Explore the best of Central Mexico on this 18-day tour. Start in bustling Mexico City for cultural exploration and some incredible food, then continue to Cholula to hike in the national park. Head to Oaxaca for mezcal, alebrijes, and a ritual steam bath, then round out your trip in Mazunte where you'll see baby sea turtles return to the ocean.

Highlights

  • Explore the various neighborhoods of Mexico City 
  • Float on the canals of Xochimilco in a traditional wooden Trajinera
  • Go hiking in Popo-Izta National Park
  • Walk through a cactus forest in the Tehuacán-Cuicuitlan Biosphere
  • Taste traditional Mexican Mezcal

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 Canals of Xochimilco in a Wooden Trajinera, Free Time in México City Mexico City
Day 4 Biking in Teotihuacán "The City of the Gods" & Overnight in Cholula Cholula
Day 5 Puebla City Tour & Talavera History, Cholula Corn & Markets Tour Cholula
Day 6 Hiking in Popo-Izta National Park, Free Time in Cholula Cholula
Day 7 Walk in a Cactus Forest: Tehuacán-Cuicuitlan Biosphere Reserve Oaxaca
Day 8 Historical City Tour of Oaxaca Oaxaca
Day 9 Free day in Oaxaca Oaxaca
Day 10 Visit Monte Albán & Create Your Alebrije Oaxaca
Day 11 Mezcal Tour Oaxaca
Day 12 Temazcal at the Traditional Capulálpam Medicine Center, Free Time in Capulalpam Capulalpam
Day 13 Hiking in the Forest Oaxaca
Day 14 Oaxaca to San José Del Pacífico, Hike in San Jose's Cloud Forest San José Del Pacífico
Day 15 Free Day in Mazunte, Transfer to Mazunte Mazunte
Day 16 Horseback Riding in Manialtepec, Biominuliscence at Manialtepec Mazunte
Day 17 Rescue & Release of Sea Turtles at La Escobilla Mazunte
Day 18 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: Canals of Xochimilco in a Wooden Trajinera, Free Time in México City

Enjoy the views from the canals
Enjoy the views from the canals

Today you will visit one of the most iconic areas of Mexico City: the canals of Xochimilco, whose name means the ‘Place of the Flowers’ in Náhuatl. These canals are the last reminder of the rivers that once crossed the valley floor of Tenochtitlan (now modern-day Mexico City).

Explore the canals on a colorful boat called a trajinera (a wooden boat painted in colorful colors, each with a traditional Mexican name to honor a family member of the owner). You'll spend your time learning about the Aztec’s ingenious techniques for growing food on the fertile riverbeds of the pre-Hispanic waterways — many of which (including the chinampas, or floating gardens) are still in use today. 

Afterward, enjoy some free time in Mexico City.

There are plenty of museums, historical monuments, galleries, restaurants, archaeological finds, parks, and much more to discover. Popular options include a visit to the Frida Kahlo Museum or an afternoon of tequila tasting. 

Other options include visiting local markets, restaurants, cafés, or walking different and authentic neighborhoods such as San Angel, Santa Maria la Rivera, Coyoacan, La Condesa, or La Roma to put yourself in the locals' shoes. 

Day 4: 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 5: Puebla City Tour & Historic Talavera, Cholula Corn & Markets Tour

Colorful talavera ceramics
Colorful Talavera ceramics

Enjoy a walking tour through the historic center of Puebla, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Start at the impressive Cathedral and the Chapel of the Rosary, undoubtedly one of the most splendid examples of the Novo-Hispanic baroque. Afterward, continue with a visit to a Talavera workshop to see one of Mexico's most iconic handicrafts. Then, head to the Palafoxiana Library, a center of universal knowledge and one of the first libraries of the American continent. Its literary variety and bibliographic richness earned it the title of Memory of the World by UNESCO.

During your walk through the beautiful streets of the historic center, you will also see other iconic sites such as the Calle de Los Dulces, the famous Barrio del Artista, and Barrio de Los Sapos, as well as the El Parián handicrafts market.

Start this activity with a meeting with your private guide who will take you to the town of Cholula. You'll spend the day exploring the city and some of its iconic architecture. Discover some of the most iconic churches, such as the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Remedies, which is built on top of a pyramid dedicated to the god Quetzalcoatl. Learn about the history and the history of how indigenous and colonial cultures have mixed to create an entirely unique city. 

In addition to its architecture and historic sites, Cholula is famous for its gastronomy. Spend the afternoon exploring the city's food scene, especially the preparation and use of corn in common Mexican foods. On this tour, you'll discover and learn everything about the process of corn, from its cultivation to the preparation of tortillas. At the end of the tour, you will taste some of the most delicious foods that are derived from corn — the staple of Mexican gastronomy.

Day 6: 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. 

After, 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 7: Walk in a Cactus Forest: Tehuacán-Cuicuitlan Biosphere Reserve

Walk through the cactus forest
Walk through the cactus forest
Plan your trip to Mexico
Customize your trip with help from a local travel specialist.

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 8: Historical Tour of Oaxaca City, Free Time in Oaxaca

Historical tour of Oaxaca City, considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Take in the sights

Spend some time exploring Oaxaca on a guided city tour as you discover the cultural, historical, and gastronomic richness that this city offers.

