Itinerary advice: 1st trip DH, SMDA, Puebla, Oaxaca
Replies: 11 - Last Post: Sep 23, 2012 4:20 PM Last Post By: chris0daniel
Sep 22, 2012 9:31 PM
I'm traveling to Mexico 10/20-11/4 (approx 14 days-might be able to eek out another day) and trying to work out my itinerary. This is my first trip-very excited to visit this magnificent country! Using FF miles. Would like to be in Oaxaca for Day of Dead. My details: I like to wander/explore, see the must sees, and do one or several guided tours (walking and bus overview when I arrive). I like fabulous guides, charming B&Bs conducive to meeting other travelers and/or interesting historic hotels. Not beachy or sporty-so I prefer to focus on the people, history, culture, architecture, folk art. Solo female. Vegan diet. Sadly I don't speak Spanish, but understand a little b/c I speak some French. Budget is somewhat flexible since I'm using miles. I want to do it all, of course, but I think this trip I'd like to visit Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajauto, and Oaxaca. Possibly Puebla if I take the bus from DF to Oaxaca.
--I think I'd like to spend 5-7 days in Oaxaca. 2-3 days in DF and 2-3 in SMdA. Maybe a day in Guanajuato and a day in Puebla en route to Oaxaca. The math might not work out...does this itinerary look doable or too rushed?
--Should I split it up in a different way - how much time should I allot for these destinations? Or should I drop one or two locations and save for another trip-if so which one(s)?
--Should I fly to Guanajuato first then head to San Miguel and then DF and on to Oaxaca? Or start in DF? Or DF after after Oaxaca before going home (hotel might not be available though). Since I'm using flyer miles, I have some flexibility and can consider flights vs bus.
--Would you fly to Oaxaca from Mexico City or take scenic route via bus, stopping overnight in Puebla?
--Will I be able to navigate subway travel with limited knowledge of Spanish language?
--I've done some searching and will continue to review, but wanted to ask for guidance now because the B&B I like in Mexico City has very few openings so I hope to make some decisions tonight about when to go to DF before it's sold out.
Sep 22, 2012 11:26 PM
1"...does this itinerary look doable or too rushed?"
To me it looks rushed. To maximize your enjoyment, consider dividing your limited time between just three places. Also, consider devoting 3 or 4 full days to Mexico City instead just 2-3.
How can you minimize the amount of time that you'll spend transiting between destinations? It's helpful that you are willing to take domestic flights within Mexico but the process of getting back and forth between Mexico City and the Bajio (SMA and Guanajuato) does not necessarily lend itself well to doing that.
You apparently will conclude your trip's sightseeing in Oaxaca, so (assuming your international flight out of Mexico City is mid-day or later) consider possibly flying home from Oaxaca in single day, via connecting flights. Or, at the end of your trip you could bus from Oaxaca to Puebla, spend one or two nights there, and then bus directly to Mexico City's airport. (Purchase your Puebla-to-MEX airport bus ticket a day or two in advance.)
If by chance your FF miles will permit you to fly into the Leon/Bajio airport, instead into of Mexico City's, start your trip at SMA (or maybe instead Guanajuato). Proceed onward to Mexico City, and later Oaxaca, by bus.
Or, to reduce bus travel, you could drop SMA/Guanajuato out of the itinerary and substitute instead three or four days in the states of Puebla/Tlaxcala which travelers pass by in route to Oaxaca. For example, you could spend one one night in the attractive small town of Chignahuapan, Puebla, which has a hot spring "balneario", followed by two nights in the small city of Tlaxcala. Here are links to images of Chignahuapan:
Sep 23, 2012 5:53 AM
2My only advice would be to allocate more time to Mexico City. Then again, I'm a big city person that loves exploring all the different neighbourhoods. It depends, then, on what your interests are. For me, the bare minimum would be one day Centro, one day Teotihuacan, one day Anthropology Museum, and one day Coyoacan. If the B'n'B you speak of is the Red Tree House, then you can spend your evenings in Condesa and Roma. If not, then that's another day! Oaxaca, on the other hand, can be seen in two days plus a day for a tour...though if you just want to live somewhere fairly slow-paced then spending more time in Oaxaca and really getting to know it could be advantageous. Perhaps you can indicate to us what you like to do while traveling and we can make better suggestions?
You'll be fine on the Metro (and don't forget the Metrobus!). Also when you factor in travel times to and from the airport, check-in, etc, etc, you don't really save that much time flying to Oaxaca over bus. The bus is very comfortable and scenic and, indeed, stopping off in Puebla is a good idea. As said, you can save some time by busing directly from the airport to Puebla upon arrival or before departure. Have fun!
