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Arrive in Cancún and transfer to the hotel. A G Adventures representative will meet you at the airport and transfer you to our joining point hotel. Check into the hotel and enjoy the city. Please try to arrive before 6pm for an important group meeting where you can meet the Chief Experience Officer (CEO) and the other group members.
A long-time destination for sun-worshipers and spring breakers, we only stay here long enough to meet and get primed for our adventure. The famous resort of Cancún on the northeastern tip of the Yucatán Peninsula is a thriving town with skyscraper hotels and crowded beaches. Prices are higher in Cancún than elsewhere in Mexico because everything must be transported into the city.
In an attempt to capture more tourism dollars, the Mexican government financed the development of the city of Cancún in 1970, when there were only 3 residents on the island. The city grew rapidly and now has more than a half million residents and approximately 150 hotels. Famous for its white-sand beaches and nightlife, millions of tourists flock to the zone annually.
Be sure to drink plenty of water (cold bottled water is available everywhere) as the heat and humidity of Cancún may cause dehydration.
Head to the capital of the Yucatán, Mérida, where we'll explore the city’s museums, plazas, architecture, open markets and outdoor cafés. Upon arrival, enjoy lunch at a local restaurant where our guide will walk us through the menu, explaining the local specialties that cause some to claim that the Yucatan cuisine is Mexican's best food.
Following lunch, hit the bustling and colorful market on a brief orientation walk through downtown Merida. Known as la ciudad blanca, the white city, Merida offers the ideal opportunity to learn about Mexico’s fascinating mix of cultural influences. The group will also receive a 1-hour Spanish lesson to assist you to better communicate with the locals during your exploration of Mexico.
Mérida, the capital of Yucatán State, was founded in 1542 on the site of the Mayan city of Tihoo. Its centre, the Plaza Mayor, or zocalo, is green and shady and surrounded by the twin-towered 16th Century Cathedral, the City Hall, the State Government Palace, and the Casa Montejo. There are several 16th and 17th century churches scattered about the city, as well as some interesting museums. We can buy traditional crafts, such as hammocks or Guyabera shirts, and a good selection of Maya replicas. We can also try out new and wonderful food items, such as the delicious cochinita pibil, a local specialty. Hot sauce fans will also want to try El Yucateco, a fiery liquid made from habanero peppers.
Sundays in Merida are a fun experience, as around the main plaza, streets are closed, stands are set up, and an outdoor party begins. A handicraft market and food festival are on the main plaza, and nearby streets have live music and dancing. Take in the festivities side-by-side with Mexicans, and maybe even try a couple of twirls dancing salsa.
Estimated Travel Time: 4 hours
Approximate Distance: 200 miles (320 km)
Merida is the gateway to the Mayan ruins of Uxmal which rivals Chichén Itzá in its scale and extent of excavation. One of the Yucatán’s many ancient treasures from the Late Classic period, we enjoy an included guided tour here today. Afterwards, we visit a local Hacienda and cenote.
From the late 1600s to the early 1900s, Mexico was once covered in haciendas (equivalent to American plantations) in agricultural and manufacturing centers throughout the country. The primary focus of the Yucatan haciendas was based around henequen, or sisal fiber, used to make rope, cord, and twine. Many of the mansions found in Merida were built from this "green gold". During our time in Merida, tour a once fully-functioning hacienda a bit outside of town before taking a dip in the crystalline waters of a nearby on-site cenote, or underground sinkhole.
On our final day in Merida, we'll be treated to a horse-drawn carriage ride down the beautiful boulevard of Paseo de Montejo on our way to a guided tour of the anthropology museum. Along the Paseo de Montejo, together with many shops and restaurants, we will see stately mansions dating from the late 19th century. Nearby, is the main shopping street, Calle 65. We'll be sure to find Mérida a fascinating and beautiful city to explore on foot during our leisure time.
En route to Valladolid, we stop for a guided tour of the famous Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá and a visit to the caves of Balankanché.
The ancient Mayan city, estimated to be founded in 432, houses some of the finest examples of Mayan architecture ever excavated, including El Castillo, with a balustrade of 91 stairs up each of the four sides, a ball court with a grandstand and towering walls. The attention to detail, and fusion of architecture, science and religion within the structures and throughout the city planning, will no doubt impress all who see it.
Nearby, we'll find the caves of Balankanché which contain beautiful natural stone formations and caverns that were once used for Mayan ceremonies.
We will overnight in Valladolid, a bustling Mayan city with a colonial flair. Many of the residents still dress in typical Mayan clothing. Historically-speaking, this city is very important in the Mayan world, as the Caste War began here in 1847 with the execution of three Maya who planned an uprising.
To Chichen Itza:
Estimated Travel Time: 2 hours
Approximate Distance: 75 miles (120 km)
Estimated Travel Time: 1 hour
Approximate Distance: 30 miles (50 km)
Travel the short distance to the lazy town of Tulúm and enjoy a guided tour of the small seaside ruins.
Free of large scale hotel development and with turquoise water and white-sand beaches, Tulúm is one of the most peaceful and relaxing areas on the Mayan Riviera. We'll have some free time to enjoy the beach while we're here.
On Day 7, travel a short distance south to the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, the largest protected area in the Mexian Caribbean. This UNESCO World Heritage site is know for its unique geography including wetlands and fauna of over 100 mammal species and over 300 birds. One of the greatest challenges faced in the reserve is to integrate human activities without compromising other life forms within its boundaries. Sian Ka'an is Mayan for "where the sky is born" or "gift from the sky". We will have the opportunity to explore with a local Naturalist on an educational boat tour. We will learn about the coastal flora and fauna while boating through lagoons and canals. After a snack, kick back and relax as we float in our lifejackets downstream of a lazy freshwater river.
Estimated Travel Time: 2 hours
Approximate Distance: 60 Km
Head up the coast to Playa del Carmen in the center of the Mayan Riviera for one last day to enjoy the coast. Once a sleepy fishing village, it has steadily grown in size since the passenger ferry to Cozumel has been running from its docks and is seen as a more relaxed pueblo than its neighbor to the north, Cancún. The same white-sand beaches and turquoise waters lap at its shore, but Playa del Carmen is lacking the massive crowds found in Cancun.
While here, our time is at leisure - relax on the beach, buy the last of our souvenirs along "La Quinta", Playa's pedestrian street lined with shops and restaurants, or spend some time in the water snorkeling or scuba diving.
We will be transferred to the Cancun airport for our outbound flight at any time, though remember that check out at the hotel is at approximately 12pm midday.