– THE YEAR WAS 1519
– CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS had already succeeded in discovering new lands 27 years earlier.
– EMPEROR CHARLES V OF SPAIN was expanding his empire into new uncharted territories.
– SPANISH COLONIES were established in Hispañola (Dominican Republic) and Cuba. These locations became strategic “stepping-off” points for further discoveries west, south, and north.
– HERNAN CORTES, an enterprising and independent-minded man defies last minute orders from the governor of Cuba to not go on an exploratory mission to Mesoamerica and sets sail anyway with 11 ships, 15 horses, and 500 men to what is now the country of México.
His “exploratory mission” turned into one of greediness and power grabbing for Cortés and led to a path of death and destruction for many of the indigenous people he encountered, including the powerful Aztec leader, Moctezuma.
IT IS AN AMAZING CHAPTER IN THE HISTORY OF THE AMERICAS!
How could this gutsy Spaniard with virtually no military commanding experience lead 500 mostly novice soldiers to conquer the mighty Aztec empire with a population in the millions?
AND HE CONQUERED THIS NEW LAND IN ONLY 2½ YEARS!
About Your Trip Leader –
Your trip leader will be Mexican born, Cuauhtemoc Benitez Patino, a recognized certified professional México historian guide. He is a former student of the National Anthropology and History School in México City and over the years, has kept up his studies by attending numerous advanced courses relating to the many different periods of Mexican history. He is also a voracious reader and has an extensive library collection of Mexican history books.
Since 1999, Cuauhtemoc has been leading many groups of intrepid travelers to discover the history, culture, and geographic beauty as well as the many excellent outdoor adventures found in the states of Veracruz, Puebla, Tlaxcala, Morelos, and in México City.
Originally from the city of Cuernavaca in Morelos state, Cuauhtemoc (“Temo”/Tay-moh) currently resides with his wife in the city of Veracruz, near to where Cortés arrived and started his march inland.
Fascinated with this “conquest story,” Cuauhtemoc began to gather more specific information about what transpired from the time the Spaniards arrived until they eventually devastated the Aztecs. Through old diaries, research online, and learning from other historians, Temo grew to become a local leading authority on the history of the Spanish Conquest. Also to aid in his research, he has personally traveled numerous times back and forth over the route Cortés and his men traveled to meticulously map out (as close as possible), the footsteps of these Spanish invaders. In this 10 day historical tour, Cuauhtemoc will help you to gain a better understanding of the events that took place during this overland march and the reasons why Hernán Cortés was able to plunder the mighty Aztec empire with only a very small group of inexperienced soldiers.
Take a look at the itinerary, check your calendar, and then make a decision to join your historian guide, Cuauhtemoc (Temo) on this most fascinating look into this important historical event; the Spanish Conquest of Mesoamerica.
FYI – The group size for this education tour will be limited to a maximum of 18 people. So if you would like to go, send in your trip deposit of $350 ASAP to hold your spot.
Arrive in the City of Veracruz, Mexico
Meet your host, Cuauhtemoc Benitez Patino
Boat Ride to reenact the beach arrival of Cortés
Villa Rica – where Cortés landed
Quiahuiztlan Archaeological Site
Cempoala Archaeological Site
City of Veracruz
San Juan de Ulúa – where Cortés first met with emissaries from Moctezuma II
La Antigua – the first coastal Spanish municipality
Lunch – Ex-Hacienda Zimpizuahua
Coatepec & Xico, Veracruz – Pueblo Mágico town
Tzompantepec – Tlaxcaltecas Battle
City of Tlaxcala
Site of the Cholula Massacre
Great Pyramid of Cholula
City of Puebla
Horse Trail Ride in the foothills of two mountains (optional)
16th Century Franciscan Ex-Convent – Calpan, Puebla
Cortés Pass – Spectacular Scenic Drive
Learn about the Palace of Cortés – Cuernavaca, Morelos
Visit one of the oldest chapels built by the Spaniards in the Americas
Tour the Hacienda de Cortés
Hospital de Jesus Nazareno – Meeting site between two empires – México City
Templo Mayor – Aztec Temple Ruins & Museum
National Palace & the Metropolitan Cathedral
Paseo de la Reforma
Site of the Noche Triste (Sad Night) – México City
National Anthropology Museum
México’s National Museum of History
Travel day home from the México City International Airport
Upon your arrival at the Veracruz International Airport (VER) you will be welcomed by one of our staff members who will escort you to the elegant Gran Hotel Diligencias which is located right across the street from the main plaza in the city of Veracruz.
On your first morning in Veracruz, you will have breakfast at one of the oldest traditional restaurants in the city, the Gran Café del Portal. During breakfast, your tour leader will give you an overview of the coming days of the itinerary which stretches from the coast of Veracruz to México City.
Afterwards, your group will travel up the gulf coast to where you will board a motor boat to take you on a short ride further north up the coast to the beach adjacent to the small village of Villa Rica where Cortes and his men came ashore. In this way, you will get to experience the same view of the tropical coastline as the Spaniards did in 1519 as they were rowing to shore. This then is the starting point for what we now know as The Spanish Conquest of Mesoamerica. Your historian guide will keep a running narrative of the events which took place throughout your journey.
