Grand Tour, Culture, Enthusiast

Magical Mexico

8 to 23 October
Mexico, Panama

The Central American destination of Mexico is included in most travellers’ bucket-lists, with poignant pre-Hispanic artefacts from the Aztec and Maya civilizations, colonial architecture aplenty and dramatic landscapes in a temperate zone.  It has not though in the past, featured significantly in the plans of railway-oriented itineraries.  For 2020, we are planning our second Mexico tour featuring the renowned travel-brochure destinations and combining these with rail travel and many other items of interest to the railfan.  We also offer in connection with Mexico our second rail and culture pre-tour to Panama.

The giant pyramids at Chichen Itza and Teotihuacan are visited as too, are colonial city centres including Mexico City’s Zocalo, and many other must-see sights.  Our rail attractions commence with the exiting train to Tequila and the distillery, then 2 days on the incredibly spectacular Copper Canyon Railway, followed by some scheduled train travel in the Mexico City and Puebla areas.  We visit several railway museums and other locations where heritage steam and diesel locomotives are preserved, and we plan to have a Baldwin 2-8-0 + coaches in imitation steam for photos in an historic station.  We will endeavour to look at locations where heavy rail-freight operations are active and also ride a hacienda horse-drawn railway.  Our programme will appeal to dedicated railfans and their partners, together with those who wish to see the real Mexico.  Peruse our itinerary and come with us and please also consider our Panama pre-tour.

Highlights

  • 2 days of rail travel on the 400-mile spectacular Copper Canyon Railway
  • Ride the Jose Cuervo Express between Guadalajara and Tequila
  • World heritage Aztec and Maya civilization sites
  • Colonial City centres
  • Several railway museums and other rail-interest sites.
  • Panama pre-tour with 50ml of rail travel and in-depth views of canal
  • Most meals included

Tour Manager: Ray   ray@ptg.co.uk

Itinerary

Day 1 Thursday 8 October We plan to take daytime flights to Mexico City and stay at a hotel within the airport complex where we can meet any guests making their own flight arrangements.  Those taking the Panama extension fly directly from Panama to Guadalajara (for 3 nights).

Day 2 Friday 9 October (B,L,D) We will take a morning flight to Guadalajara, the second city, and visit a small railway museum having a giant 4-8-4 en route to our hotel, where we stay for two nights.  After lunch, we take the light-rail to the magnificent colonial centre in this most Mexican of cities.  For those with stamina after dinner there may be the opportunity to see some of the local Mariachi bands.

Day 3 Saturday 10 October (B,L,D) We join the Jose Cuervo Express train excursion to Tequila, its distillery and exquisite town centre.  You will have a Tequila tasting experience, free-time in the centre and see a Mexican Culture show.  This exiting train is a 1-way journey, and our plan is to photograph the morning train and return on the evening train, enjoying food and complementary free-flowing drinks.  There is a packed lunch and snack dinner from Jose Cuevero but, you might like to supplement this.

Day 4 Sunday 11 October (B,L,D) It’s a brisk start today with a flight north to Los Mochis, the western end of the Copper Canyon Railroad.  We will view several preserved locomotives and proceed to El Fuerte pausing at San Blas to photograph the day’s Chepe Express and hopefully visit the loco depot.  The night is in El Fuerte and we take brief city tour before dinner.

Day 5 Monday 12 October (B,D) We board our train at El Fuerte for the first day of our very comfortable Copper Canyon ride, which will take us on a stupendous journey through several climatic zones of diverse ecology as we climb to nearly 8000ft.  Lunch can be enjoyed in the train’s dining coach.  We alight at Divisadero and, after photographing the departing train, we stay on the very edge on the Canyon itself, which is deeper in parts than the Grand Canyon.

Day 6 Tuesday 13 October (B) After photography of the westbound Chepe Express we have a morning programme to the Canyon until we re-commence our railway journey on the Chepe Regional to Chihuahua.  The railway climbs further then spirals around and over itself to take us eastwards.  Lunch and dinner (not included) can either be taken on the train or purchased from the Raramuri Indians on the station.  Arrival in Chihuahua is mid-evening after which we retire to our central hotel.

Day 7 Wednesday 14 October (B,L) In Chihuahua, we visit the 2 stations where there are preserved locomotives, the former Nacionales de Mexico roundhouse and the Chepe locomotive depot, together with the Museo Casa de Villa featuring revolutionary hero Pancho Villa.  Mid afternoon we must transfer to the airport for our flight to Mexico City and our central hotel for 4 nights.  Dinner must be something from the airport.

Day 8 Thursday 15 October (B,L,D) Today, we visit the large Aztec Pyramid and archaeological site north of Mexico City at Teotihuacan, and afterwards, take lunch at the Otumba Railway Museum where we hope to see heavy rail action.  After, we transfer to the Suburbano rail system at Cuautitlan for our return to the city.  Heavy-freight rail traffic should be seen on the journey and a Shay locomotive is present at the Buenavista terminus.  Dinner is in Mexico City.

Day 9 Friday 16 October (B,L) The day commences with a visit to the Zocalo, the old colonial centre of Mexico City, followed by 2 railway museums displaying locomotives.  They are at the Railway Union HQ and, an old station.  Lunch is taken nearby, and we are now adjacent to visit the Basilica de Guadalupe, after which, you will be sufficiently comfortable to enjoy free-time for a destination and after dinner of choice.  One option will be to take the metro 4 stations to join the Suburbano to seek heavy-freight action.  If one wishes, a Mariachi dinner can be arranged.

