The Flavors of Mexico, Exploring the Culture with a Famed Chef

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  • October 14 – 20, 2021
  • Mexico
  • Mexico
  • October 14 – 20, 2021
  • 7 days / 6 nights
  • 8-12 Guests


When I first went to Mexico with Iliana and Isabel, I quickly realized that even though it was my 11th trip to the country, I’d never really seen or understood the majestic culture that makes up Mexico. I’d experienced all the hotspots like Tulum and Sayulita, had loved Mexico City and San Miguel…but in hindsight I realize I’d only seen the American version of Mexico. These two Mexican ladies with their culinary expertise and historical knowledge made me understand, fall in love with and appreciate Mexico on a much different level than I had ever before. They brought me the true Mexico and I knew right then and there I’d have to partner with them for any trips we’d do in the future to explore this incredibly rich and diverse country.


With a strong indigenous heritage, Michoacán has held tight to many of its ancient traditions to this day, which can be seen in every aspect of life and culture there. From traditional clothing to architecture of pre-Columbian towns to archeological sites of the Purépecha Empire, the state is dripping with history.


  • An interactive cooking class with James Beard Chef Iliana de la Vega, one of the nation’s most respected and knowledgeable Mexican Cuisine experts
  • Stay in a luxurious Colonial Hotel
  • Discover the ancient culture of the Purépecha Empire
  • Learn about Mexican culture and heritage through its food
  • Explore the unusual Archeological site of Tzintzuntzan
  • Learn to taste and LOVE Mezcal
  • Dine at several of the best restaurants in Mexico, many of which are headed up by female chefs
  • Finding an authentic Mexico that you’ve never before experienced
  • Sample the world’s best Mexican hot chocolate
  • Relax at a luxurious spa in an old Mexican hacienda
  • Savor a gastronomic tasting menu by an important female chef
  • Visit several Puebla Magicos,magical Mexican villages
  • Tour an historic and stunning Music Conservatory

Covering a great stretch of land, little-known Michoacán has the beautiful Pacific coastline to the west and a range of mountains and lakes to the east, which makes it a widely diverse state. Nowhere is the heritage and culture of Michoacán more visible and tangible than in its cuisine, which mixes indigenous ingredients and practices with those that arrived alongside the Spaniards during colonial times. Based on Michoacán’s food customs and traditions, in 2010, UNESCO named Mexican cuisine an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Our base during this epicurean women-only tour will be Morelia, the state’s capital city, founded in 1541, whose colonial buildings are made of gorgeous pink limestone. This is where 92% of the nation’s avocados are grown. From there, we’ll explore the food, art, and culture of several surrounding towns such as Pátzcuaro, Santa Fe de la Laguna, and Tzintzuntzan.

Your Hosts:

Join Doni Belau, founder Girls’ Guide to Paris & Beyond, James Beard nominated chef Iliana de la Vega and cultural anthropologist/journalist Isabel Torrealba (a mother-daughter-duo!) as we explore Michoacán’s culinary offerings, eating our way through food stalls and high-end restaurants while we trace the rich history of this gorgeous state that’s largely off-the-beaten-tourist-track.

Iliana de la Vega grew up in Mexico City at a time when only European cuisines were seen as worthy of being served at restaurants. Her mother was from Oaxaca and cooked traditional dishes from the region, and Iliana found the flavors of Mexico to be complex, diverse, and soulful. Wishing to share how elegant—and worthy of fine-dining establishments—Mexican food can be, she moved to Oaxaca and opened El Naranjo, a restaurant and cooking school featured in The New York Times and Bon Appetit. A period of political unrest forced her family out of Mexico in 2006, but she reopened El Naranjo in Austin in 2012. A passionate teacher, Iliana has served as the Mexican/Latin Cuisines Specialist for The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) for five years. She’s a twice-nominated James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef. Through El Naranjo and the food tours she runs, Iliana keeps her dream of sharing the food and culture of Mexico with the world alive.

Isabel Torrealba – As the youngest daughter of Chef Iliana de la Vega, Isabel was fortunate to spend her days hiding under restaurant tables and learning to cook (and eat) Mexican food. Though Isabel always imagined she too would be a chef one day, she came to realize that her food-related talents lay more with eating than cooking, so she became a cultural anthropologist and journalist instead. Food always finds its way back into her mind, prompting her to focus a significant portion of her research and writing on gastronomy. Isabel believes food cannot be fully understood without proper context and likes to think of it—the ingredients, the rituals of eating—in relation to place, people, and the history and circumstances that led to its creation. Her approach to travel as well as food writing is shaped by this idea. Isabel’s work has appeared in Atlas Obscura, Food52, Slate Magazine, LA Review of Books, The Art of Eating, Edible Austin, and Eater, among others.


