Crafted skulls, Mexico

La Ruta Maya - Day of the Dead Festival Departure - Reverse

17 days
from
£3,599
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Leisurely
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Trip code: 
AUXR
Way to Travel:
Guided Group
Activity:
Festival Holidays
Min age:
16
Group size:
6–15

The ruins, rainforest, villages and beaches of the Mayan heartland, plus the Day of the Dead festival

The Mayans forged a powerful and mysterious empire across southern Mexico, Guatemala and Belize. Following ‘La Ruta Maya’ we explore the hidden treasures of this region - magnificent cities, pyramids and temples. These incredible architectural feats have captivated historians since their discovery. The ancient Mayan civilisation is also apparent in the customs, language and dress of the Indian towns and villages we pass through. The Mexican Day of the Dead celebration is possibly the most vibrant and colourful tribute to human mortality there is. Citizens pay tribute to the dead, especially close relatives, visiting graves and congregating round the stones to lay edible offerings at the headstones alongside beautiful golden mounds of marigolds, the Flor de Muerto (flower of the dead). Spanning three countries, we discover lively colonial towns, active volcanoes and the palm-fringed Caye Caulker, a paradise for snorkelling and diving, along with experiencing Day of the Dead festivities.

Highlights

  • Day of the Dead Festival
  • An in-depth exploration of the highlights of the Mayan world
  • Guided visits to the Mayan sites of Palenque, Uxmal, Chichen Itza, Tulum, Tikal and Xunantunich
  • Colourful colonial cities of Antigua, San Cristobal de las Casas, Campeche and Merida
  • Traditional communities in the Mexican highlands
  • Two nights at beautiful Lake Atitlan, surrounded by volcanoes
  • Idyllic Caribbean waters in Mexico and Belize

Key information

  • 15 nights in a mixture of standard and comfortable hotels, all with en suite facilities
  • Travel by private minibus, boat and internal flight
  • Several long drives
  • Reverse itinerary departure available (AUX)
  • Non Festival departure available (AUR)

 

What's included

  • All accommodation (see below)
  • All transport and listed activities
  • Tour leader throughout
  • Flights from London (if booking incl. flights)

What's not included

  • Travel insurance
  • Single accommodation (available on request)
  • Visas or vaccinations
Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailormade trips:
+44 (0)20 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Responsible Travel

At Exodus we believe in the power of Responsible Travel.

Every time we travel, we are part of a global movement that creates jobs, builds more sustainable societies, encourages cultural understanding and safeguards common natural and cultural heritage. To learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus click here… 

Itinerary

  • Day 1

    Fly to Guatemala

    Fly to Guatemala

  • Day 2

    Fly from Guatemala City to Flores; Visit Tikal.

    Early flight at 06.30am from Guatemala City to Flores. Upon arrival, Transfer to Tikal National Park (approx. 1 hour duration) and visit the most famous and probably the most impressive of all Mayan sites (approx. 45 minute drive). Here, in the middle of the jungle are nearly 20 square miles of classic Mayan ruins, surrounded by the dense jungles of Petén. We take a tour of the city, visiting the Q complex, Main Plaza, North and Central Acropolis, Seven Temples and Mundo Perdido (Lost World). Tikal is a superb area for observing wildlife in the jungle environment and visitors regularly see Howler monkeys, Spider monkeys, toucan, Weaver birds, coatimundi and even tarantula (if you know where to look and wish to find one!). In the afternoon we transfer to El Remate (duration approx. 30 minutes), on Lake Peten Itza, where we have the opportunity to learn more about sacred plants in a traditional Mayan garden and enjoy a group dinner.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 3

    To Belize City via Xunantunich; Boat to Caye Caulker.

    After breakfast, we leave the heavily forested and sparsely populated Maya Mountains, encountering some spectacular scenery en route. We cross the border into Belize, and will stop at the Mayan ruins of Xunantunich to explore its temples and palaces. Located on a ridge close, the site has some fine stucco facades as well as several elaborately carved stelae and an impressive 40 metre high pyramid. After looking around the ruins, we cross travel to Belize City, from where we board the water taxi for the 60 minute transfer to Caye Caulker. This laid-back Caribbean Island is just west of the Belize Barrier Reef and offers fantastic snorkelling and diving opportunities. There will be some border formalities this morning, but this afternoon has been left free to relax into island life and understand the meaning of Belize's motto: 'no shirt, no shoes, no problem!' The tiny village of Caye Caulker has only three sandy main streets (Front, Middle and Back Street), but they are full of bars and restaurants, many of which serve excellent fresh seafood. Total drive time today is just under 3 hours (2 hours between Belize City and the border with an additional 45 minutes from El Remate to the border).
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 4

    Free day.

