Be part of the preparations and celebrations for Mexico’s Day of the Dead festival on this exciting tour. This trip is perfect for those keen to enjoy an authentic experience of Mexican culture.
During the Day of the Dead celebrations, death comes alive. Families celebrate the memories of those they have lost throughout the years, elaborately decorating altars in their houses and holding traditional wakes in cemeteries. You will be invited to join a local family’s celebrations in their home as they decorate their altars and headstones in the cemetery. Explore the streets filled with the iconic symbols of this 4,000 year old festival including the iconic intricately painted sugar skulls.
A colonial city and the artistic capital of Mexico, Oaxaca is one of the best destinations to experience this unique festival. The Day of the Dead festivities are an incredible time of year to spend in Mexico and learn about the history and culture.
Read more about this tour
UK - Oaxaca - 26 October 2017
Leave London Heathrow on 26 October 2017 for your overnight flight to Oaxaca via Mexico City. Upon arrival in Oaxaca you will be transferred to Hotel Parador San Miguel (or similar, subject to availability).
A captivating city, Oaxaca was conquered by the Spanish in 1533. This Spanish influence can be seen in the city’s charming plazas, ornate buildings with elegant archways and in the sculptured churches. Today you will discover this colonial heritage, exploring the city on a guided tour.
Wander the stone paved streets of this picturesque city set against a dramatic mountainous backdrop. Pass the houses, shops and cafes which are painted a multitude of bright colours. You’ll learn about the city’s creative history with a visit to Museum of the Oaxacan Cultures before heading over to the ornate Santa Domingo church, a wonderful example of the city’s lavish baroque architecture. The tour will finish in Zócalo, the main square and the centre of the historic town, for a delicious lunch in Asador Vasco.
In the afternoon, make your way over to Benito Juarez food market to experience Oaxaca’s diverse array of cuisine. Be tempted by the delicious smelling smoke from the many stalls dedicated to carnes asdas (grilled meat) in the 20 de Noviembre market. Pass on through to Mina Street to watch cocoa beans ground with sugar, almonds and cinnamon, transforming it into traditional Oaxacan chocolate.
Preparations for Day of the Dead celebrations today get well underway. During today’s travels you will learn about the fascinating Zapotec culture, an indigenous pre-Colombian civilization which has thrived in the Valley of Oaxaca.
Travel east to the town of Tlacolula for market day, the stands full of traditional goods from the area including woven Zapotec rugs and red pottery pieces. Continue onto Teotitlan del Valle, a famous weaving village, the extraordinary history of this craft dates back to tributes of cloth being paid to the Aztecs. Keen to welcome guests and share their craft, visit a Zapotec family to watch the delicate weaving and spinning techniques which use natural dyes to create remarkable tablecloths and rugs.
After a traditional lunch in the home of a Zapotec family, you’ll visit the ancient village Santo Domingo Tomaltepec to see the traditional Day of the Dead bread being made and prepared for the following day. Today’s journey through the valleys will end in the village of Santa Maria home to the world’s thickest tree, El Tule.
The perfect way to start your celebrations is with a morning dedicated to perusing the eclectic and energetic Day of the Dead ‘tiangus’ at the Abastos Market. An open aired bazaar, browse the stalls piled high with Day of the Dead ornaments and decorations including colourful strings of beads, bunches of vibrant marigolds and the iconic illustrated sugar skulls. Join the local families buying the decorations used to adorn their home altars in tribute to their loved ones. The afternoon is yours to wander through Oaxaca, observing the festivities as you please.
At 11pm, head over to a nearby town to watch a traditional wake before being hosted with hot chocolate and Day of the Dead bread by a local family. Continue onto the village cemetery to be part of this incredible yearly celebration, appreciating the unique atmosphere of joyous remembrance mixed with a macabre sadness.
Join your local family as they decorate their family grave, a unique moment of this tour and a wonderful intimate moment to be apart of.
This afternoon drive north of the valley to the village of Soledad Etla to be a part of the magnificent Comparsa Parade. Walk with the jubilant parade alongside 10 feet stilt walkers dressed as spirits, marching bands playing loud ‘banda’ music and locals in elaborate costumes. You’ll pass rows of vendors where you can stop to purchase food, mezcal, flowers, coffee and hand-made craft. Being part of this vibrant parade and all the festivities is an amazing experience of Mexican life.
Today will be spent discovering the artisans of the area and learning about the diversity of the folk art in the valley of Zimatlan. Visit the village of San Bartolo Coyotepec, famous for the black pottery also known as barro negro, and the famed potter Carlo Magno Pedro who specialises in Day of the Dead art. Continue to the village of San Martin Tilcajete known for Alebrijes, fine wooden and intricately painted animals. While this style of wood carving is a relatively new craft, beginning two generations ago, these art pieces are a magnificent expression of Mexican folklore.
Lunch today is a delicious meal of ‘Day of the Dead’ quesadillas hosted for you by a local family in Santo Tomas Jalieza, who will share with you how to prepare a traditional Oaxaca meal.
Expand on your knowledge of all the Mexican cuisine you’ve been sampling during your holiday with a cooking class. Take a trip to the bustling food market to choose the ingredients you’ll use in your cooking lesson. Enjoy all your new culinary expertise with a lunch dining on all the food prepared by the group.
Exploring the extraordinary archaeological site of Monte Alban is a extraordinary way to spend your last full day in Mexico. A collection of temples, palaces, terraces, dams, canals and pyramids carved out of the mountain, Monte Alban was the ancient capital of Zapotec and once supporting 35,000 people.
This ancient city is centred around the Great Plaza, an open area on the mountain top which offers breathtaking views of the surrounding area. Looking down across the spectacular landscape is an incredible way to view the valleys you have spent the last few days exploring.
Oaxaca - UK
Today you will be transferred to Oaxaca for your flight back to London Heathrow.
Pricing Information & Dates
9 day tour, from £2635 per person
Tour includes - Airport transfers, 8 nights accommodation at Hotel Parador San Miguel (or similar) including breakfast, private sightseeing tours as detailed in the itinerary, breakfast throughout
Click on images to enlarge