come back soon!
Come back soon!
Depending on the time of your flight, your private transportation will pick you up in your hotel to take you to Puerto Escondido Airport (1 hour). Catch your flight to Mexico City, then continue home. ¡Hasta Pronto!
 
 

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Looking for a different length itinerary? Check out this 10-day version or this 12-day version of this trip.

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