Visit the most spectacular Mayan sites Central America has to offer. Incorporating the Mayan communities of Copan in Honduras, Tikal in Guatemala and Chichen Itza, Yaxchilan & Bonampak, Uxmal & Kabah in Mexico, gain an in-depth understanding of Mayan culture and traditions. Take in dramatic volcanic scenery, lush tropical jungles, Caribbean coastlines and enjoy wildlife spotting opportunities along the way.
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 cobbled streets.
Day 3 In the morning journey across the border to Honduras to the town of Copan Ruinas. Here you stay at Hacienda San Lucas, situated in the hills above the Copan Valley. This is a road journey of approximately 6 hours.
Day 4 Spend a full day exploring Copan, considered the Paris of the Mayan world. Deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980, and one of the ancient Maya's most lavish cultural centres, Copan is well-known for its intricately carved stelae and incredible hieroglyphic stairway. As well as exploration of the site, visit the on-site sculpture museum and two excavated tunnels under the ruins that provide insight into the early stages of Copan civilization.
Day 5 Depart Copan today, back into Guatemala. The final destination is 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 6 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 7 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 8 Depart Guatemala today to cross the Mexican border. First stop is the incredible archaeological site of Bonampak, situated deep in the jungle. Known for its intricate and beautifully coloured murals, they are fine examples of classic Mayan art depicting Mayan life and mythology like no other Mayan site. Continue further by boat from the border town of Frontera Corozal along the Usumacinta River, its jungle clad banks forming the Mexican-Guatemala border. Stop at Mayan site of Yaxchilan in the Lacandon rainforest. Once, as powerful as Palenque and Tikal, the site is one of the most dramatic in the Mayan world. After exploring the temples, continue by road to Palenque.
Day 9 Visit the archaeological site of Palenque, a World Heritage Site, located 7km outside of the town of Palenque. Palenque flourished between AD600 and 800, when its influence extended throughout the basin of the Usumacinta river. The site, surrounded by rainforest full of toucans and howler monkeys, is made up of some 500 buildings spread over 15 sq km, of which only a few have been excavated. Explore the magnificent ruins, including the Temple of the Inscriptions – the tallest and most stately of Palenque’s buildings, the Temple of the Sun – crowned with a prominent roof comb, The Palace – with its maze of corridors and rooms, and many other beautiful buildings.
Day 10 Travel by road to Villahermosa and fly to Merida, the capital of the Yucatan Peninsula. Spend the next two nights here. Though a bustling city, Merida's historic centre retains its colonial charm and its laid-back tempo is a delight for visitors. The city has a large, leafy main plaza and impressive European-style mansion houses painted in warm pastel shades. Merida is famous for showcasing its local Yucatecan cuisine so be sure to try some regional dishes such as cochinita pibil and sopa de lima.
Day 11 Visit the archaeological site of Uxmal, a World Heritage Site, located 80km south of Merida. Its architecture is characterised by low horizontal palaces set around courtyards, decorated with a profusion of symbolic motifs and sculptures depicting the long-nosed rain god Chaac. We will explore the magnificent buildings, including the House of the Magician – which dominates the site, the Nunnery, and the House of Turtles. Continue to Kabah, with its amazing Palace of the Masks, covered in nearly 300 masks of Chaac.
Day 12 Explore the historical centre of Merida, built more than 450 years ago on the site of T’ho, an ancient Mayan city. Visit the magnificent Cathedral of San Ildefonso, built with the stones of ancient Maya temples. Stop at Casa Montejo - the grandiose home of Francisco de Montejo, and the Governor's Palace, housing 27 huge murals by Don Fernando Castro Pacheco illustrating the somewhat violent history of Yucatan. Explore the beautiful tree-shaded Plaza Principal (central square) with the Cathedral, the Palacio Municipal (town hall), Casa Montejo, and the Governor's Palace. Visit the Mundo Maya Museum with its spectacular building structure, this museum displays a magnificent collection of more than 500 pieces: textiles, religious objects, engravings, books and historical documents, as well as the heritage from the pre-Hispanic era which includes steles, bas-relief, and stone sculptures. In the afternoon transfer by road to Chichen Itza for 1 night.
Day 13 This morning, visit the archaeological site of Chichen Itza. One of the New 7 Wonders of the World – it is the best restored of Yucatan’s Mayan sites. Explore the magnificent ruins, including the Pyramid of Kukulcan – its height and striking geometric design dominating the whole site, the Great Ball Court – the largest and most impressive in Mesoamerica, the Sacred Cenote – a natural well used for human sacrifice, and many other beautiful temples. In the afternoon, after lunch, you will be driven to Cancun to fly home. Alternatively, extend your trip with a stay on one of the many beautiful beaches of the Yucatan.
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