    Today is a free day for optional excursions and activities, or simply for relaxation. Diving, snorkeling, sea kayaking and fishing can all be arranged locally. As the island is small, it is very easy to complete a circuit on foot. As well as the marine activities there is also a forest reserve in the northern part of the island which offers great bird watching in the mangroves.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 5

    To Belize city; transfer to Tulum.

    We leave Caye Caulker by boat bound for Belize City (approx. 1 hour) and then drive from the coast towards the border with Mexico (around 2.5 hours). We cross the border, stopping for lunch en route, and arrive to Tulum in the afternoon, (approx. 3 hours). This is a fantastic beach community, where we stay for the next 2 nights. Just outside the town lies one of the most photographed sites in the Yucatan; the ruins of an ancient Mayan city that overlook the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 6

    Visit Tulum ruins; swim in a cenote; free afternoon.

    This morning we have a short tour of the ancient Mayan fortress of Tulum followed by an optional visit to the sacred underground Mayan waters to cool off in a nearby cenote that is suitable for swimming. The most famous buildings in the complex are the ruins that overlook the lapping waves of the Caribbean, but there are also several temples, ritual platforms and houses to be explored. In common with many other Mayan cities, the whole site is surrounded by a huge defensive wall. This afternoon is free to relax on the beautiful Tulum beach.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 7

    Visit Chichen Itza; to Merida.

    We will spend the morning exploring one of the largest Mayan ceremonial centres at Chichén Itza, located approximately 3 hours from Tulum. En route we will stop in Valladolid to further explore the mix of Mayan and colonial Spanish culture on the Yucatan. The impressive El Castillo Pyramid sits in the middle of the site and is surrounded by temples, palaces and ball courts. Nearby, we stop to visit the Cenote Sagrado ('Sacred Well'), dredged in the early 20th century and found to contain precious gold, silver and jade artifacts as well as the remains of sacrifice victims. After the tour we drive (approx. 2 hours) to the bustling colonial city of Mérida. Many of its buildings were constructed using stones from the Mayan city which existed on the site and these are still visible in the walls of the imposing cathedral. The city flourished following the conquest and the 19th century homes designed in French style contribute to the attractive appearance of the historical centre. We arrive in the middle to late afternoon and will enjoy a walking tour of the city; the main square is particularly impressive when lit up at night.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 8

    Uxmal and Campeche

    From Merida it is around a 1 hour and 30 minute drive to reach the fascinating Mayan ruins of Uxmal. Uxmal dates back to the late classic period, having been built by the Xiu tribe. The site is dominated by the Pyramid of the Magician and the Nunnery Quadrangle which consists of long buildings with elaborately carved façades. There are remnants of a ball court used in ritual games that sometimes ended in sacrifice, and the whole site is quite exposed, which is a real contrast to the ruins of Palenque. After lunch (not included), we travel for around 2 hours the historic fortified city of Campeche, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which boats incredibly well preserved colonial architecture. Most impressive are the city walls, built to protect the city from the constant attacks of English and Dutch buccaneers and pirates during the 16th and 17th centuries. Arrive in the early evening and head out to sample some local cuisine overlooking the Bay of Campeche - seafood is a local specialty and widely available.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 9

    Drive to Palenque and guided tour.

    This morning we drive for around 5 hours to the small town of Palenque, where the Mayan site of the same name is located just on the outskirts. In the afternoon we have a guided tour of the impressive Mayan site of Palenque. The jungle-covered complex is one of the most famous in Mexico and is located in the low hills of Chiapas. The pyramids, sanctuaries and temples, with their sculptured wall-panels and roofs are remarkably well preserved and are probably the finest surviving examples of Mayan buildings. Enjoy an optional trip to El Panchán for dinner this evening, a nearby bohemian rainforest hangout (dinner not included).
    Comfortable Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 10

    Visit Agua Azul Waterfall; to San Cristobal.

