Travel: Day of the Dead can actually be a lot of fun
MEXICO's Day of the Dead vibrant annual festival blends indigenous and Hispanic traditions, and lively and joyful celebrations of colour, joy and love.
On November 1 and 2 each year it is believed that the border between the underworld and the world of the living is at its thinnest and so the departed can come back and visit. Families often decorate tombstones with marigold flowers to help guide the dead to their world, and offerings to ancestors including their favourite food and drink are erected in homes.
The festival's vibrancy makes it an excellent setting for the silver screen. The 2017 children's film Coco tells the story of a 12-year-old boy who is accidentally transported to the land of the dead during the festival, learning about the importance of family along the way. Film has also influenced the festival itself - a fictional Day of the Dead street parade, portrayed in the 2015 James Bond film Spectre, led to the creation of huge street parades in Mexico City in the past two years.
Contours Travel are offering a 19-day Discover Mexico itinerary for independent travellers. It will showcase Mexico's cuisine, colonial cities, traditional handcrafts, Maya ruins, majestic canyons and snowcapped volcanoes.
The tour begins in Mexico City and then tailored to meet individual needs and interests, and include the Day of the Dead festivities.
Contours Travel recommends including in your itinerary Oaxaca, a city in Southwest Mexico, where guests stay on the sixth, seventh and eighth nights of the itinerary, as the ideal place to experience the iconic event. Featuring both colonial architecture as well as ancient archaeological sites, the city will be abuzz with markets, bright tapestries, hundreds of altars, music, dancing and fireworks at the time of the festival.
Oaxaca is known for its cuisine, and traditional festival foods can be sampled, such as a sweet bread decorated with bones and skulls, sugar skulls and traditional hot beverages. Locals will have their faces painted to resemble skulls, donning suits and fancy dresses. A more sombre element of the festival is when families gather to spend the night beside tombstones, reminiscing about their loved ones by candlelight.
Other experiences on the Discover Mexico itinerary include traditional cooking classes, a boat ride along the Grijalva River, a swim by the Agua Azul waterfalls, and tours of ancient Maya and Aztec ruins.
Travellers can experience Mexico's Day of the Dead festival, Including accommodation, sightseeing and internal transfers, from $4499 per person, twin-share. Flights from Australia are extra.
For details and to book, call Contours Travel on 1300 135 391 or visit www.contourstravel.com.au.