In September, Journey Mexico welcomed 7 of the most seasoned tour operators and travel agents from the UK, France, and Russia on an exclusive visit to the heart of Southern Mexico. With Journey Mexico’s Director of Operations, Matteo Luthi, by their side, the group explored the Yucatan Peninsula and experienced Mayan culture. As the date nears closer to December 21, 2012, many tourists are flocking to visit and discover the secrets of Mundo Maya in anticipation for the new cycle to begin. Our expert guides met the group in Mexico City and led them on a journey through the Mayan World of Chiapas, Campeche, and Yucatan before ending on the turquoise waters of the Riviera Maya. Below is a recap of their 15 day journey.
Mundo Maya FAM 2012:
After a good night’s sleep in Mexico City’s Las Alcobas , the group was transferred to Chiapas to explore the Sumidero Canyon. Exploring via boat launch, everyone marveled at the rock walls towering thousands of feet high and the tropical wildlife they found accompanying them on the journey. After returning to the docks, they visited the nearby Magical Town of San Cristobal de las Casas. The colonial charm of San Cristobal de las Casas is best discovered by foot, wandering the cobblestoned narrow streets and visiting the local museums. After an adventurous first day, everyone settled into the newest boutique property in the area- Hotel Bo. The contemporary hotel flawlessly blends what Chiapas is all about: threads, knots, frets, textures, and colors of the culture. Guests are continuously surprised that such a harmonious property awaits them in the small town of San Cristobal.
The next two days of the journey were dedicated to discovering the local cultures and pre-Hispanic ruins. The group explored the towns of San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan where indigenous customs and traditions are still very much present. After mingling with the artisans and visiting a unique church and cemetery, they headed to the natural wonder of Misol Ha, a single jump waterfall that offers a unique perspective of the lush river valley.
Toniná was next in the itinerary where the guide illuminated the group that they were currently at one of most well developed central temple complexes in all Mayan civilization. Toniná is one of Chiapa’s archaeological sites recognized as UNESCO World Heritage along with Palenque, which was where they were headed next. Palenque was an important and powerful group of ancient Mayans. Their city was created around 100 BC and although the site is massive and sheds a lot of light on the traditions, rituals, ceremonies, and spirituality of the ancient Maya, only a very small fraction of the actual site has been excavated. At night, the group was split into two beautiful hotels, Quinta Cha Nab Nal and Chan Kah Resort.
By day 5, the group had made its way to Campeche where they were able to relax at the luxurious Hacienda Puerta Campeche. After a pampering recharge, they were on their way to Uxmal, another UNESCO archeological site also very important to Mayan civilization, considered one of most representative of the region’s dominant architectural style.
After days of exploring the ruins of Mundo Maya, the guide led them through the town of Merida, the capital city of the Yucatan. They strolled the streets and visited the Governor’s Palace, where giant murals line the wall, each representing a significant part in the history of Mexico. They spent time getting to know two boutique hotels in the area, Casa Lecanda and Casa Azul as well the magnificent Villa Sirena (also managed by Casa Lecanda.)
Moving on from Merida, they journeyed to the Magical Town of Izamal, also known as “Yellow City”. It is here where Mayan codices and images had once been burned, effectively erasing much of Mayan history. Valladolid, the third Mexican Magical Town on their trip was the final stop before heading back to the Riviera Maya.
Making their way across the peninsula toward the Mexican-Caribbean waters, they stopped at the ruins of Chichen Itza to discover the Mayan’s most popular ruin site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Finally making it to the shores of the Riviera Maya, the group stayed the night on a nearby island, Isla Holbox, to witness a spectacular sunset. In the morning, they woke up for an extraordinary experience—swimming with whale sharks. Laetitia Fain / Henry Cookson Adventures in the UK commented on her experience “My most special moment on the tour was diving with the whale sharks, such an intense moment swimming next to such immense creatures.”
They then island hopped via private yacht to Isla Mujeres before settling on shore for the next three days in the Riviera Maya. The group inspected some of the most extravagant properties in the area and were able to spend nights in Viceroy Riviera Maya, Hotel Esencia and Maroma Resort & Spa.
Claire Betts, from Last Frontiers in the UK sums up the 15 day journey they best: “We had to nick-name Matteo the dream-maker as the trip fully surpassed any expectations time and time again! Was it the swimming with whale sharks? The Mayan ritual and massage on the beach at night? Watching a green turtle lay her eggs metres away? The private yacht to Isla Mujeres? Watching the sunset on Isla Holbox with a cold margarita? Setting baby turtles free into the ocean? Or was it the sopa de lima and cochnita pibil? So hard to pick just one special moment on such a magical tour but I am entirely convinced that Mexico seduced each and everyone of us with its passion, rich cultural heritage, fine cuisine and spectacular beauty! “