Experience 18 days of cultural tours and outdoor adventures that help support local communities and conservation, focusing on heritage and food as you enjoy culinary tours of Mexico City, Oaxaca, and Chiapas while visiting historical sites and meeting locals. You'll also embark on cycling tours, try surfing, take boat trips, and visit ancient Maya archaeological sites like Palenque.


  • Enjoy history, culture, and food tours of Mexico City
  • Visit Mexican markets and learn how to make handmade tortillas
  • See Oaxaca on a bicycle and visit the ruins of Monte Albán
  • Go surfing on the Pacific and explore colonial towns in Chiapas
  • Tour waterfalls and archaeological sites around Palenque

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Mexico City, Nightime Taco Tour Mexico City
Day 2 History, Culture & Chocolate in Mexico City Mexico City
Day 3 Day Trip to Xochimilco & Coyoacán Mexico City
Day 4 Bike Tour of Teotihuacán, Transfer to Puebla Puebla
Day 5 Cholula Tour & Tortilla Workshop, Tour Puebla Puebla
Day 6 Bus to Oaxaca, Bicycle & Street Art Tour Oaxaca
Day 7 Oaxaca Cooking Workshop, Optional Activities Oaxaca
Day 8 Archaeology & Crafts Tour of Oaxaca Oaxaca
Day 9 Day Trip to Mitla & Mezcal Tasting Oaxaca
Day 10 Flight to Puerto Escondido, Bioluminescence Tour Puerto Escondido
Day 11 Horseback Ride to Manialtepec & Kayaking Puerto Escondido
Day 12 Surfing, Snorkeling & Releasing Turtle Hatchlings  Puerto Escondido
Day 13 Transfer to San Cristóbal, Optional Activities San Cristóbal
Day 14 Day Trip to Sumidero Canyon & Chiapa de Corzo San Cristóbal
Day 15 Cooking Class in Zinacantán San Cristóbal
Day 16 Transfer to Palenque, Stop at Agua Azul & Misol-Ha Palenque
Day 17 Tour Palenque, Visit Roberto Barrios Waterfalls Palenque
Day 18 Transfer to Villahermosa & Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Mexico City, Nightime Taco Tour

Free Time in Mexico City
Welcome to Mexico City
Welcome to Mexico! This may be a modern country, but on its streets, you'll find testaments to its long history and heritage in Spanish-colonial buildings and ancient ruins. This is particularly true of Mexico City. The nation's capital offers a great introduction to Mexico's colonial and Aztec history, and it's the perfect place to dive into the country's world-renowned cuisine. Upon arrival at the airport, a driver will pick you up for the 30-minute ride into the city to your hotel.
If you like, spend some free time exploring on your own. Take a stroll through bohemian Roma, a neighborhood filled with Art Deco architecture and excellent restaurants, or head to San Ángel, known for its cobblestone streets, art galleries, and sidewalk cafés. If you like green spaces, relax in Chapultepec Park, one of the largest urban parks in Mexico. Within it is an old castle that today houses the National History Museum. You should also visit the National Museum of Anthropology, considered one of the best in the world.
In the evening, head out on a guided walking tour of Mexico's famous gastronomic scene. Your destination is Narvarte, a neighborhood filled with family-run taquerías (taco shops). During this four-hour culinary odyssey, you'll try a wide array of tacos, including volcanes (a crispy tortilla cooked over charcoal), suadero (made with a thin cut of grilled meat), and of course, the legendary al pastor (pork tacos). During the experience, you'll visit a cantina, knock back a chela (beer) and enjoy a mezcal tasting. You'll also chat with the taco vendors, many of whom have been in the neighborhood for decades.

Day 2: History, Culture & Chocolate in Mexico City

Sample some of the city's best street food on today's tour 

Today, venture out into the city on a guided walking tour. During this half-day excursion, you'll visit historical landmarks while also tasting some of the best street food in Mexico City. See highlights like Alameda Central Park (the oldest public garden in the Americas) and the Palacio de Bellas Artes. Continue on the bustling pedestrian street of Madero to the grand Plaza de la Constitución, better known as the Zócalo. This is the colonial heart of the city, home to historic landmarks like the Metropolitan Cathedral, the ancient Aztec site of Templo Mayor, and the 16th-century Palacio Nacional.

