- Tour the Maya ruins at Tikal National Park
- Walk the historic streets of Antigua and take a cooking class
- Snorkel at the best sites near Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye
- Spend the day on a catamaran and enjoy a picnic lunch
|Arrive in Belize, Transfer to San Ignacio & Butterfly Farm
|Horseback Ride to Xunantunich Ruins, Transfer to Tikal (Guatemala)
|Tikal National Park
|Explore Tikal National Park, Transfer to Antigua
|History Walking Tour, Guatemalan Cooking Class
|Antigua Countryside Bike Tour
|Transfer to Caye Caulker (Belize), Optional Activities
|Snorkeling at Caye Caulker Marine Reserve
|Blue Hole Snorkeling Tour
|Swim with Manatees, Transfer to Ambergris Caye
|San Pedro Town
|Snorkel Hol Chan Marine Reserve & Shark Ray Alley
|San Pedro Town
|Catamaran Cruise & Beach Picnic
|San Pedro Town
|Transfer to Belize City & Depart
Day 1: Arrive in Belize, Transfer to San Ignacio & Butterfly Farm
Welcome to Belize! This tiny Central American country is full of surprises. Rather than Spanish, most residents here speak English-based Creole with West African influences, called Belizean Creole. Not only that, despite this nation's coastline stretching a mere 240 miles (386 km), running along the entire length of it is the Belize Barrier Reef, the second-largest barrier reef system in the world. Needless to say, Belize is a paradise for divers.
You'll hit the water soon enough. However, upon your arrival at the airport in Belize City, a driver will be waiting to whisk you inland toward the border with Guatemala. After about two hours, you'll arrive in San Ignacio. This town sits on the Río Macal and is surrounded by jungle, which allows for some great nature tours and visits to archeological sites. Once here, you'll check in to your hotel.
Day 2: Horseback Ride to Xunantunich Ruins, Transfer to Tikal (Guatemala)
In the morning, you'll leave San Ignacio for a half-day tour of the nearby archeological site of Xunantunich. Rather than taking a car to the ruins of this ancient Maya city, you'll be riding there on horseback. The tour begins at a local stable, where you'll meet your riding guide, mount your horse, and depart. The ride to Xunantunich takes you along a well-maintained trail through a large private farm, along the banks of the Río Mopan, and past the village of San José Succotz. You'll cross the river on an old (but safe) hand-operated ferry and then ride up to Xunantunich.
When you arrive, you'll dismount and spend and begin the tour of Xunantunich on foot. This archeological site was once a city that reached its height of power during the seventh century CE but was abandoned around 750 CE. It covers 1 square mile (2.6 sq km), and you'll explore the main area's six plazas and 26 temples and palaces. Afterward, you'll ride to a nearby restaurant for a delicious lunch of traditional Belizean food or dine at a local farm before returning to the stables. Throughout the ride, your guide will also point out the exotic flora and fauna you pass along the way.
Day 3: Explore Tikal National Park, Transfer to Antigua
Join your guide this morning for another tour of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Tikal. It's a great opportunity to hike more pyramids and see other structures you might have missed the first time around. Throughout the tour, you'll visit major points of interest, including Temples I, II, III, IV, and V, the Lost World, Complex Q, the Great Plaza, the Window Palace, and more.
The ruins aren't the only highlights, either, because the rainforest surrounding it is part of the Maya Biosphere Reserve. It's home to exotic animals like monkeys, toucans, parakeets, and other tropical birds. So be sure to keep your eyes peeled, and your camera close as you explore the ruins.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 4: History Walking Tour, Guatemalan Cooking Class
In the morning, you'll meet a local historian, and the two of you will embark on a walking tour of this well-preserved Spanish colonial city and UNESCO World Heritage Site. During the excursion, you'll visit 18th-century landmarks like the Palacio del Ayuntamiento ("City Hall Palace"); Casa Santo Domingo, a former convent that is now a hotel and museum; the Palace of the Captain's General; and La Merced Church, whose canary-yellow Baroque facade is a hallmark of the city. As you stroll the Paseo de Los Museos ("Museum Path"), you'll delve into the roots of Maya archaeology and culture.
After the tour, head to a local cooking class, where you'll learn to prepare traditional Guatemalan cuisine. This food is an exotic mixture of colonial Spanish and Indigenous Maya influences that is delicious and fun to make. Even better, the three-hour workshop is taught by local chefs who belong to the Sacatepéquez Indigenous community. Besides the main dishes, you'll also prepare handmade tortillas and a dessert. At the end of the class, you'll sit down with your fellow chefs and enjoy your delicious creations.
Day 5: Antigua Countryside Bike TourToday you'll meet up with a group of cyclists for a trip to explore the nearby villages, ruins, and stunning scenery around Antigua. It's a packed excursion in which you'll visit a macadamia nut farm, coffee plantations, and a textiles and handicrafts market in the mountain town of San Antonio Aguas Calientes. Throughout the ride, you'll enjoy panoramic views of Guatemala's verdant western highlands. Of course, there will be plenty of opportunities to stop and snap photos. At the end of the ride, you'll return to Antigua and have the rest of the day free.
Day 6: Transfer to Caye Caulker (Belize), Optional Activities
Wake up early for the transfer from Antigua to Guatemala City. At the airport, you'll catch a flight to Belize City. Upon arrival, you'll hop in a water taxi and zip along the blue Caribbean for 45 minutes to Caye Caulker, a small coral island. Once there, you'll check in to your hotel and can spend the rest of the day kicking back.
