Journey through Guatemala & Belize
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Vacation Style Holiday Type
Activity Level Leisurely / Moderate
Group Size Small Group
Guatemala is home to beautiful lakes, lofty Volcanoes and some of the world’s most famous and impressive Mayan ruins. Belize is famous for its incredible biodiversity due to the Belize Barrier Reserve System, a UNESCO World Heritage Centre. This itinerary combines these two very different countries, which together form a perfect combination.
* All breakfasts and 2 lunches included
* All accommodation
* All transport and listed activities
* Tour leader throughout
* Flights from London (if booking incl. flights)
Transfer to Panajachel; market tour.
This morning we will set off to the ancient market town of Chichicastenango (approx. 2.5 hours). Here we will have some time to explore the market where centuries-old economic and cultural traditions of the Kaqchikel people continue to thrive. After we will transfer to Panajachel (approx. 1.5 hours), located on the shore of Lake Atitlan. The route is mainly downhill, passing through farmland and small villages before ending with spectacular views over the lake and surrounding volcanoes. Guatemala’s largest lake is dominated by three volcanoes and was formed following an ancient eruption. Many of the villages that exist around the lake are only accessible by boat.Accommodation: Jardines del Lago Hotel/Hotel Cacique Inn or similar*Standard Hotel*
Full day tour of Lake Atitlan.
After breakfast we will enjoy a scenic boat ride on the lake which will take us to the village of San Juan La Laguna. While in San Juan, we will visit the home studios of local painters and a textile cooperative where women are engaged in hand weaving and natural dyeing processes. Afterwards we will then continue by boat to Santiago Atitlan where we can learn and understand more about the Mayan traditions and beliefs. In this town most residents are indigenous Mayans who suffered from violence during the country’s civil war.Accommodation: Jardines del Lago Hotel/Hotel Cacique Inn or similar*Standard Hotel*
Morning at leisure; transfer to Antigua via a coffee plantation.
Today we have a free morning, so you can either relax or take part in an optional excursion to help you explore the area. Please ask your tour leader, and they will help you to arrange it. In the afternoon we will transfer to Antigua (approx. 3 hours), stopping on the way to visit La Azotea coffee plantation, which also features three museums. Here you will find out about the whole production process from seedling to cup. On arrival in Antigua we will have a city tour. Many travellers agree that Antigua is one of the most attractive cities in Latin America. Rightly declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the colourful, colonial city attracts visitors from all over for its unique history and renowned Spanish language schools. Above the tiled roofs of pastel houses there are impressive views of the Agua and Fuego volcanoes, standing more than 3700m above the city. Antigua was the capital of the Spanish empire in Central America from 1543 to 1773, a highly religious period that left the city with an abundance of convents and churches packed with religious art. Unfortunately, due to centuries of earthquake damage, many buildings are now in ruins. Our guided walking tour of the city will bring its fascinating history to life.Accommodation: Hotel Las Farolas/Hotel Aurora or similar*Standard Hotel*
Pacaya Volcano Hike: afternoon chocolate tour.
This morning we will drive to San Vicente Pacaya (approx. 1-2 hours), to hike one of Guatemala’s youngest volcanoes, Pacaya. The hike up involves around 1.5 hours of continuous ascent on paths coated in volcanic ash, with much of the route being surrounded by subtropical forest. Due to the unpredictable volcanic activity, often we can’t go all the way to the top. However, with clear weather we should have views of Guatemala City and the Pacific lowlands stretching away to the east. Close to the top, we break out of the trees and after a short walk across open land we come across the vast dry lava field. Due to the shifting lava flow, molten rock is unlikely to be visible but occasionally people can be seen toasting marshmallows on the fiery surface! We will then walk for about an hour to further explore the volcano before following the same path back down to our vehicle. We return to Antigua, where we will enjoy a chocolate work shop. The workshop lasts approximately 2 hours and you learn all the steps from the harvest of the cacao, to the end product of a chocolate bar. Accommodation: Hotel Las Farolas/Hotel Aurora or similar*Standard Hotel*
Morning at leisure; afternoon flight to flores.
Today we have a free morning, so you can either relax or take part in an optional excursion to help you explore the area. Please ask your tour leader, and they will help you to arrange it. In the early afternoon, we take a short transfer (approx. 1 hours) to Guatemala City where we will board a plane to fly to Flores. Flores is located on Petén Itzá lake, which was once the Mayan city of Tayasal, which famously was the last Mayan stronghold to fall to the Spaniards. Accommodation: Hotel Casona de la Isla Flores or similar*Standard Hotel*
Sunrise tour of Tikal; transfer to Cayo District.