Day 1: Thursday, October 14th

Our driver we’ll meet you at the Francisco Mujica International Airport in Morelia, the capital and largest city of Michoacán, and take you to our hotel. There, at Hotel de la Soledad, a luxurious colonial gem from the 18th century, located off of the main square of the historic downtown, you’ll get settled into your room before we meet for a welcome drink at our hotel’s courtyard. Afterwards, we’ll head out for our first dinner as a group at one of the city’s finest restaurants, Lu Cocina Michoacana. With a commitment to sustainability, the chef, Lucero Soto uses traditional, artisanal, and local ingredients to create incredible dishes using modern techniques. For our introduction dinner, we’ll sample her tasting menu and toast to our first of many unforgettable meals together.

Day 2: Friday, October 15th

Today we’ll meet after breakfast at our hotel, where you can enjoy some traditional dishes and coffee to the sound of birds at your own leisure. Then, we’ll venture into the beating heart of the city, its historic downtown, for a walking tour with local expert Deborah López, who will guide us through the city’s history, visiting landmarks such as the Cathedral, the Conservatorio de las Rosas (the first music conservatory in the Americas), and the beautiful murals of Michoacán native Alfredo Zalce at the Government Palace. As we make our way through the city’s cobblestone streets, we’ll try the gazpacho moreliano, a local street snack made with diced fruits and vegetables such as jicama, mango, and pineapple that are mixed with a bit of orange and lime juice and topped with chili powder and crumbled cheese.

For lunch, we’ll walk over to a casual local favorite, Fonda Marceva, that specializes in traditional dishes from Tierra Caliente (Hot Land), a region in southeast Michoacán. After lunch, we’ll make our way back to the hotel to rest before we meet again for dinner later in the evening.

Tonight, we’ll head to Tata Mezcalería, where chef Fermín Ambás infuses local products and traditional flavors with a creative and modern twist. We’ll also sample mezcal from Michoacán, such as one made with the cupreata agave variety, which can only be found in the region.

Day 3:  Saturday, October 16th

On this day, we’ll begin with breakfast at La Aldaba, the restaurant of the gorgeous Hotel Casa Grande, which offers traditional dishes with a view of the city’s main square. After breakfast, we’ll hop in our van and make our way to Tzintzuntzan, whose name means the place of hummingbirds,an indigenous Purépecha town to the north of Morelia, located on the shore of Lake Pátzcuaro, and one of the few towns in Michoacán honored with the title of “Pueblo Mágico” (Magic Town) by the Mexican government. Here, we’ll visit the Ex-Convent of Santa Ana and San Francisco Temple, which dates back to the 16th century. Then, we’ll head to the Tzintzuntzan archeological site for a guided visit with a local expert who will explain the ceremonial center’s unusual rounded pyramids called yácatas.

For lunch, we’ll get back in our van and drive to the state’s second largest city, Uruapan. We’ll be dining at Cocina M, one of the finest restaurants in the state, where chef Mariana Valencia—an Uruapan native—mixes local ingredients and traditions with contemporary and international flavors. After lunch, we’ll drive back to Morelia and relax before meeting again later in the evening.

Tonight, we’ll head out to try a local favorite: the aguacataco at Taquería Guelaguetza. Since 92% of Mexico’s avocado production takes place in Michoacán, it’s only natural to see unique offerings with the product, what Mexicans refer to as “green gold.” This mouthwatering taco contains a healthy portion of spit-roasted pork with melted cheese that’s topped with one whole avocado.

Day 4: Sunday, October 17th

Today is all about getting to know traditional Mexican and Michoacán ingredients and learning to incorporate them into your own cooking. We’ll begin with breakfast at Lu Cocina, where we’ll enjoy the best hot chocolate in town, homemade pan dulce (Mexican pastries), and chilaquiles, or other local specialties.

Then, we’ll get in our van and drive back to lovely Tzintzuntzan. Our first stop will be the town’s local market to pick up ingredients for today’s cooking session. Led by James Beard-nominated chef Iliana de la Vega, our workshop will take place in a private home’s kitchen. As a group, we’ll work together to create an exquisite meal using regional ingredients. After enjoying our feast, we’ll make our way back to our hotel in Morelia.

Back at the hotel, take some time to rest before we meet again this evening for drinks and an assortment of appetizers at the terrace of the Juaninos hotel, for dinner with panoramic views of the city and its main square at night.

Day 5: October 18th, Monday

After breakfast at the hip CaféMichelena, which offer beautiful décor, great coffee, and an assortment of pastries and other dishes with European influences, we’ll be driving to the lovely town of Santa Fe de la Laguna, located on the shore of Lake Pátzcuaro. This indigenous Purépecha town, founded in 1533, still keeps many of their old traditions intact, including the trading practice known as trueque, or barter, gorgeous handmade crafts such as carved and painted pottery, and regional culinary treasures such as corundas (a triangular shaped tamal.) In fact, the town where the Disney movie Coco is set, Santa Cecilia, was inspired by Santa Fe de la Laguna.

