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Maya Mexico

It is the blend, and sometimes the clash, of native and European heritages that makes Mexico such a fascinating place. Although Maya civilizations have perished, the unique culture and traditions are still ever present throughout the region – allowing us to take a journey through a land which oozes history.

December 2 – 16, 2017 (15 Days)
$5995 (exc. international airfare)
Single supp: $1250

December 1 – 14, 2018 (14 Days)
$6,995(exc. international airfare)
Single supp: $1,150


Tour Description


  • Encounter incredible sites, including the columned Temple of the Warriors, the dramatic Pyramid of Kukulkan and Kabah’s mask-covered palace.
  • Take a picturesque river trip on the Río Usumacinta, surrounded by a forest of trees draped with vines and orchids.

  • Discover Uxmal, the most spectacular ancient Maya city in the Yucatán peninsular.
  • Be on the look-out for colorful parrots and macaws flying overhead and monkeys scampering through the trees of the nature reserves we pass through.


Dec 2017
Bill Saturno

Dec 2018
Prof William Saturno


December 2: CANCÚN
We arrive in Cancún.
Hotel: Fiesta Americana Condesa
Meals: Dinner

December 3: CHICHÉN ITZÁ
We begin at the Museo Maya de Cancún, which displays material from prehistoric stone tools to modern Maya life.
Hotel: Hotel & Bungalows Mayaland
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

December 4: EK BALAM
We tour the Maya city of Ek Balam, known for its unique sculpture, particularly the intricate Chenes-style doorway, which may have been the entrance to the tomb of Ukit-Kan-Lek-Tok. We return to Chichén Itzá, to tour the amazing city after lunch.
Hotel: Hotel & Bungalows Mayaland
Meals: Breakfast & lunch

December 5: NEW CHICHÉN
We spend most of the day studying New Chichén and Old Chichén. Many of the buildings have been restored, giving us a wonderful picture of the splendor of the original complex. Later, we make our way through the verdant jungle to Uxmal.
Hotel: The Lodge at Uxmal
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

December 6: UXMAL
We spend the day in Uxmal, visiting the remarkable Pyramid of the Magician, Nunnery Quadrangle, a beautiful complex of four buildings from several periods enclosing a plaza, House of the Turtles, the richly decorated Great Pyramid and the ornately carved Governor’s Palace.
Hotel: The Lodge at Uxmal
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

December 7: KABAH & LABNÁ
We explore two major sites in the vicinity of Uxmal: Kabah and Labná. Each is unique: Labná for its fine arch, and Kabah for its unusual mask-covered palace.
Hotel: Hotel Plaza Colonial
Meals: Breakfast & lunch

December 8: CAMPECHE
We visit the Archaeological Museum in Campeche, which houses the treasures from the tombs at Calakmul including two fabulous jade death masks, and the unique small Museum of Maya Architecture and Stelae. We then continue to Calakmul.
Hotel: Hotel Puerta Calakmul
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

December 9: CALAKMUL
We explore the impressive city of Calakmul. The enormous acropolis, is larger in area than the Central Acropolis at Tikal. We climb the great pyramid to enjoy the spectacular view over the ancient landscape. We spend the remainder of the afternoon enjoying all of the wildlife and natural beauty the reserve has to offer.
Hotel: Hotel Puerta Calakmul
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

December 10: BECÁN & BALAMKU
We begin in Becán. The ancient name of the site is unknown, archaeologists chose the name, meaning “ravine” after the site’s most unusual feature – a moat. We also visit Balamku, home to elaborate plaster facades dating back to the Early Classic period, and one of the largest surviving stucco friezes of the Maya world.
Hotel: Hotel Puerta Calakmul
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

December 11: PALENQUE
We travel to Palenque. Set in the lush vegetation of Sierra de Chiapas, it is one of the most outstanding Maya ceremonial centers we will see. We will explore the magnificent structures of this large site.
Hotel: Hotel Ciudad Real, Palenque
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

December 12: PALENQUE
We will spend the full day touring this magnificent city. At the day’s end we visit the local museum which exhibits many of the artifacts from the site.
Hotel: Hotel Ciudad Real, Palenque
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

