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Between Palms and Pyramids



Mexico is music - between the Caribbean and the Pacific, the jungle and the palm-shaded beaches.

Itinerary: Flight Frankfurt-Mexico City, transfer to city center, city tour. Cross-country by bus: Teotihuacan (pyramids) - Tula (Temple of the Morning Star) - Oaxaca (Indian markets) - Monte Alban (Aztec city) - Tule (biggest tree in the world) - Mitla (colonnaded palace) - Puerto Escondido - Canon del Sumidero - San Cristobal - Agua Azul (jungle, National Park, waterfalls) - Palenque (Maya fort) - Isla Mujeres - Chichen Itza (temple) - Merida - Uxmal (pyramid) - Ciudad del Carmen - Villahermosa - Veracruz - Puebla - Mexico City - flight Mexico City-Frankfurt.

Accommodations: Four nights at hotel in Mexico City, two nights at hotel in Oaxaca, two nights at hotel in Puerto Escondido, two nights at hotel in San Cristobal, one night at cottages in Agua Azul, Agua Azul- Isla Mujeres one night on bus, three nights at hotel in Isla Mujeres, two nights at hotel in Merida, one night at hotel in Ciudad del Carmen, Ciudad del Carmen - Veracruz one night on bus, one night at hotel in Veracruz, one night at hotel in Puebla.

Meals: For your meals you should expect to spend approx. $10 per day

Tour Escort: Tour coordinator

Extra: Entrance fees, food, drinks, additional excursions by boat, canoe, motor bike, bike, etc.

Climate: Day 76-80 degrees, night 52-76 degrees, water 78 degrees Fahrenheit.

Currency: US $1 = 2280 Mexican Pesos (Inflation!)

Visa: For US-citizens no visa is required for Mexico. Your tourist card will be handed to you at customs.

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The Melody is Spanish, the Melancholy is Indian

There is no other country that loves music as much as Mexico. Indeed, Mexico is music, and the people who live there - between the Caribbean and the Pacific, the jungle and the palm- shaded beaches - are musicians and dancers of the first order. Who doesn't love to hear the sound of the sweet Spanish guitars, the airy Indian flutes, and the brassy horns. This is Mexico.

Measured against the United States, Mexico appears relatively small. Yet, it is three times the size of Texas. The country is one of the most mountainous in the world. Two thirds of Mexico lie between 3,000 and 18,800 feet above sea level and more than 120 mountains top 10,000 feet. Roughly three climatic zones can be differentiated according to elevation: the cold (cultivation of corn and grain), the temperate (sugar cane, cotton and coffee) and the hot (tropical rain forest and cultivation of cacao). The most beautiful months in which to travel are from September to May, after the rainy season when everything turns green and blossoms.

That the Mexicans are a happy people should not obscure the fact that the country has undergone an arduous evolution. From 1521 to 1821 Mexico was under Spanish colonial rule, and, as a consequence, had great difficulty orienting itself politically, socially and economically once it gained sovereignty. Even though conditions have apparently begun to stabilize in the 20th century, the country still has its share of troubles today.

In light of this situation, it is fascinating to observe the memorable Mexican serenity. It is an expression of a primal worldliness and a sign of a basic optimism. The Mexicans have a deep attachment to nature. Besides having a highly developed technology, the people exhibit an inclination to a simpler way of life as well as a knack for improvisation. We respect this mentality, and leave our ideas about organization at home as we look forward to adventure. With this goal in mind, it should be understood that the travel route we describe here (though it really is indescribable!) is a tried and true proposition.

After landing in Mexico City, with an elevation of 7,475 feet, we will first take two days to unwind. We are booked into a small hotel in the vicinity of Zocalo (the main square) in the historical city center. We'll take a tour of the city and visit the Museo Nacional de Antropologia. Because of its construction and the layout of the exhibits, it is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful museums in the world. Here we'll get a first-hand impression of the Aztecs, Toltecs, Mayas, Zapotecs and Mixtecs - to name only a few of the major Indian cultures of Mexico. Numerous models of the old fortresses, pyramids and temples offer us a picture of pre-colonial times and pique our curiosity about the country. Moreover, admission is free on weekends, as in all of the city's other museums.

On our third day in Mexico City, we will pack up early and head for the pyramids of Teotihuacan, the largest temple site in Mexico and an impressive example of the early classical and classical era (100 B.C. - 900 A.D.). The pyramids are an imposing 221 feet high and the sacrificial road almost 2 1/2 miles long. Our next destination is Tula, the alluring capital city of the Toltecs, rediscovered only in 1938. It is worth seeing if only for the famous 15-foot stone Atlases.

