Mexico's Art, Culture, and Cuisine with Denver Botanic Gardens

July 20 - 28, 2022

Denver Botanic Gardens and Reefs to Rockies are offering an unforgettable trip this summer that highlights Mexico’s art, culture and cuisine. This 9-day journey takes you to Mexico City, Puebla and Oaxaca.

Yvonne Garcia Bardwell, Associate Director of Community Relations at Denver Botanic Gardens, guides this off-the-beaten path experience through Mexico City, Puebla and Oaxaca.


Day 1 (Wed, July 20) – Arrival/ Mexico City ~ Arrival to Benito Juárez International Airport (MEX) and transfer to hotel. For those arriving by early afternoon, an optional tour of Chapultepec Castle is available.

Accommodations: Zocalo Central or similar

Meals: None

Estimated Drive Time Today: MEX Airport to Hotel – approximately 30-45 mins.

Day 2 (Thurs, July 21) – Mexico City ~ One of the largest metropolitan areas in the world, Mexico City is a fascinating capital that seamlessly blends old and new. The city is also world-renowned for its culinary scene. Your first full day in Mexico begins with an introduction to the city’s most beloved street foods. For locals working in the city, it’s just as cost-effective to go to a local vendor for a freshly prepared meal than to bring food from home. During our walking tour, we’ll meet popular vendors and learn their stories as we sample a variety of local favorites from cemitas to tlacoyos.

This afternoon, we’ll visit the Frida Kahlo Museum, also known as La Casa Azul (Blue House) for the structure’s cobalt-blue walls. Located in the Coyoacan neighborhood, La Casa Azul was the birthplace of and childhood home of Kahlo. She lived there for a number of years with husband Diego Rivera. The museum’s collection is displayed in the rooms of the house, which remains much as it was in the 1950s.  

Accommodations: Zocalo Central or similar

Meals: Breakfast and Lunch

Estimated Drive Time Today: Hotel to Coyoacan – approximately 30 mins.

Day 3 (Fri, July 22) – Mexico City ~ Morning folk art workshop with acclaimed Mexico City contemporary artists Ruben Mica and Oscar Becerra. The work of Becerra and Mica are on exhibit around the world and in prestigious institutions such as the Museum of Popular Art in Mexico City. 

Afternoon visit to Xochimilco Floating Gardens, Mexico City’s famous canals and the last remnants of a water transport system built by the AztecsWith its colorful trajineras (gondolas) and chinampas (traditional floating gardens), Xochimilco offers visitors an explosion of colors and festive experience. The chinampas are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and are still used today for cultivation. 

Accommodations: Zocalo Central or similar

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

Estimated Drive Time Today: Hotel to Xochimilco – approximately 1 hr.

Day 4 (Sat, July 23) – Mexico City/ Cacaxtla & Cholula/ Puebla ~ Morning departure to Puebla with stops at Cacaxtla and Cholula Archaeological sites en route. The Cacaxtla Archaeological Site is one of the most interesting and unique in all of Mexico. Aside from its massive structures and breathtakingly beautiful vistas, this ancient city in Central Mexico boasts a rather out-of-place feature — Maya murals. The Great Pyramid of Cholula is the largest pyramid known to exist in the world today. After time to explore Cacaxtla and Cholula, we’ll continue to Puebla with an early evening arrival.

Accommodations: Mision Puebla or similar

Meals: Breakfast and Lunch

Estimated Drive Time Today: Hotel to Cacaxtla – approximately 2 hrs; Cacaxtla to Cholula – approximately 45 mins; Cholula to Hotel – approximately 30 mins.

Day 5 (Sun, July 24) – Puebla ~ Unlike many places in Mexico, Puebla is not a Mesoamerican city. It was a new city built by the Spanish alongside the pre-Columbian town of Cholula. A river divided Puebla with the Spanish on one side and the indigenous population across the water. One of the oldest cities in the country, Puebla’s well-preserved colonial architecture earned its place on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We’ll start the day with a short city tour of Puebla including a talavera (hand-painted pottery) artisan demonstration. Puebla is sometimes called “The City of Tiles” because of the Talavera tiles adorning many buildings. There’s time this afternoon to explore on your own.