During the tour, you'll periodically stop to indulge in the local street food. Sample traditional favorites like the famous tacos al pastor and quesadillas with melted cheese and huitlacoche (also known as Mexican truffle). As you go, you'll realize there's an incredible variety of culinary offerings in this former Aztec capital, and every bite is a taste of Mexico City's history and culture.

The food theme continues later with a two-hour visit to La Rifa Chocolatería. Mexico is a major producer of chocolate, and on this tour, you'll see how the popular confection is made from cacao fruit. It covers the entire process, from harvesting the cacao to producing the finished chocolate bar. Of course, you'll get to sample various chocolates in the process.

Day 3: Day Trip to Xochimilco & Coyoacán

Xochimilco canals
Take a colorful boat through the Xochimilco canals
Today, you'll head to the city's southern outskirts and Xochimilco. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is known for its tranquil canals—remnants of the rivers that once crossed the valley floor of Mexico and were used by the Aztecs for transport. A popular activity you'll enjoy here is traveling down the canals on a trajinera (a painted, gondola-like boat). You'll also learn about chinampa—the ancient Aztecs' techniques for growing food on the fertile riverbeds—and visit a maíz (corn) conservation project. For lunch, enjoy a delicious pre-Hispanic meal in a restaurant specializing in maíz recipes.
Then, take a two-hour walking tour of Coyoacán. Characterized by cobblestone streets, colonial architecture, and a bohemian style, this historic neighborhood, with its leafy plazas and brightly painted houses, is a great place for a stroll. Walk along the Callejón del Aguacate, a narrow street lined with colonial houses famous for their myths and legends. You'll also stop at old churches built in the viceregal era on orders by Hernán Cortés. Don't miss the main square and Centennial Garden, where you can take a break and enjoy traditional desserts like churros and ice cream.

Day 4: Bike Tour of Teotihuacán, Transfer to Puebla

Biking in Teotihuacán
Bike through the "The City of the Gods" in Teotihuacán
In the morning, your guide will pick you up at the hotel to drive outside the city to one of the most impressive archaeological sites in Mexico: Teotihuacán. Known as the "City of the Gods," this 8-square-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.
Upon arrival, you'll hop on a bike and cycle around the archaeological site, first passing the many murals that decorate the structures and depict cultural and religious motifs and natural landscapes. Then travel down the Avenue of the Dead, Teotihuacán's main path that runs for about a mile (2 km). You'll also visit the Pyramid of the Sun, the largest structure at 215 feet (66 m), and the Pyramid of the Moon, which towers 140 feet (43 m). Then stop at the Temple of Quetzalcoatl (Temple of the Feathered Serpent), which has bas-reliefs of the feathered serpent deity carved into its sides.

After the tour, you'll enjoy a pulque tasting. Known to the Aztecs as "the blood of the gods," this Mexican spirit is made from fermented aguamiel (sap) of the maguey plant, a type of agave. You'll also visit a workshop specializing in the pre-Hispanic flavors of the Teotihuacán region, which makes products from local flora like the nopal and xoconostle plants. Afterward, you and your driver will leave on a two-hour drive south to this historic city of Puebla.

Day 5: Cholula Tour & Tortilla Workshop, Tour Puebla

Nuestra Señora de Los Remedios, in Cholula

Start today with a visit to nearby Cholula for a half-day guided tour of this historic enclave. It was first settled around 200 BCE, making it one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the country. As you stroll its colorful streets, you'll learn about its history, culture, myths, and legends. Then, head up to the Nuestra Señora de Los Remedios, Cholula's gilded neoclassical church that dates to 1574. It was famously built atop a 177-foot-high (54 m) pre-Hispanic pyramid. The church has incredible panoramic views of the volcanoes in the Valley of Mexico

A big part of the tour also focuses on the gastronomy of Cholula. In particular, Cholula is known for its handmade tortillas, a culinary tradition passed down from generation to generation. Participating in a tortilla workshop teaches you every step of this artisanal process, from milling the corn to handcrafting the final product. Naturally, once your batch of tortillas is ready, you'll get to snack on them with a refreshing drink. 

