For a stunningly beautiful and scenic introduction to the highlands and Mayan highlights of Guatemala, this tour is ideal. You visit the attractive colonial city of Antigua and the spectacular lake and volcanic area of Lake Atitlan. The Guatemalan highlands will also give you a fascinating insight into the traditional beliefs and customs of the Maya people, as well as giving you the chance to see their amazing textiles and handicrafts in the colourful market towns. Travel north to the steamy jungle around Flores to see some of the Mayans' most spectacular temples and pyramids at Tikal and Yaxha.
This tour should start either on a Tuesday or Saturday due to market days at Chichicastenango.
You can combine this tour with other highlights of Guatemala such as Rio Dulce on the Caribbean coast or with other neighbouring countries such as Belize or Honduras. For example, you could add a 'side trip' to Copan in Honduras and then fly on to Roatan for superb diving. Alternatively continue from Tikal into Belize to visit other Mayan sites such as Caracol or Lamanai and then relax by the coral cayes offshore.
Day 1 Arrive in Guatemala City and transfer to your hotel in the colonial town of Antigua. Spend the next three nights at the beautiful Meson Panza Verde, set in beautiful gardens and with an excellent well-known restaurant. This gem of a hotel has just 9 individually decorated suites featuring a fireplace, terrace or small garden and oozes a romantic feel.
Day 2 Take a half day walking tour of the beautiful colonial town of Antigua, which is surrounded by 3 volcanoes - Agua, Fuego and Acatenango. You explore the main square, the Palace and cathedral, La Merced church, San Francisco Church and the famous Arco de Santa Catalina, while strolling through Antigua’s charming cobbled streets.
Day 3 Today you will visit the local woodcarvers in the village of Jocotenango and then continue to the fabulous Azotea coffee farm. The charity AGAIG (As Green as it Gets) works to support small local coffee producers and promotes responsible agriculture in the region. Also discover the Maya Traditions Museum which tells you all about traditional music, costume and traditions.
Day 4 Journey from Antigua to the colourful authentic market of Comalapa for a tour of the market, the famous local primitive painting galleries, a local bakery and the famous town mural. Continue from Comalapa for a few hours by road to arrive at the Hotel Atitlan, overlooking the Lake and close to the town of Panajachel, your base for the next two nights.
Day 5 Take a scenic boat ride across Lake Atitlan to the village of San Juan la Laguna where you can visit the women's textile co-operative to see hand-weaving and natural dye processes. Also visit the homes of the celebrated naif painters. From here, continue to the village of Santiago for lunch at a local hotel and tour the village, visiting the Maya God, Maximon and learning about the spiritualism and beliefs of the local T'zutujil Maya.
Day 6 Transfer from the lake one hour by road to the famous market at Chichicastenango. Here twice a week, vendors from the nearby countryside and villages come to sell their wares. You have time to explore the colourful food market, and also the excellent craft market. Make sure not to miss the catholic church of Santo Tomas, the front of the church has 18 steps accounting of the 18 months in the Mayan calendar. Late afternoon transfer to Guatemala City for the flight to Flores and transfer to your hotel on the banks of Lake Peten Itza.
Day 7 Free morning to relax. In the afternoon visit the nearby Yaxha National Park which receives a fraction of the visitors compared to nearby Tikal. Explore the temples and ruins, hopefully spotting howler and spider monkeys in the jungle canopy, and ending with a magnificent sunset views over the rainforest from the top of one of the main temples.
Day 8 Transfer to Tikal National Park today to visit this spectacular UNESCO protected Mayan temple site where huge pyramids rise above the jungle canopy and monkeys and tropical birds are abundant in the surrounding rainforest. If you are feeling adventurous, you can climb several of the pyramids, you will be rewarded with beautiful views across the jungle. After lunch, afternoon at leisure before returning to Flores to fly south to Guatemala City and overnight at the Camino Real.
Day 9 Depart Guatemala City for your return flights to the UK. Alternatively you could extend your tour and continue into Belize to the coral Cayes or take a trip across the border into Honduras to see the fabulous carved stelae at Copan.
This trip has no fixed departures but restrictions may apply - check operator website
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