Caye Caulker is the ideal spot for relaxation. This tiny, car-free Caribbean island measures just 5 miles (8 km) long and less than 1 mile (1.6 km) wide and is known for its laid-back spirit. Divided by a narrow split, the island draws snorkelers and divers from all over the world to its unspoiled marine reserve, part of the Belize Barrier Reef (the second-largest barrier reef system in the world). For now, though, spend the remainder of the afternoon lazing in a hammock, sunbathing on the beach, or browsing the souvenir shops in Caye Caulker Village.
Day 7: Snorkeling at Caye Caulker Marine Reserve
Take to the water this morning on a five-hour boat tour of the island's biggest draw: the Caye Caulker Marine Reserve. This 23-square-mile (61 sq km) portion of the barrier reef runs parallel to the island's coast and features many world-class dive sites, three of which you'll visit for a snorkel. In this underwater paradise, you'll swim among coral gardens and see exotic fish, including rays, parrotfish, turtles, eels, and (perhaps) sharks. The remaining two stops on the tour are sightseeing excursions to try and spot tarpons and manatees.
After returning to the island, you'll have the rest of the afternoon free. Relax at your hotel, stroll the alleys of the town center, try a refreshing gelato, or hop around the different bars and restaurants to mingle with locals and immerse yourself in the culture.
Day 8: Blue Hole Snorkeling Tour
Before the sun rises above Belize's coastline, you'll leave on a full-day snorkeling tour to the famous Blue Hole, a giant marine sinkhole that first formed as a limestone cavern during the last Ice Age. This popular dive spot, which can be seen from space, is an icon of Belize due to its almost perfectly circular shape—it measures 1,043 (318 m) across and 407 feet (124 m) deep. Your journey here begins around 5:30 am with a 2.5-hour boat ride southeast to Lighthouse Reef and the dive site.
The early start is well worth it, as you'll discover once you plunge into the Blue Hole and swim beneath its shimmering surface. As you break through the thermocline layer into the deeper, motionless waters below, you'll be treated to visibility of up to 200 (60 m) feet. In this environment, you'll see everything from giant underwater stalactites to reef sharks, parrotfish, and turtles cruising past.
Day 9: Swim with Manatees, Transfer to Ambergris Caye
Head back to the Caye Caulker Marine Reserve today for a three-hour excursion to swim with manatees. Meet your guide at the north end of the island, and you'll start your search for these animals in the shallow waters just offshore of Caye Caulker. Once you've found them, you'll have an hour to snorkel alongside these docile "sea cows" (though touching and feeding the animals is prohibited). There's also a second stop on the trip to snorkel amid some beautiful coral gardens dotted with sea fans and teeming with exotic fish.
Upon returning from the tour in the late morning, you'll hop onto a ferry for the 30-minute ride north to the adjacent island of Ambergris Caye. This idyllic coral isle has been inhabited over the centuries by the Indigenous Maya, Mexicans fleeing the Caste War of Yucatán and even European pirates. Upon arrival, you'll check in to your hotel in San Pedro Town, the only town on the island. Then spend the rest of the afternoon exploring its sandy streets, browsing local art galleries and museums, or, if you have the energy, grab a kayak from the hotel and head out for a brisk paddle out on the water.
Day 10: Snorkel Hol Chan Marine Reserve & Shark Ray Alley
In the morning, you'll take a boat just off the southern coast of Ambergris to Hol Chan, Belize's first-ever marine reserve. This UNESCO World Heritage Site protects 7 square miles (18 sq km) of coral reefs and mangrove lagoons, home to an incredibly biodiverse marine ecosystem. It's a top site for snorkelers/divers (one of the best in Belize), and you'll spend about 2.5 hours here swimming with schools of exotic fish and marine life. Smaller specimens you'll likely see include angelfish, trumpetfish, and seahorses, plus larger animals like turtles, moray eels, and the gorgeous spotted eagle ray.
Most tours of Hol Chan are combined with a stop at nearby Shark Ray Alley, which is exactly where you'll be going too. It's a fitting name, as here in this 30-foot (9 m) deep channel, you can swim with stingrays and harmless nurse sharks. During the stop, you'll have another few hours to swim with these animals; or, if that prospect is a little too hair-raising, feel free to hang out on the boat and watch as the sharks lazily circle the boat. Afterward, you'll return to Ambergris Caye.
Day 11: Catamaran Cruise & Beach Picnic
You're in for a treat, as this morning, you'll board a 38-foot (11.5 m) catamaran for a pleasure cruise around the reef, atolls, and coral islands of Belize. Relax on deck with the sun on your face and the wind in your hair as you cruise along the very same trade routes favored by English merchants and European pirates in the 1600s.
During a break from the sailing adventure, your skipper will anchor near the coral-rich Mexico Rocks, a popular snorkeling destination. Here, you'll enjoy a barbecue on deck with fresh lobster and conch, depending on the season. After lunch, you can take a nap, do some sunbathing, or dive off the boat into crystalline waters for a swim. After a while, you'll cruise back to the pier in Ambergris Caye.
Day 12: Transfer to Belize City, Depart
Parting is such sweet sorrow—especially when saying goodbye to the Caribbean. At the appropriate time, you'll take a water taxi from San Pedro to Belize City, where you'll catch your flight home. See you soon!
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