Day 1 (Tuesday or Saturday): Guatemala City – Antigua. Welcome to Guatemala! Upon exiting customs and immigration you will be met outside the baggage terminal. Set out on a private transfer (approximately 45 minutes) to your Antigua hotel. Overnight at an Antigua hotel, breakfast included – 3 nights.
Day 2: Architecture and History Tour. You will be met at your hotel reception this morning by your private guide for a half-day walking tour of Antigua. Your tour will cover the architectural and historical highlights of this colonial city, with a behind-the-scenes look at some of the many ruined churches, convents, and cathedrals. Entrance fees are included to the Iglesia San Francisco, the Cathedral, Central Park, and La Merced Church. This tour is flexible and if you have specific sights that you wish to see please notify your guide.
If you wish to visit other monuments you will need to pay the entrances directly. At the end of the tour your guide can either accompany you back to your hotel or take you to a drop off point of your choosing. Strolling the streets you'll see that Antigua has kept its original character by preserving its monuments and retaining its original architectural forms. As a consequence, Antigua was declared a Patrimony of Humanity by UNESCO in 1979. Afternoon at leisure.
Day 3: Azotea Coffee Farm, Maya Museum. You will be met at your hotel by your private driver and guide. First you drive to the village of Jocotenango, on the outskirts of Antigua, where you can visit the local workshops of the traditional woodcarvers of the area. You can also see the interesting pink and white façade of the Jocotenango church before you transfer across to the wonderful Azotea Coffee farm and museums. Here you can have a private guided tour of the coffee farm and the museums covering Mayan traditional music and costume. Learn about the importance of coffee in Guatemala's history and its impact today as well as hearing about the Maya way of life. When you are ready your guide will then accompany you back to your Antigua hotel. Afternoon at leisure. Includes: (B).
Day 4: Comalapa Market and Lake Atitlan. You will be transferred (approx. 1 hour) to the colorful and authentic market at Comalpa. Here you will enjoy a tour of the market, the famous local primitive painting galleries, a local bakery and the famous town mural. Afternoon transfer to Lake Atitlan (approx. 2½ hours). Lake Atitlan was formed thousands of years ago when several large volcanoes collapsed resulting in the very deep rocky lake.
During the days directly following Spanish colonialism several small villages began to emerge along the lakes edge. Due to the vast distances across the lake and the rugged terrain the native people in each village had very little or no contact with each other. The result today is that each village has its own unique textiles, crafts, and traditions. When English novelist Aldus Huxley visited Guatemala, he referred to Lake Atitlan as "The most beautiful lake in the world," and this same phrase is often heard by the American and European visitors that constantly travel through the narrow winding road that leads to Lake Atitlan.
The glorious Lake Atitlan is volcanic in origin and is surrounded by three impressive volcanoes. Its surface is about 5000 feet above sea level although this figure varies from year to year as the lake rises and falls. It is 12 miles long and between 4.4 and 7.5 miles wide. Overnight at a Lake Atitlan hotel, breakfast included – 2 nights. Includes: (B, L).
Day 5: Lake Atitlan Tour – San Juan and Santiago. This morning guests will take a scenic 30-minute boat ride across Lake Atitlan to the village of San Juan La Laguna where you can visit the women’s textile cooperative and watch hand weaving and natural dye process. Here, you can also visit the studios and homes of the celebrated naïf painters.
From here you continue to the village of Santiago where you will have lunch at a local hotel and tour the village. Along with your guide, you will walk to the house where the Maya God Maximon is living. Each year a different "brotherhood" has the privilege of taking care of their God so his location changes. Once with Maximon you may see local shaman performing rituals for local people and if you wish you can ask your guide to help you hire the services of a shaman for a personal ceremony performed.
After visiting Maximon you can visit the local church and learn about the history of this very traditional town and also see the market and learn about the distinctive textiles and primitive art that is famous from this area. You will learn about the textiles, spiritualism and beliefs of the T’zutujil Maya. Return to your hotel via St Catarina Village. Includes:(B, L).
Day 6: Lake Atitlan – Chichi Market – Guatemala City – Flores (Tikal). You will be met at your hotel by your private driver and guide for the 1-hour transfer to the highland town of Chichicastenango. Along the way you will pass through the central highland region and see the local Maya people in their traditional dress going about their daily lives - working in the fields, collecting firewood, traveling between markets, selling their wares.
Full of narrow, cobbled streets and red-tiled roofs, Chichicastenango is home to Central America's largest open-air market (market days – Thursday and Sundays). You'll feel as though you're a part of real Guatemalan life as you bargain with Maya traders from all over the region selling their textiles, handicrafts, and other products at this market which encircles the Santo Tomas Church, built around 1540.
Lunch is included and will be served at the Hotel Santo Tomas. Upon arrival in Chichicastenango your guide will take you to explore this famous market (market days – Thursdays and Sundays). Market areas include fruits, vegetables and everyday items as well as the craft area where you can find endless variety of beautiful textile, wooden and ceramic crafts. You will also visit the famous Santo Tomas Church where local Maya people come to perform Maya rituals within the Catholic Church - demonstrating the interesting way the two faiths have combined in recent times.
You may also opt to hike up the hill to the Pascaul Abaj ritual site to see if local shamans are performing rituals and/or to the cemetery on the outskirts of town. This afternoon you will transfer to the Guatemala City Airport (3hr) for your early evening 30-minute flight to Flores. Airport reception and transfer to your hotel. Overnight at a Tikal area hotel, breakfast included – 2 nights. Includes: (B, L).
Day 7: Yaxha Sunset (Guide HD). Day at leisure. You may opt for a morning Canopy Tour. This afternoon you will be met at your hotel and transferred with guide and driver to Yaxha, a seldom-visited Mayan city. Yaxha is the third largest Mayan site in Guatemala, and has only just been extensively investigated; though little has yet been restored. The view from the top of Temple 216 over the jungle lagoon is inspiring. Sunset drinks are then enjoyed at the end of the tour on top of the main temple with views over the surrounding rainforest and nearby lake Yaxha. You will then trek back through the jungle with torches as it starts to turn dark - perhaps spotting some nocturnal wildlife along the way - and return to your hotel.
Day 8: Tikal – Guatemala City. This morning you will be picked up at your hotel and transferred to Tikal National Park for a privately guided tour. You will explore the amazing UNESCO protected Mayan Temple site of Tikal where huge Mayan temples rise above the jungle canopy and monkeys and tropical birds are abundant in the surrounding rainforest.
Tikal is the grandest of all Mayan Ruins, and the stunning beauty of this tropical paradise will leave you breathless. Along with your private guide you will tour the ruins. Lunch is included (you may upgrade to a luxury picnic lunch). Climb to the top of the "Temple of the Jaguar" rising above the jungle to overlook the many temples and main plaza to imagine yourself in the hey-day of this thriving ancient city.
Your guide will give you an excellent overview of the discoveries made here, an insight into the Mayan way of life, and the historical significance of the ruin. You will also encounter many species of birds and the rich flora of tropical hardwoods like mahogany and teak, along with countless ornamentals and edibles flourishing here. After lunch you will have time to relax and refresh before your transfer to the Flores Airport for your flight to Guatemala City. Airport reception and transfer to your Guatemala City hotel.
Day 9: Int’l departure. Hotel pickup and transfer to the airport.
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