This exciting Mexican road trip covers a whopping number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites—perfect for culture enthusiasts. Starting in Mexico City, you'll visit historic colonial towns, architectural sites, nature parks, and gorgeous interiors while making your way to both coasts with free time each evening to explore markets, restaurants, and art galleries on your own. This two-week itinerary is best suited for those who like to be on the move (a private driver and transfers are included).

Highlights

  • Wander through San Miguel de Allende's romantic cobblestoned streets
  • Visit the 'The Sistine Chapel of America' for Mexican Baroque architecture
  • Check out Morelia's 200+ structures made with characteristic pink stone 
  • Chill on the beach in the Gulf of Mexico with a night in Costa Esmeralda 
  • Explore churches, plazas, and the regional food scene in Oaxaca City

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Mexico City - Transfer to Queretaro Querétaro
Day 2 Queretaro - Transfer to San Miguel Allende San Miguel de Allende
Day 3 San Miguel de Allende - Transfer to Zacatecas Zacatecas
Day 4 Zacatecas - Transfer to Tequila Tequila
Day 5 Tequila - Transfer to Morelia Morelia
Day 6 Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve - Transfer to Mexico City Mexico City
Day 7 Luis Barragán & Central University City Mexico City
Day 8 Mexico City - El Tajin - Transfer to Costa Esmeralda  Costa Esmeralda
Day 9 Costa Esmeralda - Tlacotalpan - Transfer to Córdoba Cordoba
Day 10 Córdoba - Transfer to Oaxaca City Oaxaca
Day 11 Monte Albán's Archaeological Site Oaxaca
Day 12 Oaxaca City - Transfer to Puebla Puebla
Day 13 Transfer to Mexico City Mexico City
Day 14 Depart Mexico City  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Mexico City - Transfer to Querétaro

Street scene in Querétaro

Welcome to Mexico City! Upon arrival, you'll be picked up by a private driver and transferred to Santiago de Querétaro (2.5 hours) in central Mexico. Check into your hotel and enjoy some free time to explore the historic city center.

Querétaro is known for its well-preserved Spanish colonial architecture and Baroque buildings include Santa Rosa de Viterbo church. Make sure to check out the pink stone aqueduct and the ochre-hued San Francisco church in the city’s main square. You can also visit the Querétaro Regional Museum to see pre-Hispanic, colonial and republican artifacts.

Day 2: Querétaro - Transfer to San Miguel Allende

Jalpan Church.
Jalpan Church

Today, after an early breakfast at your hotel, you'll be picked up by your private driver and transferred to the UNESCO-listed Franciscan missions in the Sierra Gorda of Queretaro (3 hours and 45 minutes).

These five Franciscan missions were built during the last phase of the conversion to Christianity of the interior of Mexico in the mid-18th century. The richly decorated church façades represent an example of the joint creative efforts of the missionaries and the Indios. The rural settlements that grew around the missions have retained their vernacular character.

Once you've had time to experience this site, you'll continue the drive to San Miguel de Allende, a UNESCO-listed city thanks to its importance in Mexican history and culture. Check into your hotel and discover the colonial city’s well-preserved 17th- and 18th-century structures, cobblestone streets, unique markets, and distinguished art galleries. 

Day 3: San Miguel de Allende - Transfer to Zacatecas

Zacatecas
Zacatecas after sundown

This morning, you'll wake up early in San Miguel de Allende for the drive to Zacatecas with a few stops along the way, starting with Guanajuato. Founded by the Spanish in the early 16th century, Guanajuato became the world's leading center of silver extraction in the 18th century. The town's fine Baroque and neoclassical buildings, resulting from the prosperity of the mines, have influenced buildings throughout central Mexico. 

You’ll also stop at Atotonilco to visit a sanctuary called 'The Sistine Chapel of America'. Here you will appreciate the frescos that were painted in the 18th century, considered the highest expression of Mexican Baroque. Next, you'll check-in at your hotel in Zacatecas and enjoy the rest of your night at leisure. 

