Home of frangipani, dahlia and chocolate. Delve into ancient Aztec and Mayan civilisations. Taste traditional food, share the colour of Mexican life. Dance to Hemingway’s Cuba, Havana and Vinales.
Meet your Ross Tour Leader at Sydney Airport for the flight to Los Angeles and onward to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Culture, cuisine and ecology are the big attractions of Puerto Vallarta. Its the quaintest town on the Mexican Pacific sitting on Bahia de Banderas, the largest natural bay in Mexico. Check into our hotel, the Garza Blanca Preserve Resort & Spa for 2 nights. Our beautiful hotel has 85 acres of lush tropical jungle and beach. Welcome dinner included tonight.
Morning excursion with a Naturalist Bird Guide to see the rare and endangered azure Military Macaws and other birds in a tropical jungle sanctuary. Continue to the award-winning Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens. The Gardens are the vision of one man, our friend and founder, Robert Price, who created this tropical paradise 11 years ago. On arrival at Puerto Vallarta Botanic Gardens Conservatory, vanilla orchids march up cacao trees and sprays of tropical orchids decorate open conservatories like priceless jewels. Learn about the vanilla and cacao plants and production. Lunch is in the restaurant overlooking the picturesque mountains and gardens while watching hummingbirds feed.
Hop on a boat, cruise along the Pacific coastline, spot endemic frangipanis on tiny islands and arrive for an early lunch at the edge of the ocean. Afternoon flight to Mexico City. Mexico City is one of the world’s great capitals where an ancient world lives alongside the cutting-edge, a place with a formidable art scene and an extraordinary celebrated, food culture. Its leafy neighbourhoods are graced with Beaux Arts and neoclassical buildings. Check into our hotel located on Paseo de la Reforma, one of Mexico City’s most fashionable avenues. Dinner included tonight.
Morning visit to the archaeological site of Teotihuacan, located 50km northeast of Mexico City. Teotihuacan is one of the most impressive cities of the ancient world, held sacred by the Aztecs. We will explore its temples, palaces and pyramids, including the Quetzalpapalotl Palace Complex, the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, the Pyramid of the Moon, and the immense Pyramid of the Sun, ranked among the biggest in the world. Lunch included today. Afternoon visit to Teotihuacan Botanical Gardens to see an incredible collection of Mexico’s national fruit Opuntia (prickly pear)
Discover Templo Mayor, for an introduction into Mexican Aztec culture and architecture. We’ll walk through the Zocalo, the huge main public square and one of the most recognizable places in Mexico City. Several historic buildings border the square, including the city’s national cathedral, and the National Palace, dating back to 1693 where we will admire the famous Diego Rivera murals that chronicle Mexico’s history. Lunch included today looking over the Zocalo!
This morning we visit the official residence of Mexican presidents, a white mansion built in 1853 and known simply as ‘Los Pinos.’ In the afternoon, one of the finest cultural artefact collections in the world! The superb National Museum of Anthropology houses the largest collection of traditional Mexican art and artefacts, spanning 5000BC to 1522. Gaze upon the famous 22-ton Aztec Sun Stone, Xochipilli the Aztec God of Art and the magical crystal skull. We will concentrate on the importance and history of the Aztec people who flourished in this area of Mexico 1300 – 1521.
Cruise the famous Xochimilco canals in full Mexican traditional style on a wooden boat called a Trajineras with Mariachi music, food and excitement. This is where local families come to celebrate on Sundays – it’s exciting! Ancient chinampas (floating gardens) are still used to cultivate marigolds today. Lunch aboard the Trajinera. This afternoon we delve into the life and loves of Mexico’s greatest artist, in Frida Kahlo’s home and studio in Coyoacán. The Blue House, Casa Azul is now a living museum and we’ll see her artworks, studio, bed from which she painted and wild jungle garden all enclosed in those famous cobalt blue walls.
Head out of the city to the peaceful and quiet surrounding hills to immerse ourselves into Mexico’s loveliest and most original garden. This is a tour highlight. Organic architecture meets master mosaic, meets water and serpentine gardens in a hidden, virtually unknown, 50-acre Mexican masterpiece. No other culture on earth can create such an exciting and unique landscape. Walk the trails with your guide, to see the mosaic water room, butterfly garden, serpents and significant examples of organic architecture. Be transported into another world. This garden has to be seen to be believed.
Early flight to Cancun from where we will travel directly to Playa del Carmen on the Yucatán Peninsula’s Riviera Maya. Spend the afternoon relaxing, walking white sandy beaches, along the brilliant blue Carribean Shore. Dinner included tonight.