Continuing inland, you will explore the nearby ruins of Quiahuiztlan (Key-ah-weezt-lan) which sits on a high bluff overlooking the bay of Villa Rica. On a clear day, this vantage point gives you a superb wide-angle view of the Gulf of México. It was here that Cortés first made contact with the native people, the Totonacs. This archaeological site now mainly contains many small burial tombs and a small ball court.
After a box lunch back on Villa Rica’s beach, your small group will continue this historical route of the Spanish Conquest by visiting the archaeological site of the city of Cempoala. This was one of the most important Totonac settlements. Here Cortés met their main leader (Cacique) and formed an alliance to go up against the Aztecs.
Later, you will return back to the city of Veracruz and see some of the main sites there via a driving tour. Later, everyone will travel back to the Gran Hotel Diligencias to enjoy dinner on your own and the warm tropical evening in this port city. (B,L)
After a nice buffet breakfast at your hotel, it will be time to check out and go to explore the massive harbor fortress called, San Juan de Ulúa. Today you can reach it via a causeway. However, it was an island when Cortéz arrived. It was here he met two emissaries from Moctezuma II.
Next, you will travel on to the riverside town of La Antigua. This is actually the site where Cortés decided to create their first permanent base of operations on the gulf coast. Remnants of the customs house built by the Spaniards can still be viewed as well as one of the first Catholic chapels constructed in New Spain.
Continuing your historical journey, your group will travel inland (as the Conquistadors did) to the higher and milder climate near to what is now the capital city of Veracruz state; Xalapa. Just south of the city, everyone will stop at the Ex-Hacienda Zimpizuahua where you will have lunch. This ex-hacienda was built in the mid 1500’s by Antonio Reinoso, a soldier who fought with Cortéz. The grounds are a mixture of old buildings and lush tropical vegetation. Interestingly, there is a huge ancient aqueduct with a big water wheel which is still operational to this day.
Later, just a short ride down the road, you will explore the pre-Hispanic Pueblo Mágico towns of Coatepec and Xico . According to historical records, the Spanish invaders did pass through these towns. At around 3,000 feet in altitude, this area is what’s considered a fog forest. It is also one of the best places in México to grow coffee; compliments of Spanish influence. Overnight at one of the local hotels. (B,L)
After breakfast, your group will check out and travel west through the state of Puebla and into the eastern corner of the smallest state in México; Tlaxcala. Keep your camera ready as there will be some great scenic views to enjoy out your window on this two hour ride.
A multi-day pivotal battle between the Spaniards and the fierce Tlaxcallan warriors took place on a hill near the small pueblo of Tzompantepec. Your historian guide, Cuauhtemoc will vividly paint the picture of the battle from the viewpoints of Cortés as well as from the Tlaxcaltecas. You will also be invited into the municipal government building in Tzompantepec to view the colorful murals painted on the conference room walls depicting historical scenes of this battle.
The capital city of the state of Tlaxcala is also called, Tlaxcala. It is here that Cortés and the leaders of the Tlaxcaltecas forges a very important alliance which proved to be a huge benefit to the outcome of this conquest story. Of particular interest is the newly restored very colorful mural depicting the history of the city which is located in the municipal building.
Dinner will be on your own. Overnight at one of the local hotels in Tlaxcala. (B,L)
After breakfast, you will check out and travel south about an hour south to the city of Cholula. Cuauhtemoc (Temo) will continue the conquest story by taking you to the plaza where thousands of Cholulans (mostly nobility) were slaughtered by Cortés and his men.
Adjacent to the site of this horrific massacre is the largest pre-Hispanic structure in the world in terms of volume. It is an enormous pyramid which is still mostly unexcavated. A beautiful Catholic church was later built on top to dramatically symbolize the religious conquest of this new land. Interestingly, Cortés and his men never saw this massive structure because at that time, it had already been covered over in dirt, grass, and trees. To the Spaniards, it just looked like a big hill. However, this hidden pyramid proved to be four times the size of Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.
At the time of the Conquest, the city of Cholula was the second most important city after the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán. The present day capital of the state of Puebla is the nearby city by the same name which was not there when the Spaniards arrived. In the evening, your group will temporarily divert from the Conquest story to have dinner in the beautiful colonial city and later, take a short walking tour of the downtown area.
Afterwards, everyone will return to your hotel in Cholula. (B,L)
Today is a day of adventure for your group. Once breakfast is consumed, you will check out and head west 45 minutes to the small town of Calpan. This is the route the Spaniards walked and rode on their way to the Aztec capital city. In Calpan, you will take a quick peek at the old 16th century Franciscan Ex-Convent and then get ready for a fun 2 hour trail ride on horses. The scenery is dominated by two tall mountains; Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl. During this horse trail ride you will get to experience (as Cortés did) the rugged terrain on the east side of these two majestic mountains.
After lunch at a small local restaurant in Calpan, it will be time for your big journey up and over what is now called, Paso de Cortés. You will need to dress warm for this ascent through the pass as you will reach an altitude of 11,150 feet/3400 m. At the highest point, everyone will stop to view the now worn plaque dedicated to Hernán Cortés and his men as the original route in which he traveled over to reach the valley of the Aztec empire.
