8696
Mexico
Christmas and New Year's in Oaxaca and Puebla
Leave the snowmen behind as you experience an authentic Mexican Christmas and ring in the New Year Oaxaca-style! See ancient rituals and visit well-known archeological sites.
Rating (4.88)
Program No. 8696RJ
Length
15 days
Starts at
2,729
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15 days
14 nights
41 meals
14 B 13 L 14 D
Getting There
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DAY
1
In Transit, Check-in, Welcome Dinner
Oaxaca City, Oaxaca
D
Hotel Casa Conzatti

Activity note: Hotel check-in from 2:00 p.m.

Afternoon: After arriving at the hotel, check in and get your room, then take some time to unpack, freshen up, and relax.

Dinner: At the hotel restaurant specializing in Mexican cuisine, enjoy a three course meal, plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
2
Orientation, Downtown Oaxaca, Piñata Manufacturing
Oaxaca City, Oaxaca
B,L,D
Hotel Casa Conzatti

Activity note: Walking up to 2 miles on uneven streets and sidewalks.

Breakfast: At the hotel restaurant, enjoy a buffet including a variety of hot dishes, bread, pastries, yogurt, fruit, plus coffee, tea, juice, water.

Morning: Orientation: The Group Leader will greet everyone with a warm welcome and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule and any changes, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures including contact numbers for key staff, and answer any questions you may have. An instructor conducts classroom sessions, a certified expert will lead field trips, and transportation will be via bus unless specified otherwise. We have set aside some free time in the schedule for your personal independent exploration. Please note that program activities, schedules, and personnel may need to change due to local circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. we will walk to downtown to explore the Historical Center. Led by a local expert, we will visit some of the most important historical buildings. Though the current city was founded in 1532, the Zapotec and Mixtec pre-Columbian civilizations settled in the area for thousands of years. The city is known for these archeological sites and the large number of colonial-era structures. On our field trip we will see and learn about the Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán. Founded by the Dominican Order, the rooms that once constituted the monastery today house Cultural Center of Oaxaca. The construction started in 1570 and continued over a period of 200 years, and has since undergone a complete restoration that was finished in 1999. Located next door, we will visit the Convent of Santo Domingo de Guzman, founded in 1528 by the Dominicans. We will get to see and learn about the second largest treasure after the Tutankhamen tomb, found in Monte Albán.

Lunch: At a local restaurant we will enjoy a two course plated lunch with coffee, water tea; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Walking back to the hotel, we will reconvene in our private meeting room for an introduction to the fiestas, legends, and traditions that are celebrated in Mexico. This lecture will focus on the celebration of Christmas in southern Mexico and Oaxaca and the culture and customs associated with the holiday. With a local instructor, we will have a hands-on activity to construct a piñata. A container typically filled with toys or candy, the Mexican piñata combined a similar Aztec tradition celebrating the birthday of the god Huitzilopochtli with the Spanish tradition of breaking a similar container on the first Sunday of Lent. Before dinner, enjoy a social hour. This is a great opportunity to get to know your fellow travelers.

Dinner: At a local restaurant enjoy a three course plated dinner with coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
3
Fiestas Lecture, Arrazola, Zachila, Cuilapan de Guerrero
Oaxaca City, Oaxaca
B,L,D
Hotel Casa Conzatti

Activity note: Riding approximately 1-1/4 hours throughout the day. Walking up to 2 miles on flat surfaces.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Enjoy the second part of our presentation on fiestas, legends, and traditions in Mexico. We will continue to Arrazola a quiet town outside of Oaxaca that is the birthplace of alebrijes, or brightly painted folk art sculptures of creatures limited only by the imagination. When woodcarving was introduced to the area in the 1950’s, this art form took on a life of its own and has become internationally renowned. Boarding the bus, we will have a short ride to Zaachila, where we will eat lunch.

Lunch: At a local restaurant in Zaachila, enjoy a plated meal plus coffee, tea, fruit water, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: The last stop for the day is a visit to the town of Cuilapan de Guerrero, where we will visit the Cuilapan Monastery. Once a formidable city with a population of over 40,000, the Spanish built the Monastery to convert the Zapotec and Mixtec populations. After decades of population decline, the monastery slowly deteriorated to its current state. Today, it is a national monument under the care of the National Institute of Anthropology and History. We will return to the hotel for some time to freshen up before dinner.

