Highlights include Archaeology Museum, Copán Ruins, Coffee Plantation, Quirigua, Banana Plantation, Rio Dulce, Tikal Ruins, Chichicastenango Indian Market, Lake Atitlán Cruise, Antigua, Jade Museum and more.|
Day #1 Guatemala City, Guatemala - Tour Begins - Thousands of years ago, an ancient civilization made its presence known in a place of breathtaking beauty. Enter the land of the Maya and embark on a journey back in time, immersing yourself in this civilization of astronomers, mathematicians, philosophers, artists, architects and warriors who developed writing (using glyphs), calendars, ceremonial temples and hierarchical societies ruled by kings and noblemen. Join your fellow travelers for a welcome dinner.
Day #2 Guatemala City - Copán, Honduras - Begin your exploration of the Maya culture during a visit to Guatemala’s Archaeology Museum and delve into their history through the many priceless artifacts on display. Later, descend from the highlands through the breathtaking scenery of Guatemala’s central valley. Pass by small Indian villages that have preserved their Maya identity and culture, lush pine forests, picturesque lakes and hand-tilled crops that grace hillside terraces. Arrive in Copán, a city in western Honduras that boasts some of the best preserved ruins of the Mayan world, long protected by the jungle in a remote mountain valley.
Day #3 Copán - Visit the “Athens of the Maya world”, the Copán Ruins. These famous, pre-Columbian ruins – a UNESCO Cultural Heritage of Humankind site – showcase artistic sculptures with detailed carvings and well-preserved stone columns called stelae. Explore the Ballcourt, the second largest in Central America, as well as the Great Plaza where altars and carved stelae represent powerful Maya rulers from AD 711 to 736. Nearby, the famous Hieroglyphic Stairway still stands, with 63 steps featuring 2,500 glyphs (symbols) carved into the stone, the Mayas’ longest historical record. Later, enjoy a visit to Finca Santa Isabel for an interesting tour of a coffee plantation, followed by lunch in a lush rainforest setting.
Day #4 Copán - Quirigua, Guatemala - Fronteras (Rio Dulce) - Return to Guatemala and visit Quirigua, another UNESCO Cultural Heritage of Humankind site. Marvel at the largest stone columns in the Maya world – standing 26 feet, 6 inches in height and weighing nearly 65 tons! Well-preserved portraits and texts on the stelae tell the fascinating story of a ruling dynasty once in competition with nearby Copán. Your day ends in the charming lakeside town of Rio Dulce where your accommodations rest on the river’s edge.
Day #5 Rio Dulce - Petenchel (Tikal area) - Your day begins with a visit to Castillo de San Felipe, a fort built to protect the 16th century traders from pirates. Enjoy a leisurely-paced tour of the enchanting San Felipe Castle before traveling to northern Guatemala, the birthplace of the great Maya civilization.
Day #6 Tikal National Park - Today’s journey takes you to Tikal National Park, a UNESCO Cultural Heritage of Humankind site. This majestic Maya city, considered the largest and most monumental of all of the sites discovered in the Maya world, showcases temple-pyramids that tower over the rainforest canopy and were built from hand-cut limestone blocks. Surrounded by jungle flora and fauna, you’ll enjoy nature at its finest during a guided walking tour featuring the Great Plaza, the Temple of Jaguar, Temple II and Plaza of the Seven Temples. The remainder of your day is at leisure for a nature trail walk, bird watching or simply unwinding by the pool.
Day #7 Guatemala City - Chichicastenango - Panajachel (Lake Atitlán) - This morning fly to Guatemala City. Next, travel to Chichicastenango, a lovely town named by the Spanish conquistadors and known for its Maya Indian culture. Here, visit the most vibrant, colorful and picturesque outdoor market* in Guatemala. Every Thursday and Sunday locals from the region gather to buy and sell fruit, vegetables, flowers, grains, animals, textiles and handicrafts. Visit the Santo Tomás Church where today the Maya-Quiché still pray to their gods according to the old Maya traditions - to “ensure the sun will cross the sky and the seasons are going to change.” Later, continue to one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, Lake Atitlán, surrounded by breathtaking vistas of volcanoes.
Day #8 Lake Atitlán - Santiago Atitlán - Lake Atitlán was formed by a caldera (volcanic eruption) and is surrounded by three impressive volcanoes (San Pedro, Atitlán and Tolimán) and 12 picturesque Maya villages. Depart in the morning by boat to the Maya-Tzutuhil village of Santiago Atitlán, famous for Maximón, a character that is widely worshipped by the inhabitants of Santiago Atitlán. Enjoy free time to explore Santiago Atitlán and mingle with the locals who are known for their variety of handicrafts, colorful textiles, woodcarvings and naïf paintings.
Day #9 Lake Atitlán - Antigua - This morning, visit the Mesoamerican Museum of Jade and learn about the historic importance of jade, considered the most precious treasure and highest symbol of wealth in ancient Mesoamerican cultures. In the mid-afternoon, check into your hotel in Antigua, a captivating Colonial town sure to mesmerize you. During Colonial times, Antigua was Central America’s political, economic and religious center. Today, it preserves the splendor of what was once one of the most important Spanish colonies in South America.
Day #10 Antigua - Antigua, a UNESCO Cultural Heritage of Humankind site, highlights the unique customs and traditions of the Maya and Spanish. Step back in time on this charming town’s cobblestone streets where sprays of bougainvillea burst from crumbling ruins, pastel façades glow under terracotta roofs, and parks with fountains exist amidst a dramatic backdrop of Antigua’s three volcanoes. Your walking tour begins with a visit to Casa de Artes for a private demonstration of local handicrafts. Continue to Plaza de Armas where you’ll see the monuments early settlers created to honor their heritage. Then, visit the 18th century cathedral and the ornate façade of La Merced Church. Enjoy an afternoon at leisure to explore Antigua’s many hidden treasures. This evening, join your fellow travelers for a delightful farewell dinner celebrating the end of a memorable trip to Guatemala, “land of the eternal spring,” and Honduras.
Day #11 Antigua -Tour Ends - Your exploration of the world of the Maya ends today in Antigua.