Day 1: Depart U.S. for Guatemala City, Guatemala After our arrival in the country’s capital city, this afternoon and evening are free to relax and have dinner on our own.
Day 2: Guatemala City Following a briefing with our tour director, a morning tour of Guatemala City includes the grandiose Palacio National, once home to presidential offices and now an art museum; and the Spanish colonial Catedral Metropolitana, constructed over a period of nearly a century and finally completed in 1871. The afternoon is free to explore on our own. Tonight’s welcome dinner is at Portal del Angel, a hilltop restaurant overlooking the city and offering magnificent views of the entire valley. B,D
Day 3: Guatemala City/Yaxhá/Topoxté Early this morning we fly north to Flores, and transfer by coach deep into Guatemala’s northern rainforest. Here we call on two important but less visited Maya sites on opposite sides of Yaxhá Lake. First, we visit Yaxhá, Guatemala’s third largest ruin with 500 buildings linked by a series of causeways. Across the lake sits Topoxté, whose restored structures occupy five islands and give us a glimpse at how the Maya lived and defended themselves. Mid-afternoon we reach our resort hotel on the shores of Lake Petén Itza, a half hour from the ruins at Tikal and where we dine tonight. B,L,D
Day 4: Tikal Part of the vast Maya civilization that dominated the region a millennium ago, the celebrated archaeological site of Tikal (c. 200 BCE) once was the most important city in the Maya universe. Upon arrival this morning we explore a portion of the jungle-clad ruins of palaces, temples, ball courts, and ceremonial platforms: the “Q” Complex, the Great Plaza with the Pyramid of the Grand Jaguar and Pyramid of the Masks, the Palace of the Nobles, and Pyramid IV. We also visit the nearby museum housing priceless pre-Columbian artifacts excavated from Tikal. We return to our hotel late afternoon and dine there tonight. B,L,D
Day 5: Tikal/Guatemala City This morning is free for individual pursuits at our lakeside hotel which offers kayaking, sailing, and windsurfing along with an outdoor pool. Early this afternoon we transfer to the airport for the return flight to Guatemala City. Dinner tonight is at a local restaurant. B,D
Day 6: Chichicastenango/Panajachel Departing by coach early today, we reach the white-washed highland town of Chichicastenango mid-morning. It’s market day, so our first stop is at the colorful open-air artesania market, Guatemala’s largest. Here locals sell such wares as woven baskets, woolen blankets and other textiles, carved wooden masks, and numerous traditional crafts in a whirl of commerce and socializing. Next we visit the Catholic church of Santo Tomás (c. 1540) to witness some of the ancient Maya ceremonies that, surprisingly, have long been practiced there. This afternoon we continue on to the village of Panajachel, with its dramatic setting on the shores of Lake Atitlan and surrounded by three volcanoes and numerous indigenous villages. Our lakeside hotel, a Spanish-style inn, boasts beautiful grounds and lovely sunset views. B,D
Day 7: Panajachel/Santiago We cross the lake by motor launch this morning to the picturesque town of Santiago Atitlan, capital of the native Tzutuhil people known particularly for their colorful textile design, traditional clothing, and fierce independence. The Tzutuhil count as just one of Guatemala’s indigenous tribes that comprise some 44% of the population, speaking at least 21 different dialects. After time to explore here, we return to our hotel and an afternoon at leisure. We have time tonight to stroll through Panajachel’s market area before dinner at a local restaurant. B,D
Day 8: Panajachel/Antigua En route to Antigua, Guatemala’s most important colonial city, we stop at the Maya archaeological site of Iximche, capital of the Kaqchiquel people who were known for their skill at building fortified cities. Despite Iximche’s strong walls, the city was abandoned just 50 years after its founding, as the 1519 arrival of the Spanish in Central America brought disease and strain to the area. This afternoon we reach Antigua and our hotel, a restored 17th-century monastery, and take a tour of the property whose grounds cover an entire city block and which houses an open-air museum. Guatemala’s capital from 1543 until a devastating earthquake in 1776, Antigua is one of The Americas’ oldest and most beautiful cities, with pastel-colored buildings, wide cobblestone streets, and a lovely natural setting. This evening we enjoy dinner together at our hotel. B,D
Day 9: Antigua Our morning tour of this magnificent highlands city ringed by three volcanoes and known for its 16th-century Spanish colonial architecture includes lively Plaza Mayor flanked by the impressive Catedral de San José and Palace of the Capitanes Generales. We also see the ruins of churches and monasteries, some with hidden underground passages, destroyed by the earthquake of 1776; tour a jade factory; and visit artisans weaving textiles on primitive foot looms. The afternoon is free to explore this UNESCO site on our own. B
Day 10: Antigua We spend the morning discovering more of this lovely city, once home to some 30 monastic orders. Then we enjoy another afternoon at leisure for independent exploration. Potential activities include touring the Colonial Art Museum, with religious art dating from the 17th century; or admiring the local crafts for which Antigua is known at some of the many local galleries and artisans’ shops. Tonight we gather at a local restaurant for a farewell dinner. B,D
Day 11: Depart for U.S. After breakfast we transfer to the Guatemala City airport for our return flights to the U.S. B
Please note: This trip involves considerable walking on uneven terrain, cobblestone streets, and at sites of ancient ruins. You should be in good physical condition to enjoy the tour to its fullest.
B = Breakfast included L = Lunch included D = Dinner included