We make an early start this morning to reach Tikal (approx. 1 hour) for sunrise. Tikal is the most famous and impressive of all Mayan sites. Here, in the middle of the dense jungles of Petén, are nearly 20 square miles of classic Mayan ruins. We take a tour of the city, visiting the Q complex, Main Plaza, North and Central Acropolis, Seven Temples and Mundo Perdido (Lost World). Tikal is a superb area for observing wildlife in the jungle environment and visitors regularly see Howler monkeys, Spider monkeys, toucans, Weaver birds, coatimundi and even tarantula (if you know where to look and wish to find one!). In the afternoon we leave Guatemala behind, as we cross the border and continue our journey to Belize and the small town of San Ignacio (approx. 3 hours but it can vary depending on how long it takes to make border formalities). Sometimes known locally as ‘Cayo’, which means island in Spanish, the town was given this name for its location on the west bank of the Macal River. Before the arrival of roads in the area, like many small towns, San Ignacio was only accessible by boat. This laid-back town, with its mixed population of Mestizo, Creole, Lebanese, Chinese and Mennonites, is a great example of multicultural Belize.Accommodation: Log in Cabin San Ignacio or similar*Standard Hotel*
Free day; optional activities available.
Today we have a free day, so you can either relax or take part in an optional excursion to help you explore the area. We recommend excursions to the nearby ruins of Xunantunich (approx. 45 minutes) or Caracol (approx. 2.5 hours), which are less well known and a lot less visited than Tikal, offering you a completely different experience. Please ask your tour leader, and they will help you to arrange it.Accommodation: Log in Cabin San Ignacio or similar*Standard Hotel*
Visit the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) caves.
Today we venture into the Mayan underworld at the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) cave. A short journey (approx. 1.5 hours) from San Ignacio brings us to the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve, in which the caves are located. They were discovered only very recently, in 1989, at which point archaeologists began exploring the site, before officially opening it to visitors in the late 90s. The intention has been to preserve the area as much as possible; most cultural artefacts found in the caves are still in their original position and only a select number of guides have permits to lead excursions in this area. The ATM cave was a sacred site to the Mayan people during the Classic period (AD250 – 909). They are thought to have believed that gods resided in the cave and that its chambers led directly to the underworld. Human sacrifices took place in the caves as a way of appeasing the gods, with the hope of creating a more fertile land. We’ll hike through the sticky jungle to reach the entrance to the cave, which is partially hidden by leaves and branches but opens like a keyhole, allowing a stream to pass through the entrance. Prepare to wade or swim through water to enter the cave! Once inside, our guide will explain their history and we’ll see some of the famous artefacts that have been discovered, such as the ‘The Crystal Maiden’, the crystallised skeleton of a young woman whose bones have calcified and taken on a sparkling appearance. This adventure is challenging, and a good level of physical fitness is required. The ability to swim is a plus as you will need to cross deep water to enter the cave and will be wading through water several times both inside and outside the caves.Accommodation: Log in Cabin San Ignacio or similar*Standard Hotel*
Transfer to Caye Caulker visiting the Blue Hole N.P. en route.
We leave San Ignacio behind this morning and start our journey to Caye Caulker. En route (approx. 1.5 hours) we make a stop at the Blue Hole National Park, just off the Hummingbird Highway. After a 50-minute hike through the tropical forest we reach the cave entrance, where we rappel 15 feet into the cavernous entrance to the cave. We will traverse through the large chambers of the cave, sliding down mud ramps and scrambling along rocks. The park is famous for its large, sapphire sinkhole, which came about after the collapse of an underground river. The cool waters of the sinkhole make for a refreshing dip on a hot day! Several caves can also be found in the park and there are steps leading down to the 25ft deep pool, which is surrounded by hanging foliage and vegetation. We will then continue our journey (approx. 2 hours) to the Belize City Water Taxi Station where we take a boat (approx. 45 minutes) towards Caye Caulker. Caye Caulker is an island paradise in the Caribbean Sea. The delicate coral of the Belize Barrier Reef provides food and shelter to a dizzying number of tropical fish, with manatees, Nurse sharks, stingrays and turtles sharing the warm turquoise waters.* *Accommodation: Caye Caulker Plaza Hotel* or similar/Please note this hotel does not have a restaurant. We have arranged breakfasts at a cafe around the corner (2 minutes walk)./*Standard Hotel*
Full day snorkelling tour.
Just off the southern part of Ambergris Caye, the largest island in Belize, is the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, meaning ‘Little Channel’ in Mayan, because of a natural break in the reef. This area is now an important marine habitat providing refuge for a huge number of fish, coral, several species of sea turtle, the West Indian manatee and two species of dolphin. Nurse sharks also congregate in an area called ‘Shark Ray Alley’, now a popular dive site. We join a snorkelling tour in the reserve to see a selection of the marine life living in these tropical waters.Accommodation: Caye Caulker Plaza Hotel or similar*Standard Hotel*
Free day to relax or optional activities available.
Today has been left free as there are many excursions available to match different interests. If you’re a diver, we recommend taking an optional excursion to the Great Blue Hole on the Belize Barrier Reef. Not to be confused with the sinkhole located inland, the Great Blue Hole is 60 miles out to sea within the Lighthouse Reef System. This perfectly circular limestone sinkhole drops to a depth of 124m and is fringed by coral reef, a perfect environment for divers (Jacques Cousteau declared it one of the top 10 dive sites in the world) and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Please note that you will have to add an extra night’s accommodation to the end of your trip if you plan on going scuba diving, as you cannot fly for 24 hours after diving.Accommodation: Caye Caulker Plaza Hotel or similar*Standard Hotel*