Journey into the highlands of Guatemala to discover the modern Maya culture, as well as steep-sided temples and other vestiges of the Maya past. Start by exploring colonial Antigua and spend a few nights along the shores of the volcano-fringed Lake Atitlan. Experience the bustling market of Chichicastenango and finally the majestic ruins of Tikal. Along the way, the warmth and hospitality of Guatemala's people will make you want to return time and time again. A fabulous introduction to Guatemala travel!
Day 1 : Arrive Guatemala City Day 2 : Antigua City Tour Day 3 : Comalapa Market and Iximche Day 4 : Lake Atitlan Villages Day 5 : Chichicastenango Market Day 6 : Free Day Peten Jungle Day 7 : Tikal Ruins Day 8 : Return Home
Volcan Fuego rises to the roof of the world above the streets of Antigua below. Once the capital of Guatemala and all Central America, Antigua resembles a living ruin. Mammoth churches and palaces tell the story of Antigua's past glory, and restored fascades speak of a bright future for this wonderful city. This morning we tour the city and admire Antigua's gilded cathedrals. 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.
This morning rise and drive about an hour before arriving to San Juan de Comalapa. Enjoy the bustle of the lively market less visited by tourists. Vendors set out their handicrafts, vegetables, and animals to sell. Explore the market and see the local painters who continue the tradition of naïve paintings. See the famous mural painted by school children in 1996 depicting Guatemala's recent civil war events. Explore the town and try the bread in one of the local panaderias before you leave.
Next visit the Maya site of Iximché, a pre-columbian Mesoamerican archeological site abandoned in 1524. Walk amongst a number of pyramid temples, palaces, and two ballcourts and observe the painted murals on the sides of some complexes. Sculptures and ceramics are also displayed in the small on-site museum. Head next to the shores of beautiful Lake Atitlan, a deep caldera lake flanked by three majestic volcanoes. Settle into your charming hotel along the shores near Panajachel.
Today board a passenger ferry and ride across the azure-colored waters of Lake Atitlan to the village of San Juan La Laguna. Here visit the women's textile cooperative to see hand weaving and the natural dye process used to make their famous petates, woven mats made from lake reeds. You may also visit the home studios of the celebrated naïf painters.
Continue to the village of Santiago, where villagers still adhere to the traditional lifestyle of the Tz'utuhil Maya and on our walk we'll see many people cloaked in brightly-colored, hand-woven clothing. Along Santiago's main street are art galleries filled with oil paintings depicting busy market scenes and typical life in the highlands. 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. Visit Maximòn and leave an offering to this curious and revered deity. Return to Panajachel this afternoon and enjoy the rest of the day as you wish.
Today 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 early afternoon and you drive back to Guatemala City in time for an early evening flight north to the tropical lowlands of the Peten and the home of the ancient Maya. Overnight near Flores.
Spend this day free to enjoy the jungle of the Peten region and the gorgeous views of Lake Peten-Itza. Swim in the hotel's pool, take a kayak out on the lake, or wander into town and explore the quaint colonial shops that comprise the island town of Flores. Ixpanpajul National Park is nearby with a great trail system and zipline tour as well. Plan an optional excursion this day, or relax at your hotel.
Meet up with your guide and visit the ruins of Tikal for a private tour today. 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. 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 until mid- afternoon when you return to Flores for an evening flight back to Guatemala City.
Kate was great to work with in the planning stage. She was prompt, helpful, and efficient. Our tour guide, Edwin, was knowledgeable and passionate. We were very happy to have traveled with Adventure Life, it made the trip easy and a true pleasure. We could concentrate on enjoying the experience rather than the details of travel.
When to Go
Good to ideal period to travel, and many people choose to visit at this time.
Chance for unpredictable weather but with fewer visitors.