December 13: YAXCHILÁN
We begin our day in Frontera, where we embark on a river trip on the Río Usumacinta to Yaxchilán. From 600 to 800 AD, the rulers of Yaxchilán built dozens of elaborately decorated temples. This magnificent site sits on the banks of the river and is completely surrounded by a forest of a variety of trees draped with vines and orchids. Colorful parrots and red macaws fly overhead and monkeys and other wildlife scamper through the bush. We continue to Bonampak, renowned for its murals depicting scenes of Maya elite dressed in jaguar-skin robes, prisoners and musicians. These scenes of tribute begin on the doorjambs. As the visitor moves through the rooms, the theme of battle and victory over vassal states develops.
Hotel: Hotel Ciudad Real, Palenque
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

We travel to San Cristóbal de Las Casas, stopping en route to visit the Classicperiod Maya site of Toniná. Its series of seven artificial terraces, each having numerous temples and tombs, were adorned with life-sized portraits of rulers in full battle dress. After visiting the extensive site, we wend our way up to San Cristóbal de Las Casas, known for its beauty and its fascinating Indian culture. We gather tonight for our farewell dinner.
Hotel: Casa Mexicana, San Cristóbal de Las Casas
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Our full morning in the highlands will take us into the countryside to visit some of the region’s charming villages, including San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan. The afternoon will be at leisure to explore San Cristóbal de Las Casas on our own.
Hotel: Casa Mexicana, San Cristobal
Meals: Breakfast

December 16:
This morning we depart early for Tuxtla Gutierrez. We fly home from here via
Mexico City.
Meals: Breakfast



Additional Information


Bill Saturno

Calendar Year


Reservation Form


2017 Accommodation

Fiesta Americana CondesaAmericana-1

Warm and earthy tones meet Mexican design in this welcoming hotel.  The rooms have been recently renovated in a minimal style. After a day’s exploring you can cool-off in the split-layer pool – try the swim-up pool bar or relax in the stunning infinity pool.




Hotel & Bungalows Mayaland hotel-bungalows-mayaland1

The resort is built within the ancient site. The resort is set in gardens which stretch around it, with wild jungle and manicured grounds to wander and enjoy… not to mention the miles of trails, if you haven’t finished exploring for the day! If you want to put your feet up,  you can relax in the jacuzzi. Here, you’ll wake up to the sounds of wildlife as you enjoy breakfast served on your terrace with a view across to the Observatory.



The Lodge at UxmalThe-lodge-1

This stunning lodge perfectly blends in with its surroundings, set in the middle of the jungle in short distances of Mayan Villages and Archaeological Parks. The lodge is designed in traditional Mayan architecture, all built with material from the local area. You’re able to slow down for the evening and absorb the peaceful atmosphere on the Veranda in one of the hammocks or in the pool.



Hotel Plaza Colonial Campeche-Plaza-Colonial-Piscina-1

In the heart of this historic town & port, you’ll find Hotel Plaza Colonial. The spacious rooms are bright and colourful equipped with all the amenities you’ll need during your stay. In the evening why not relax on the patio beside the pool.



Hotel Puerta CalakmulPuerta1

Walking through the jungle trees and vines you’ll hardly notice this ecological lodge, set in the centre of a UNESCO nature reserve. The wooden exterior, with thatched roof, doesn’t lose any of the natural ambiance –  these luxury lodges don’t scrimp on modern amenities either! The hotel has a bar & restaurant and swimming pool, you can even venture on an evening stroll around the reserve and spot toucans, howler monkeys and tapirs, not to mention the exotic flora.



Hotel Ciudad Real, Palenquehotel-ciudad-real-palenque1

Built in a traditional Mexican & Caribbean style this hotel is surrounded by rainforest and beautiful gardens. The rooms are spacious and airy, decorated in a Mexican style and tiled floor and, outside, hammocks hang between the palm trees beside the pool. Watch out for the peacocks wandering the gardens too!



Casa Mexicana, San Cristóbal de Las CasasCASA-Mexicana-1

Packed with Mexican art, crafts and furnishings, this hotel brings the Mexican culture to life. The bedrooms with wooden beams across the ceiling and decorated in warm beige and oranges make a comfortable place to relax and unwind. The hotel has a courtyard and gardens to spend the evening and being close to the centre of town you could enjoy a walk down the cobbled street and breathe in the Mexican culture.