After the tortilla workshop, you'll return to Puebla, where you can keep exploring this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Start at the 17th-century Cathedral, which overlooks the Zócalo (main plaza) and is a fine example of Mexican Baroque architecture. Continue to a talavera (handmade pottery) workshop followed by the Palafoxiana Library, which dates to 1646. You'll also visit the Calle de Los Dulces (home to an array of artisanal sweet shops), the Barrio del Artista (Arts District), and Barrio de Los Sapos (a historic neighborhood good for antique shopping), as well as the El Parián handicrafts market.

Plan your trip to Mexico
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 6: Bus to Oaxaca, Bicycle & Street Art Tour

Biking tour and street art
See Oaxacan art on a bicycle 
In the morning, you'll hop on a bus for a four-hour drive from Puebla to Oaxaca City, the capital of the state of the same name. Oaxaca is famous for its abundance of pre-Hispanic and colonial history, delicious gastronomy, and colorful handicrafts. After checking in to your hotel, you'll hit the street on a leisurely, half-day bike ride. The theme is the city's artistic heritage, as during the tour, you'll stop at galleries and graphic arts workshops and witness some incredible street art. There will also be plenty of time to stop for snacks and local refreshments like horchata and agua de maíz tostado

Day 7: Oaxaca Cooking Workshop, Optional Activities

Learn to make tortillas in a local Zapotec community

Your driver will pick you up early for a ride to the countryside, where you'll discover the ancient flavors of Oaxacan cuisine. You'll meet up with an Indigenous Zapotec community and, over six hours, take seasonal produce harvested from their gardens and cook it over a traditional wood stove. Guiding you will be the comidera (the community's best cook) as you learn to prepare tortillas, empanadas, sopa de guías (pumpkin soup), segueza (corn mole), and nicuátole (a custard-like dessert). At the end of the workshop, sit down for a convivial lunch with your new friends.

After returning to the city, you can see more of Oaxaca on a self-guided tour. 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.

Day 8: Archaeology & Crafts Tour of Oaxaca

See the alebrijes of Monte Albán
Get ready for a full-day tour of the most prominent archaeological sites in the region. First, you'll visit the ruins at Monte Albán, a pre-Hispanic site of an important ancient city in Mesoamerica. Not only is it one of the largest (it covers 4 sq mi/10 sq km), but it was founded in the sixth century BCE and was the capital of the Zapotec people for a whopping 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), ball courts, and more.
After Monte Albán, you'll continue to Arrazola. This village is populated by artists famous for their wood-carving skills and who sell alebrijes—colorful, handcrafted figurines of mythical animals. After browsing alebrijes in local workshops, you'll travel to Cuilapan de Guerrero and the 16th-century Santiago Apóstol, a former monastery and jewel of Dominican architecture. The day's tour ends in Coyotepec, known for its signature Oaxacan black pottery. Here, you'll visit a local workshop and meet the proprietor, who will share some local pottery secrets. 

Day 9: Day Trip to Mitla & Mezcal Tasting

Visit Mitla, the Tule Tree, Hierve el Agua, a Mezcal Distillery & Teotitlán del Valle
The Tree of Tule

You'll embark on a full-day tour outside Oaxaca City this morning. It's a one-hour drive east to the archeological site of Mitla, once a prominent pre-Hispanic city. You'll stop along the way at Santa María del Tule to see this little town's major attraction: the Árbol del Tule (Tree of Tule). This ancient Montezuma cypress tree is between 1,200 and 3,000 years old and boasts the largest trunk of any tree in the world (about 137 ft/42 m in circumference). Afterward, you'll stop at a mezcalería to learn what makes this agave-based Oaxacan spirit.

