Explore Guatemala, Belize & Mexico, the heart of the Maya World! This tour combines the majestic views of the volcanic chain (Ring of Fire), the beauty of the Maya Highlands, the mystery of the ancient Maya Ruins, and the perfect white sand / turquoise waters of the Caribbean; in a truly unique adventure. From Antigua Guatemala to Playa del Carmen and back, this 22-day journey offers the chance to immerse in the Ancient Maya Civilization or Go Slow while exploring the laidback Belizean Culture.
Highlight: Cancun-Chichen itza-Merida - Uxmal - Kaba - Palenque - Misol ha Agua Azul - San Cristobal - Lake atitlan - Chichicastenango - Antigua - Lanquin - Flores - Caye Caulker - Tulum - Coba - Playa del Carmen.
Group size: Minimum 1- Maximum 12 pax
Physical Rate: 3/5
WELCOME TO GUATEMALA! You will be picked up at the Airport and transfer to your Hotel in Antigua Guatemala, located 45kms from the country’s busy Capital. There are no planned activities for this day but if you arrive early you can explore this colonial City, nowadays the Tourism Hub of the country. Try some tropical fruit at the local market, or a hot cup of premium Coffee in any of the many coffee shops around the plaza.
Free day to explore Antigua at your own leisure or perhaps go on a city tour, visit a Coffee Plantation, try some local food at the market, learn everything about chocolate making or hike one of the Volcanoes in the area to enjoy incredible views. Antigua, the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage city is one of the “must visit” places in Guatemala. This is a magical, colonial village. You can visit its monuments, museums, go shopping, eat on the many restaurants, enjoy the view and relax all through the cobble stone streets and beneath three volcanoes. Thanks to the many visitors this is a multilingual town, and due to the multiple Spanish schools, this is an excellent spot to learn the language. Antigua is famous for its well-preserved Spanish Baroque-influenced architecture as well as a number of ruins, many of the buildings were restored following a 1773 earthquake that ended Antigua’s 200-year reign as Guatemala’s colonial capital. Notable architectural examples include baroque La Merced, La Catedral at central park and many others. The city was laid out in a square pattern, with streets running north to south and from east to west, with a central square. Both church and government buildings were designated important places around the central plaza. In 1566 King Felipe II of Spain gave it the title of "Muy Noble y Muy Leal" ("Very Noble and Very Loyal"). All year round Antigua is a great destination, since it has the perfect weather, never too cold, never too hot. .
After breakfast our local representative will meet you at the Hotel (8am) and transfer you to Lanquin (7hrs). You will be traveling through Alta Verapaz department, watching the picturesque and very green cloud forest landscape. Lanquin is a town located on the northeastern edge Central Highlands in Guatemala. It is much hotter here than in the highlands as it is located in the deep valleys between the mountains. The main reasons to visit Lanquin is the cave system from just out of town and visiting the natural rock pools of Semuc Champey. Upon arrival you will be dropped off at the local bus station, where one of our representatives will meet you and take you to your hotel.
Eleven kilometers south of Lanquín, along a rough, bumpy, slow road, is Semuc Champey, famed for its great 300m-long natural limestone bridge, on top of which is a stepped series of pools. The water is from the Río Cahabón and much more of it passes underground, beneath the bridge. Though this bit of paradise is difficult to reach, the beauty of its setting and the perfection of the pools, ranging from turquoise to emerald-green, makes the long trip worth it. Many people consider this the most beautiful spot in all Guatemala. Today at 9 am you will take a truck from Lanquin to Semuc Champey Park will enjoy the Natural crystal pools, After all today’s action you will return to your hotel
Today you will transfer to the Island town, Flores (8hrs). You will be picked up early in the morning from your hotel in Lanquin. Flores is a town in Guatemala’s northern Petén region. It’s on an island on Lake Petén Itzá, linked by a causeway to the town of Santa Elena. Flores is known as a gateway to nearby Maya ruins. These include the national parks of Yaxha-Nakum-Naranjo, with its migratory birds, and Tikal, with its towering temples. In Flores, the twin-domed Nuestra Señora de los Remedios cathedral overlooks Parque Central square. Flores is a quiet and peaceful place. Once you arrive at Flores you will be transfer to your Hotel by one of our representatives.
You will be picked up today by our local operator to take you on a tour of Tikal National Park, one of the ancient Maya´s largest and most fascinating urban centers. An UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tikal reached its heyday c. 700 A.D. with some 50,000 inhabitants. Today, it comprises 22 square miles and more than 3,000 well-preserved temples, shrines, ceremonial platforms, residences, ball courts, terraces, causeways and plazas surrounded by jungle. Tikal was an important center during their classic period. Called the “City of the voices”. This magical place is guaranteed to be a great adventure. The exuberant fauna and plant life are amazing. If you’ve seen the old Star Wars movies you might recognize the view from Temple 4. After the tour is completed you will return to your hotel in Flores. We can arrange a sunrise or sunset, or bird watching tour at an additional cost.
