DAY 1 SAT. ARRIVAL TO GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala. Meet at Guatemala City International Airport. Transfer to hotel in Guatemala City finest district. Overnight in Guatemala City.
DAY 2 SUN. COPAN, Honduras. Morning transfer to Copan in Honduras. Visit to Copan Archaeological Site. An UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1980, Copan was the southernmost major center of lowland Maya civilization and is famed for its artistic sculpture. The great Hieroglyphic Stairway was dedicated in 755 and it bears a continuous text of more than 1250 glyph blocks listing dates and names of the city’s Classic Period rulers. Because of its beautiful artwork, unsurpassed in any other Maya city, Copan occupies a special place in the study of the ancient Maya. Visit Copan’s Museum of Maya Sculpture which contains some of the finest examples of Maya sculpture ever found. Dominating the center of the museum is a full-scale brightly colored replica of the Rosalila Temple which was completed in 571. The ball courts are the playing grounds of an extremely serious sport to the Mayans. These games are believed to have had religious significance: the captain of one team was sacrificed to the gods. Overnight in Copan Town. (B.L.)
DAY 3 MON. QUIRIGUA, Guatemala. Transfer to Guatemala’s Caribbean coastal plains, visiting Quirigua en route. Also an UNESCO World Heritage Archaeological Site since 1981. This strategically located river city of the Classic Period controlled the important Motagua Valley trade route linking the Caribbean coast with interior settlements. Remarkably preserved portraits and texts on sandstone stele chronicle a ruling dynasty in competition with nearby Copan. In 738 the ruler Kak Tiliw captured and beheaded Copan’s 13th lord, 18 Rabbit. Quirigua is home to the largest Stela in the Maya World at 26 feet and 6 inches in height and weighting about 65 tons. Overnight in Flores. (B.L.)
DAY 4 TUE. TIKAL, Guatemala. The third UNESCO’s World Heritage Site of the itinerary and the first one in the Maya World, since 1979. Intensive construction took place at Tikal from the late Pre-classic Period until the waning of Classic Maya civilization around AD 900. At its peak the city covered about 48 square miles and had a population estimated at 55,000. Tikal’s Stelae 29 bears the earliest Long Count date known in the Maya lowlands. In 292 AD Temple IV, one of the many pyramids erected to memorialize the dead rulers of Tikal’s royal dynasty, and one of the tallest of Maya structures at 212 feet, was erected. Overnight Flores. (B.L.)
DAY 5 WED. YAXHA, Guatemala & XUNANTUNICH, Belize. Yaxha Archaeological Site, the only Maya Classic Site whose name is the same as its emblem glyph, well known for having large concentration of massive buildings and with defined avenues and causeways. It was always an allied of Tikal. Its location, on the shore of a lake and within the Maya Biosphere Reserve, makes it unique. After crossing the border into Belize, and very close to it, Xunantunich is an interesting small site with a tall pyramid with an spectacular view of the San Ignacio valley. Transfer to San Ignacio for overnight. Overnight in San Ignacio Area. (B.L.)
DAY 6 THU. CARACOL, Belize. Early morning departure to visit Caracol, one of the largest political, religious and economic centres of the Maya Classic Time. Magnificent and well restored pyramids, the tallest one is named Caana. Caracol is connected through a network of sakbeob with several small sites. In the 7th Century, in an alliance with Calakmul, Caracol defeated mighty Tikal. Overnight in Flores. (B.L.)
DAY 7 FRI. PALENQUE, Mexico. Depart early towards the new all paved border crossing of El Ceibo to be transferred to Palenque. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Palenque is prized for its well-preserved buildings, carved stucco ornamentation, delicate bas-reliefs and lengthy hieroglyphic texts. Palenque reached its zenith during the reign of Pacal the Great (AD 615-683). His tomb in the Temple of the Inscriptions opened in 1952 and stands as one of the greatest discoveries of Mayan archaeology. Overnight in Palenque. (B.L.)
DAY 8 SAT. YAXCHILAN & BONAMPAK, Mexico. Transfer to Bonampak Site with the main structures situated around a rectangular plaza. The southern buildings are well preserved. The “Templo de los Frescos” contains three rooms covered with paintings depicting ancient Maya ceremonies and customs. Transfer to the Usumacinta River and after a brief boat ride on the river, visit Yaxchilan. Yaxchilan, set above the jungle banks of the river, was first inhabited around 200 AD and the central plaza holds statues of jaguars and crocodiles. Adventurous travellers will want to climb Yaxchilan’s highest temple as the view of the Rio Usumacinta and surrounding jungle is magnificent. Afternoon boat ride to Frontera Corozal Town to end this day visiting Plan de Ayutla Archaeological Site, which is believed to be a site called Sak Tzi in the steles of Piedras Negras. Overnight in Valle Escondido. (B.L.)
DAY 9 SUN. PIEDRAS NEGRAS, Guatemala. An all terrain vehicle is required to drive through a rural area in Mexico to reach again the Usumacinta River, followed by a short boat ride to visit a hidden jewel of Piedras Negras Archaeological Site in the Guatemalan side of the river. Extensively explored and excavated during the 1930’s, very little has been done since then, making it the largest unrestored Classic Maya city and a magic place to visit. Every visitor must climb the tallest structure, where Tatiana Proskuriakov ashes were buried following her will. Transfer back to Palenque. Overnight in Palenque. (B.L.)
DAY 10 MON. TONINA, Mexico. Of the larger and most important Classic Maya cities, Tonina is the one located at a higher elevation and its setting in the Chiapas highlands, provides a unique setting. Remarkable reliefs and impressive structures it is a great closing for the Maya Classic Tour. Overnight in Palenque. (B.L.)
DAY 11 TUE. DEPARTURE FROM VILLAHERMOSA, Mexico. Transfer to Villahermosa International Airport.
Also see tour packages in:
Central America and Caribbean Honduras Guatemala Mexico History Whiz Archeology/History Cultural Journey
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