Then continue to Mitla. During pre-Hispanic times, this Zapotec city was the most important religious center and burial site in the Oaxaca Valley (Mitla means "Place of the Dead"). It was inhabited as far back as 900 BCE, and the earliest remaining structures here date to around 450. When the Spanish arrived in 1521, they set their sights on dismantling Mitla and built Catholic churches over Zapotec temples. You'll tour the site's five main structures, including Zapotec/Mixtec ruins and ancient churches like the Iglesia de San Pablo, a Catholic church founded in 1590.

The day ends with a visit to the small colonial village of Teotitlán del Valle. Here, you'll head to the workshop of a local artisanal weaver specializing in wool rugs. Upon arrival, your host will share the techniques used in making these traditional items, including the process of dyeing wool with natural inks.

Day 10: Flight to Puerto Escondido, Bioluminescence Tour

The beach town of Puerto Escondido 

The beach beckons today as your driver takes you to the airport in Oaxaca to catch a 40-minute flight to the coastal city of Puerto Escondido. Your driver will be waiting for you to transfer you to your hotel upon arrival. After checking in, you'll want to head out and enjoy this city, which occupies an idyllic corner of the Pacific coast. It boasts great surf and swimming beaches like Carrizalillo and Zicatela. For a sundowner and a great meal, you can't beat La Punta, a trendy neighborhood full of beach bars and restaurants where you can dine with your bare feet in the sand.

In the evening, embark on a 1.5-hour tour outside the city to Lake Manialtepec, a freshwater lagoon with mangroves home to exotic waterbirds like herons and ibises. The lagoon is also known for its bioluminescence—microorganisms that light up in the water due to a chemical reaction. Led by a local guide, you'll take a boat tour of the lagoon to see this phenomenon and even go swimming amid this natural spectacle of light. 

Day 11: Horseback Ride to Manialtepec & Kayaking

Saddle up to explore Lake Manialtepec on horseback

In the morning, you'll hop in the saddle for a full day of horseback riding on the outskirts of Puerto Escondido. The route will take you along idyllic fields and amid green forest scenery as you make your way to Lake Manialtepec, where a glass of mezcal will be waiting for you. Here, take a break for lunch and enjoy some home-cooked traditional Oaxacan food on the beach. Afterward, you'll have time to relax before hitting the water on a kayak ride around the lagoon. Upon returning to shore, enjoy a golden sunset before getting back in the saddle and returning to Puerto Escondido.

Day 12: Surfing, Snorkeling & Releasing Turtle Hatchlings 

A newborn Olive Ridley sea turtle, ready for the ocean
Above all else, Puerto Escondido is a surf town that boasts some of the best breaks on Mexico's Pacific coast. This morning, you'll ride a few waves in a two-hour surf lesson perfect for all skill levels, even if you've never touched a surfboard. The lesson includes roundtrip transportation to the beach, all necessary equipment, and personal attention from certified instructors.

After catching some waves, you'll transfer by vehicle up the coast to the resort town of Huatulco. The turquoise waters and abundance of coral reefs make this a great place to do some snorkeling. Upon arrival, you'll meet your guide, grab your mask, and head out among the reefs for a swim with tropical fish, sea turtles, manta rays, and other exotic marine life. You'll then head back to Puerto, stopping at Escobilla Beach, famous for its sea turtle sanctuary. As the sun sets over the water, you'll receive a newly hatched sea turtle, which you'll release right into the Pacific.

Day 13: Transfer to San Cristóbal, Optional Activites

The colonial town of San Cristóbal
Leave early for the drive from the Oaxacan coast up into the Chiapas highlands to another Spanish-colonial gem: the charming town of San Cristóbal de las Casas. After checking in to your hotel, you can stretch your legs on a walk along San Cristóbal's cobbled streets and visit its plazas and old buildings. Many of these date from the colonial period, like the main Cathedral, founded in 1528. Other landmarks include the Baroque Temple of Santo Domingo and the Church of Guadalupe, a twin-steepled chapel atop a long stairway that overlooks the town below. 