We’ll walk around town for a bit and then we’ll visit the home and workshop of a local potter and his wife, a traditional cook. He’ll talk to us about his craft and show us some of his beautiful pieces, and we’ll also get to see their home’s incredible traditional kitchen. For lunch, we’ll be enjoying delicious regional dishes prepared by Purépecha traditional cooks at a women’s co-op. This space is a lovely project created by 12 local women cooks who came together to preserve and share their traditional recipes while empowering themselves with a business of their own.

After lunch, we’ll drive back to Morelia, stop by the hotel, and then head to the Villa Montaña Hotel & Spa for a relaxing afternoon of pampering. Tonight, is yours to rest, shop, or explore the city’s rich culinary landscape at your own pace.

Day 6: October 19th, Tuesday

On our last day together, you may enjoy some coffee and fruit at the hotel before we get together for an early drive to explore the gorgeous Pátzcuaro, one of the few Pueblos Mágicos (Magic Towns) of Michoacán. But before we get there, we’ll stop by at the Boutique Hotel Hacienda Ucazanaztacua for breakfast with breathtaking views of Lake Pátzcuaro.

Pátzcuaro was founded in the 1320s and it is a truly beautiful town dripping with charm. We’ll walk through the town’s cobblestone streets lined with adobe buildings painted in white and rust for a bit, visit the town’s main plaza (the second largest in Mexico) and a couple of temples, try the creamy local ice cream “nieve de pasta,” and shop for arts and crafts. Then, we’ll hop back on the van and drive to the nearby town of Santa Clara del Cobre, another Magic Town, known for the beautiful copper work they do.

Now hungry, we’ll start making our way back to Morelia, stopping at the town of Quiroga for one of the most emblematic and delicious dishes of Michoacán: carnitas—pork that is slowly cooked in its own fat until tender. We’ll get our carnitas from a street stand and enjoy it at the communal tables available with corn tortillas and a variety of salsas.

Back at the hotel, take some time to rest and get ready before our final dinner at La Conspiración de 1809. The setting for our farewell meal is a restored colonial mansion in Morelia’s main plaza. Here, chef Cynthia Martínez cooks exquisite traditional dishes, serving them in beautiful and delicate presentations. We’ll enjoy our last dinner and toast for the many wonderful memories we shared.

Day 7: Wednesday, October 20th

Enjoy breakfast at the hotel before you depart for your flight home. Our driver will take you to the airport for your return flights.

Trip Notes:

GG2P always reserves the right to alter the itinerary based on weather or availability as well as exciting opportunities that might crop up!

NOTE -> Not to worry – Vegetarians will be well fed in all cafés and restaurants as well as those allergic to seafood or gluten. Options are plentiful.

Trip Cost

Trip Cost: 92,200 Mexican Pesos per person*


  • * All our trips are organized and priced based on single occupancy at all the places we stay. Everyone gets their own fabulous room! If you’re traveling with a friend/relative, or would prefer to save some money by sharing a room, we can usually organize double occupancy at a reduction in cost. Please inquire.
  • * All our trips are priced in the home currency of the trip’s location; however, we will invoice you in the equivalent USD calculated at the exchange rate at the time of invoice.
  • Interest-free payment plans are available. Please inquire.

What’s included?

  • Everything stated in itinerary above including all meals (except one dinner) plus beer, wine or Mezcal (when indicated) with dinner
  • All guides, museums, tastings, classes & market visits
  • A spa day
  • A hands-on cookingclass
  • All in-country transport including airport transfers

What’s not Included?

  • Roundtrip airfare to Morelia
  • Any personal souvenirs or purchases.
  • Additional wine, beer or spirits beyond what is offered at meals.
  • Travel insurance (highly recommended) and trip medical coverage (required for travelers over 50 years of age).

I’m interested, so what do I do next?

If you have questions, press the Inquire Now button above, and complete the form. We’ll get back to you ASAP.

If you’d like to come, press the Reserve Now button above. You will be prompted to complete a form with your pertinent details, put down a refundable $250 deposit, and schedule a time to speak with a GG2P representative. We like to speak with everyone before they embark on their first trip with Girls’ Guide to Paris & Beyond. This allows you to ask any questions or voice any concerns you may have. These are intimate, small group trips; a quick yet personal conversation allows you to get to know how our trips work and make sure it’s right for you. If it’s not, we’ll immediately refund your $250 deposit.

If it’s a Go! after your call, we’ll bill you for a non-refundable deposit, usually 35% of the trip’s cost (less the $250 place-holder deposit, if you already paid it) and your place is reserved. At this point, you’re committed to the trip, so we recommend that you purchase Travel Insurance to protect you in case your plans change unexpectedly. The balance will be due approximately 2 months before the trip.

Our cancellation policy is here.

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