Travel to Guatemala's highlands to learn about present Maya culture, as well as steep-sided temples and other relics of the Maya past. Begin by exploring historic Antigua and staying a few nights along the volcano-rimmed Lake Atitlan's coastline. Discover Chichicastenango's lively market and then the stunning ruins of Tikal. Along the route, the kindness and hospitality of the Guatemalan people will entice you to return repeatedly. This is an excellent introduction on a Guatemala vacation!
Take a tour of Antigua and visit mammoth churches and palaces
Attend a bustling and lively local market full of handicrafts & vegetables
Visit a women's textile cooperative and learn about the weaving process
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 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 creating colorful folk art as they have for generations. 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 (bakeries) before you leave.
Next visit the Maya site of Iximché, a pre-columbian Mesoamerican archeological site abandoned in 1524. Walk among 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 your walk 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.
This day is 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 shops in the quaint Colonial-style buildings 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 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, coatimundis, 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.
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Our guide and driver were very good with their knowledge and were very helpful with our questions. It was a very pleasant visit that would have been impossible to do on our own. Hotels and restaurants were fantastic. The special places we got to go to, like the kitchens, were great. Enjoyed the entire trip!