Day 14: Day Trip to Sumidero Canyon & Chiapa de Corzo

Take a ride through Sumidero Canyon
Wake up early for a six-hour day trip to Mexico's famous Sumidero Canyon. You'll arrive at the historic town of Chiapa de Corzo, which sits on the Grijalva River and is the embarkation point into Sumidero. You'll board a boat at the dock and follow the river through the canyon, whose vertical limestone cliffs soar up to 3,300 feet (1,000 m). As you pass by cascading waterfalls and cliffside caves, you'll also see giant crocodiles sunning themselves on the riverbanks.
Upon returning to the dock, you can explore Chiapa de Corzo on foot. Founded in 1528, it's one of the oldest cities in Latin America, wowing visitors with its colonial buildings and massive central plaza home to an ancient ceiba tree. Anchoring the plaza is a Mudejar-style fountain called La Pila, made of red brick and dating to the 16th century. In addition, you can visit the 16th-century Santo Domingo Monastery, which houses a museum featuring hundreds of colorful lacquerware items from Latin America and elsewhere.

Day 15: Cooking Class in Zinacantán

Cook with locals in Chiapas

First thing in the morning, you'll head just outside San Cristóbal to Zinacantán (an Indigenous Tzotzil word that means "land of bats"). This highland town in Chiapas has been inhabited since pre-colonial times and remains mostly populated by the Tzotzil Maya Indigenous people. And since one of the best ways to experience any culture is through its food, today you'll participate in a four-hour farm-to-table (literally) cooking experience.

You'll arrive at a local home in Zinacantán and meet your friendly hosts. If it's milpa season, you'll accompany them on a tour of the fields to learn about this ancient farming system in which different species, like corn and beans, are intercropped and share resources such as water. In the fields, you'll harvest the ingredients and then return to the home kitchen where, with your hosts' help, you'll prepare a five-course traditional meal that celebrates local Indigenous culture. After enjoying this special meal with your hosts, you'll return to San Cristóbal. 

Day 16: Transfer to Palenque, Stop at Agua Azul & Misol-Ha

Agua Azul waterfall
In the morning, your driver will pick you up for the ride north from San Cristóbal to the ancient archeological site of Palenque. During this full-day driving tour, you'll stop at some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country. First, you'll visit Agua Azul. Located on the Xanil River, these terraced falls are famous not for their height—the largest plunge about 20 feet (6 m)—but for their vivid turquoise water. You can swim before continuing to the much larger Misol-Ha waterfall, which cascades 115 feet (35 m) down a limestone cliff into an emerald lagoon. It's another great swimming spot.
From Misol-Ha, it's a short drive to Palenque, the remains of an ancient Maya city that existed from around 226 BCE to 799 CE. Though not as large as other famous ruins in Mexico (Palenque covers a mere 1 sq mi/2.5 sq km), it is one of the most fascinating. Archeologists have learned much about Maya history from Palenque's well-preserved epigraphic records, sculptures, and bas-relief carvings. Upon arrival, you'll check in at a hotel near the site. 

Day 17: Tour Palenque, Visit Roberto Barrios Waterfalls

Tour the ancient city of Palenque
Tour the ancient city of Palenque

In the morning, you'll take a two-hour tour around the 800 structures that comprise Palenque. Like many ancient cities, when Palenque was abandoned in the eighth century, it was reabsorbed by the surrounding jungle. Only in the early 1950s was it discovered by a local archeologist. Since then, excavations have revealed royal tombs (including that of ruler Pakal the Great) and glyphic texts that map nearly 200 years of history—by far the most such text of any Maya archeological site. That's why Palenque has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

After exploring the ruins, you'll drive about 20 miles (32 km) south from Palenque to Roberto Barrios. Here, you'll have three hours to enjoy one of the lesser-known of Chiapas' incredible waterfalls. It's comprised of many cascades that plunge into turquoise pools, and their vivid colors derive from the mineral content of the water. You can swim in the lagoons, explore the caves, and enjoy natural rock waterslides. There are also platforms for diving (provided the water is deep enough). Keep an eye out for howler monkeys and parrots in the trees.

Day 18: Transfer to Villahermosa & Depart

Sunset over Puerto Escondido
Your driver will pick you up in the morning for the two-hour drive northwest to the city of Villahermosa. You'll transfer to the airport and catch your connecting flight home. Safe travels!

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