- Stroll the cobbled streets of colonial Antigua
- Climb Pacaya volcano & kayak on Lake Atitlán
- Get a bird's eye view of Guatemala in a helicopter
- Tour Maya ruins and participate in a ceremonial ritual
|Day 1||Arrive in Guatemala, Transfer to Antigua||Antigua|
|Day 2||Hike Pacaya Volcano||Antigua|
|Day 3||Antigua Free Day||Antigua|
|Day 4||Helicopter Flight to El Mirador, Transfer to Flores||Flores|
|Day 5||Visit Tikal National Park||Flores|
|Day 6||Discover Uaxactún, Helicopter Flight to Lake Atitlán||Lake Atitlán|
|Day 7||Kayak on Lake Atitlán||Lake Atitlán|
|Day 8||Maya Ceremony, Transfer to Guatemala City & Depart|
Day 1: Arrive in Guatemala, Transfer to Antigua
Welcome to Guatemala! This country is filled with immense natural beauty, Spanish colonial history, and ancient ruins. You'll experience the major highlights while traveling in first-class comfort all the way. It begins with your arrival in the capital of Guatemala City. At the airport, a driver will be waiting to whisk you off to the nearby colonial city of Antigua. You'll spend the next three nights at Antigua's first luxury boutique hotel, Meson Panza Verde. Located in the center of Antigua's Old Town, the hotel's 12 rooms are built around a lush courtyard garden and fountain.
After settling into your hotel, you'll hit the cobblestoned streets on a tour of what was once the capital of Guatemala until an earthquake in the 18th century forced its relocation. During the outing, a local historian will guide you around the well-preserved Spanish Baroque churches and government buildings that sit beneath a backdrop of three volcanoes.
Day 2: Hike Pacaya Volcano
Today you and your guide will drive to the base of the Pacaya volcano, located about an hour and a half from Antigua. While the 8,300-foot-tall (2,530 m) volcano has been continuously active since 1965, there is only minor activity nowadays. After a two-hour hike to the summit, you'll have a chance to peer into the crater and feel the hot gases emanating from inside (safety permitting). Enjoy a picnic lunch and stunning views at the top before descending the volcano. Spend the rest of the day back in Antigua sampling delicious street food, souvenir shopping at the crafts markets, and indulging in the nightlife.
Day 3: Antigua Free Day
Today is yours to explore Antigua on your own. Between church ruins, markets, cafés, and boutiques, there's much to see here. Indulge your sweet tooth with a visit to the ChocoMuseo, where you'll not only learn about the history of delicious Maya chocolate but also make your own. Get lost in El Mercado, where you can browse vendor stalls selling fresh produce. Or visit Nim Po't and Colibri to shop for exquisitely crafted textiles and handicrafts. If you like, hike to the top of Cerro de la Cruz for panoramic views of the city and the nearby Agua volcano.
If you'd like to go farther afield, take a trip to a local coffee plantation to see the origin of some of the world's finest coffee and enjoy a cup or two. For a bit more adventure, you can embark on a guided mountain bike excursion, either to one of the coffee plantations or on a more challenging backcountry route. For dinner, you can have an elegant meal at the hotel or venture out to some of the local hotspots in the historic center.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 4: Helicopter Flight to El Mirador, Transfer to Flores
In the morning, you'll transfer back to Guatemala City by car. Then you'll board a helicopter and fly over the mountains and volcanoes of the southern highlands to the pyramid ruins of El Mirador in northern Guatemala. At 232 feet (73 m), this is the largest pyramid by volume in the world. Also, there are other structures at this archeological site, that predate the more famous Tikal and which have yet to be fully excavated. On a tour, you'll get to hike to the top of the pyramid ruins and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding jungle.
Return by helicopter to the nearby town of Flores, where you'll spend the next two nights at the La Lancha hotel. This idyllic hideaway on the shores of Lake Petén Itzá offers both rainforest and lake views. Each of the 10 glamorous casitas comes with its own hammock deck, antique Balinese and Guatemalan furnishings, and large, marble-tiled bathrooms.
Day 5: Visit Tikal National Park
After breakfast, you'll join your guide for the 1.5-hour drive up to Tikal National Park, the most well-known of the Maya archeological sites in Guatemala. Covering 222 square miles (576 sq km), the city was a powerhouse during the Classic Maya Period (200-900 CE) but fell into disrepair after it was abandoned around the 10th century. It was engulfed by the rainforest and remained hidden until it was discovered and excavated in the 20th century.
Tikal is also a part of the Maya Biosphere Reserve. So as you tour the site, be sure to enjoy the jungle scenery and calls of exotic animals like monkeys and toucans. Throughout the tour, your guide will lead you to the 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.
Later in the day, you'll get to watch the sunset over Tikal's temples and listen to the sounds of the jungle as you relax after your full day of exploration. If you're up to it, continue a short way north to the Maya astronomical observatory at Uaxactún. Otherwise, return to your hotel in Flores for dinner.
Day 6: Discover Uaxactún, Helicopter Flight to Lake Atitlán
If you couldn't fit it in yesterday, meet a local guide for the two-hour drive north from Flores to Uaxactún. Though significantly smaller than Tikal, the major structures at this former Maya archeological site were erected during the Classic Period (100-900 CE). The civilization began to decline in the ninth century and was abandoned altogether in the 10th century. Highlights you'll see on a tour include three partially restored temples designed to perfectly align with the sun on certain days of the year. It's for this reason scholars believe Uaxactún to be an important astronomical site.
In the afternoon, you'll return to Flores and take a 90-minute helicopter ride south to the stunning Lake Atitlán. The lake is magnificent from every angle, but few get to see its azure waters and surrounding mountains from the sky. Upon arrival, you'll check in at the lakeside Casa Palopo. This villa-turned-boutique-hotel is nestled on the hillside amid Indigenous villages. Take in the view from one of the many terraces, or from your personal sundeck. The rooms are lovingly decorated with rich colors and boast a décor that evokes Guatemala's Maya heritage.
Day 7: Kayak on Lake Atitlán
Today you'll experience the astounding beauty of Lake Atitlán on a morning kayak ride. During the excursion, there will be a break for swimming and then you'll continue on to the Indigenous lakeside town of Panajachel. From here, embark on a two-hour hike to a remote clifftop hotel for lunch, where you'll be treated to panoramic views of the lake and surrounding volcanoes.
After lunch return by boat to Panajachel, where you can browse Indigenous textile markets. If you like, stop by Casa Cakchiquel. During its heyday in the 1950s, this hotel was frequented by Che Guevara, Ingrid Bergman, and a host of other intellectuals and artists. Today Cakchiquel features exhibits, a fair trade store, and a vintage photo gallery. From there, continue on to the Atitlán Nature Reserve for a tranquil walk around the jungle trails, butterfly park, and orchid gardens.
Day 8: Maya Ceremony, Transfer to Guatemala City & Depart
After a leisurely breakfast overlooking the lake, you'll meet an Indigenous Maya cosmologist. Together you'll hike to a nearby cave used for Maya fire rituals. The cosmologist will prepare you for the event, which is led by a spiritual guide known as El Ajq'ij. Part of this ceremony/meditation involves the use of candles, which helps to align your energy with the cosmos. This is a longstanding tradition, as the Maya have been practicing such ceremonies for over 5,000 years.
Afterward, you'll have lunch at Casa Palopo, then board the helicopter for one final joy ride back to Guatemala City. At the airport here, catch your flight home or onward to the next adventure. Safe travels!
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