Day 1 Arrive Antigua
Fly into Guatemala City where you will be met and transferred to your hotel in Antigua.
Day 2 Antigua and Coffee Tours. Jade Art
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 facades speak of a bright future for this wonderful city. This morning we tour the city and admire Antigua's gilded cathedrals.
We will transfer to San Miguel Escobar on the outskirts of Antigua. As Green as it Gets (GAIG) is a cooperative working to support small independent coffee producers and promoting environmentally responsible agriculture in Guatemala. This tour takes guests to visit some of the families supported by this organization where they can work side-by-side with small coffee farmers in their daily coffee processing and production ( pick, pulp, ferment, wash, dry, sort, grade, roast and grind coffee depending on the season). Coffee Season is Nov to Mar. This excursion includes a donation to GAIG.
After the coffee tour enjoy a traditional meal in a local home before transferring to the village of San Juan El Obispo to meet jade artisan Francisco Zuñiga.
Jade was the sacred stone of the Maya, and jade artist, Francisco Zuñiga, has had his work on the cover of National Geographic and shows up in places like “Jades of Mesoamerica.” He no longer hangs from helicopters while scouring cliff faces for jade, but he still shares those stories. Francisco will tell the history of jade and its significance to the Mayan culture and teach you the skills of jade crafting. Spend time in his workshop, turning his hand-selected stone into your own pendant, earrings, golf ball marker, guitar pick, or whatever you feel the stone wants to be. Return to Antigua in the evening.
Day 3 Comalapa Market and Paintings. Arrive to Lake Atitlan
Rise early for a one hour drive to the town of Comalapa to visit its Tuesday market. Explore the town with the guide and visit the local painters who continue the traidtion of natïve paintings that the town is so famous for. One of the most notable art pieces is the famous mural depicting major events in Guatemala's history with images dating back to the Maya story of creation and culminating with the peace accords of 1996 that ended Guatemala's civil war.
The highlight of the day is the wonderful and authentic market of Comalpa that is less visited by foreign visitors than other markets in the region. Enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of this lively, local market and witness families coming from the surrounding communities to buy, sell, and barter while often wearing traditional textiles from the region.
The market disperses in the afternoon, and we travel to the shores of beautiful Lake Atitlan, a deep caldera lake flanked by three majestic volcanoes. A passenger boat takes us across the azure-colored water to our charming lodge in the village of Santiago Atitlan.
Day 4 Santiago Atitlan
This morning after admiring the placid waters of the lake, we set out about town on a walking tour. 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. Villagers in Santiago Atitlan 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. We may also visit Maximòn and leave an offering to this curious and revered deity.
Day 5 Chichicastenango
We board the lancha this morning for our return trip across Lake Atitlan 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. After our sensory feast, we return to colonial Antigua for the evening.
Day 6 Antigua Free Day. Dinner with CasaSito
The day is free in Antigua to rent mountain bikes to explore the countryside, visit a coffee finca or macadamia nut plantation, or just people watch in the main plaza.
In the evening, a dinner is planned with a representative of CasaSito, a local organization that focuses on improving educational opportunities in rural Guatemala. One of the projects is the annual Antigua Youth Art Festival that Adventure Life is sponsoring to promote a friendly competition among community groups in the Antigua region and encourage the development of art programs. Art is a very powerful form of expression and can give a voice to children and teenagers, boys and girls, indigenous and Latinos. Children and youth living in poverty often have difficulties expressing themselves and releasing their emotions, and they may turn to violence or drugs to escape their feelings. CasaSito wants to teach children and youth how to express themselves and holds workshops to teach technical skills and methods of expression.
Day 7 Antigua Art Festival
Today is the annual festival, and you will visit Antigua's largest artisanal center, El Centro de Formación de la Cooperación Española, and the venue for the art festival. With your guide, enjoy the art submissions and displays. Workshops will be taking place during the day with professional artists volunteering their time to demonstrate traditional and modern techniques to the children. There will also be song and dance demonstrations as well as debate and speech contests.
Winners of the art competition receive scholarships to attend art school. One of CasaSito’s scholarship students is already a professional artist and creates an income for his family. We want students to know that art is a fun extracurricular activity, but it can also be a lucrative career. Another main goal of the festival is to promote recycled art. In Guatemala, recycling is still not very common, and trash can then become resources for art classes.CasaSito teaches art instructors how to use trash to create lamps, bracelets, tables, etc. from recycled materials. In our 2010 Art Festival, there is an award for the most innovative recycled art project.
Adventure Life and CasaSito also hope that during the Festival, the participating associations learn new ways to teach art from each other. By creating a space where community centers can come together to share their art and teaching strategies, all of their programs will improve.
Day 8 Return Home
After breakfast, transfer back to Guatemala City for your flight home. With more time, explore more of Guatemala such as Tikal and Flores.