World ? Caribbean & Central America ? Mexico

Mexico: In One Week

Central Mexico's Pre-Columbian Treasures in a Week

Most of Mexico's great archaeological sites, aside from those left by the Maya, are located in the center of the country, from Mexico City to the east. This trip takes you to the best of these and to the three most impressive archaeological museums in Mexico. The area in which all of this is located is relatively compact. It doesn't require a lot of travel time to cover, unless you add on a side trip to Oaxaca for the ruins of Monte Albȥn and Mitla.

Days 1, 2 & 3: Arrive in Mexico City

If you arrive at an early hour, go straight to the very heart of the nation: Mexico's zɃcalo, or main square. There, poetically situated between the nation's preeminent cathedral and its National Palace, are the ruins of the Aztec's Templo Mayor, left buried and forgotten until 1978. Explore the ruins and the museum. Dedicate your first full day of activity to the Museo Nacional de Antropologȷa. By the third day, you should have adapted to the altitude and will be ready for a day trip to Teotihuacȥn, "City of the Gods," where you can explore palaces and pyramids and climb to the summit of the Pyramid of the Sun.

Day 4: Tlaxcala

Drive or take a bus to colonial Tlaxcala to view the vivid murals of Cacaxtla and the hilltop stronghold of Xochitȳcatl. The murals are painted in an intriguing Maya style, with rich symbolism that invites speculation. Stay the night here and enjoy the slow rhythms and street life of the town. Though it is a state capital (in the smallest state in Mexico), Tlaxcala is small and off the beaten path. It still retains an unhurried, graceful air. Stroll over to the Government Palace to view the modern murals of artist Desiderio Hernȥndez Xochitiotzin, which chronicle the history of the Tlaxcaltecans, ancient rivals of the Aztecs.

Day 5: Puebla & Cholula

From Tlaxcala, it's a quick car or bus ride to colonial Puebla and its satellite town, Cholula, which was the ancient religious center of central Mexico. In the afternoon, visit the Museo Amparo to see its stunning collection of pre-Hispanic art, then head over to Cholula the next day to view the ruins of Mexico's largest pyramid, with the beautiful volcano "El Popo" as a backdrop. If you have time, visit the local churches of Tonantzintla and San Francisco Acatepec for their beautiful Indian baroque design.

Day 6: Xalapa

From Puebla, it's on to bustling Xalapa, a 3-hour drive from the dry central plateau to the misty slopes of the Sierra Madre Oriental. Visit the city's wonderful Museo de Antropologȷa, with a collection of megalithic Olmec heads and expressive Totonac art.

Day 7: Veracruz City

Next travel down to the old port city of Veracruz. Enjoy a relaxing day in this lively town, with its coffee shops, tropical music, and dance. From here, you can fly out directly or via Mexico City. To extend your trip, you can head north to see the ruins of El Tajȷn or south to Oaxaca to see Monte Albȥn and Mitla.

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