Day 10 Saturday 17 October (B,D) Our programme commences with a short visit to the railway section at the Technological Museum, housing yet more locomotives, before a ride on the new HS line to Toluca.  Before returning we can visit the preserved locomotive present.  We will then visit the fascinating Trotsky’s House. Lunch will comprise free-time at nearby Coyoacan, then we visit the tram and trolley bus museum, before moving to Xochimilco to return to the city and hotel on Tren Ligero and the Metro.

Day 11 Sunday 18 October (B,D) We leave briskly for a view of ancient Cholula, which is where we board a modern tram-train to deposit us in Puebla, at the National Museum of Railways.  A brief visit is made to the Ferrosur station prior to visiting the colonial centre, for a lunch-break.  Our final visit of the day is to Cuautla where we’re negotiating with the railway museum to position their 2-8-0 locomotive in the old station.  We take dinner locally before transferring to Mexico City airport for a late flight to Campeche to stay for two nights.

Day 12 Monday 19 October (B,L,D) After a late arrival, it will be a relaxed morning to first check-out any freight trains on the Yucatan Railway.  We will take lunch in the historic centre followed by a tour of the city and San Miguel Fort by imitation streetcar.  Dinner will be at our hotel.

Day 13 Tuesday 20 October (B,L,D) We depart Campeche for Uxmal to visit the large Maya pyramid extant, before transferring to a Hacienda for our lunch.  This estate operates a horse-drawn henequen railway.  We take a relaxing journey on it and view the process from plant to fibre and then to rope.  We continue by road to nearby Merida for two nights.

Day 14 Wednesday 21 October (B,L) In Merida, we visit the Yucatan Railway Museum, and hopefully the Yucatan Railway depot, view many dumped locomotives and the old terminal station.  Lunch is taken in the main square of this attractive city and after a tour of the centre, we have a free relaxed evening at one of the city’s many fine restaurants.

Chichen Itza Tzompantli the Wall of Skulls and Kukulkan pyramid El Castillo

Day 15 Thursday 22 October (B,L,D) This will be our final day of touring, and we commence with a visit to the stupendous pyramid at the Chichen Itza Archaeology Zone, where lunch is taken.  After, we move to Playa del Carmen on the coast for our farewell dinner and final night.

Day 16 Friday 23 October (B) We transfer the c.1hr to Cancun airport for homebound flights.  Playa del Carmen is highly recommended for a relaxing holiday extension or, as a base to visit Maya artefacts at Tulum, the nearby Sian Ka’an Biosphere or Cozumel Island.

Panama Pre-tour Option 

Day P1 Monday 5 October (D)   We arrive at Tocumen Airport Panama City and transfer to our hotel for dinner.

Day P2 Tuesday 6 October (B,L,D)  We commence our Panama exploration with a transfer across the Isthmus of Panama to the province of Colon.  In about 1 hour we will have crossed the continent from ocean to ocean, after which, visit the remains of the Castle of San Lorenzo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site built to fortify and protect the river entrance and Las Cruces Trail leading to Panama City.  Lunch will be taken nearby at Shelter Bay Marina before we visit the small ‘Mule’ locomotive museum at Gatun Locks, and then the observation centre at the new Agua Clara locks.  Our return to Panama City will be by the Panama Canal Railroad, which follows a similar route to the canal and carries some of the trans-ocean container traffic.  The railway takes us alongside the artificial Gatun Lake, flanked by the exuberant rainforests of the Soberania National Park.

Day P3 Wednesday 7 October (B,L)  Today we transfer to Gamboa, where the Chagres River meets the Panama Canal to enjoy extraordinary views of the Canal and its traffic from a boat voyaging along the Gatun Lake section passing by gigantic cargo ships.  Our boat will pass close to rainforest covered islands (once hill tops) where we search for various items of wildlife including crocodile and species of monkeys.  We lunch at the nearby Gamboa resort after which, we can return to our hotel or, remain in the Gamboa area to observe canal and rail traffic.  The evening is free, and one might like to ride the metro or visit the city centre.

Day P4 Thursday 8 October (B) Our final day starts with visits to various parts of the Pacific side of the Canal where there are preserved rail locomotives including at the Miraflores Locks’ visitor centre.  At Miraflores we expect to get a close-up visit to view of the operation of the Mule rack locomotives.  We complete our tour with a visit to the UNESCO Heritage quarter of the city when there is free time to take lunch.  We transfer to the airport in the late afternoon for a flight to Guadalajara.

Place(s) available

Holiday Prices (per person)

  • From Heathrow (direct Aero Mexico): £3,650
  • From Heathrow (BA, return via Philadelphia): £3,750
  • From Gatwick (out via Miami, back direct): £3,850
  • From Birmingham (KLM via Amsterdam): £3,750
  • From Manchester (Virgin via Atlanta): £3,750
  • From Edinburgh (BA via LHR, return via Philadelphia): £3,750
  • From Mexico City to Cancun £2,995

Options

  • Single room supplement Mexico: £465                     
  • Panama pre-tour: £1,200
  • Single Supplement Panama: £145

Deposit

  • Full package Mexico: £500 plus any flight costs
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