    Today we ascend from the humid forests of north-eastern Chiapas to the highlands - expect some winding roads but plenty of spectacular scenery en route. We break our journey at the Agua Azul Falls, a glittering series of cataracts which often appear blue due to the high mineral content. In Spanish the name of the falls means 'Blue Water'. (Please note that on the rare occasions where we are unable to visit Agua Azul Falls, we will endeavour to visit the Misol Ha waterfalls instead). We come to the old capital of the region, San Cristobal de Las Casas. This is one of the most attractive colonial towns in Mexico, with many old churches and squares amongst a lively café scene. It is also a major centre for the Tzotzil Indians, each group having different, colourful costumes. The extensive market has some good handicrafts for sale and plenty of interesting foodstuffs on offer! San Cristobal has a very pleasant climate because of its altitude. The total driving time today is approx. 8 hours.
    Comfortable Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 11

    Day of the Dead festivities.

    The Mexican Day of the Dead celebration is possibly the most vibrant and colourful tribute to human mortality there is. Citizens pay tribute to the dead, especially close relatives, visiting graves and congregating round the stones to lay edible offerings at the headstones alongside beautiful golden mounds of marigolds, the Flor de Muerto (flower of the dead). Today we hope to visit some cemeteries around San Cristobal de las Casas to see the altars and tributes made for loved ones. We also hope to visit local markets and bakeries with ornaments and essentials for the Day of the Dead festivities, with the chance to sample specialties only on offer during this festival. We also plan to visit the Chamulan village Romerillo and will hopefully have a chance to watch the elaborate Day of the Dead parades. The tour leader will be adding special visits regarding day of the dead festivities where ever possible, but we cannot plan those activities much time in advance, they will be spontaneous.
    Comfortable Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 12

    Explore San Cristobal de las Casas and nearby villages.

    We visit the nearby Indian villages of San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan this morning. These small communities are very traditional and many of the villagers continue to follow ancient religious practices within the Catholic churches. In the main church of Chamula, where locals practice a blend of Catholicism and Mayan customs, people sit on the pine needle covered floor surrounded by dozens of candles, chanting prayers in an ancient dialect of Tzotzil. Our guide will explain some of the local traditions before we enter the church to see this practice for ourselves. Visitors should note that when visiting churches in the villages, photography of the worshippers and the church interiors is expressly forbidden. Your guide will explain the full reasons behind this, but please remember to exercise discretion when taking pictures, always seeking permission before using your camera. In the afternoon, there will be some free time to explore San Cristobal de las Casas at your leisure.
    Comfortable Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 13

    To Panajachel.

    Today we begin early and drive south, crossing the border into Guatemala. The road takes us through rugged mountain scenery before arriving to Panajachel, a small town on the shore of Lake Atitlan. Guatemala's largest lake is dominated by three volcanoes and was formed following an ancient eruption. Many of the villages that exist around the lake are only accessible by boat. Today is a full day drive of around 7 hours plus stops for lunch in a simple restaurant in a small town (not included) and the border crossing.
    Comfortable Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 14

    Boat trip on Lake Atitlan.

    Today we will explore some of the area surrounding Lake Atitlan. A 60-minute scenic boat ride on the lake takes us to the village of San Juan La Laguna, where we will visit the home studios of local painters and a textile cooperative where women are engaged in hand weaving and natural dyeing processes. We continue by boat to Santiago Atitlan where we can learn about the Mayan traditions and beliefs from our local guides. At certain times of the year, it may be possible to visit a shaman's house to see this fascinating practice, held amidst clouds of burning incense.
    Comfortable Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 15

    Chichicastenango; Antigua.

    After breakfast, we travel to the ancient market town of Chichicastenango (approx. 1.5 hours), where centuries-old economic and cultural traditions of the Kaqchikel people continue to thrive. In the early afternoon we drive to get to Antigua (approx 2.5 hours). Many travellers agree that Antigua is one of the most attractive cities in Latin America. Rightly declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the colourful, colonial city attracts visitors from all over for its unique history and renowned Spanish language schools. Above the tiled roofs of pastel houses there are impressive views of the Agua and Fuego volcanoes, standing in excess of 3700m above the city. Antigua was the capital of the Spanish empire in Central America from 1543 to 1773, a highly religious period that left the city with an abundance of convents and churches packed with religious art. Unfortunately many buildings are now in ruins from centuries of earthquake damage - our guided walking tour of the city will bring its fascinating history to life.
    Comfortable Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 16

    End Antigua

    The trip ends after breakfast in Antigua for land only passengers. Those on the group flights will be transferred to Guatemala City Airport for their flight home.

