Across the car park, shamans weaved their magic. The blood of a luckless chicken was sprinkled on to one of a trio of fires and the air was filled with acrid smoke and the competing aromas of tobacco, incense and pine.
Inside the simple candlelit temple, believers waited patiently in line to climb the stairs to the effigy of Maximón (aka San Simón) to put in their requests and deposit their offerings of alcohol, tobacco and food.
Depending on who you speak to, this hard- drinking, heavy-smoking deity – a moustachioed man in a smart black suit and hat, often with a cigar clamped between his teeth – is either a saint or the devil.
He may share his temple with more traditionally dressed saints but the walls, plastered with everything from yellowing drawings to marble plaques, are devoted to Maximón’s generosity.
“The Spanish imposed Catholicism on the Maya but they didn’t lose their own beliefs,” my guide Mario said. “They just mixed them all together.”
While the Maya civilisation, including its jungle-clad cities, had all but collapsed by the 9th century – historians still can’t agree why – its age-old traditions have endured, surviving the Spanish conquest and, more recently, a brutal civil war.
Today, around 40% of Guatemala’s population is indigenous, the majority of which are descendants of the Maya, divided into more than 20 groups with as many distinct languages.
The temple in San Andrés Itzapa was just the start of my journey across Guatemala, on a new three-night glamping trek.
Over the next few days, it took me from Antigua, up, down and along ancient Maya trails, to Lake Atitlán, dropping off the tourist trail and in on remote rural communities in search of a civilisation that seemed far from gone.