Day 4: Zacatecas - Transfer to Tequila

Hospicio Cabañas
Hospicio Cabañas

Today begins with time to explore the historical center of Zacatecas. Founded in 1546 after the discovery of a rich silver lode, Zacatecas reached the height of its prosperity in the 16th and 17th centuries. Built on the steep slopes of a narrow valley, the town has breathtaking views and there are many old buildings, both religious and civil. The cathedral, built between 1730 and 1760, dominates the center of town. It is notable for its harmonious design and the Baroque profusion of its façades, where European and indigenous decorative elements are found side-by-side.

Then you will continue your trip to Guadalajara (4 hours 15 minutes). This city, known as 'Perla Tapatía', is the home of the UNESCO World Heritage Place called Hospicio Cabañas—one of the oldest and largest hospital complexes in the Americas. The complex was founded in 1791 by the Bishop of Guadalajara in order to combine the functions of a workhouse, hospital, orphanage, and almshouse.

You'll then be transferred to the magical town of Tequila (1h 30 minutes) where you'll check-in and rest for the night. 

Day 5: Tequila - Transfer to Morelia

Agave plants near Tequila

Today starts with an early morning visit to a distillery house where the agave 'pineapple' is fermented and distilled. Enjoy the drive as you pass by agave fields and keep your camera close. 

After your distillery visit, it's time to get back on the road towards Morelia (4 hours from Tequila) to discover the city's beautiful historical center. Morelia was the birthplace of several important personalities of independent Mexico and has played a major role in the country's history. Originating in the 16th century, Morelia is an outstanding example of urban planning which combines the ideas of the Spanish Renaissance with the Mesoamerican experience.

More than 200 historic buildings in the region's characteristic pink stone reflect the town's architectural history, revealing a masterly and eclectic blend of the medieval spirit with Renaissance, Baroque and neoclassical elements. 

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Day 6: Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve - Transfer to Mexico City

Monarch Butterfly
Get up close to Monarch Butterflies

After breakfast in Morelia, you will head to the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (2 hours). Each year, millions of butterflies arrive from the USA and Canada covering the oyamel trees in orange and black creating this unique, natural event. After the visit, you will continue your trip to Mexico City (2 hours). Check-in and rest, or explore the streets around your hotel's neighborhood in this sprawling capital.

Day 7: Luis Barragán & Central University City

Luis Barragan House

Today, you'll enjoy a bit of Mexico City culture starting with a visit to the UNESCO-listed Luis Barragan House that represents one of the contemporary architecture masterpieces of major transcendence at the international level.

You'll then pay a visit to the National Autonomous University, where—inside the campus—you will see the Central Library which is covered with massive mosaic stone murals depicting the ancient history of Mexico done with Aztec and Spanish motifs. Each of the four walls represents a different era: the north wall depicts the Pre-Hispanic past, the south wall depicts the colonial past, the east wall depicts contemporary Mexico, while the west wall depicts the university. You can finish your tour at the rectory building with an impressive mural by David Alfaro Siqueiros.

From here, you'll have the rest of the afternoon and evening to enjoy Mexico City however you'd like. 

Day 8: Mexico City - Transfer to Costa Esmeralda

Spend some time exploring El Tajin

Today starts with an early morning wake-up in order to skip the Mexico City traffic. Your first stop on your itinerary will be Santiago Tepeyahualco (1 hour 45 minutes) to see the Aqueduct of Padre Tembleque Hydraulic System. This 16th-century aqueduct is located between the states of Mexico and Hidalgo, on the Central Mexican Plateau, and encompasses a water catchment area, springs, canals, distribution tanks, and arcaded aqueduct bridges.

You will then have some relaxing time on the highway until you reach your next destination (3 hours 30 minutes)—the city of Veracruz. Here you will visit the stunning Pre-Hispanic city of Tajin which became the most important center in north-east Mesoamerica after the fall of the Teotihuacan Empire. Its cultural influence extended all along the Gulf of Mexico and penetrated into the Maya region and the high plateaux of central Mexico.

