After travelling independently for the last month and a half, it was a nice break to join an organised tour for our short stay in Mexico. My sister and I chose the 6 day Yucatan Highlights Contiki plus an additional 3 relaxing days in Cancun, which squeezed in perfectly to our already-made plans for the USA and South America.
We both flew into Mexico City late afternoon the day before our Contiki tour started. We caught up with each other at the airport, made our way to our hotel Best Western Royal Zona Rosa and settled in. We were pretty exhausted and pretty keen for an early night to regain our energy before starting our tour the next morning which we knew would be jam-packed with adventure activities, historical sight-seeing and a hell of a lot of partying!
Day 1: Mexico City
We kicked off our Yucatan Highlights Contiki tour nice and early the next morning at 8am with a meeting with our tour manager Ish. We spent the time going over different aspects of how Contiki works and what to expect over the next week travelling through Mexico, as well as chatting with the other people who were also part of the Yucatan Highlights tour. After grabbing a quick bite to eat at breakfast and preparing our packs for the day, we made our way down to the hotel lobby to meet the rest of our tour group.
The Yucatan Highlights Contiki is the second half of a longer Contiki tour Mexico Grande, so we actually joined onto an already formed tour group who had been travelling together for the last week or so. This was a little daunting at first knowing that the existing tour may have already been quite a tight-knit group and may not have been willing to let in a new group of outsiders, but most of the tour group were very friendly and let us in with open arms.
After all of us newbies joined the group, there were now around 35 people on the tour. Most of our tour group were from Australia (standard), as well as a couple from New Zealand and Canada. I was surprised by the age group of our Contiki too – at 21 I was one of the younger ones on the group, with most people in their mid-20s, and a few 35 year olds. We all loaded ourselves onto the bus as we pumped out our Contiki day song, which to my excitement was Summer by Calvin Harris.
We began our tour by visiting the heart of Mexico City, Plaza de La Constitución (more commonly known as Zócalo). We were given a quick introduction to Mexico City before entering the Palacio National, which still acts as a presidential residence. As we walked through security, the large courtyard was the first thing that caught my eye, followed by the large mural and artworks by Diego Riviera, which captured the history of Mexico and how the country came to be what it is today. Our tour manager went through each of the main paintings with us and explained the meaning behind each one in Mexican history.
Next up was the Catedral Metropolitana de la Asunción de María (or Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary). This was one extravagant building, with various different styles of architecture and exteriors. Upon entering the cathedral, we were met with the stunningly intricate Altar de Pérdon (Altar of Pardon) and the beautiful stone interior.
Back on the bus and onto our next destination. Despite knowing that Mexico City had one of the highest populations in the world, I was still blown away by how incredibly large the city was – it looked as if the city was never-ending.
We had two quick stops along the way. One stop was a tequila tasting, where we tried various shots of tequila that had been brewed for differing amounts of time. It was bizarre how easy some of them went down, many of them were actually sweet tasting. The second stop was at a buffet lunch, accompanied by a traditional Mexican style dance performance. A highlight from the buffet lunch was the cactus salad, I mean, it’s not everyday that you eat a cactus right?!
After lunch, it was time to visit our first ancient ruins in Mexico – Teotihuacan. As we drove through what appeared to be the middle of nowhere, we caught our first glimpse of these incredible structures. The ruins of Teotihuacan are considered to be some of the most architecturally significant pyramids in the region. They began construction around 100BC, and many were not completed until around 100AD. We explored the ruins and murals around the Plaza of the Moon, before climbing both the Pyramid of the Moon, and the largest ruin, Pyramid of the Sun.
We arrived back at the hotel with a few hours to spare. We spent the time napping and getting ready for our first and only night out in Mexico City. The night began at a little restaurant only a short walk away from our hotel. After finishing off our meals, we made our way to a local salsa bar and club, and danced the night away…