That evening we'll climb back into the comfortable bus and roll towards our next destination, Oaxaca, 276 miles away. Here, where the primitive setting has been largely preserved and Mexico's largest, purely Indian segment of the population gives us an impressive view of Indian culture, we'll visit the Zapotec City of the Dead in Monte Alban. Graves covered by flagstones evoke strange feelings. On the same day, not far from there, in Tule, we'll pay a visit to the 2000-year-old and, at 139 feet in circumference, thickest tree in the world before returning to our hotel in Oaxaca.

Next day we head for the Pacific, but not without stopping in pretty, little Mitla, to see its geometric figurines. After an approximately eight hour drive, we reach our next destination: Puerto Escondido, a cute little resort with beautiful, dreamlike beaches. We will stay there two to three days, whichever you prefer, to enjoy the sun, to swim, snorkel, and surf.

Rested, we continue our trip about 150 miles along the Pacific coast to reach the tropical rain forests of the isthmus of Tehuantepec, a strip of land 150 miles wide that separates the Gulf of Mexico from the Pacific. Then we travel the hills and valleys of the states of Oaxaca and Chiapas until we find ourselves 15 miles north of Tuxtla on the Canon del Sumidero. There we can travel up the Rio Tulija on boats. Its countless waterfalls cascading over 3,000-foot-high cliffs are an unforgettable natural spectacle. Along this same route, we reach San Cristobal, a beautiful city founded in 1528 to protect the Indians from the exploitation and repression of the Spanish landowners. The colorful dress of the local people is especially impressive - as is the lively market where the Mayan Indians buy, sell and trade. We will be able to enjoy the city a day or two before heading for our next destination. Deep in the jungle and National Park of Agua Azul, we will bathe under the waterfalls and experience the impressive setting. And we will spend the night at the foot of one of the waterfalls - in hammocks. That is something truly special!

The next day, we pack our things and head towards the ruins of the city of Palenque. You are bound to be overwhelmed by this, the most important center of old Mayan culture. The impressive structures rise up in one of the clearings cut by locals in the primeval forest. The forest closes in and, under the glare of the sun, you might mistake the broad, swampy terrain in the distance for the sea. The sultriness, the glistening light, and the variety of shades of green is staggering.

And then - a change in climate: from Palenque we go to the Yucatan peninsula, washed by the Gulf of Mexico on one side and the Caribbean on the other. Its tropical climate differs tangibly from the forests and the mountains we have just left. The hot sea winds have dried out the soil and turned it into steppes. There is almost no rainfall. We'll make our first stop in Chetumal. Whoever has not yet bathed in the Caribbean on a tranquil day can at last do it: on the Playa Claderitas.

Next we go further north to Tulum with its noteworthy old Mayan temple, from where we will be ferried across to Mexico's easternmost point, the Caribbean island of Isla Mujeres. Fantastic beaches and the colorful, shimmering tropical fish of the coral reefs invite us to snorkel, swim, and sunbathe. We can take day trips with a bicycle or motor bike to the turtle reserve on the west coast or by boat to the island nature preserve of Contoy. You'll never be at loss for things to do and see.

Our last week begins. We drive to Yucatan's capital city, Merida, via Chichen Itza (definitely see the sculptures). Life pulsates in Merida, the atmosphere is relaxed, and broad streets, beautiful plazas and palaces entice us the moment we arrive.

Through Uxmal, where we can see the 125-foot "Pyramid of the Soothsayer" erected on an oval foundation, and past the pyramids of Edzna, we drive on to Ciudad del Carmen. From here, we'll allow ourselves a day trip to a palm-covered beach to swim one last time in the Gulf of Mexico and to tank up on sunshine.

We have to think about going home. We'll make two quick stops: in Campeche, and in the famous, 480-year-old port city of Veracruz, the first settlement built by the Spaniards in Mexico.

In Puebla our great cross-country tour of Mexico comes to an end. The city is called the Rome of Mexico because of its countless churches. It sits in the country's highest valley - 7,128 feet above sea level at the foot of Mt. Popocatepetl, a snow-capped volcano 17,887 feet high. Here we come to the natural and crowning conclusion of our adventure together.

Before we finish the last 130 miles, over a winding highway through the majestic mountain landscape back to Mexico City, we'll make one last side trip to Cholula. Our final pyramid, layered all around with steps and consecrated to the rain god, will bind us to this fascinating land, to Mexico.

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