Semana Santa - Easter in Guatemala
Day 1 Antigua
Arrive Antigua at any time. 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. Antigua 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 and every inch of land covered with lush growth. Note: As Antigua is less than an hour’s drive from the Capital, airport transfers are easily arranged locally, whether you are starting or ending your tour in Antigua.
Day 2-4 Lake Atitlán/Jaibalito (3B)
Travel to Lake Atitlán and catch our boat to the small town of Jaibalito, our base for the next 3 nights. From here we explore indigenous villages on the Lake as they prepare for the Holy Week processions. We also visit the vibrant Chichicastenango market. Jaibalito is a small village on the shore of Lake Atitlán, known for its tranquility. It is accessible only by boat and foot trail and offers stunning views of the volcanoes and lake. The area is also ideal for outdoor pursuits like swimming, fishing, wind surfing, hiking, bird watching, kayaking, and horseback riding. A visit to Guatemala would not be complete without the chance to visit to the famous market of Chichicastenango. Renowned for its colourful handicrafts and intricate weavings, “Chichi” is also an important trading place for the local residents, and provides close views of daily life of modern Maya. After bargaining over beautiful textiles and taking in all of the sights and sounds of the market, travel to the shores of Guatemala’s Lake Atitlán. Volcanoes and small indigenous villages surround this pristine lake, truly one of the most beautiful spots in Central America. Twelve native villages, blue/grey mountains and three volcanoes line the shores of this lake resulting in a wonderful combination of unusual natural beauty and traditional culture. We have the chance to admire some of the villages of Lake Atitlan on an included boat tour. The towns will be be abuzz preparing for Holy Week processionals and activities, so our timing is just right to get a taste of the fervour that surrounds this holiday time. Panajachel is a relatively modern town with paved streets in its centre and a great deal of old world flavour and charm. The best way to see Panajachel is on foot, but pay attention to where you’re going as there aren’t any street signs. Visit the old churches and explore the back streets to see the more traditional side of Panajachel. You’ll have the opportunity to visit the villages on the lake by boat, departing in the mornings and returning in late 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. Estimated Travel Time: 4 hours Approximate Distance: 80 km
Day 5-9 Antigua (5B)
We return to Antigua to spend more time to explore the city, shop, and of course to enjoy the Semana Santa celebrations. A cultural walking tour of Antigua is also included. Antigua is the old capital of Guatemala and as the seat of the Spanish colonial government, was once the most important city in all of Central America. Enjoy the beautiful architecture of this UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site. Take a mountain bike ride out into the countryside or explore the fascinating markets, shops and museums within the city. 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. Modern Antigua is a peaceful, partially restored colonial city that is a pleasure to explore. Walk through quiet cobble-stoned 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/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 and don’t forget to try some famous Guatemalan coffee. 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 more traditional back strap loom. Jade, in the form of carved statues and jewellery, is sold in several factories and shops in town and silver jewellery 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. When we arrive in Antigua, Semana Santa, or Holy Week, will be in full swing, and there will be plenty to see and experience. As home to the world's largest Holy Week celebration, the spectacular Easter festivals here are beyond comparison. On Good Friday, residents begin laying down painstakingly detailed, hand-crafted natural carpets of "Corozo" flowers, pines and and dyed sawdust that they have made to cover the cobblestone streets where the processions will pass. We will have the opportunity to join in building one of these elaborate carpets. Early in the morning, elaborate processions begin, slowly moving the heavy, palm-decorated "Anda" (a type of special float) of Christ along the streets in a sombre re-enactment of his crucifixion. An honour passed down from generation to generation, the men involved in the processions, known as "Cucuruchas", wear purple cloaks (symbolizing mourning) and hold burning incense as they walk. Amongst themselves they will take turns carrying the Anda, which can weigh several hundred kilograms. The religious celebrations continue on Holy Saturday, with funeral processions in honour of the Virgin Mary. It is often the local women who will bear the weight of this Anda, dressed in their best clothes and sometimes high heels. On Easter Sunday, or Palm Sunday, the joyful celebration of the resurrection of Christ begins, with festivities happening throughout the streets of Antigua. The procession on this day carries the Anda of Christ robed in white with the frequent sounds of bells, applause, and fireworks to demonstrate the festivity of the moment. In between observing these ceremonies, you may choose to climb a nearby volcano, mountain bike through the countryside or just relax in a pleasant street side café.
Day 10 Antigua (1B)
Depart Antigua at any time.