2018 Tour Details


  • Encounter incredible sites, including the ruins of Calakmul, also known as the “Kingdom of the Snake” situated in thick jungle.
  • Take a picturesque river trip on the Río Usumacinta, surrounded by a forest of trees draped with vines and orchids.

  • Discover Uxmal, the most spectacular ancient Maya city in the Yucatán peninsular.
  • Be on the look-out for colorful parrots and macaws flying overhead and monkeys scampering through the trees of the nature reserves we pass through.


Dec 2018
Prof William Saturno

December 1: CANCÚN
We make our way to the seaside city of Cancún, a place known to its Mayan inhabitants as Nizuc – a word which translates to “promontory” or “point of grass”. These days the area is famed for its sandy beaches and azure seas. There is time to explore or relax in the city this afternoon, before the group comes together for a fantastic first night’s dinner.

December 2: CANCÚN
Our second day begins with an engaging lecture from our Guide Scholar, followed by a trip to the Museo Maya de Cancún. This brilliant museum holds a priceless collection of Yucatán artifacts, including ceramics and jewelry, as well as exhibits on the modern-day Mayan community.

From here we head to the ruins of Ek’ Balam, a once flourishing Mayan kingdom swathed in jungle, where we find a selection of stelae and reliefs, as well as a towering acropolis. As the day draws to a close we arrive at our comfortable hotel near Chichén Itzá, in preparation for tomorrow’s extraordinary adventures…

December 3: CHICHÉN
We divide one of the world’s greatest wonders into New Chichén and Old Chichén today, for a fully immersive encounter with this remarkably well-preserved Mayan complex. This morning it’s in with the new, as we tour buildings dating from the Toltec period of 1000-1200 AD, while the afternoon sees us exploring the older Classic structures.

Together we wander skull-carved platforms, admire iconic pyramids, peer into the sacred cenote, and listen to tales of Chichén Itzá’s thrilling, extensive, and sometimes bloody past; a perfect opportunity to connect with the heart of Mexico’s most prized archaeological site.

December 4: CHICHÉN
Following breakfast we venture into the jungle for a full day’s encounter with Uxmal, a late-Mayan World Heritage site famed for its Temple of the Magician, an imposing yet graceful structure with an origin story shrouded in mystery. At the height of its influence, Uxmal was home to around 25,000 inhabitants. It was also allied with Chichén Itzá, making it the most powerful site in all of western Yucatán. Here we discover a host of pre-Hispanic ruins, carefully laid out in accordance with astronomical phenomena. Don’t miss the House of Turtles or the beautifully-carved Governor’s Palace; a unique and significant destination.

December 5: KABAH
This morning we pay a visit to Kabah, a settlement connected to Uxmal by a sacred road. Kabah is best known for its Palace of the Masks, an awesome structure decorated with masks of the rain god Chaac. Though the site was inhabited as far back as the 3rd century BC, the buildings here date mainly from the 9th century AD, at which time the city reached the apex of its powers.

After lunch we make our way to Labna, a Mesoamerican ceremonial center situated in the forests of the Puuc hills. More carvings of the hook-nosed god Chaac can be found here, along with the remains of both a two-storey palace and a decorated archway.

Later today we drive to Campeche, a city which was founded by the Spanish in 1540. Surrounded by old fortifications, and brimming with colorful colonial architecture, Campeche makes for an excellent stop-off point for dinner and a comfortable night’s stay.

December 6: CAMPECHE
We spend the morning at Campeche’s Archaeological Museum. Located in an 18th-century fortress beside the Gulf of Mexico, within the museum’s majestic walls we discover an array of discoveries from regional excavations, and relics from Calakmul, including two impressive jade death masks.

We bid farewell to the city and make the long but scenic drive inland to Calakmul itself. Tomorrow we explore all that this exceptional site has to offer.