On the western descent, your trip will take another divergence from the Conquistador’s original route into what is now México City. There are two reasons for this change. The biggest reason is that your group will hit massive amounts of traffic on the road since you would be arriving into the city during the afternoon rush hour when everyone is heading home after work. Rather than subjecting you to long waits with stop and go traffic, you will head southwest and skirt the city by going into the state of Morelos and to its capital city, Cuernavaca. The second reason for going there is that you will be able to visit the Palace of Cortés, one of his many homes which has now been converted into a museum. Also, your accommodations for this evening will be at another beautiful house constructed by Cortéz. It was a sugar mill hacienda built in 1530 and has now been converted into the Hotel & Spa Hacienda de Cortés. Dinner will be on your own. (B,L)
At the conclusion of a relaxing breakfast, everyone will travel to the city center of Cuernavaca to tour the Palace of Cortés. Today it is officially called the Museo Regional Cuauhnáhuac. This museum has artifacts dating back from prehistoric times to pre-Hispanic and all the way into the early 1900’s. There are also items related to Cortéz and murals painted by Diego Rivera. Interestingly, this building is the oldest preserved colonial era civil structure in México.
Other places you will explore include the Cathedral of Cuernavaca, the first chapel built in Mesoamerica, and the Borda Garden, an estate built by a wealthy family who earned their fortune from mining silver. Lunch will be at a local restaurant. Later, you will return to the Hotel & Spa Hacienda de Cortés to relax and enjoy its tranquil beauty. A short tour of the grounds and explanation of the history of this ex-hacienda will be given. Dinner will be on your own. (B,L)
After enjoying a delicious breakfast at the hotel, everyone will check out and travel north to continue the story of the Spaniard’s trek as they finally reached and entered the Aztec capital, Tenochititlán (México City). Cuauhtemoc will “set the stage” regarding the events which occurred upon meeting the Aztec King, Moctezuma. Your first stop will be the actual meeting place (now a hospital) where Montezuma and Hernán Cortés first met. It is also the place where the bones of Cortés are buried.
Your group will then continue on to the Aztec Temple (Templo Mayo) adjacent to the main México City plaza. Remains of this structure can still be viewed along with an impressive modern museum containing many artifacts relating to this ancient history. Later, you will visit the National Palace with its famous murals of Diego Rivera and also you can marvel at the huge 400 year old Metropolitan Cathedral.
On this night you will be staying several blocks from the main plaza at the Hotel Metropol or similar. Dinner will be on your own. (B,L)
What a great way to conclude your journey to México City. This morning you will travel down the main boulevard called, Paseo de la Reforma. It is a wide avenue modeled after the Champs-Élysées in Paris. Your first stop will be to see the spot where legend has it that Cortéz wept for his men because … well … you will just have to let Temo tell you the story.
The National Anthropology Museum is cavernous with thousands upon thousands of artifacts housed in several building. It is definitely a must-explore place when in México City, especially if you are a history, anthropology, and/or archaeology enthusiast. And even if you are not, you will still be amazed at the really cool “stuff” you will see. Your group will have a private tour of the sections of the museum most tied to the Spanish conquest story.
After lunch at a local restaurant, your history lesson continues by exploring the castle on the hill in Chapultepec Park. Over the many years, this impressive mansion was home to a military academy, used as a residence for several Mexican presidents, and was also the location of the final battle in the Mexican-American War in September, 1847. This castle now houses México’s National Museum of History.
In the evening, everyone will partake in a fun and festive farewell dinner to enjoy your final night of Mexican hospitality and to share memories of your last 9 days of travel and exploration. You will overnight again at the Hotel Metropol (or similar). (B,L,D)
Buffet breakfast at the hotel
Taxi to the México City International Airport (on your own)
Travel Day Home
*2019 Tour Dates:
* Includes day of arrival & departure
Attention: Educators, History Buffs & Travel Organizers
Put together a private group of 10-18 people and your tour package is free! (see “Not Included” items below). We can provide you with advertising materials for promotional use. Please contact us for more information and available dates.
Interested in making this a private small group tour? Contact us for available dates and special prices.
Single: $430 USD
Tour Price Includes
Airport pick-up in Veracruz, all ground transportation, the services of your historian trip leader, activities per itinerary, all entrance fees, 9 nights of hotel lodgings, 9 breakfasts, 8 lunches, 1 dinner, access to drinking water each day, all taxes
Trip Price Does Not Include
Airfare, transfer to México City Airport on day 10, additional activities & meals not listed, alcoholic drinks, trip interruption insurance, travel medical insurance, gratuity for your trip leader and any other helpful people
Who Might Like This Educational Tour? Teachers of history & Latin American studies / High School & College students / History buffs
Trip Difficulty: Easy-Moderate
Group Size: 8-18 people
Suggested Minimum Age: 12 years old
Arrival & Departure Location: City of Veracruz (VER) / México City (MEX)
Deposit: $350 USD / person