From picturesque colonial towns to Mayan ruins and pristine beaches, this is the perfect introduction to Mexico and Cuba. Start your exploration of Mexico in bustling Mexico City, where you can admire the city’s incredible history and culinary scene. From here, head to Oaxaca, the Corazón (heart) of Mexico, whose green highlands are home to vibrant indigenous cultures and a thriving gastronomical scene. Watch the sunset from the unearthly limestone formations of Hierve el agua, and on to Chiapas’s unofficial culture-capital San Cristobal de las Casas. Explore the ruins of jungly Palenque and relax in the impressive central plaza of colonial gem Mérida. Finish your time in Mexico at the pyramids of Chichén Itzá, before heading to Cuba’s iconic capital Havana. Take a trip to agricultural Viñales, a small but culturally-rich village which is surrounded by farmland and picturesque limestone hills. Make a stop at French-founded city Cienfuegos, through the densely vegetated Peninsula de Zapata swamp-lands, and along the beautiful Bay of Pigs. Finish your trip in the gorgeous colonial town of Trinidad, whose pastel-coloured streets are home to a number of Afro-Cuban religions, festivals and live music, before returning to Havana for a fond farewell to Cuba.

Key information

Destinations Destinations Caribbean, Central America
Activity Activity Beach, Family, Nature & Wildlife, Culture
Physical Level Physical Level Easy
Season Season January - December

Suggested itinerary

Stroll through Mexico City’s famous Zocalo

Stroll through Mexico City’s famous Zocalo

Day 1–2 in Mexico City

The oldest capital city in the Americas, Mexico City is a buzzing tribute to an incredibly storied history, where pre-Hispanic and colonial-era buildings sit alongside innovative urban architecture and revamped public spaces. Visitors can explore the historic centre — known as Zocalo — and admire murals by renowned painter Diego Rivera, before heading to the excellent National Museum of Anthropology and History or to a classic old-school cantina for some authentic Mexican cuisine.

Embrace your inner-foodie in striking Oaxaca

Embrace your inner-foodie in striking Oaxaca

Day 3 in Oaxaca

Vibrant and historical, Oaxaca City is a captivating blend of old and new that just begs to be explored. Street art covers its pastel-coloured lanes and intoxicating smells float from every window. Known as the gastronomic capital of Mexico for good reason, sample the famous mole negro, a spicy, smoky meat and bean stew, although there are six other famous moles to try too. Don’t miss the Guelaguetza folk festival in July.

Oaxaca state offers so much more than just its capital city — visit Monte Alban, the ancient Zapotec capital city and one of the most important archeological sites in the Americas, and take a trip to Hierve El Agua, otherworldly natural limestone formations that resemble petrified waterfalls.

Don't miss

Learn about Mexican muralism in Ocotlán de Morelos

Learn about Mexican muralism in Ocotlán de Morelos

Head to the hometown of Oaxacan painter Rodolfo Morales to view his incredible murals in the municipal palace of Ocotlan. One of Mexico’s most renowned indigenous artists, Morales specialised in surrealist paintings of Mexican culture, and frequently depicted images of his hometown, including local churches and markets.

Watch the sunset at otherworldly Hierve el Agua

Watch the sunset at otherworldly Hierve el Agua

Day 4 in Hierve el Agua

This series of natural rock formations and mineral springs has become a popular day trip from Oaxaca which can be combined with hikes in the Valle de Tlacolula. These calcified waterfalls are formed by mineral water which has pushed through karstic limestone, depositing falls and small pools onto the cliff’s edge. Prior to the 1300s when they appear to have been abandoned, the springs supplied an ancient irrigation system for the valley below through a series of canals and terraces, unique to Mexico.

Walk the cobbled streets of San Cristobal de las Casas

Walk the cobbled streets of San Cristobal de las Casas

Day 5–6 in San Cristóbal de las Casas

The unofficial cultural capital of the state of Chiapas, the mountain town of San Cristobal de las Casas is a little-known gem of southern Mexico. As well as its traditional cobbled streets, beautiful colonial architecture (check out the 300-year-old Templo Santo Domingo) and amazing shopping opportunities, San Cristobal is also a great base to explore the rest of Chiapas. Take a boat trip up the Sumidero canyon from the nearby quaint town of Chiapas de Corzo, and marvel at the cascadas El Chiflon, a stunning series of waterfalls where you can enjoy a dip in the cool, turquoise water.

Spot howler monkeys at Palenque

Spot howler monkeys at Palenque

Day 7 in Palenque

Surrounded by lush rainforest, the impressive temples of Palenque are some of the best examples of Mayan architecture and civilisation, and a top destination in Chiapas. After the Mayan city state’s decline the temple was reabsorbed into the dense jungle of mahogany, cedar and sapodilla trees, and hidden for over 1000 years. It was then “discovered” by the Spanish priest Antonio de Solis in 1746 and has since been excavated and meticulously restored.

Escape the resort crowds in cultural Mérida

Escape the resort crowds in cultural Mérida

Day 8 in Mérida

The Yucatán Peninsula’s largest city and self-proclaimed cultural capital is a delightful blend of colonial heritage and cosmopolitan living. Nicknamed “The White City”, Merida’s charming narrow streets, grand central plazas and abundance of colonial buildings make it a worthy stop for any traveller exploring the region. Make sure to visit the colonial-era, white limestone Iglesia de la Tercera Orden and the imposing Mérida Cathedral, which was erected amidst the ruins of the Mayan settlement of Ichcansiho.

