Day 1: Depart US – Arrive in Guatemala City – Transfer to Antigua
Arrive at La Aurora airport in Guatemala City, transfer to Antigua and our hotel. Free afternoon depending on flight arrivals.
Antigua is among the world’s best-conserved colonial cities. Its Spanish colonial architecture, central park and charming cobblestone streets offer a glimpse of ancient splendor! Antigua combines colonial history with an astounding array of cultural activities, including art galleries and exhibits, performing arts, popular arts, fine restaurants, jade galleries, and native textiles and crafts. Our charming ‘boutique hotel’ is beautifully decorated with antiques and locally woven fabrics. Antigua, the capital, is one of the loveliest small cities in the world, and also an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Only a short flight from the US, but with a wonderful away-from-it-all ambience, Antigua is majestic. It is nestled between three dramatic volcanoes: Agua, Fuego, and Acatenango.
Day 2: Transfer to Lake Atitlan via Chichicastenango
Breakfast at hotel. 8:00 am transfer to Lake Atitlán.
Lake Atitlán is a deep blue gem encircled by impressive volcanoes and indigenous highland villages. Our hotel sits magnificently on the lakeshore, surrounded by lovely botanical gardens.
We have the exceptional opportunity to stop and visit the bustling highland market of Chichicastenango, which is only open on Sundays and Thursdays. Here at Chichicastenango, various ethnic groups trading goods and services can be traced back to ancient Maya roots. At the market we’ll see the distinctive textiles and primitive art that this area is famous for.
Day 3: Lake Atitlán: San Juan La Laguna & Santiago Atitlán Villages
Breakfast at the hotel. We enjoy a scenic boat ride across the lake, past the three impressive volcanoes of Tolimán, Atitlán and San Pedro to visit the traditional Maya village of San Juan La Laguna. We will visit a co-operative where local women grow their own cotton, spin it by hand, and use natural dyes to color it before weaving it into fabric on a back-strap loom. We will have demonstrations with explanations given to us of this remarkable native art. There will also be opportunities to visit an artist’s gallery with naïf paintings and a glimpse of this diverse culture, and to discover natural medicines and herbal remedies still often used by locals. We return to our boat to continue our adventure to the Maya town of Santiago Atitlán where we can admire the beautiful textiles and religious heritage of these proud people.
Day 4: Lake Atitlán: Santa Catarina Palopo & San Antonio Palopo
Breakfast at hotel. Half day trip to the villages of San Antonio Palopo, a charming town known for its unique hand-painted pottery and fabulous views of the lake, and Santa Catarina Palopo, a quaint Maya village where we will visit the weaving center devoted to traditional back-strap loom weaving. Option for more shopping time in Panajachel. Afternoon at leisure.
Day 5: Transfer to Antigua with visit to local deity
Breakfast at hotel. Transfer to Antigua with a visit en route to San Simon, a local deity, where we can observe Mayan religious ceremonies and cleaning rituals.
Day 6: Antigua
Breakfast at hotel. Starting at 9:00 am enjoy a half-day walking tour of Antigua covering a wide range of themes from history and architecture to where to shop and eat, including La Merced, Antigua Cathedral, and San Francisco Church. Includes guide, private transportation, and entrance fees to monuments. Free afternoon.
Day 7: Holy Vigil and Santa Maria de Jesús
Breakfast at our hotel. Our first stop is the nearby village of Santa Catarina Bobadilla. We have a unique opportunity to experience firsthand how this culture prepares for and participates in a Holy Vigil marking the first Friday of Lent. An elaborate and beautiful religious tableau or scene will have been constructed in the village hall. In front of this, the villagers will have designed and formed a beautiful and intricate “carpet” made out of flowers, pine needles, and the most exquisite out of dyed sawdust. The design and religious representations vary, using geometric shapes, birds, animals — every year the depiction is different. The carpet is not woven, and cannot be rolled up and reused, it is simply swept away. That is part of its beauty – all that effort for just one day… an offering to God. Gifts of fruit, vegetables, flowers, breads, etc. will have been placed around the edges of the carpet.
Outside of the church, the local people will be selling food and curiosities.
Then we will continue driving to the Maya village of Santa María de Jesus, on the side of Agua volcano. Friday is one of its market days and the women still wear their traditional clothing. It is a lovely opportunity to see a local village full of color, and to enjoy the views along the drive.
Day 8: Tikal (optional)
Breakfast at hotel and free day for those not going to Tikal.
Day trip to the famous Maya ruins at Tikal. Includes airport transport, English-speaking guide in Tikal, entry fees, and lunch in restaurant at the site.
Tikal is one of the largest archaeological sites and urban centers of the Pre-Columbian Maya Civilization. It is part of a vast national park and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. Enjoy a private guided tour of the site with its huge temples rising up through the jungle canopy, and a variety of colorful animals, birds and over 2000 tropical plant species. The park totals 576 square kilometers, but the city itself comprises approx. 31 km with 4000 structures,many still not totally excavated. The Grand Plaza forms the initial axis that defines Tikal.
(B or L)
Day 9: Depart to U.S.
Breakfast at hotel: Transfer to La Aurora airport for international departures.