Accommodations: Mision Puebla or similar

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 6 (Mon, July 25) – Puebla/ Oaxaca City ~ Morning departure to Oaxaca City arriving in time for this afternoon’s Guelaguetza performances. The name Guelaguetza is a Zapotec word meaning “offering”. Its meaning goes far beyond the festival of the same name. In traditional villages when there is cause to celebrate, people attending the party will bring items necessary for the celebration (food, drink, and more). Each person’s offering or “guelaguetza” allows the party to take place and becomes a part of reciprocal exchange, reinforcing social ties in the community. The streets of Oaxaca are filled with color and people gather throughout the city to enjoy the celebration. We’ll spend the afternoon and evening in Oaxaca City joining in on the celebration, including the festival at Fortin Hill Auditorium overlooking the city. 

Accommodations: Quinta Real or similar

Meals: Breakfast and Lunch

Estimated Drive Time Today: Puebla to Oaxaca City – approximately 4.5-5 hrs.

If Guelaguetza is postponed, an alternate afternoon activity will be scheduled today.

Day 7 (Tues, July 26) – Oaxaca City/ San Martin Tilcajete ~ Oaxaca is famous for alebrijes (brightly colored Mexican folk art sculptures of fantastical creatures). First, in San Martin Tilcajete, we’ll see local families carving and painting alebrijes for sale. Then, we’ll visit the studio of Jacobo and Maria Angeles in San Martin Tilcajete. Jacobo is a master carver and his wife, Maria, paints trademark stylized Zapotec designs. Their popular alebrijes are shipped all over the world. Get creative during our hands-on alebrije workshop.

Accommodations: Quinta Real or similar

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Estimated Drive Time Today: Hotel to San Martin Tilcajete – approximately 45 mins.

Day 8 (Wed, July 27) Tlacolula/ Ejutla ~ Our day begins with a visit to Tlacolula, a traditional tianguis (“market”) that has been taking place since Zapotec and Mixtec times.  We’ll enjoy breakfast at Tlacolula before continuing to Ejutla for an interactive culinary experience.

Accommodations: Quinta Real or similar

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Estimated Drive Time Today: Hotel to Tlacolula de Matamoros – approximately 45 mins; Ejutla to Hotel – approximately 1.5 hrs.

Day 9 (Thurs, July 28) – Departure ~ Transfer to OAX Airport in time for our flight home.

Meals: Breakfast


Price: $4795* per person based on two double sharing double occupancy accommodations; add $100 per person for non-members of Denver Botanic Gardens. Supplement for private accommodations: $855*.

Inclusions: accommodations, airport transfers on Day 1 and 9, private transportation from Day 2-8, full-time local bilingual trip leader, trip host from Denver Botanic Gardens, entrance fees as listed, meals as listed, workshop with Ruben Mica and Oscar Becerra, alebrije workshop, cooking class, basic no trip cost travel insurance (pre-departure cancellation can be added at additional cost), gratuities at restaurants for included meals, gratuities for your trip host and driver, purified water in vehicle, and sales taxes.

Exclusions: flights, passport/visa fees, optional gratuities for hotel staff, optional activities, taxis, medical testing, and personal expenses.

Group Size: 7-9 participants + DBG Trip Host + Local Trip Leader

Traveling during Covid-19: All participants must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 prior to travel. Participants must also present a negative Covid-19 test taken within three calendar days prior to the trip start date. Safety precautions during the trip will also be implemented to enhance traveler safety.

Important Information: Itinerary has been built to allow flexibility to accommodate activities and sightseeing.  Included lunches and dinners will be at local markets or restaurants in the areas we explore. Every effort will be made to carry out all activities as planned and advertised, however, trip leaders reserve the right to make alterations, deletions, or modifications to the itinerary deemed necessary due to circumstances beyond their control.

About Your Host: Born and raised in South Texas, with a bilingual-bicultural background, Yvonne Garcia Bardwell brings a great mixture of experiences and knowledge to the tour. As the Associate Director of Community Relations at Denver Botanic Gardens, she is responsible for diversifying the Gardens’ constituency by establishing and strengthening relationships with community organizations across the Denver metro area. Since 2011, she has orchestrated Denver Botanic Gardens’ observance of Día de los Muertos – a celebration that has grown into a vibrant annual event celebrating one of Mexico’s greatest cultural legacies. Her multicultural orientation has developed through not only extensive world travel but also significant work and volunteer experiences as well as an academic focus on international and Spanish-language marketing. This tour offers an opportunity to educate and inspire, to create a connection to our past, and to learn about the cultural traditions of Mexico.

For more trip information, contact Reefs to Rockies (303.860.6045;