You will be picked up early in the morning by one of our representatives that will meet you at the hotel front desk. From there you will take the bus to San Ignacio, changing vehicles at Melchor de Mencos (Guatemalan Border 2hrs). Please make sure you have your documents on hand for customs. From this point you are only 30 min away from San Ignacio. Whether you’re visiting ancient Maya temples, caving, hiking, kayaking or horseback riding, San Ignacio is a great place to chill out, grab some food and drinks, and get ready for another day. Located 67 miles from Belize City is San Ignacio Town, connected by the Hawksworth Bridge to its twin town Santa Elena, San Ignacio is the largest town in the Cayo District and is a base for tourism activities throughout Cayo. First on the list would have to be ATM (Actun Tunichil Muknal) consider the top sacred cave around the world, then Caracol Ruins and Pine Ridge Area, you've also got a nice mix of tubing, horseback riding and Maya ruins to stomp around near town. With a long Caribbean coast, Belize is a culturally diverse and mixed race country with one foot in Latin America and the other in the Caribbean. There is the creole (Afro-European mixture) population as well as the native Maya people and the Mestizos that tend to live the north and northwest of the country. In the south east along the Caribbean coast live the Garifuna (Black Caribs) an Afro-Amerindian culture. German speaking Mennonites, people of East Indian, and Lebanese decent, also call Belize home.
Today you can depart at any time of the day. The transfer to Caye Caulker is split in 2 sections, first a 3hr drive to Belize City, the busy countries main port. Once you arrive there you take a Water Taxi towards Caye Caulker or (Caye Hicaco). We recommend to leave not later than 1pm so you will have enough time. There is no better place to relax than this, perfect destination to let go of your worries, and just enjoy life as it is. Indeed, nothing seems to be a problem on this tiny island, where dogs nap in the middle of the dirt road and suntanned cyclists pedal around them. The only traffic sign on the island instructs golf carts and bicycles to 'go slow,' a directive that is taken seriously. Local residents have traditionally made their living from the sea, specifically from the spiny lobsters and red snapper that inhabit its warm waters. It has also long been a budget traveler's mecca, but in recent years, tourists of all ages and incomes have begun to appreciate the island's unique atmosphere. On Caye Caulker, there are no cars, no fumes and no hassles, just balmy breezes, fresh seafood, azure waters and a fantastic barrier reef at its doorstep. The easygoing attitude is due in part to the strong Creole presence on the island, which pulses to a classic reggae beat and is home to a small community of Rastafarians.
Today you can have your free time to swim or just go directly to any of local agency to book some tours, like snorkeling or diving such as Hol Chan, Shark Ray Alley, Blue Hole, Lighthouse Reef Atoll or why not an Island hopping tour (some tours are weather dependent or will have a number of participants required to operate) Please keep in mind to bring Towels, sun block, extra t-shirt, hat, sunglasses, waterproof bag, light rain jacket (just in case), seasick tablets.
Very early this morning (about 6.30am) we head back to Belize City by water taxi (1hr), and travel by bus to the border with Mexico (approx. 4hrs). After crossing the border, we head to the Mexican town of Chetumal where we swap buses and head to Tulum (4hrs). You will make a few stops on the ways, great opportunities to stretch your legs and find some local snacks. Tulum is a beautiful village on the south end of the Rivera Maya that enjoys a deep rooted history in the important culture of the ancient Mayan people. In recent years, Tulum has flourished in trades that stem directly from the skills utilized by the ancestors of the area. It offers the perfect combination of total relaxation, tranquility and seclusion, yet can fill your day with the many interesting and rich activities in the area. Tulum can be separated into 3 areas; Ruins, Town and Beach Strip.
This morning you will be met by our local representative and take an easy half-hour drive inland from the coastal city of Tulum, arriving at the Ruins of Coba. Visitors who brave the steep climb up the highest pyramid in Mexico's Maya world reap the reward of a breathtaking vista. At more than 130 feet in height, Nohuch Mul, which means “large mound” in the Mayan language, is the tallest pyramid at Coba archaeological site and in the Yucatán Peninsula. In the Mayan language Coba means “water stirred by wind.” The Maya flourished here between 400 and 1100 A.D. One of the largest Maya cities of the Classic period, at its peak the site stretched out over 50 miles and was home to some 50,000 inhabitants. Two small lakes nearby made it a desirable location. Coba was an important trade link between the Caribbean coast and inland cities. A network of ancient roads called sacbe in Maya, which means “white road” radiates out from Coba. After your visit to Coba, plan to stop at the Gran Cenote on the way back toward Tulum for a refreshing dip in the cool, clear water—a welcome reward indeed after the hot climb.
