Firm crafts tour of colonial city

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Siesta Tours, an operator here that specializes in escorted group tours to Mexico's colonial cities, launched the Treasures of Yucatan program, a six-night tour of the city of Merida, the capital of the state of Yucatan.

Scheduled for March 8 to 14, the program was designed to allow clients time to visit the Yucatan's cultural and archaeological sites while experiencing Merida, a city that has been described as the most European of Mexico's colonial cities.

A monument depicting the history of Mexico adorns a traffic circle in Merida, Mexico, a destination featured in a new package by Siesta Tours. Merida's monopoly on the world sisal market during World War I enabled it to claim more millionaires per capita than any other city in the world. The Belle Epoch mansions that line the Paseo Montejo, often referred to as the Champs Elysees of Mexico, are evidence of the city's history of wealth and leisure.

According to Marion Bayer, founder and director of Siesta Tours, "Everything about our program is planned so participants can enjoy the hospitality and fine dining that Merida offers. All meals are taken al fresco. We'll dine at sidewalk cafes, patio and garden restaurants, on verandas and balconies. Our pace is slow and easy so we can savor the flavor of colonial Mexico while enjoying the diversity of attractions."

Clients will stay at the Hotel Casa del Balam, a five-star hotel located across from the Opera House in the heart of the historic district.

The Casa del Balam features a swimming pool, a patio restaurant, elevators and central air conditioning with individual controls in each room.

Bayer said one of the trip's high points is a day trip to the Mayan site of Uxmal, considered to be the most impressive of the pre-Columbian archaeological sites in North America.

Other day-trip sites include the Celestun Biosphere Reserve, which is a national park/ecological preserve and the winter home to thousands of American flamingos, and the Maya/Spanish-colonial town of Izamal, the site of both the tallest pyramid in the Yucatan and the largest monastery in the Americas.

Activities include a horse-drawn carriage ride along Paseo Montejo, a visit to a restored 19th-century hacienda, attendance at several open-air concerts and a performance of regional folk dances.

One of the highlights is a free day to enjoy Merida en Domingo, a daylong festival held in the main plaza every Sunday.

The tour is priced at $1,595 per person, double ($1,825, single). The land-only price is $1,095, double, and $1,325, single. The tour is limited to 25 participants. Commission on the plan is 10%.

The tour includes air fare from Houston to Merida on Continental; hotel accommodations; most meals; ground transportation; admission to all sites and attractions; gratuities, and the services of a tour guide.

For information or reservations, call (800) 679-2746 or visit the Web at www.siestatours.com.

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