Central America Explorer
Day 1 Antigua
Arrive at the Guatemala City airport and transfer to your hotel in Antigua. There are no planned activities during the day, so check into the hotel and enjoy this charming city. Please try to arrive before 6pm for an important group meeting where you can meet the Chief Experience Officer (CEO) and the other group members. Please note that Antigua's nearest airport is Guatemala City, Guatemala. Don't get caught flying into the Caribbean island nation of Antigua; it's nowhere near the start of this tour! Guatemala is a small country, yet offers a wide variety of geography, climates and people. Its mountains and volcanoes are a magnet for climbers and hikers; the northern Petén region’s dense jungle and glorious Mayan past draw archaeology and wildlife enthusiasts alike; and the colourful highland towns and villages with their smiling residents are sure to leave their mark on the memories of your travels. It is a short 45 km from Guatemala City on a lovely winding road. The natural scenery is some of the most beautiful anywhere with high mountain peaks surrounding deep valleys, every inch of land covered with lush growth.
Day 2 Antigua (1B)
Visit a chocolate museum and take a hands-on workshop learning about the ancient Mayan process from bean to bar with tastings. Free time to take salsa dancing lessons and explore this quaint city. Enjoy a chocolate workshop "from the cacao bean to the chocolate bar". In this hour and a half hands-on workshop you learn all the steps from the harvest of the cacao beans in a plantation to the processing of a chocolate bar. Starting with cacao beans you will roast them, peel them, and grind them into a paste. This cacao paste is then used to prepare the first known cacao drink (invented by the Mayas), the traditional hot chocolate. In the end, from refined chocolate you will prepare your own chocolate that you can take back home. Walk through quiet cobblestone streets past rebuilt stucco homes with heavy, beautifully carved wooden entrances. The point of reference for finding one's way around Antigua is the Central Park, which is directly in the centre of town and the place to be in the late afternoon or early evening. You can pick up a map from the tourist office located on the ground floor of the Palace of the Captains-General on the south side of the Central Park. Explore the museums, the colonial buildings and other sites in this delightful town.
Day 3-4 Copán, Honduras (2B)
Set off on a full day of travel and journey towards Copan. The colonial highland town of Copán Ruinas is a charming and relaxing place, with an almost-perfect climate. Besides the Mayan ruins this town is famous for, there are many other things to explore. Opt to go horseback riding through the nearby beautiful hills to see some lesser known ruins or travel to natural hot springs. If you'd prefer, stay in town and explore the cobblestone lanes of this small town. While here enjoy a tour of the nearby Mayan ruins of Copán, which are fascinating, beautiful and unique among Mayan cities. Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1980, Copán contains some of the most important Mayan ruins found to date, and many unusual artistic features. Visitors walk through grassy plazas filled with intricately carved and decorated monuments, statues and staircases. Huge carved faces stare at you from ancient walls and bring the place to life, causing renewed wonder at the mysterious disappearance of such a creative civilization. Day 3 Estimated Travel Time: 8 hours Approximate Distance: 200 km
Day 5-6 Rio Dulce, Guatemala (2B)
Visit the Archaeological Park and Ruins of Quirigua - an ancient Mayan ruin and UNESCO World Heritage site. Quirigua is located near the Motagua River, the source of most Guatemalan Jade. It's location made it an important trading post between Copan and northern Mayan cities as well as the Caribbean coast. In Quirigua you can see the largest stelae in the mayan world, the largest of which measures more than 10 meters tall! Cross into Guatemala and arrive at Río Dulce, a small town on Lake Izabal and a port stop for boaters around the globe, on their way to/from Livingston and the Caribbean coast. There are plenty of opportunities for R & R. Aside from boating on Lake Izabal, you may opt to horseback ride through a rubber plantation, explore San Felipe fort, take the morning monkey kayak tour, relax at the hot waterfall or hike through the jungle-strewn trails in the Chocón-Machacas Natural Reserve area. Day 5 Estimated Travel Time: 3 hours Approximate Distance: 160 km
Day 7-8 Flores/Tikal (2B,1L)
In the morning, board a motorboat and journey towards the coast on a beautiful ride past cliffs, hot springs and a few small communities. Enjoy an included lunch in the small town of Livingston before heading off to Flores. Livingston is famous for its seafood soup called Tapado. Make sure to try it for lunch! After lunch, journey overland to Flores in the Peten region of Guatemala. This charming town, with its pastel-coloured buildings, enjoys a scenic setting on Lake Petén Itzá. There will be time to stroll through the streets, buy local handicrafts or take a swim in the lake. We also have a day to visit the famous ruins of Tikal and the curious wildlife of the National Park. The city of Tayasal was transformed into the city of Flores, officially founded by the Spanish in 1700. It remained an isolated area, relying on the subsistence farming of corn and beans, and the gathering of chicle from nearby trees, used in the manufacture of gum. Despite the recent growth in Petén, Flores remains the same small island town, with