So enjoy this Guatemala Second interesting capital.
Before taking the local bus to Playa Del Carmen (1.5hrs), you will have some time to visit the Ruins of Tulum. Mornings are the best and least crowded time to to visit this site. Tulum, meaning wall in Mayan, was an ancient Maya fortress city that rose to power toward the end of the Classic period. The most iconic of its structures, the Castillo, is perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the clear turquoise blue waters of the Caribbean. The cliff-top Castillo, with its beachfront location and lush green landscape, is the image most often associated with the Maya Riviera. You’ve probably seen the postcards! This ancient walled city was, in its time, a thriving civilization. Originally thought to be called Zama, Mayan for dawn, Tulum was a major crossroads of trade from both land and sea managing trade from Honduras and into the Yucatan. This is evident by the large amount of artifacts from all over Mexico that have been uncovered at this site. Tulum is one of the only fortified Maya sites and is one of the best preserved coastal sites in all of Mexico
Situated right in the heart of the Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen is the region’s top destination for shopping, dining and nightlife. There’s plenty to keep you occupied here, plus Playa serves as an ideal base for exploring the rest of the Riviera Maya. Head into town and take a stroll along the pedestrian Fifth Avenue strip, locally known as Quinta Avenida. La Quinta is the place to see and be seen in Playa del Carmen. By day it’s packed with people browsing the shops and boutiques; by night roving musicians entertain diners in the many restaurants and bars.
Today we will take a local bus heading towards the ruins of Chichen Itza (approx. 4.5 hours). This bus cruises through little villages allowing to see the Mexican Maya. We have around 2-3 hours to spend at the ruins before we travel onwards. One of the most impressive Maya sites, Chichen Itza, meaning (‘at the mouth of the well of the Itza') is an amalgam of an older Maya city and newer Toltec settlement. The towering Castillo pyramid, which is fraught with cosmological symbolism dominates the site along with the largest ball court where games used to be held. The games are depicted in carvings on the walls. After the visit we travel on to Merida (approx. 2 hours) where we will spend the night.
Merida, nicknamed, La Ciudad Blanca (The White City) from the predominance of white limestone that was used as a building material, is the capital and largest city in Yucatan State and the cultural and financial capital of the region is considered the crossroads of the region and one of the most important places to experience the yucateco life. It’s a modern, cosmopolitan city with museums, art galleries, restaurants, shops and boutiques. Founded in 1542 by Francisco de Montejo “el Mozo” (the son), and built on the site of the ancient Maya city T’ho, meaning “city of five hills.” T’ho was the center of Mayan culture and activity in the Yucatan region. After the arrival of the Spanish, the ancient city’s five main pyramids were destroyed and their ruins used in the construction of Merida’s cathedral and other important buildings. Merida was built as a walled city and several of the old Spanish city gates remain. Merida is also the gateway to the Maya ruins of Uxmal and there is an opportunity to visit these impressive ruins. Little is known about the site's origins but it is thought the city was founded around AD500. Much of the site is decorated with masks of the rain god Chac. This is no great surprise as the area has a lack of natural water supplies and the city relied on rain water. Our local partner will meet you at the reception and take you to explore the national archeological site of Uxmal and Kabah. Uxmal and Kabah Ruins guided tour
Enjoy travelling Green routes of Mayan World.
Located in the foothills of the Chiapas altiplano of modern Mexico, Palenque was an important Maya city which flourished between c. 600 and 750 CE. The name Palenque derives from the Spanish, meaning 'fortified place', but the original Maya name was Lakam-Ha (“The Place of the Great Waters.”). Situated where the highland and coastal plains join, the site prospered as an inland trade centre which allowed Palenque to control a large territory and form beneficial alliances with other powerful cities such as Tikal. The tour of the ruins takes around 2hrs plus some time to enjoy on your own. After that we will head to the Waterfalls of Misol Ha, located 20kms from Palenque. This waterfall consists of one single cascade of 35 m of height that falls into a single almost circular pool. We then drive to Agua Azul a waterfall complex that consists of many cataracts following one after another.
After breakfast we take another bus to the city of San Cristobal de las Casas (6hrs), driving through the mountainous terrain. Along the route we will see the Caracoles (Good Government Juntas). These represent both the poetic, populist and the practical nature of the Zapatista struggle to build workable alternatives of autonomy locally, link present politics to traditional ways of organizing life in indigenous communities, and contrast with the ‘bad government’ of official representational politics in Mexico City. The local Zapatista movement in the region around Palenque has been quite active in recent months, occasionally holding protests or blocking roads. We are constantly monitoring this situation to ensure the safety of our clients. In some cases, we might need to use an alternative route from Palenque to San Cristobal to avoid this. Once we arrive in San Cristobal, you will be checking into your Hotel and have the rest of the afternoon free to enjoy a warm cup of coffee or dance some Marimba at the Main Plaza. There are many bars and restaurants to visit and try the international options.