December 7: CALAKMUL
As promised, this morning we take in the ruins of Calakmul, also known as the “Kingdom of the Snake”. Situated in thick jungle near the Guatemalan border, Calakmul was once one of the largest Mayan lowland cities in Mexico, and covered an area of around 27 square miles. In its prime it also governed settlements up to 90 miles away. Today the core of the site is just under one square mile in size, yet contains approximately 1,000 structures. Highlights include Yucatán’s tallest pyramid, and an amazing array of stelae and murals.

Following lunch we go wild on a tour of the Calakmul Reserve, one of Mexico’s largest swathes of protected land. This is our chance to spot native fauna such as toucans and howler monkeys; or perhaps, if we’re extremely lucky, a roaming jaguar.

December 8: BECÁN
Our first destination today is Becán, a pre-Columbian site that was rediscovered in the 1930s. Occupied from around 550 BC until the 1200s, Becán has a long history as a ceremonial center and holds some of the oldest defenses in Mexico. We explore it all, not forgetting the site’s two lofty pyramids, from which we enjoy superb views of the surrounding jungle.

The nearby Xpuhil is our second and final stop of the day. Though less well-known than Becán and Calakmul, it too enjoyed a long period of occupation, and features ruins of elaborate structures, such as the three-towered Structure I. Xpuhil is also another great place to look for some of this area’s protected animal species.

December 9: BALAMKÚ
We begin this morning at Balamkú, a small site which contains the longest surviving Mayan frieze in the world: over 16 meters of painted stone reliefs depicting the surface of the earth. This epic sight dates back as far as the 6th century, and lay undiscovered until the 1990s.

We depart the area and drive south to Palenque in preparation for our next two days of archaeological adventures.

December 10: BONAMPAK
Our action-packed day begins at Bonampak, an Early Classic site famed for the richly-decorated interiors of its temple. View vibrant murals showing ritual scenes, performances, and gory representations of death.

From here we make our way to Frontera, where we board a boat to take us up the Usumacinta River, once an important trade route for the Mayan civilization. Cruising through the tropical forest, we arrive at Yaxchilan, the ancient city which once dominated this region, and dealt in dyes and resin. Celebrated for its remarkable stone lintels and freestanding stelae, the site also presents some of the earliest surviving depictions of violence and conflict in the Mayan world.

December 11: PALENQUE
Today is all about Palenque, one of the most outstanding ceremonial centers we will see during our trip. Rising out of the jungle, Palenque’s fine set of ruins includes a stately observation tower, as well as the tomb of King Pacal the Great, who ruled these lands for an incredible 68 years from the start of the 7th century. It is estimated that much of the site still lies beneath the surrounding vegetation. What has so far been revealed serves as a jaw-dropping testament to the former might of the Maya.

The site yields more to us this afternoon by way of the Palenque Museum, which displays statues, reliefs, an ancient throne, and a copy of the lid of King Pacal’s sarcophagus.

We leave Palenque this morning, embarking on a journey to the Central Highlands, and San Cristóbal de Las Casas. En route we stop at the Classical period site of Toniná, where we admire groupings of pyramids and monuments bearing evidence of the city’s previous status as a rival to Palenque. Its tallest structure – a complex of temples and staircases – easily dwarves the majority of its contemporaries, and peaks at an astonishing 74 meters.

In the afternoon we arrive at the gleaming colonial city of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, and enjoy a leisurely walking tour of its historic center. San Cristóbal is a gathering place for the region’s many indigenous cultures, and there is much here to keep us all wandering in wonder.

Later we come together again for a lively farewell dinner as a group.

The final full day of our tour sees us traveling to San Juan Chamula, a Tzotzil Maya town famed for its unusual church: a place carpeted with pine needles, that glows in the light of hundreds of colorful candles. Animal sacrifices take place here to this day. We also pay a visit to the charming town of Zinacantán, another modern-day indigenous settlement, where Catholic and Mayan traditions both show their influence.

We return to San Cristóbal de Las Casas in the afternoon, where we use our free time to explore the city at our own pace. Peruse local handicrafts at the market, marvel at the 18th-century cathedral, or delve into the Maya Medicine Museum, to learn more about the history and practice of its healers.

An early start brings us to Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the capital of Chiapas: a thoroughly modern city. From here we catch our flight, and make our return journey home.