Read through one of our real client stories and her second trip with Jacada Travel through Guatemala and Mexico, detailing her experience with her personal travel designer Anna and the Jacada service, as well as the destinations she chose.
Client: S. Ghosh, Singapore
First trip with Jacada (May 2011): Brazil, Argentina, Chile & Peru
Second trip (May-June 2013): Guatemala & Mexico (Antigua, Lake Atitlan, Tikal, Palenque, Oaxaca, Puebla, Mexico City, Merida & Tulum)
Travel designer: Anna Mascaro
Where it all began, in Antigua
My trip started in Guatemala with the beautiful city of Antigua. The stunning bright colonial buildings, old cobbled streets, a perfect grid like structure caught in a valley surrounded by three volcanoes (active!) and beautiful rich countryside, all blend together perfectly making it a wonderful place to ‘just be’ in terms of climate and ambience. There is so much to do from visiting local coffee farms, going on various hikes, taking Spanish classes, practising salsa, making chocolate (Mayan style, delicious!), visiting a macadamia nut farm and even taking a chicken bus ride through neighbouring towns…plenty for all!
Second stop, Lake Atitlan
Lake Atitlan was my next stop and the views both day and night were completely mesmerising. I highly enjoyed my walk around the lake and visiting the local textiles and art galleries and it’s also a wonderful opportunity to see the vibrant markets and colourful lifestyle of the Mayan descendants today.
Tikal and farewell Guatemala
My final stop in Guatemala was Tikal and fascinating start of my introduction into the Mayan world and the incredible land of Mexico. Anyone that is interested in Maya history must make a stop in Tikal, Bonam pak and Palenque in my opinion as they are home to some of the most beautiful ruins and hand painted murals (1000 years old and still so brightly coloured!). It was quite exciting to enter Mexico on a little boat into Corozal too! 🙂
The next stop on my journey through Mexico was Oaxaca which for me was a big highlight. Aside from this being a beautiful city (another stunning colonial historical centre) it holds a lot of importance in history both from an archaeological and political perspective (not that I know much about either!) and is an area full of artistically gifted villages that have passed down skills from generation to generation in handicrafts and weaving. I had the pleasure of meeting a 95 year old woman who was stilly making clay pots spun by hand using simple plates, she was so full of life and amicable I’m sure any visitor would leave smiling and inspired in some way.
My next stop was the lovely city of Puebla which I found incredibly charming with its bright decorated buildings, cafes and shops. It’s famous hand painted pottery is beautiful and I’d recommend looking at dinner sets here for the quality and variety of designs available. Mexico is also famous for its mole which I thought were the best in oaxaca and puebla so a good place to try these along with the wonderful fresh hand made corn tortillas (no flour so gluten-free friendly!).
Mexico City is very exciting and the highlights for me were the national folkloric ballet, the museum of anthropology, Frieda Kahlo’s museum and quite random but the most beautiful post office I’ve ever seen (a particularly stunning colonial building).
Finally I ended in the beautiful Yucatan province which was like a different country altogether. The limestone surrounding the city of Merida and the old and beautiful haciendas from the glory days of their sisal production empires were fascinating to see. I particularly enjoyed the museum you are able to visit which had a stunning cenote and one of my favourites of the four I saw in the region (of 7000!). One of the ‘Wonders of the New World’, Chichen Itza is a must see, even though climbing is no longer allowed (preservation).
Tulum was a part of tropical heaven…Wonderful heat, palm trees everywhere, close to mayan ruins overlooking the sea and surrounded by numerous stunning cenotes. A great experience is to see the performance at Xcaret which has wonderful show including an acting, signing and dance performance representing Mexico through its history. I’d also recommend climbing the temple of the coba ruins while you still can. Finally my Mayan steam/ritual (Temazcal) was an amazing experience by the sea and so much more than I was expecting!
Please detail, in your own words, your personal experience with your travel designer?
My travel coordinator (Anna Mascaro) was quite simply a genius in creating a trip that genuinely felt like it was made just for me. From the moment we first exchanged mails leading up to the trip, to the moment I left Mexico Anna listened to every detail on what type of experiences I was looking for and applied her own expertise on Mexico in particular (incredible) to tailor the perfect itinerary for me in the timeframe I had (3 weeks).There wasn’t a day my email was left without a response or acknowledgement and I constantly felt (before and during the trip) that I was being looked after by Anna and her team to bring together a ‘perfect experience’ for me.
How did your travel designer do in matching you to the right accommodation for you?
My preference for a long time has been boutique and authentic accommodation and Anna had done an incredible job in selecting the perfect accommodation for me. Once I’d chosen one or two she picked up a feel for my preference and literally arriving at each hotel was a new surprise with a lovely note from Anna at each stop including more wonderful recommendations on what to do locally around the detailed itineraries she had planned and shown me. Her attention to detail and professionalism was consistent throughout the 3 months we were in contact which meant all I ever really had to say was ‘yes please’! I am quite a perfectionist as an individual and very organised so for me to be constantly happy with all of Anna’s suggestions across accommodation and activities is a testament to her ability to connect with each client and really listen to what it is they’re looking during their trip.
Can you give a description of your personal experience with your guides on the trip?
Francisco in Oaxaca – very knowledgeable and really attentive to personalising our time to what I would enjoy. For example we visited small family homes instead of primary markets in the villages and he took me to some really authentic restaurants, both of which I personally prefer. He also gave me so much insight into the history of Oaxaca (Zapotecs, the Spanish, Benito Huarez) and the current day (inspirational leaders of today, politics and of course authentic cuisine) so I would highly recommend him for any guests looking for accurate details.
Juan Carlos in Puebla and Mexico City – very charismatic and passionate about Mexico and its treasures. He was excellent at listening to the things I am intrigued by (dance, history, authentic cuisine, architecture and of course authentic cuisine). I have a lot of food intolerances and he was able to help me work around them to still be able to enjoy some examples of Mexico’s culinary magic! He also recommended a few additional things for me in tulum which I really did enjoy.
Guatemala – Jane in Antigua was a wonderful guide through the city’s history, landscape and modern day culture. She was also very responsive to all of my curious questions and I really felt I’d learned a lot from her. A british woman who’s lived in Antigua for 20 years so naturally as a Brit there’s a familiarity I’m sure others also feel when they take tours with her. I cannot remember his name off hand ( Im hoping Jacada have a record on file) but my guide around my hikes and tours around Antigua and lake Attitlan was very positive, flexible and constantly making sure my experience was the best it could be for me whether that be hiking around Lake Atitlan, visiting a local painters collection of making corn tortillas near a vibrant indigenous market place.
What is your opinion of Jacada Travel as a luxury tour operator and do you believe your trip was good value overall?
This is my second experience with Jacada Travel, the first being a three month around Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia two years ago and both times the attention to detail has been spectacular. Of course there is a premium associated with any luxury travel provider but in my opinion Jacada offer an excellent service across the board which more than justifies the additional expense.
Travelling as a young female alone throughout central and South America was made far easier by the support and efficiency Jacada provided. For any individual, couple or group unable to research for themselves or take a long period of time off for travel will greatly benefit from the attention to detail Jacada provide with every aspect. From the accommodation, daily activities, guide selection and recommended cuisine etc. any traveller can rest assured their experience will be unique and perfectly tailored to their own interests (every time).
I will continue to highly recommend anyone of my friends and family to use a Jacada and will be sure to continue to use them myself as I explore the Latin American and African countries more and more!