Dinner: Hotel plated meal.

Evening: At a local plaza across the street from the hotel, enjoy a group activity where we learn and reenact a traditional Posada with a local instructor. Known as Las Posadas, it is a Spanish festival that is predominantly celebrated in portions of Latin America and some of the Southwest. The festival lasts for nine days, with its last night coinciding with Christmas Eve. The nine days represent the nine months that Mary was pregnant with Jesus.

DAY
4
Monte Alban, Noche de Rábanos
Oaxaca City, Oaxaca
B,L,D
Hotel Casa Conzatti

Activity note: Walking up to 1.5 miles under the sun. Standing inside museum. Walking up to 1 mile during Rábanos Festival

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Boarding the bus, we will begin our field trip to Monte Albán, one of the most impressive archaeological sites in Mexico with the most spectacular views. One of the greatest Mesoamerican cities, it served as a political and economic center for the Zapotec from roughly 500 BCE to around 500 CE. One of the most defining features of the city are the carved monuments or “Danzantes” lining the Main Plaza. After the site visit, we will walk into Monte Alban Site Museum with an opportunity to observe many of the artifacts excavated from the area; one of the highlights is the collection of the Danzantes.

Lunch: We will ride a local restaurant for lunch. Enjoy a buffet featuring Mexican food, with a variety of main dishes, soups, and salads, plus coffee, tea, soft drinks, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Return to the hotel for an opportunity to rest and relax for the rest of the day’s activities. At 5:00 p.m., we will depart to the Zocalo to see artisans preparing for the "Fiesta de Rábanos" radishes festival, which our instructor introduced us to during our earlier lecture. The “Fiesta de Rábanos,” or Festival of Radishes, refers to carving of oversized radishes for the annual event that takes place in the evening. Named after the main plaza in Mexico City, the term zócalo has been adopted by many towns and cities to refer to their main plaza.

Dinner: At a local restaurant in the main square, enjoy a three course meal, plus coffee, fruit water, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: (Optional Activity on your own) In the zócalo we will delight ourselves with the Noche de Rábanos and the carved radishes. Brought to Mexico by the Spanish, radishes would be carved with religious themes to promote the annual Christmas market; they then began to populate people’s tables as centerpieces instead of as part of the meal. In 1897, the city’s mayor created a formal radish carving competition, which has been held every year since its inception.

DAY
5
Santa Maria del Tule, Mitla, Teotitlán, Christmas Dinner
Oaxaca City, Oaxaca
B,L,D
Hotel Casa Conzatti

Activity note: Walking up to 2 miles, up to 1/2 mile under direct sun; bring hats, sunscreen, water.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: With a local expert, we will depart to Santa Maria del Tule. This used to be marshland filled with bulrushes, which the Aztecs called “tulle” and cypress trees. At the town center is El Árbol del Tule, a 2,000 year old Montezuma cypress tree that is the widest tree in the world (diameter almost 40 feet). We’ll continue to the Mitla Archaeological site, the most important for Zapotec culture and unique for its intricate geometric and mosaic work. Well preserved thanks to the dry climate, Mitla was the residence of the high priest, whom the Spanish likened to the Pope, and served as the main religious center for the Zapotec.

Lunch: At a local restaurant just outside Mitla Archaeological Site featuring a buffet specializing in different kinds of moles, enjoy a variety of salads, main dishes, and desserts, plus coffee, soft drinks, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Our exploration continues with a visit to Teotitlán del Valle, a small village known for its handmade textiles from local materials. We will visit a local family for a demonstration on the carding, dyeing of wool, and making it into a rug in a loom. The village was originally founded by the Zapotec under the name Xaguixe, meaning “at the foot of the mountains” and still retains much of its original culture. The Spanish then renamed the site Teotitlán del Valle; Teotitlán meaning “land of the gods” in Nahuatl. Our field trip concludes with a return to the hotel.

