Day of the Dead
Merida is undoubtedly the best place on the Yucatan Peninsula to experience for your yourself the colour, customs and emotion of the Day of the Dead holiday.Learn More
Throughout the colonial period, Mérida was by far the most important city of the province and was very aristocratic, segregating the Indians and mestizos from the Spaniards who lived in the centre of town. The residents of Merida once liked to think or it as the "Paris of the New World" and at the turn of the last century, the city became very rich from the profits from henequen. The colonial zocalo is ideal for watching the world go by, and it is nigh on impossible to resist one of the beautiful hammocks that the city is also well-known for.
Everyone will have heard of the Day of the Dead and associate it with both Halloween and Mexico. But how much do you really know about the significance of the holiday? And did you know that you can experience for yourself the sights, sounds and smells of one of the great festivals celebrated anywhere in the world? Find out more with our beginners guide to the Day of the Dead.
What is it all about?
The Day of the Dead is actually a multi-day holiday in Mexico, the main purpose of which is to get together with friends and family to remember and pray for loved ones that have passed away. The gates of heaven are said to open, first to allow the souls of young children back out, and then the adults the next day. It is a mixture of the sombre and the surreal, private memorials and public parades.
Where do the celebrations originate from?
The origins of the Day of the Dead are found in the Catholic beliefs of the country. The day serves to offer prayers for the souls of the deceased, seeking to ease their passage into heaven from the state of purgatory some may find themselves in. Going further back in Mexican history, the Aztec civilisation actually dedicated an entire month to the departed.
When does the festival take place?
The Day of the Dead festival is actually three days, beginning with Halloween on October 31st, followed by El Dia de los Inocentes on November 1st, a day dedicated to children and ending on November 2nd with El Dia de los Muertos itself. Preparations can often take place throughout the year though, and shrines built in homes can be maintained beyond the holiday period.
Where is it celebrated?
The festival is celebrated throughout the towns and cities of Mexico and to a lesser extent in other Latin American countries such as Guatemala, Ecuador and Brazil. The growing Mexican population in the United States has given rise to ever more prominent celebrations north of the border.
What happens during the festivities?
The Day of the Dead has gained worldwide fame for the vivid La Catrina skeleton costumes and spectacular parades that bring the celebrations to life and attract increasing numbers of tourists.
The skull is the symbol of the celebrations, it is traced back thousands of years when skulls were kept as mementos and featured heavily in rituals and celebrations. Today, sugar skulls are intricately painted in bright colours as part of the festivities and feature on many masks, whilst women often paint half their face in a skull, symbolising the transition between life and death.
Another important facet of the holiday is the Pan de Muerto - a large sugary loaf of bread made with citrus fruits, often moulded into different shapes on top.
Beyond the razzmatazz of the celebrations and costumes though, the holiday has a sobre, serious and deeply moving tone. In the run up to the day loved ones will attend to and decorate the graves of the deceased and prepare ofrendas (offerings).
Families often gather in homes to remember departed relatives, creating elaborate altars, in which candles are ceremoniously lit, decorating them with flowers, photos and mementos of the dead, as well as the offerings of lovingly baked food, fresh fruit or favourite items of clothing. Toys are given for young children or sometimes cigarettes and alcohol for adults. The purpose of this is to attract the attention of the souls of the deceased and open their ears to the prayers of their family. Amusing anecdotes are shared to lighten the mood and often short poems are written in homage.
How can you experience it?
Some of the most authentic places to experience the Day of the Dead for yourself are the wonderful colonial era town of San Miguelle de Allende, which has a four day cultural festival and a fabulous market as part of the celebrations, Mérida on the Yucatán peninsula and Oaxaca, with its night-time processions and graveyard fun fairs. Thanks to James Bond and the epic fictional parade through the centre of the city in the recent Spectre film, you can now attend a Day of the Dead parade in Mexico City - so spectacular was it that the city decided to put on one for real in 2016.
Given the number of visitors which are attracted to the celebrations, it is never too early to plan your trip. Veloso Tours can find you the perfect hotel from which to base yourself and create an authentic and carefully-planned itinerary to help you experience the best of Mexico during this time of celebration.
14 Nights from £3,414 €3,196 $3,438
A land steeped in ancient history, colonial past and scattered with Mayan and Aztec pyramids. We include the stunning Chiapas region with villages nestled in mountains.
