During this magical 12-day journey into the past, your trip starts in the beautiful Riviera Maya in Mexico and finalises in central Guatemala. Be awed by the most important remnants of the Mayan civilisation in Central America, including Chichen Itza, Tikal and Iximché. Furthermore, enjoy the Guatemalan highlands and amazing natural settings, indigenous villages and lively markets. In addition to Mayan archaeological sites, the trip is rounded off by visits to historical colonial cities in both countries. Fall in love with the past as you follow the route of the Mayas.
Market days: Take advantage of some great deals on authentic indigenous products and food items in markets such as Chichicastenango
Yucatan: Savour traditional Yucatecan dishes such as pollo or cochinita pibil, which are made from either chicken or suckling pig wrapped in banana leaves and baked underground
Chocolate heaven: Head for the ChocoMuseum in La Antigua and learn about cacao for a tantalizing chocolate experience
There are also five-day and seven-day versions of this tour available. Also, a wide range of optional excursions and pre and post-programme extensions are available on request. Please ask tour designer Melanie Goldbecker for rates and conditions
Chichen Itza: Uncover the mysteries of Maya civilisation at this ancient archaeological site dominated by the imposing Temple of Kukulkan
Merida: Yucatan’s ‘White City’ is famed for the elegant tree-lined boulevards from the 19th century
Uxmal: The Pyramid of the Magician in this UNESCO World Heritage Site rises above the jungle canopy
Campeche: The walled old town of this colonial city is colourfully pristine and has been meticulously restored
Palenque: Visit one of the best examples of Mayan ruins here in Palenque with over 200 structures unearthed
Tikal: Admire the fantastically steep temples in this archaeological site located in northeastern Guatemala
Guatemala City: The capital of Guatemala is a perfect example of the new and old juxtaposed, full of atmosphere and life
Lake Atitlan: This majestic lake is framed by three volcanos and the area’s attractiveness is sure to take your breath away
La Antigua: This colonial town is teeming with charm and tradition, and makes for a great base to explore the surrounding areas
Depart Cancun and head deep into the rainforests of the Yucatan peninsula in search of the legendary Maya city of Chichen Itza, which has been laboriously reclaimed from the jungle. Learn about the Maya and their civilisation as you admire the scale and detail of this ancient city. Behold the geometric perfection of the 25-metre-tall Temple of Kukulkan, popularly known as El Castillo (‘the Castle’), which was built both as a representation of the mystical Maya calendar and to reflect the optical illusion of a serpent snaking its way up or down the pyramid during the spring and autumn equinoxes. Admire the Great Ball Court, the largest of 13 discovered at the site, see the haunting Skull Platform, where the heads of human sacrifice victims and prisoners of war were impaled, and also the Sacred Cenote, where sacrifice victims were dumped. Also extremely well-preserved are the Temple of the Warriors, the Ossuary, the Nunnery and adjacent Church, and the large observatory known as the Snail. Continue to Merida, the capital of Yucatan, which is known as the ‘White City’ and boasts one of the largest colonial old towns in the Americas. Enjoy a city orientation tour on arrival, exploring the tree-lined Paseo de Montejo, which boasts a beguiling collection of mansions and palaces built by wealthy planters in the 19th century. In the city centre, appreciate the splendid Plaza Grande, location of the cathedral and the 16th century Spanish plateresque-style Montejo House, whose monumental carved stone façade is one of Merida’s most popular landmarks.
Breakfast at the hotel is followed by a morning exploring the ruins of another former Maya city clawed back from vegetation. Arrive at Uxmal and enjoy a guided tour of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, which as you approach it comes into view as it rises above the canopy of the jungle Unlike other Mayan cities, Uxmal was devoured by the rainforest after the Spaniards had arrived. The most famous structure is the 35-metre-tall Pyramid of the Magician, which towers over the remarkably well-preserved Nunnery Quadrangle with its ornately carved interior and exterior walls. Across the central plaza, just beyond the ballgame court, is the Governor’s Palace with its elaborately decorated roof. At the southern end of the main complex is the Great Pyramid, of which only one side has been excavated with the other three still unclaimed from the bush. Continue to Campeche for a panoramic tour of this historic coastal city, driving through the heart of the picturesque old town, with its pastel-coloured colonial houses, colonnaded arcades and bell-gabled churches. Alight and explore further by foot, seeing sights such as ramparts of the old city walls and St Francis’ Cathedral. The final leg of the day takes us along the gulf coast to your hotel for check-in.
