For a stunningly beautiful and scenic introduction to the highlands and Mayan highlights of Guatemala, this tour is ideal. Visit the charming colonial city of Antigua and the spectacular lake and volcanic area of Lake Atitlan. The Guatemalan highlands offer a fascinating insight into the traditional beliefs and customs of the Mayan people; admire their intricate textiles and handicrafts in the colourful market towns. Travel overland to the Caribbean coastal town of Livingston, famous for its Garifuna culture and enjoy a boat trip along the Rio Dulce; home to wildlife, riverside communities and historic Spanish fortresses. Last stop are the incredible ruins of Tikal, shrouded by jungle and home to abundant wildlife, this archeaological site is one of the most impressive within the Mayan world.
For those wanting to extend their tour, why not cross over into Honduras to visit the Mayan ruins of Copan? Considered the Paris of the Mayan sites; the ruins are famed for their intricate stelae carvings. Alternatively continue into Belize, perfect for further rainforest adventures and a relaxing end on one of its idyllic Caribbean cayes.
Day 1 Arrive in Guatemala City (flight via USA or Madrid) and transfer to your hotel in the colonial town of Antigua for the next two nights. The former capital of Guatemala was founded in 1543 and is one of the finest cities in Central America. This pretty town oozes colonial charm in a delightful setting, in the shadow of three volcanoes and surrounded by coffee plantations.
Day 2 Enjoy walking tour of the beautiful colonial town of Antigua surrounded by its three volcanoes - Agua, Fuego and Acatenango. 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. Visit the Maya Traditions Museum to learn about traditional music, costume and traditions. In the afternoon, transfer by road to Lake Atitlan, truly one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. Overlooked by volcanoes, its shores are dotted with Mayan villages.
Day 4 Take a scenic boat ride across Lake Atitlan to the village of San Juan la Laguna. Visit the women's textile co-operative to see hand-weaving and natural dye processes as well as the homes of the celebrated naif painters. From here, continue to the village of Santiago for lunch and a tour of the village, visiting the Maya God, Maximon and learning about the spiritualism and beliefs of the local T'zutujil Maya.
Day 5 Transfer from the lake one hour by road to the famous market at Chichicastenango (Thursdays and Sundays). Here vendors from the nearby countryside and villages come to sell their wares. You have time to explore the colourful food market, and 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 back to Antigua for the night.
Day 6 Depart Antigua today to Livingston on the Caribbean coast. Only accessible by water or air, Livingston is a unique town and home to the "Garifuna" people, descendants of the indigenous Carib and African cultures. En route stop at the archaeological park and ruins of Quirigua; famous for its impressive series of carved stelae and sculpted calendars. Part of your journey today will be by boat to reach your coastal destination.
Day 7 This morning, take a cruise along the Rio Dulce River. Look out for bird island - a cluster of mangroves and trees in the river, creating the perfect living conditions for a variety of birds. Pass by riverside communities, look out for the extensive water lilies and spotting the local people go about their daily life. Continue to the Ak Tenamit project. Ak Tenamit is an educational project for the local children, that allows them to go to school and become professionals, studying in Spanish and English whilst still maintaining their Mayan roots and heritage, practising local traditions, language and ceremonies. In the afternoon continue by road to your jungle lodge in Tikal.
Day 8 Visit Tikal National Park today, a spectacular UNESCO protected Mayan temple site where huge pyramids rise above the jungle canopy and where 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.
Day 9 This afternoon fly from the nearby town of Flores to Guatemala City for your last night. This morning, why not visit the nearby ruins of Yaxha for sunrise or enjoy an early morning birdwatching tour within the surrounding rainforest.
Day 10 Depart Guatemala City for your return flights to the UK. Alternatively you could extend your tour and continue into Belize from Tikal.
This trip has no fixed departures but restrictions may apply - check operator website
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