14 Nights from £3,414 €3,196 $3,438Full Itinerary Contact Specialist
Day 1 - Departure from UK
Day 2 - Anthropological Museum & Pyramids of Teotihuacan
Day 3 - Mexico City at leisure
Day 4 - Puebla
Day 5 - Monte Albán
Day 6 - Oaxaca at leisure
Day 7 - Sumidero Canyon
Day 8 - San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan
Day 9 - San Cristobal at leisure
Day 10 - Transfer to Palenque
Day 11 - Tour of Palenque site
Day 12 - Tour of Merida
Day 13 - Uxmal excursion
Day 14 - Chichén Itzá
Day 15 - Return home
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Day 1 - Departure from UK
Day 2 - Tulum
Day 3 - Kohunlich
Day 4 - Chicanná & Calakmul
Day 5 - Campeche
Day 6 - Edzná
Day 7 - Labná, Kabah and Uxmal
Day 8 - Oxkutzcab
Day 9 - Merida
Day 10 - Chichén Itzá
Day 11 - Depart to UK
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Day 1 - Fly to Cancun
Day 2-4 - Hacienda San Jose, Merida
Day 5 - Transport to Hacienda Temozon, visit Uxmal, continue to Campeche
Day 6-7 - At leisure in Campeche
Day 8 - Transport to Merida
Day 9 - At leisure in Merida
Day 10 - Chichén Itzá
Day 11-14 - At leisure at your beach resort
Day 15 - Flight back home
Ninos Mayas Tour
13 Nights from £2,429 €2,014 $2,157
Experience the achievements of the ancient civilisation of the Mayas who built fortress cities with huge pyramids and were pioneers in the observation of the universe. After t…
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Journey the backroads to discover seldom visited corners of the Yucatan. History unfolds in the colonial splendour of the cities and the half-forgotten pyramids of ancient ci…
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Day 1 - Arrive to Cancun
Day 2-4 - Explore rural Mayan towns and surrounds
Day 5-8 Drive along the coast
Day 9-10 - Celestun Nature Reservere
Day 11-12 - Visit ancient pyramids
Day 13-14 - Visit Tulum
Day 15 - Transfer for flight back to UK
Ambos Mundos Tour
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The proud, defiant traditions of Cuba contrast with impressive Mayan pyramids of the Yucatan, both sharing similar Spanish colonial heritage but very different modern history…
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Day 1 - Travel to Havana
Day 2 - Havana city tour
Day 3 - Havana at leisure
Day 4 - Vinales
Day 5 - Havana at leisure
Days 6-7 - Yucatan
Days 8-9 - Chichén Itzá
Days 10-13 - Leisure in Playa del Carmen
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Mighty Aztec and Mayan civilisations built sprawling cities with fabulous pyramids. Visit the markets, admire the weaving, witness the colonial influences and enjoy modern lif…
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Day 1 - Flight to Mexico City
Day 2 - Visit Archaeological Museum and Teotihuacan
Day 3 - Day at leisure in Mexico
Day 4 - Fly to Oaxaca
Day 5 - Visit Zapotec archaeological sites
Day 6 - Fly to Merida
Day 7 - Day at leisure in Merida
Day 8 - Visit Uxmal
Day 9 - Depart for Chichén Itzá
Day 10 - Visit Chichen Itza and Playa del Carmen
Day 11 - Explore Tulum. Return via Xel-Ha Laguna
Day 12 - Transport to Belize continue to Lamanai Lodge
Day 13-14 - Visit Mayan Ruins and explore the forest
Day 15 - Tranfer to Belize Airport and flight to Flores, Guatemala
Day 16 - Tikal Mayan ruins
Day 17 - At leisure in Tikal, fly to Guetemala city
Day 18 - Sunday Market
Day 19 - Santiago Atitlán
Days 20 - 21- Antigua
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Visit Mayan villages, colourful weavers and the massive pyramids built by powerful civilisations that mysteriously abandoned their cities to the encoaching jungle.
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Day 1 - Flight to Mexico Cty
Day 2 - Flight to Vlahermosa and visit Agua Azul
Day 3 - Palenque and flight to Merida
Day 4 - Uxmal
Day 5 - Chichén Itzá
Day 6 - Cancún
Days 7-8 - Tikal
Day 9 - Ceibal
Day 10-12 - Aguateca & Antigua
Day 13 - Indian market
Day 14 - Lake Atitlán
Day 15 - Market at Solola
Day 16 - Return to UK
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Day 1 - Flight to Mexico City
Day 2 - Mexico City at leisure
Day 3 - City Tour of Mexico City
Day 4 - Pyramids of Teotihuacan & Guadalupe
Day 5 - Puebla & Travel to Oaxaca
Day 6 - Oaxaca tour & ruins of Monte Alban
Day 7 - Site of Mitla and Teotlitan & Tule villages
Day 8 - Travel to Tehuantepec
Day 9 - Sumidero Canyon Boat Trip
Day 10 - City tour San Cristobal
Day 11 - Misol-Ha & travel to Palenque
Day 12 - Visit Palenque archaeological site
Day 13 - Visit Uxmal ruins & travel to Merida
Day 14 - Explore Chichén Itzá
Day 15 - Playa del Carmen at leisure
Day 16 - Return flight
Day 17 - Arrive home
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