Dinner: We will have our festive Christmas Eve dinner at a restaurant in the main square. Enjoy a three course meal plus coffee, tea, fruit water, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. Take an opportunity to attend Christmas Mass and/or local celebrations.

DAY
6
Oaxaca History, Josefino Children's home, Benito Juarez Film
Oaxaca City, Oaxaca
B,L,D
Hotel Casa Conzatti

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Our lecture this morning will build on our knowledge of Oaxaca and its history stretching back 3,000 years. Boarding the bus, we will then visit Josefino Children's Home convent with our local expert. Enjoy the opportunity to visit with the orphanage’s children and break the piñatas made earlier in the program.

Lunch: We will dine at a local restaurant featuring a variety of small plates from the region of Isthmus, plus fruit juice, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We will return to the hotel for an opportunity to relax and freshen up. We will meet at the designated time in our private meeting room at the hotel, and watch a film focusing on Benito Juarez, one of the most influential figures in modern Mexican history. Leading “La Reforma del Norte” or “The Reform of the North,” he is credited with bringing federalist, liberal policies to the Mexican government.

Dinner: Hotel plated meal.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
7
The Magic Hands of Oaxaca, Ocotlan Route, Guelaguetza Show
Oaxaca City, Oaxaca
B,L,D
Hotel Casa Conzatti

Activity note: Total ride time will be approximately 2 hours throughout the day. Walking up to 1 mile on flat surfaces.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: In our meeting room with our instructor, enjoy a lecture on the magic hands of Oaxaca. We will take a closer look into the ethnic groups, diversified customs and traditions of the area, the artistry of the people, the fashioned buildings, clothing, and decorations. Setting out from the hotel, we will start our day with a visit to the town of Coyotepec, meaning “many tigers” in the Zapotec language. The town is known for the black pottery that is produced there. For many centuries, black pottery has been produced with a dull finish, but when Doña Rosa Real Mateo started polishing and giving the pottery a shiny finish, they became more attractive and the industry grew. Our local expert will give us the explanation of the entire process on how they work the clay. Our field trip will continue to Ocotlan de Morelos. We will visit the Dominican church and convent founded in the 16th century, and observe how one side of the chapel opens to the main central nave. We will get to see some of the local artwork, including some from famous local artists.

Lunch: Along our route we will eat at a popular restaurant for a vegetarian, three course meal plus coffee, soft drinks, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Visiting the last town along the Ocotlan Route, we will stop in Jalietza where we will receive a demonstration on belt weaving. The townsfolk are known for their handmade embroidered cloth and leather belts. Following the demonstration, we will return to Oaxaca.

Dinner: Hotel plated meal.

Evening: Boarding the bus, we will have a short ride to Casa de Cantera, where we will experience La Guelaguetza. A local tradition, La Guelaguetza is an event celebrating indigenous culture with dancing, costumes, and parades. More than half of Oaxaca’s populations are indigenous people and their culture remains as an important part of their identity. .

DAY
8
Free Time
Oaxaca City, Oaxaca
B,L,D
Hotel Casa Conzatti

Activity note: Free time

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Free Time. Take this opportunity for personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most in Oaxaca. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Lunch: On your own time at the hotel, enjoy a selection of three dishes plus coffee, soft drinks, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Continue enjoying the day to see and do what interests you the most.

Dinner: At a local restaurant overlooking the zócalo, enjoy a three course meal plus coffee, soft drinks, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure

DAY
9
Transfer to Puebla, Walking Downtown Puebla
Puebla City, Puebla
B,L,D
Hotel Colonial

Activity note: Ride is approximately 4-1/2 hours. Walking up to 1 mile on flat surfaces and cobblestone streets.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Checking out of the hotel, we will board the motorcoach and transfer to Puebla, where we will check into the hotel.