narrow, cobblestoned streets, small, brightly painted houses and friendly people. The island is now attached to the mainland by a causeway, but many of the local inhabitants still get around by cayuco, or dug-out canoe. Flores remains one of the most scenic and charming towns in the Petén. It is particularly attractive to visitors because of Lake Petén Itzá, a large lake (12 km long and 3 km wide) offering all sorts of possibilities for fun, including swimming, boating, fishing and bird watching, a small zoo and a nature preserve. The sheer scale of the ruins at Tikal may at first seem daunting. Even if you make it only to the main plaza or spend an hour relaxing in deep contemplation, you certainly won't be disappointed. The central area, with its five main temples, forms by far the most impressive section. If you start to explore beyond this you can wander endlessly into the maze of smaller structures and outlying complexes hidden in the jungle growth. If your energy levels are high enough to make it to the top of Temple IV, your senses won’t be disappointed! Spectacular views of the surrounding jungle canopy will greet you from the top of the highest structure within the complex. Occasionally, you may spot toucans, macaws and other bright birds from this artificial perch within the greenery. Otherwise, you may simply marvel at the engineering and organizational skills needed to construct this city within the jungle! A local bilingual guide will explain the natural and artificial wonders of this site during our foray into Tikal. Day 7 Estimated Travel Time (including excursions): 7 hours Approximate Distance: 300 km
Day 9-11 Jaibalito/Lake Atitlán (3B,1L)
Head to the small Flores airport early in the morning before boarding a flight to Guatemala City. From there, transfer by private van to the beautiful Lake Atitlán. Your home at the lake will be in the tranquil town of Jaibalito. This tiny village sits on the north shores of breathtaking Lake Atitlán, surrounded by volcanoes. There are no paved roads leading into Jaibalito, but the paths weaving across the slopes offer rewarding views of the lake. Lake Atitlán was formed when a magma basin emptied a few hundred thousand years ago in a huge volcanic blast. Later, the San Pedro, Santiago and San Antonio volcanoes sprouted up and there is still volcanic activity that occurs within the lake heating it to bearable swimming temperatures. We have two full days here to explore the lake and the surrounding area. Visit the villages on the lake by boat, departing in the mornings and returning in the afternoon. Get ready for spectacular views of the surrounding volcanoes and everyday life in a highland village. The people of this area have received tourists for some time and are friendly and ready to smile at strangers as readily as they will at a life-long friend. Stop off in San Juan la Laguna, a Plaeterra supported Village for an included local Mayan lunch, and participate in a Mayan tree planting ceremony. This ceremony offers you insights into Mayan culture and beliefs and allows for a bit of interaction with the local Mayan community. You can test your communication and bargaining skills in the local markets, of which there are many. There is also a number of community cooperatives that you may wish to visit. The proceeds from the sales return directly to the community and are a significant contribution to the local economy. The area is also ideal for outdoor pursuits like swimming, fishing, wind surfing, hiking, bird watching, kayaking, horseback riding, and for the really adventurous, parapenting! Day 9 Estimated Travel Time: 6 hours Approximate Distance: 440 km
Day 12-13 Antigua (2B,1L)
Return to Antigua where we take a guided cultural walking tour with a local expert, including the museums at Paseo de los Museos. Option to take salsa dancing lessons, take a volcano trek, scour the cobblestone streets for handicrafts or relax with a massage. Once the third largest city in all of Spanish America, Antigua served as Guatemala's capital city for more than 200 years until it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1773. Antigua today is a peaceful, partially restored colonial city that is a pleasure to explore. Enjoy a guided Antigua cultural walking tour, including entrance fee to the museums at Paseo de los Museos. Walk through quiet cobblestone streets past rebuilt stucco homes with heavy, beautifully carved wooden entrances. It is a short 45 km from Guatemala City on a lovely winding road. The natural scenery is some of the most beautiful anywhere with high mountain peaks surrounding deep valleys, every inch of land covered with lush growth. The point of reference for finding one's way around Antigua is the Central Park, which is directly in the centre of town and the place to be in the late afternoon or early evening. You can pick up a map from the tourist office located on the ground floor of the Palace of the Captains-General on the south side of the Central Park. Explore the museums, the colonial buildings and other sites in this delightful town. Antigua offers three specialties that make shopping here very worthwhile. Textiles sold here and in the nearby towns are of the highest quality, beautifully designed and woven on foot looms or the rarer back strap loom. Jade, in carved statues and jewelry, is sold in several factories and shops in town and silver jewelry is sold in the better shops and also in a silver factory in nearby San Felipe de Jesus. The city offers good buys in ceramics and antiques as well. Day 12 Estimated Travel Time: 3 hours Approximate Distance: 80 km
Day 14 Antigua (1B)
Depart at any time.