See Mexico’s most famous pyramid at Chichén Itzá

See Mexico’s most famous pyramid at Chichén Itzá

Day 9 in Chichén Itzá

One of the new Seven Wonders of the World and the best restored Mayan site in the Yucatán, Chichén Itzá remains one of the most iconic images of Mexico, and a must-see for many travellers visiting the region. At the height of its power in the 10th century, Chichén Itzá commanded large swathes of the Yucatán peninsula and its cultural, administrative and ceremonial centre stretches over 2.5 square miles of cenote speckled landscape. Avoid the inevitable crowds by heading to the site early or late in the afternoon. With ongoing discoveries still being made, a good guide is highly recommended — they will be able to give you up-to-date findings not even listed in a guidebook yet, and a better understanding of the complex history and culture of the Mayans who built these famous pyramids.

Don't miss

Take a trip to the charming colonial town of Valladolid

Take a trip to the charming colonial town of Valladolid

Beat the crowds — and the tour buses — at Chichen Itza by staying an hour away in the peaceful bohemian Valladolid. With good public transport, beautiful pastel-coloured colonial architecture and a number of attractions, it is a worthy destination for any traveller touring the Yucatán.

Stroll through the musical streets of Havana

Stroll through the musical streets of Havana

Day 10 in Havana

Vintage American cars weave through crumbling colonial architecture, while snippets of salsa music play from smoky bars in Cuba’s iconic capital city. Founded by the Spanish in the 16th century, Havana’s layered history and rich culture have been largely protected from modern influences for decades, thanks to the country’s self-imposed communist rule since the revolution of 1959. As a result, Cuba’s beating heart is awash with untouched customs and traditions, and its defiant art scene can be felt from the sprawling Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes and futuristic Fábrica de Arte Cubano, to the the outlandish street art which adorns the walls of Habana Vieja. Watch out for the capital’s teenagers gathering at government-sanctioned Wi-Fi hotspots around the city — even in Cuba time can’t stand still forever.

Don't miss

Visit Havana’s Revolution Square

Visit Havana’s Revolution Square

Nowhere is more evocative of Cuba’s revolutionary spirit than this central square crowned by an imposing statue of Jose Marti and giant mural of Che Guevara.

Drink a daiquiri in Hemingway’s honour

Drink a daiquiri in Hemingway’s honour

Author Ernest Hemingway’s time in Cuba was famously spent mostly drinking in its bars. Sample an authentic mojito or daiquiri in Havana.

Admire the agricultural splendor of Viñales

Admire the agricultural splendor of Viñales

Day 11–12 in Viñales

A small but culturally-rich village in western Cuba, Viñales has quickly become a must-see for visitors wanting a taste of traditional Cuban living. With charming, colonial-era houses surrounded by farmland and tobacco fields, the village acts as an entry point to the neighbouring Viñales Valley and Sierra de los Organos mountain range. It is well worth staying for a couple of days — the valley’s picturesque limestone hills, known as mogotes, are a major draw for rock climbers, and there are plenty of beautiful walks and cultural experiences to keep visitors occupied.

Don't miss

Live like a local in a Casa particulare

Live like a local in a Casa particulare

Forget the mega resorts, the Cuban homestay is the original AirBnB and locals have been opening their homes to visitors for decades. Casas are a great way to live like a local.

Visit European-influenced Cienfuegos and the historic Bay of Pigs

Visit European-influenced Cienfuegos and the historic Bay of Pigs

Day 13 in Cienfuegos

Cuba’s so-called “Pearl of the South”, French-founded Cienfuegos has long been a popular stop for travellers exploring the region. Lining the cliffs of a spectacular bay, the port city’s key position on the trade route between Jamaica and the cities of South America made it incredibly important to the Cuban sugar oligarchy, and has since become a major industrial centre for the country. With elegant UNESCO-listed architecture and French sophistication, Cienfuegos is a worthy stop on any Cuban travel itinerary.

Listen to live music in beautiful Trinidad

Listen to live music in beautiful Trinidad

Day 14–15 in Trinidad

Grab a torta cubana and a mojito and sway to the Caribbean rhythms of beautiful Trinidad. This former Spanish colonial settlement found its fortune in the early 19th century thanks to the sugar fields of nearby Valle de los Ingenios, creating the wonderfully preserved colonial-style mansions which line Trinidad’s cobbled streets today. A UNESCO world heritage site known for its excellent live music scene, Trinidad has plenty to offer visitors, and is the perfect base from which to explore the pristine Playa Ancón or lush Escambray Mountains.

Don't miss

Experience Santeria in Trinidad

Experience Santeria in Trinidad

Cuba’s Santeria merges aspects of Yoruba religion brought from West Africa, Christianity and native Cuban spiritualism. Visit Santeria priests and see performances in Trinidad.

Return to Havana

Return to Havana

Day 16–17 in Havana

Head back to Havana and spend a little more time exploring the dynamic capital before your onward departure.

Book this itinerary

This route booked with one of our specialist tour operators would cost from $1,800pp. Pricing varies by accommodation class, and can be tailored to suit your budget.

Pricing is typically inclusive of hotels, transfers, meals, and all guided excursions and activities.

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