Sep 23, 2012 6:33 AM
3As with #s 1 & 2, I would allow at least 3 days in D.F. Then I'd either plan 2 days in San Miguel or drop it altogether (that would be my preference), and borrow a day from Oaxaca to use in Guanajuato for at least 2 days there and 3 days is better. Adding travel time between destinations to that and you've filled your 14-day itinerary - in fact it would still be too rushed for my tastes.
As for routing,I'd base out of D.F. and take a bus from there to Guanajuato (and San Miguel if you like). Then return to D.F. for a day or so before taking the bus to Oaxaca and returning to D.F.
I would strongly caution against trying to do any more than that as each of those destinations has plenty to see and do and you have a couple of long bus rides to make.
(by the way, you'll just miss the festival internacional cervantino in Guanajuato which is October 3 - 21 this year. Probably a good thing as the city will be filled to the max then).
Mexico is by and large a carniverous country, but there are more and more vegetarian restaurants popping up and there is a huge selection of temperate and tropical fruits in the mercados. Check previous threads on eating vegetarian in Mexico.
The metro in D.F. is well organized and has maps on the cars and stations to keep you going in the right direction. Even without Spanish you should be able to get around on it. A regular contributor to this forum recently completed an entire webstie guide to the metro in D.F. Search the forum for it.
Sep 23, 2012 7:57 AM
4I think its too rushed to really enjoy it. Personally I would do a few days in Gunajuato with a day trip to San Miguel then head down to Oaxaca. With the type of traveling you indicate you have planned you will really need reservations in Oaxaca for DOD and time is getting short. Even though DF is fascinating I am not a big city kind of person- if you are, its not to be missed. If you do go, the secret for the metro is really studying a metro map ahead of time. That has allowed me to smoothly go go wherever I have wanted in the past.
Sep 23, 2012 8:03 AM
5So has DOD turned into a tourist attraction in Oaxaca now.
Sep 23, 2012 9:32 AM
6You all are AWESOME. Thanks so much for the input. My trip planning is a bit late due to sorting out work schedule. Was considering BA or SEA, but threw a few darts at the globe and Oaxaca seemed like a nice idea. I then discovered that my dates just so happen to coincide with DOD. Lots for me to consider - I appreciate the consensus that my initial itinerary is too ambitious. I don't want to pack in too much and race. I like time to get a sense of a place. I know I'm going to need several trips to Mexico at least. I wasn't sure if I should add DF- I love cities-I live in NYC-so while I want to experience DF and will do as advised and spend at least 3 days, I want to (need to) experience some slower-paced environments as well. I think I'd like to do several of the tourist must sees (in and around DF)-history/culture/musuems-but not too much time indoors, but also build time for walking the neighborhoods and soaking in the architecture and atmosphere and people watching. I also like a little wandering streets with interesting shopping and craft or antique markets. And yes, hoping to stay at the Treehouse.
I thought it would be good to settle in one location for a little stretch which is why I built in the time in Oaxaca allowing for several half or day trips as well as city exploration. I was worried about DOD being too touristy, but some of the locals convinced me it was a special time and to catch if I can. I have hotel-not what I'd choose if I have more advance time, but seems okay.
I was thinking of DF-Puebla-Oax/and surrounding towns only, but friends who've been to GTO and SMA got me intrigued with those charming options as well... I checked flight to Leon-good suggestion. So if I do north-I'll plan 2 days GTO, only one day SMA. If not, DF and head south only stopping in Puebla or elsewhere along the way - (thanks for the terrific photos Chris). Good to know about crowds in GTO for festival. If I do go, I'll try to avoid starting there. I'm arriving MEX on a fri night or Sat midday (or maybe thurs if I get more days off) -are there certain days of the week I should try to hit (or not hit) in any of the locations in terms of great markets--or things closed on certain days? Finally, gracias for the vegetarian info!! I'm a grab and go eater-don't spend much time in restaurants, but certainly great to know the options and I'll definitely do a search.
Enjoy the day all.
Again-thanks! Appreciate the time you took to address my questions.
Sep 23, 2012 10:31 AM
7are there certain days of the week I should try to hit (or not hit) in any of the locations in terms of great markets--or things closed on certain days?
Sunday is a wonderful day to visit Mexico City. Most of the museums are free, and Mexicans take their families to the park (some streets are closed for citizen cycling too, but I understand you're not sporty). Mondays are good days to travel as museums are usually closed (but the Amparo in Puebla is open and free). Archaeological sites are open every day.
