Fly into Guatemala City where you will be met and transferred to your hotel in Antigua.
Volcan Fuego rises to the roof of the world above the colonial streets of Antigua below. This morning we explore Antigua's bustling markets where the local Maya gather to buy and sell everything from enormous avacados to intricate weavings to begin our Guatemala travels. The markets might look like all business, but sometimes more local gossip gets traded between far flung friends and family than produce!
Once the capital of Guatemala and all Central America, Antigua resembles a living ruin. Mammoth ruins of churches and palaces tell the story of Antigua's past glory, and restored fascades speak of a bright future for this wonderful city. The afternoon is yours to rent mountain bikes to explore the countryside, visit a coffee finca, or macadamia nut plantation, or just people watch in the main plaza.
Scholars tell us that the Ancient Maya disappeared mysteriously a thousand years ago, but anyone who has intimately explored this fascinating region knows that the Maya continue to thrive in the highlands of Guatemala. This morning we move towards the highland town of Totonicapan. On our way we stop at the fascinating archaeological site at La Democracia to see an amazing collection of Olmec stone carvings. Before continuing on we’ll visit a small private museum to see some of the unique Maya artifacts from the area’s sites. We then leave the Maya past and venture forth into the present, traveling through the farming valley of Zunil, where we can see the most colorful church in Guatemala, San Andres Xecul, before arriving at the highland village of Totonicapan in the late afternoon. Here a community of over twenty K`iche families reaches out to visitors with the vision of bringing people into their homes to share their culture with the outside world. In return, your host family is eager to learn about your life back home. We’ll arrive in time to share a communal evening and overnight with families.
This morning is market day in Toto, but don't expect a guided group tour of this bustling local market. This is part of your host family's weekly tradition, and you'll be accompanying them around this early morning market as they do their shopping. After the market we'll have a chance to visit the workshops of ceramic artists, weavers, mask makers, and wood workers. After lunch we're off to Lago Atitlan, often referred to as the most beautiful lake in the world. Our home for the next few days is a charming lodge in the village of Santiago de Atitlan.
Today you are free to explore as you wish. Go canoeing on the lake, horseback riding to a nearby cloudforest, or rent a mountain bike. It's also worthwhile to visit Maximòn and leave an offering to this curious deity. Meet up with our local guide and learn about the mystical undercurrents of the area, or visit Maya Saints in the brotherhood houses and watch some of the day's Maya rituals.
Today we rise early to visit the famous market of Chichicastenango. This beautiful town, surrounded by valleys and shadowed by mountains, has many shamanistic and ceremonial overtones. Its large market brings villagers from throughout the region, who often arrive the night before and sleep on blankets in the market square. Rising early, they set out their colorful fruits, vegetables and handicrafts. The market disperses in the early afternoon and we travel back to Antigua to spend the night.
This morning we fly east to the tropical lowlands of the Peten and the home of the ancient Maya. After meeting up with your guide, you'll continue on to the ruins of Tikal for a private tour. Here you'll encounter towering pyramids rising above the thick jungle canopy, and learn how the city thrived as an important religious, scientific, and political center for 1500 years. Today, the pristine forest engulfing the ruined city is home to howler and spider monkeys, white lipped peccary, brocket deer, coati-mundis, toucans, scarlet macaws, parrots, ocelots and the seldom seen jaguar. After lunch, the day is yours to explore the ruins. In the evening, we'll return to the shores of Lake Peten Itza to settle in to your hotel.
This morning is free to explore the lakeside town of Flores. After lunch, transfer to the airport for your flight back to Guatemala City, where we spend the night close to the airport for your flight tomorrow to complete your Guatemala travels.