  • Day 17

    Arrive London

    Arrive London

Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Essential Info

Visas

Mexico

Holders of British, Australian, New Zealand, US, Canadian and most EU passports do not require visas for Mexico.
However, please note that if flying via the USA, you will have to clear immigration during transit. In this case, you will be required to get an Electronic Travel Authority (USD14) prior to flying if travelling via the USA under the Visa Waiver Scheme (as is the case for most UK citizens). Please see www.exodus.co.uk/USVisa for more information.

Guatemala

Holders of British, Australian, New Zealand, US, Canadian and most EU passports do not require visas for Guatemala.

Belize

Holders of British, Australian, New Zealand, US, Canadian and most EU passports do not require visas for Belize. However, please note that if flying via the USA, you will have to clear immigration during transit. In this case, you will be required to get an Electronic Travel Authority (USD14) prior to flying if travelling via the USA under the Visa Waiver Scheme (as is the case for most UK citizens). Please see www.exodus.co.uk/USVisa for more information. Zika fever is a mosquito‐borne viral disease and a known risk in places visited on this trip. There is currently no vaccine or prophylaxis available and therefore the best form of prevention is to avoid being bitten. We recommend you take the usual precautions to avoid mosquito bites. For the latest information please visit www.exodus.co.uk/zika‐virus‐q‐a .

Vaccinations

Mexico

There are no mandatory vaccination requirements.

Recommended vaccinations are: Typhoid, Hepatitis A.

The risk of malaria is slight but you may wish to consult your GP or travel health clinic for further advice.

Dengue fever and/or Chikungunya are known risks in places visited on this trip. Both are tropical viral diseases spread by daytime biting mosquitoes. There is currently no vaccine or prophylaxis available for either, and therefore the best form of prevention is to avoid being bitten. We recommend you take the usual precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

Zika fever is a mosquito‐borne viral disease and a known risk in places visited on this trip. There is currently no vaccine or prophylaxis available and therefore the best form of prevention is to avoid being bitten. We recommend you take the usual precautions to avoid mosquito bites. For the latest information please visit www.exodus.co.uk/zika‐virus‐q‐a .

Guatemala

There are no mandatory vaccination requirements. Recommended vaccinations are: Tetanus, Typhoid, Hepatitis A. The risk of malaria is slight but you may wish to consult your GP or travel health clinic for further advice. Dengue fever is a known risk in places visited. It is a tropical viral disease spread by daytime biting mosquitoes. There is currently no vaccine or prophylaxis available for Dengue, and therefore the best form of prevention is to avoid being bitten. We recommend you take the usual precautions to avoid mosquito bites. The above information can change at short notice; as we are not qualified to answer all your questions about travel health we strongly recommend you contact your Medical Professional or a Travel Health Clinic at least 8 weeks prior to departure for up‐to‐date information.

Belize

There are no mandatory vaccination requirements. Recommended vaccinations are: Typhoid, Hepatitis A. The risk of malaria is slight but you may wish to consult your GP or travel health clinic for further advice.

Eating and Drinking

All breakfasts, 1 lunch and 3 dinners included

Breakfast generally consist of fruits, cereals, beans and eggs. Meals vary from around US$9-12 for lunch and dinner in Guatemala and the Mexican highlands to around US$12 - 19 in the Yucatan area and Belize. A beer costs on average US$3-4.

Weather

On the coast and in the lowland areas there is little variation in temperatures between the seasons. These are likely to be 28ºC to 33ºC average daytime maximum and 18ºC to 23ºC night time minimum. On the coast the heat and humidity are moderated by sea breezes, but inland it is likely to be quite humid. The wet season is from June to October, when it normally rains on average one day in three. The rains tend to be short and heavy, alternating with pleasant clear spells. During the other months rain is much less likely, but there is the chance of an occasional storm at almost any time. In the hills the temperatures are moderated by the altitude, and there is more seasonal variation. Between November and February the daytime maximum is around 20ºC, rising to 27ºC in summer. Nights are much cooler, around 6ºC in winter and 12ºC in summer. Note that it can be surprisingly cold in the highlands on winter nights. The pattern of rainfall is similar to the lowlands.

Guatemala City

Guatemala City

Is this trip for you?

This trip includes several long drives and you should be prepared for this. Border crossings can sometimes be delayed with significant queues and formalities. Being in the tropics, most of the region is hot and humid, particularly during the summer months and inland - drinking plenty of water and dressing in loose cotton clothing is advisable.

Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailormade trips:
+44 (0)20 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Accommodation

Hotels

We will stay in a variety of colonial and modern properties, all with en suite facilities. Some of the accommodation highlights will include: a property 2km from Palenque surrounded by forest, a Spanish colonial residence in the heart of San Cristobal de las Casas and a hotel overlooking the beach in Tulum. Some of the hotels have pools and most have wifi/internet.

Single supplements are available on request.

Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailormade trips:
+44 (0)20 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Experts

Contact a member of staff who has done this trip

Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailormade trips:
+44 (0)20 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Expert Blog Entries

Be the first to post your review! If you have recently returned from an Exodus adventure and want to help other travellers with your feedback then simply use the link below to post your holiday review.

Dates & Prices

An overview of flight options

Exodus is committed to making joining our tours as easy as possible, wherever you live. We generally only block book seats from London, but this certainly does not mean that you need to fly from there. Depending on the route and airlines available, there will usually be various options available for those who want to fly from their local airport.

This page aims to provide a useful overview of the options available to our clients. However, the best flight arrangements should be tailored to your personal requirements, so please contact our Sales team for expert advice.

 

What kind of options do I have ?

1. We can book for you: Flights from anywhere in the world - not via London  

Depending on the route, this may be direct or via an overseas hub like Amsterdam, the Middle East or elsewhere. On short haul routes there may be direct flights with low cost airlines, charter flights or scheduled airlines. Exodus can book most, but not all, of these for you. The most appropriate airline may be different to that which we use for the group flight from London, but many people now travel on different airlines and meet up with their fellow passengers at the destination.

Pros Cons
  • May be the most direct route
  • Often the extra fare compared to the London flight is minimal.
  • As you will be in the hands a single airline for your entire journey, the airline will be responsible for your bags and your connections.
  • You may not be able to join the group transfers. However, we can usually arrange private transfers, or book your flights to try and coincide with the group transfers. See notes on transfer arrangements below.

 

2. We can book for you: Connecting flights from your local airport to London

Exodus can book connecting flights to London so you can join the group flight there. Connecting times will be followed according to airline advice, or as requested by clients. There are two types of fares we can use for this option: a 'through-fare' or a 'published fare'.
 
a) A 'through-fare' is where you will be in the main airline's care throughout. You change planes, but your bags are checked all the way through to your final destination. 

b) A 'published fare' ticket is completely seperate from your onward ticket from London. It is usually cheaper than a through-fare but will need to be paid for and issued as soon as it is booked. This can be a problem if your tour has not yet reached minimum numbers. On 'published fares' neither airline is aware that you have connecting flights, so Exodus is responsible for timing your connection, not the airlines involved. The tickets are also usually non changeable and non refundable.

Pros Cons
  • Depending on the fare type, Exodus or the airline is responsible for flight connections.
  • Through fare tickets can be expensive.
  • On a published fare, tickets must be issued immediately; tickets on published fares can be very difficult to change if onward flight times change; bags are not checked though to your final destination.
  • Published fares are non-refundable.

 

3. Booking some or all of the flights yourself

You can also book connecting air travel yourself, either to London, or all the way to the start point. There may be certain airlines or routes we don't have access to, so this is always an option. However, if you make your own travel arrangements you become liable for any delays, cancellations or missed connections, and Exodus is not required to offer refunds if you have trouble reaching the start of your trip.

Pros Cons
  • You might find cheaper fares, or routes not available to Exodus.
  • You are responsible for any delays or missed connections, and the cost of the tour is not protected should you miss your flight be cancelled.

 

 Notes on transfer arrangements

Sometimes it is possible to travel on a different airline to the group flight from London. Where this is the case, we need to think about ensuring you meet up with the group with minimum extra cost and hassle.

  • On certain trips, it is easy to arrive on a different flight and still meet the group at the hotel with time in hand. We can usually arrange private transfers (at extra cost) or offer advice on taking a taxi to the start hotel.
  • On other trips (especially in Europe), the transfer meets the group flight and then travels some distance to the first night's accommodation. Where this is the case, our Sales team will try to arrange flights that arrive before (and depart after) the group. However, we do have to make it clear in your final documentation that if your flights are delayed, the transfer cannot wait for you. While Exodus or our local operators will do what we can to help you reach the start point of the tour, any additional costs must be paid by the client. 

 

Next steps? 

Call our Sales team on: 0203 733 0698

Email your query: [email protected]

For regular departures, please see the La Ruta Maya page.

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Call us on 020 8772 3936