Situated in a fertile valley surrounded by mountains in the southern state of Chiapas, is home to several indigenous groups descended from the Maya, two of the largest being the Tzotzils and Tzeltals who inhabit highland villages surrounding San Cristobal. One of Mexico’s best-preserved Spanish colonial towns, is made up of a series of traditional barrios (neighborhoods), each of which is known for a particular trade or custom, such as iron working, carpentry and woodcarving. You’ll want to set aside plenty of time to wander the narrow cobblestone streets of San Cristobal, past brightly painted buildings and colorful shops and markets. The town is laid out on a grid pattern and can be easily explored on foot. Several of the main streets leading through the center of town are closed to traffic and converge on the central park or Zocalo (main plaza). There is time here to explore the villages. If you take a day trip to San Juan Chamula, make sure to visit the church. The floor is covered with pine needles and the air is heavy with incense. Shamans come here to carry out cleansings with firewater, ancient prayer and sometimes chickens. There are also markets with colorful handicrafts for sale. Take the opportunity to go for an optional day trip to Sumidero Canyon.
From San Cristobal we head down to Guatemala by van. It takes about 4 hours to get to the Guatemalan border and another 6 hours to get to our final destination, Panajachel. The border crossing is fairly easy, just make sure you have your passport ready and the driver will give you detailed instructions on what to do once at the border. The vans make one stop before arriving to the Border at the City of Comitan, this for breakfast and to stretch your legs. Pack snacks in advance mainly for the portion after the border as there is only one short stop before arriving into Lake Atitlan. Lake Atitlan means ‘at the water/the place where the rainbow gets its colors’ and is the deepest lake in Central America. It is approximately 12 x 5 km with a maximum depth of about 340 meters. It is surrounded by three volcanoes on its southern end. The shores of the picturesque lake are dotted with Maya villages. The main towns along the lake, including Panajachel, Atitlán, and San Lucas, are popular with anthropologists and tourists.
Today one of our representatives will meet you at your hotel to take you on a boat tour to three of the many lake side villages around Lake Atitlan. We recommend visiting Santiago de Atitlan, San Juan La Laguna, and San Antonio Palopo. You will enjoy the colorful scenery the lake has to offer and learn more about the villagers, whose traditional costumes still vary from one village to the other, as well as their history. Though the lake area offers adequate transportation to and from all of the surrounding villages, it is quite possible that local inhabitants will spend most of their lives in the village of their birth and may not even travel to other villages across the lake. As evidence of this relative isolation, there 3 different native languages spoken around the lake, and each village has their own accent within their indigenous language. Some of the villagers, more often women who may not work outside their homes, do not speak Spanish. All of the villages are relatively small, and material comforts and healthcare are limited. Most of the villages are connected to the outside world only by boat. Nonetheless, each village offers a rich and varied tapestry of food, color, language and culture. Because of the prevalence of tourism, there are a variety of jobs in addition to agriculture and fishing and many people make crafts to sell. Each village has its own traditional attire brightly colored woven and embroidered clothes, belts, and hair bands and clothes, setting them apart from the neighboring villages.
Our driver will meet you at your hotel reception to take you on a short drive to Chichicastenango for a shopping spree through the colorful market where locals buy and sell fruits, vegetables, flowers, grains, animals, textiles and handicrafts (market available only on Thursdays and Sundays, otherwise you will go straight to Antigua). You will witness ancient rituals at Santo Tomas Church, we would also recommend visiting the peaceful yet colorful cemetery. Santo Tomás Church was built in 1540 over the base of an archaeological pre-hispanic temple. This church is a splendid example of colonial architecture. Masheños (citizens of Chichicastenango) are famous for their adherence to pre-Christian beliefs and ceremonies, and the town's various cofradías (religious brotherhoods) hold processions in observance of their saints around the church of Santo Tomás. Once called Chaviar, Chichi was an important Kaqchiquel trading town long before the Spanish conquest. In the 15th century the group clashed with the K'iche' (based at K'umarcaaj, 20km north) and were forced to move their headquarters to the more defensible Iximché. When the Spanish conquered K'umarcaaj in 1524, many of its residents fled to Chaviar, which they renamed Chugüilá (Above the Nettles) and Tziguan Tinamit (Surrounded by Canyons). These are the names still used by the K'iche' Maya, although everyone else calls the place Chichicastenango. Today, Chichicastenango has two religious and governmental establishments. On the one hand, the Catholic Church and the Republic of Guatemala appoint priests and town officials; on the other, the indigenous people elect their own religious and civil officers to manage local matters, with a separate council and mayor, and a court that decides cases involving only local indigenous people After lunch you will be taken to Antigua, where you will enjoy the rest of the day .
You can depart at any time…