Lunch: At the hotel restaurant featuring Mexican cuisine, enjoy a three course meal plus coffee, soft drinks, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We will set out from the hotel for a walking field trip of the World Heritage Site of downtown Puebla. We will be stopping at the Templo de Santo Domingo, a world Heritage Site; The Chapel of Rosario, also called the House of Gold and one of the 8th wonders of the world; Casa de los Muñecos, the Doll House, a baroque house from the 18 century with beautiful talavera tile and a final stop at the artisan Market “El Parian”. The area was unsettled during the Aztec empire, having served as the location for “flowery wars” between the Aztec alliance and their rivals. Until the establishment of Puebla in 1531, the area was known as Cuetlaxcoapan or “where serpents shed their skin.” Today the city is known for its diverse architecture and Talavera pottery in addition to being one of the largest cities in Mexico.

Dinner: At the hotel, enjoy a three course meal, plus coffee, soft drinks, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
10
Colorful Churches, Cholula Archaeological Site
Puebla City, Puebla
B,L,D
Hotel Colonial

Activity note: Photographs are not allowed at San Francisco Acatepec. Walking up to 1-1/2 miles; optional stairs at go to the top of the pyramids.

Breakfast: At the hotel restaurant, order from the menu featuring a variety of selections including hot egg dishes, pancakes, chilaquiles, fruit, yogurt, bread and more, plus coffee, tea, water.

Morning: Our day begins with field trips to Santa Maria Tonanzintla and San Francisco Acatepec. These two churches are examples how indigenous and Spanish art blended together to create vibrant and colorful masterpieces. Both built in the 17th century, they are fine examples of the Mexican Baroque style that many consider Puebla to be the true capital of. We will then depart Puebla for a field trip to Cholula and the Great Pyramid. One of the largest pyramids in the world, the Great Pyramid of Cholula has the widest base in the world with a width of a quarter square mile and stands 180 feet tall. Built over a period of four stages over a period of 800 years, it was the primary temple to Quetzalcoatl. Following a period of population growth, the pyramid became abandoned until the Toltec-Chichimecas overtook the city and built a new temple atop the pyramid. The temple remained overgrown after the arrival of the Spanish and remained undisturbed until the 19th century, except for the Nuestra Señora de los Remedios church atop.

Lunch: Enjoy a box lunch prepared by the hotel eaten picnic style featuring a sandwich, fruit, and potato chips, plus soft drinks, water.

Afternoon: Our field trip continues in Cholula. Believed to have been settled around the 4th century BCE, there were originally two villages near water sources that are part of the eastern half of the city. Various waterways made the land ideal for agriculture, allowing the city to grow and prosper, as well as taking advantage of its advantageous location along several major trade routes, becoming a major mercantile center. Rather than destroy the city, the Spanish built a second city next door. Both of these sections came to be part of the city of Cholula, with one side having a predominantly indigenous population and the other being largely Spanish. At the end of the field trip, we will return to the hotel.

Dinner: Hotel plated meal.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
11
Amparo Museum, Free Time
Puebla City, Puebla
B,L,D
Hotel Colonial

Activity note: Walking up to 1-1/2 miles; standing up to 2 hour at the museum.

Breakfast: Hotel plated meal.

Morning: Walking from the hotel, we will visit the Amparo Museum, one of the most important historical museums in the country. Founded by Mexican businessman Manuel Espinosa Yglesias as the Amparo Foundation, it was created to promote social learning and culture in Mexico. Gathering more than 3,500 pieces of art from Pre-Columbian times to the contemporary, it boasts one of the most significant collections of any Pre-Columbian art of private museum in Mexico. The museum itself is housed in what was originally the San Juan de Letrán hospital, built in 1538 as the city’s first health institution.

Lunch: Hotel plated meal.

Afternoon: On your own to see and do what interests you the most.

Dinner: Hotel plated meal.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
12
To Mexico City, Frida Kahlo Museum, New Year's Eve Dinner
Mexico City, D.F
B,L,D
Hotel Casa Blanca Mexico

Activity note: Bring luggage to lobby before breakfast. Ride is approximately 2 hours.

Breakfast: Hotel plated meal.

