Independent Schools Cultural Alliance - ISCA – Summer Programs in the UK

Mexico

The home of tacos, guacamole, sombreros and the Aztecs, Mexico is a country rich with diversity, offering an amazing mix of Mesoamerican cultures, bustling cities, contemporary arts, perfect beaches, Mayan ruins, lush jungles, Spanish traditions and much much more. Our first stop is the vibrant capital of Mexico City…

Mexico City is brimming with history, breathtaking architecture, incredible art and museums, limitless entertainment, and some of the best street food that will ever hit your tastebuds. Go to the Palacio de Bellas Artes. This splendid white-marble palace is home to some incredible artworks created by world-famous Mexican artists. Watch out for the famous muralist Diego Rivera’s famous El hombre en el crude de casinos (Man at the Crossroads) which was originally commissioned for New York’s Rockefeller Centre.

Then wander around Chapultepec Park. Chapultepec is one of the largest city parks in the world, spanning 450 acres with numerous entertainment options, including botanical gardens, a lake with paddle boats, hiking trails and three of Mexico City’s best museums, including the National Museum of Anthropology.

Located 30 miles outside of Mexico City are the largest and most architecturally significant Mesoamerican pyramids in Mexico. Founded in 400 BC, Teotihuacán was once the largest city in the Americas, with an estimated 125,000 inhabitants. There seems to be some uncertainty about which civilisation inhabited it but most people believe it was once the capital of the Aztecs. Its two giant pyramids are known as the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of Moon, and they still dominate the landscape today.

Our next stop is the state of Oaxaca. Oaxaca is the epicentre of indigenous culture, known for its strong arts scene and vibrant crafts community. There are festivals galore and lots of natural beauty including the beaches on the Pacific Coast and the mountains of the Sierra Norte. Oaxaca City itself is a beautiful old colonial town with a thriving community and countless restaurants and cafes to explore. It is also one of the food capitals of Mexico so if you fancy yourself as a bit of a chef, this is the place to have a go at a Mexican cooking class.

From Oaxaca, go to the Mayan ruins at Palenque. If you’re thinking of visiting some Mayan temples, you’ll probably think of Chichen Itzá near Cancun – Mexico’s most famous Mayan archaeological site.  However, every year it has 2 million visitors, so to avoid the crowds, go to Palenque in Chiapas State instead. It has half as many visitors as Chichen Itzá and the temples are just as spectacular.

Our next stop, the Yucatán Peninsula, is firmly established on the traveller map. It is famed for its white-sand beaches, huge cave systems called cenotes, the epic ruins of Chichen Itzá, the mangroves and wetlands of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve and the second largest barrier reef in the world, the Great Mayan Reef. Isla Holbox is our first destination. Located north of the Yucatán Peninsula between the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, Isla Holbox is part of the Yum Balam Nature Reserve. If you want to hang out with friendly locals and chill on the beach with flamingos, this is the place for you.

From here, go to Akumal. You can literally walk into the water from the beach and swim with giant sea turtles, eagle rays and countless fish. A short way down the coastline is the jewel of Mexico’s Riviera Maya, Tulum. Tulum has recently become a hot spot for yoga retreats and, with beautiful surroundings and lovely beaches, you can see why.

You will find cenotes, such as Gran Cenote, Jardin de Eden and Dos Ojos, near Tulum. Cenotes are natural freshwater pools where rain water collects. They were once considered highly sacred to the Maya people as portals to the underworld. Today you can swim, snorkel or scuba dive at your own pleasure – an experience you will never forget.

Our final stop is Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. Sian Ka’an is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is located south of Tulum Town. As a biosphere reserve, you can go wildlife spotting whilst also looking out for its 23 archeological sites and Mayan ruins. A great way to top of your Mexican adventure.