The tour lasts 3.5 hours and includes visits to the 16th-century Aqueduct, the street of Garcia Vigil, and the Seminary of the Holy Cross. The latter is where both Benito Juarez, the president who established the foundations on which the secular state and the Federal Republic were founded in Mexico, and Porfirio Diaz, known as the hero of the French intervention and president for 31 years, studied. 

Further on you will find the house where Juarez spent his adolescence, as well as the temple of Our Lady of Carmen. Continue until you reach the temple of Santo Domingo, home of the museum of cultures and the site that holds the treasure of the Seventh tomb of Monte Alban. Don't miss its impressive baroque decoration, as well as the facades of the Novo-Hispanic mansions on Alcalá Street, the Cathedral, and, finally, the Plaza de la Constitución with its authentic art nouveau kiosk and colorful markets full of delightful aromas and flavors.

In the afternoon, enjoy some free time to take in the colors and flavors that Oaxaca has to offer. Visit some of the museums in the city, such as the Textile Museum of Oaxaca or the Museum of Cultures, both with interesting exhibitions that will allow you to delve deeper into Mexican culture. 

Don't forget to visit the Ethnobotanical Garden, or enjoy a mezcalería at an alfresco cafe. Spend a cozy afternoon in a cafe, enjoying a traditional hot chocolate drink that's a staple in Oaxaca.

In the evening, hit up the town for a drink at a trendy bar, then grab a cup of esquite banquetero (Mexican street corn) on your walk back to the hotel. 

Day 9: Free day in Oaxaca

Free day in Oaxaca
Free day in Oaxaca

The state of Oaxaca stands out for its cultural, culinary, and artistic legacy. It's considered a Cultural Heritage of Humanity Site by UNESCO and stands out for its green stone buildings and distinct colonial style.

Walk along the colorful tourist walkway where you will find a vast amount of restaurants, mezcalerías, museums and handicraft stores. In the Benito Juárez market, you will find a great variety of handicrafts such as alebrijes, embroidery, textiles along with a great amount of typical Oaxacan products such as mezcals, quesillo, mole and chapulines. 

Nearby you can enjoy an exquisite meal in the Pasillo de Humo located in the 20 de Noviembre Market; don't forget to try some cecina sheets, tasajo, or some delicious tlayudas

Day 10: Visit Monte Albán & Create Your Alebrije

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.

Day 11: Mezcal Tour

Inspecting the harvest
Inspecting the harvest

Spend the day 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 12: Temazcal at the Traditional Capulálpam Medicine Center, Free Time in Capulalpam

Immerse yourself into the ancient ritual
Immerse yourself into the ancient ritual
Temazcal at the Traditional Capulálpam Medicine Center (3 hours)
You'll spend some time today experience a traditional regional experience known as Temzacal. It's is an ancestral ritual and steam bath that was very popular in the Mesoamerica Region and dates back thousands of years. Nowadays, it is used in traditional medicine for hygienic, ritual, therapeutic, and spiritual purposes.

Some people say that Temazcal represents the earth and the Godmother who sustains and provides life. It is said that it is entering the womb of mother earth, and for this reason, the vessels used during the ceremony have the shape of a "dome" with small dimensions representing the mother's womb.

Enjoy some free time in Capululpam. This extraordinary village, located in Oaxaca’s Sierra Norte, was nominated as a Magical Town in 2007 thanks to its peaceful location in one of Oaxaca's best-preserved natural areas. 
 
Options include a visit to the local markets, the San Mateo Temple, or handicraft workshops to see how wooden toys are made. You can also opt for a walk around the towns' streets, or head into nature to the surrounding forest to enjoy the peace and quiet.

Day 13: Hiking in the Forest

Crystalline waters in the Los Molinos river
Crystalline waters in the Los Molinos river

Meet your local guide and start your hike with a visit to one of the most stunning viewpoints of the region. You'll start with a circuit of the mills, which begins in the area of the cabins and continues to LA Ventana (the window). From here, you can enjoy views of Oaxaca's incredible valley floor. 

Continue your walk until you reach the Los Molinos River, then walk along the river's edge until you reach the Los Molinos Recreation Center. Stop here for lunch at the restaurant and a chance to take in the views surrounding the building. 

Day 14: 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 15: 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 16: Horseback Riding in Manialtepec, Biominuliscence at Manialtepec

Riding through the water
Riding through the water
Enjoy a horseback riding tour of the local landscapes. You'll arrive at the village, then spend an hour riding through paths in the jungle and along the river of corn, where you can see papaya, peanut, corn, coconut, and the most important economy of the community — livestock.

You will pass through trails of lush vegetation, keeping an eye out for the different species of birds that live in the mangroves. Arriving at the Manialtepec Lagoon, you will cross by canoe to Puerto Suelo Beach where you can catch a beautiful sunset by the water.

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 17: Rescue and 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 18: Mazunte to Puerto Escondido, Departure

¡Hasta Pronto! Transfer to Puerto Escondido Airport
¡Hasta Pronto! Transfer to Puerto Escondido Airport

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 drive). Catch your flight to Mexico City, then continue home. ¡Hasta Pronto!