Next, continue to Costa Esmeralda (1 hour 25 minutes) where you'll have free time to enjoy the beach area on the Gulf.

Day 9: Costa Esmeralda - Transfer to Córdoba

Spanish colonial river port

After breakfast, you will drive to the south part of Veracruz (4 hours) to visit the historic center of Tlacotalpan—a Spanish colonial river port founded in the mid-16th century. It has preserved its original urban fabric to a remarkable degree, with wide streets, colonnaded houses in a profusion of styles and colors, and many mature trees in the public open spaces and private gardens.

From here, continue on the road to your hotel in Córdoba (3 hours) where you can rest for this day. 

Day 10: Córdoba - Transfer to Oaxaca City

 Scenery along today's journey

Today you will wake up early to head to Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Valley (2 hours and 10 minutes), part of the Mesoamerican region. This arid or semi-arid zone offers the richest biodiversity in all of North America. 

Then you will head towards Oaxaca City (3 hours away) you will have the afternoon and evening to explore the beautiful historic city center and check out its world-renowned cuisine. 

Day 11: Day-Trip to Monte Albán's Archaeological Site

Monte Albán's Archaeological site
Monte Albán's Archaeological site

Today's itinerary starts with a visit to Monte Albán a spectacular archaeological site on top of a hill situated in the Central Valleys of Oaxaca, the birthplace of the Zapotec civilization. Walking through La Gran Plaza, you will be able to see some renowned sites including the Gallery of the Dancers, the Building J, and some Ball Game.

Once the visit to this fascinating place over, you will visit the Yagul Caves (1 hour)—a Pre-Hispanic archaeological complex and a series of pre-historic caves and rock shelters. Some of these shelters provide archaeological and rock-art evidence for the progress of nomadic hunter-gathers to incipient farmers. Ten thousand-year-old Cucurbitaceae seeds in one cave, Guilá Naquitz, are considered to be the earliest known evidence of domesticated plants in the continent, while corn cob fragments from the same cave are said to be the earliest documented evidence for the domestication of maize.

You will continue to Mitla to see the most important religious Zapotec center during the Postclassic period. It's building is richly decorated with geometric shapes—a clear example of the splendor and development of this ancient civilization. Next, you'll return back to Oaxaca and rest for the night. 

Day 12: Oaxaca City - Transfer to Puebla

Colonial Puebla

After breakfast this morning, you'll head to the beautiful colonial town of Puebla (4 hours 30 minutes). The Spanish conquest left its influence by creating this Baroque city, often considered an architectural and cultural jewel of the country. They also influenced its handcrafts by creating the famous Talavera pottery and its food, whose miscegenation produced one of the most varied and succulent cuisines of México.

After, you will continue your travel to Cuernavaca (2 hours 30 minutes). Check-in at your hotel and rest for the night. 

Day 13: Transfer to Mexico City 

Temple of the Feathered Serpent in Xochicalco

Today's itinerary begins with a visit to the UNESCO-listed Cathedral of Cuernavaca—one of the earliest 16th-century monasteries on the Slopes of Popocatepetl. The monastery represents an example of a new architectural concept in which open spaces are of renewed importance. The influence of this style is felt throughout the Mexican territory and even beyond its borders. 

Finally, you will head to Xochicalco Archaeological Site, an exceptionally well-preserved example of a fortified political, religious and commercial center from the troubled period of 650–900.

You will then transfer to your hotel in Mexico City. Enjoy the last night of the trip!

Day 14: Depart Mexico City

Presidential Palace Zocalo

It's time to say goodbye to Mexico! At the designated time, you'll be picked up from your hotel and transferred to the airport for your on onward departure. Safe travels!

Map

Map of Mexico's Ultimate Culture Tour - 14 Days
Map of Mexico's Ultimate Culture Tour - 14 Days