Morning drive into the heart of the Yucatan province and the heart of the Mayan culture. We visit the world-class archaeological site of Chichen Itza – one of the New 7 Wonders of the World – the best restored and most exciting of Yucatan’s Mayan sites. Explore the magnificent limestone ruins set in a dense forest, including the Pyramid of Kukulcan – its height and striking geometric design dominating the whole site, the Great Ball Court – the largest and most impressive in Mesoamerica, the Sacred Cenote – a natural well used for human sacrifice, and many other beautiful temples. Lunch included today. On the route home we will cool off in Mexico’s most beautiful natural swimming spots, a circular pool cut out from limestone and full of refreshing cool fresh water – a cenote – there are 7000 cenotes doted in the arid limestone area of the Yucatan. Back to our hotel in Playa del Carmen. Dinner included tonight.
Visit Tulum, the site of a pre-Columbian Mayan walled city, which served as a major port for Coba and the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. Tulum was one of the last cities built and inhabited by the Maya at its height between the 13th band 15th centuries. Managing to survive 70 years after the Spanish occupation. We visit the Temple of the God of Wind, a cenote and learn about how Tulum protects its beach for nesting sea turtles. Dinner included tonight.
Morning flight from Cancun to Havana.
Welcome to Havana, Cuba! Known locally as La Habana is the centre of all things Cuban. Walking around the streets is like being on the set of a Hollywood movie. One of the world’s most significant treasure troves of Art Deco architecture. You will see 1950s and 1960s American cars cruising the wide boulevards, while paint peels from glorious Spanish colonial buildings. Old men in straw hats puff on huge Cuban cigars as Cuban ‘son’ music fills the air; it’s hard not to be drawn in by this evocative atmosphere.
Check into our historic hotel in the heart of Havana for the next 4 nights. Dinner included in a local restaurant tonight.
Plenty of live jazz music to explore.
A walking tour of the beautifully restored Habana Vieja, the Old Town, the beating heart of Havana, a collection of historic buildings in eclectic architecture styles from intricate baroque to glitzy art deco. Admire plazas, cathedrals, chocolate shops and cigar shops. There’s always time to stop for a mojito or a Cuba Libre! Walk a little of the infamous Malecon.
A treat this afternoon to experience Havana from the window of a Cuban Classic Car and peek into Ernest Hemingway’s House, Finca Vigia where he lived from 1939 – 1960. The Museo de la Revolucion and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de La Habana are a short walk from our hotel.
Head out of Havana this morning to Vinales via Soroa. Soroa, known as the ‘rainbow of Cuba,’ is a gorgeous natural area and tiny settlement southwest of Havana. The region’s heavy rainfall promotes the growth of tall trees and orchids.
A guided tour of the Orchid Garden. Tumbling down a landscaped hillside garden is a labour of love, built by Spanish lawyer Tomás Felipe Camacho in the late 1940s, in memory of his wife and daughter. Camacho travelled around the world to amass his collection of 700 orchid species (the largest in Cuba), including many endemic plants. Though he died in the 1960s, the Orchidarium, connected to the University of Pinar del Río, lives on.
Travel on to rural Vinales and drink in the shimmering sight of the red fields ploughed with oxen, and palm frond covered tobacco drying houses. Arrive at our pastel pink colonial style hotel with views of the valley.
The Valley of Vinales is studded with rugged limestone monoliths called mogotes. This is traditional rural Cuba at its finest – cigars, oxen, and agriculture.
Lunch included today at an organic farm with a beautiful view.
Then visit a tobacco plantation and drying house for an introduction into the history and production of Cuban cigars. See how the most famous cigars in the world are made. Afternoon transfer back to Havana
Tour Havana’s gardens today, with a visit to the Botanical Gardens, Jardin Botanico Nacional. Spot the shaving brush tree, Poinciana and giant sapote. Visit the glasshouses filled with Cuban, Mexican and African succulents and cactus. Meet the pregnant bottle palm and the Cuban Royal Palm in the Palmatum whilst experiencing the recreated Cuban Savannah.
Lunch included today.
Afternoon exploration of the gardens and grounds of Quinta de los Molinos, a green heart in the centre of the city, the former stately residence of General Maximo Gomez.
Our Farewell dinner tonight at the iconic Hotel Nacional de Cuba including the Parisien Cabaret.
Farewell to Havana this morning. Transfer to the airport and travel via Miami and Los Angeles to home.
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