Morning: We will board the motorcoach and transfer to Mexico City for the next three nights. Once we arrive in Mexico City, our field trip begins in the neighborhood of Coyoacan. Once an independent village on the shore of Lake Texcoco, Coyoacan welcomed the Spanish and served as the headquarters of Hernan Cortez and the conquistadors. Its name comes from a Nahuatl word of which the exact meaning is unknown but most likely means “place of coyotes’. There we will walk a city block to Jardin Centenario, & we will cross the street to visit San Juan Bautista church the exact place where the conqueror Hernan Cortes used to come to worship.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, enjoy a two course meal featuring Mexican and International cuisine, plus coffee, fruit water, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: After lunch we will continue walking in the neighborhood of Coyoacán, with a visit to the Frida Kahlo Museum, also known as Casa Azul, with our expert. The museum is housed in the building where Kahlo spent most of her life and was donated, along with its contents, to be a museum in her memory by her husband Diego Rivera. Here we will admire many exhibits for Frida’s work, as well as some personal items that are on display. The museum displays works of art by the couple and other artists, in addition to displaying the lifestyle of Mexican artisans and bohemians in the first half of the 20th century. You will also be able to enjoy some of Diego Rivera's work and after visiting the museum you can walk on the beautiful gardens in the property. We will check into the hotel, enjoy the remainder of the afternoon to freshen up and relax before dinner.

Dinner: At the hotel restaurant, enjoy a specially prepared New Years Eve three course meal plus coffee, tea, soft drinks, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
13
Teotihuacan Archaeological Site, Mexico Past and Present
Mexico City, D.F
B,L,D
Hotel Casa Blanca Mexico

Activity note: Walking up to 3 miles, bring hats, sunscreen, water

Breakfast: At the hotel, enjoy a buffet featuring Mexican and international cuisine including a variety of hot dishes, bread, pastries, yogurt, fruit, plus coffee, tea, juice, water.

Morning: Departing the hotel via bus, our field trip begins with a visit to the Teotihuacan Pyramids and its archaeological site, where our local expert will introduce us to Teotihuacan and how it became the 6th largest city in the world between 150 BCE and 450 CE. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the pyramids are the centerpiece of the holy city that once hosted a population of at least 125,000 people. Some of the most famous temples include the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon, and the Temple of the Plumed Serpent.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, enjoy a buffet featuring a variety of main dishes, soups, and salads, plus coffee, tea, soft drinks, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: After we return to the hotel, we will have some time to rest and recover before joining our instructor in our private meeting room for a lecture on the past and present of Mexico.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, enjoy a three course dinner with coffee, water, tea; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
14
National Palace, Anthropology Museum
Mexico City, D.F
B,L,D
Hotel Casa Blanca Mexico

Activity note: Walking up to 2 miles. No food or water allowed inside the National Palace or museum.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Become acquainted with modern Mexico with a lecture on the country’s economic, political, and present situation. One of the largest and most populous countries in the world, Mexico has one of the world’s largest economies and is one of the most visited countries. We will then set out into the city via bus for a field trip to the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral and the National Palace. Sometimes referred to as the Zócalo Cathedral for its location, it is the largest cathedral in the Americas and home of the Archdiocese of Mexico. Built in phases from 1573 to 1813, it was inspired by Gothic cathedrals in Spain. The National Palace is the seat of the executive branch of the Mexican government. Located on Mexico City’s main square, much of the materials remain from the original palace that belonged to Montezuma II. Returning to the bus, we will ride to the Anthropology Museum.

Lunch: At the Anthropology Museum, enjoy your lunch consisting of a main dishe, soups, and/or salads, plus coffee, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Our field trip will end with the Anthropology Museum visit, one of the most visited museums in Mexico; we will explore the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, or the National Museum of Anthropology. A large and prestigious museum built in 1960s, housing over 52,000 pieces in 23 exhibition rooms; displaying pieces from the Teotihucans, Toltec’s Mexicas, Mayans and other cultures. One of the most important items you will see is the Aztec Calendar carved in stone. After returning to the hotel, enjoy the remainder of the afternoon to freshen up and relax before dinner.

Dinner: At the hotel, enjoy a special farewell dinner.

Evening: The Group Leader will review the program and discuss airport transfers for tomorrow, when the program concludes. The remainder of the evening is at leisure.

DAY
15
Program Concludes
Mexico City, D.F
B

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 11:00 a.m. The hotel can store luggage for participants with later flights.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.