Mexico offers travellers a tantalising smorgasbord of nature, history, cuisine and culture. Aztec and Mayan archaeological treasures, tequila, charming colonial cities, Mexican food and beach culture, all these features and more make up this tourist and historical hub. Culture vultures will be bowled over by the impressive sites of ancient civilisations that moulded Mexico’s great Pre-Columbian history, while nature lovers will be in their element on the pristine beaches along its 10 000-kilometre coastline, or exploring the country’s rainforests, mountain peaks and mangrove lagoons. Gourmands flock here for the distinctive and flavourful cuisine that has become famous the world over.
Days 1 - 3
Due to its isolated geographic location, the capital of Yucatan has fostered a unique cultural and political identity. Merida was built on the site of the ancient Maya city T’ho, but many of the existing Mayan pyramids were knocked down by the Spanish to build the large colonial buildings you see today. The city is the second-largest historic centre in Mexico, after Mexico City itself, and has a host of trendy museums, art galleries, restaurants and boutiques. Don’t miss a visit to the famous avenue Paseo de Montejo to view the beautiful sculptures which line the road. The sculpture installation changes every year.
Days 3 - 7
In the coastal town of Tulum you will find Mexico’s only archaeological site overlooking the sea. The Tulum Ruins were once an ancient Mayan fortress and now offer tourists the chance to soak up some history before dipping into the water at one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean. While the ruins are the main attraction, there is also plenty to be seen and done in the rest of Tulum. Ocean lovers can spend time diving, snorkelling and exploring cenotes – natural swimming holes that the Mayans considered sacred – and the quaint town offers a selection of small hotels, restaurants and stores that provide dining, shopping and entertainment opportuities.
Days 7 - 11
Located in the state of Quintana Roo in southeast Mexico, Xpu Ha (pronounced ‘Ish-poo-ha’) is one of the best-kept secrets of the ‘Mayan Riviera’ on the Yucatan Peninsula. Located between the major hubs of Tulum and Playa del Carmen, Xpu Ha is home to the same gorgeous white sands and deep turquoise waters, but with a more relaxed atmosphere and far fewer crowds. The feeling of isolation offered by the main beach (simply called Le Playa) is interrupted by the resort of Royal Catalonia Tulum and some laid-back bars and restaurants, but there is always ample space to find your own piece of sand and indulge in some snorkelling beneath the crystal-clear waters of Xpu Ha Bay. Swimming in Cenote Manati, a large natural sinkhole, is also a popular activity.
Playa del Carmen
Days 11 - 15
Formally a small fishing town in the Yucatán peninsula, Playa del Carmen has grown into one of the region’s most fashionable locations. Playa, as it’s commonly referred to, offers visitors a trendy getaway ideal for shopping, bar-and-restaurant hopping and dancing the night away at any of its many beach clubs. No trip to Playa is complete without a walk down the town’s very own 5th Avenue, Quinta Avenida, a cobblestone street where locals and tourists come to play. Those in search of quieter activities can explore the exquisite reefs and rich ocean life whilst diving and snorkelling, or spend some time on a local fishing boat.