Sep 23, 2012 12:02 PM
Sep 23, 2012 1:03 PM
9Lots of good recommendations already, but I will add a few of my own. It worked well for us to spend time in DF at the end of our trip, rather than at the beginning. It is an amazing city and well worth as much time as you have to spare. That said, even for a city person, it is very overwhelming (in a good way, but still overwhelming) and we were glad we had a chance to get accustomed to getting ourselves around in Spanish (we speak only a little, but it helps a lot,) in a slower paced area first. By the time we got to DF we were much more confident and ready to strike out and explore.
Oaxaca is a great place to base yourself for at least 5 days. There is much to see in the city itself, which is very walkable; there are many day trips you can take: and the food is amazing. We got ourselves around on public transportation, but also treated ourselves to a guide for one day trip and one evening to visit Day of the Dead celebrations in a nearby village, where it definitely is not touristy. Titosarah, the Oaxaca expert over at the TripAdvisor travel forum, runs a B&B outside Oaxaca and can suggest itineraries for day trips on your own or with him. We thought he was excellent.
Sep 23, 2012 4:03 PM
10So many helpful suggestions! Gracias. I looked at Google images of the art fair -- I'll plan to be in DF on a Sat. Cascade Bob, I'm curious about your suggestion of DF as a base and to take rt bus to GTO. Can you elaborate? I figured flying directly (from US) to BJX-take cab to GTO hotel and then bus back to DF for 3-4 days of visiting would eliminate some time RT on the bus? I read somewhere that bus DF to GTO is 5 hours.
If I can get more time, I'm considering this-thanks to the advice here-let me know if it's still too ambitious:
Arrive Thurs aft 10/18. Spend 3 full days GTO.
Mon afternoon 10/22 possibly head to SMA (if not, more time in GTO-I think SMA is closer to DF(?), I read that I could cab or bus from SMA to Queretaro in about 1 hr-then non-stop bus to DF is under 3 hrs)
Depart for DF via bus Tues night or early wed am. Spend 10/24-27: Wed, Thurs, Friday, Sat in/around DF.
Depart DF Sat night for Puebla. Sun all day-Puebla - Monday midday continue to Oax. Monday night 10/29-Mon 11/5 in Oax.
Deparat Oax midday Monday for NYC
Great advice to do DF at the end, but I want to be in Oax for DoD and have to be back at work week of Nov 5. If I end up with this itinerary, my concern is that GTO might be all booked up due to festival... I'll start investigating.
Sep 23, 2012 4:20 PM
11" If not, DF and head south only stopping in Puebla or elsewhere along the way - (thanks for the terrific photos Chris)..."
Chignahauan, where the photos were taken, can be reached via frequent bus service from Mexico City's TAPO terminal-a trip of three hours. Later, departing from Chignahuapan, it would be about an hour and a 1/2 by bus to Tlaxcala, which is itself 1/2 hour north of Puebla's CAPU termina. Buses depart from CAPU for Oxaaca, four hours away.
Here is an updated version of information that I previously posted about Chignahuapan:
"Another pleasant way to visit Northern Puebla, rather quickly, would be to make a one or two night detour from Mexico City (or Puebla) to Chignahuapan and/or Zacatlan. Those towns are located thirty minutes apart from one another, about two hours from Puebla (or three hours from Mexico City's TAPO terminal) . Bus service is frequent."
"Of the two, smaller Chignahuapan is my personal favorite. It attracts Mexican day and overnight visitors who soak at a nearby hot springs resort and also admire its attractive plaza, church, and historical murals. Tourists come to Zacatlan to view an impressive canyon at the edge of the town, stay at eco-tourism campgrounds there, and/or tour one of Latin America’s principal monumental clock factories."
"CHIGNAHUAPAN – Smaller and less hectic than nearby Zacatalan, this is a hot spring/spa town. Arriving and leaving town is easy because all of Chignahuapan’s public transportation departs from a compact area about two blocks from the plaza. I stayed at the Hotel Vasquez, across the street from the side of the town’s principal church. For 180 pesos (US $14 in 2011) I had a small, simple room with its own bath and cable TV. There are also several other hotels in town, including one which looked considerably more upscale. (It probably costs two or three times as much as the 180 pesos that I paid at the Hotel Vasquez.)"
"During the day a bus continually makes 20 minute round trips back and forth between Chignahuapan and the canyon bottom balneario resort. Lodging at the resort is very expensive but admission to swim all day in the thermal waters is reasonable, in 2012 just 100 pesos."
(4 star Hotel)
From US$70.00 per night
(3 star Hotel)
From US$92.59 per night
(3 star Hotel)
From US$82.49 per night