Savour a delicious breakfast while enjoying views over the Gulf of Mexico before heading inland to Palenque, a bastion of the Ch'ol Maya people, in the state of Chiapas. We are now in Mexico’s ‘deep south’, where the colourfully dressed descendants of the Maya can be seen everywhere, and their languages frequently heard on the streets and in the marketplaces. For thousands of years, the Maya’s writ stretched across what are now the five southern Mexican states as well as all of Belize and Guatemala, and the eastern parts of both El Salvador and Honduras – until their civilisation mysteriously collapsed in the eighth and ninth centuries. It was during this period that the now ruined city of Palenque (or B'aakal as the ancient Maya called it) entered decline and was devoured by the jungle until it was encountered by Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century. In its heyday, Palenque was a sprawling city-state that spanned nearly 60 square kilometres but archaeologists estimate that they have excavated only 5-10% of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. So far, more than 200 structures have been unearthed, with the Temple of the Inscriptions, the Palace, the Temple of the Count and the Temple of the Cross the most prominent.
Start the day around 06:00hrs with a packed breakfast. In the early morning, we depart in the direction of Corozal, a border point between Mexico and Guatemala. Here, we take a boat down the River Usumacinta to the wonderful archaeological site of Yaxchilán. Located on the banks of the river, this ancient Mayan domain boasts the Great Acropolis, the Small Acropolis and the Great Plaza. After the guided tour, we continue by boat to the border of Bethel, in Guatemala. Here we continue by road, heading to the Petén area to check in to your hotel.
Begin with a breakfast at the hotel. Today, we visit the city of Tikal. Tikal is known as the jewel of the classic Mayan culture and is one of the largest pre-Colombian Mayan archaeological sites in Guatemala. We will have a picnic lunch on site in the gorgeous surrounds (drinks not included). Later, enjoy the afternoon at leisure – perhaps go on an optional excursion or relax and enjoy the hotel.
Enjoy breakfast before a morning visit to the spectacular archaeological centre of Yaxhá and its sacred lake. The site hosts several Mayan statues and more than 500 structures, featuring the large twin pyramid complex. In the afternoon, we continue to the Flores airport to take a short flight to Guatemala City. Upon arrival, you will be welcomed by our staff and transferred to your hotel in this capital city.
Breakfast at the hotel. Today, go on a half-day tour of the modern and cosmopolitan town of Guatemala, which presents a panorama of contrasts between colonial architecture and modern buildings. During the tour, we visit the Cathedral, the National Palace, the Central Square, 6th Avenue, the civil centre, la Avenida Reforma, which is one of the main avenues in the city, and we end with a visit to the Ixchel Museum, showcasing the traditional wears of the indigenous community of Guatemala. Enjoy the afternoon at leisure.
Start with breakfast before departure from the capital to head through the highlands of Guatemala. On route, we visit the archaeological site of Iximché, the old Mayan capital of ruler Cakchiquel. After the visit, continue toward Lake Atitlan, the deepest lake in Central America, of which writer Aldous Huxley compared to beautiful Lake Como in Italy. This picturesque lake is framed by three volcanoes and provides shelter to twelve indigenous groups.
Enjoy breakfast before an early morning transfer to the indigenous village of Chichicastenango, where we see one of the most famous K’iche’ Mayan markets throughout Latin America. At the market you will be able to find a plethora of goods, from foodstuffs to handicrafts to tools. In the afternoon, return to your hotel in Lake Atitlan.
Today we take a boat to visit the town Tzutuhil de Santiago Atitlan after breakfast. Here, admire some of the meticulously stitched garb of the local women. After, we continue on to La Antigua. Upon arrival in the afternoon, enjoy a city tour to get to become familiarised with your surroundings. La Antigua is honoured to be declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Discover the Cathedral, central square, principal monuments and museum which you could visit, as well as bookstores, restaurants and art galleries.
Start your with a tasty breakfast at the hotel. Today, enjoy the day at leisure. Perhaps relax and take advantage of the hotel facilities or venture out on an optional excursion to the Pacaya Volcano, the beaches of the Pacific, visit a coffee farm, play a round of golf on some of the best golf courses in the country, or simply go for a nice stroll the charming town of Antigua itself.
Breakfast. Transfer to the Guatemala City international airport.