Snorkel in the clear waters of the largest Barrier Reef in the Western Hemisphere and discover the towering Mayan temples of fabled Tikal. Enjoy overnights at Turneffe Island Lodge, with 12 guest rooms and 8 cabanas ideally situated a few minutes from the best snorkeling in the Caribbean, and La Lancha, Francis Ford Coppola’s charming ecolodge on Lake Peten Itza near the Tikal ruins. Our optional mid-trip 2- to 3-night extension to the Maya Mountains features The Lodge at Chaa Creek, voted onto the World’s Best list by Travel & Leisure readers. An additional post-trip extension to Guatemala explores the lovely highland town of Antigua, whose colonial center is a World Heritage Site, and the Mayan market village of Chichicastenango, and stunning Lake Atitlán.
This was our second trip with Wilderness Travel’s Private Journeys and we really loved them both.
— Sharon M.
Belize’s Barrier Reef
The 200-mile-long Belize Barrier Reef, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the natural wonders of the planet, its warm waters (80 degrees) teeming with intriguing marine life, including fascinating coral formations and hundreds of species of exotic fish. Instead of staying on the coast (with long boat rides to snorkeling sites), we’ve chosen wonderful accommodations at Turneffe Island Lodge, set on an idyllic private coral atoll right on the reef, where unbelievably rich snorkeling is just a 10-minute boat ride from the white-sand beaches. In these sheltered waters, many sites are perfect for novice and experienced snorkelers alike.
Barrier Reef Snorkeling
From Turneffe Island Lodge—the sole accommodation on the entire island—you’ll venture out to snorkel among eagle rays, rainbow-hued parrotfish, black-and-yellow striped angelfish, sergeant majors, and a host of other jewel-bright fish. There’s also a chance of seeing hawksbill, loggerhead, or green sea turtles, playful dolphins, and flying fish. The waters are so extraordinarily clear that a look through your mask reveals a kaleidoscopic world of flamboyant corals in shades from deep purple to brilliant red. A stay at Turneffe also offers the opportunity to visit the legendary Blue Hole, a dive site discovered by Jacques Cousteau and an amazing marvel of nature, with its incredible walls and drop-offs. Additional activities include sea kayaking, a wonderful way to explore the shallow turquoise waters (no previous experience required), bone fishing, or beachcombing along the pristine beaches. At night you’ll dine with other guests on local Caribbean culinary delights like conch, fresh fish, and tropical fruits, then kick back to gaze at the brilliant star-filled sky and the moonlight reflecting on these magical waters.
Fly to Guatemala for a guided exploration of unforgettable Tikal, one of Central America’s most magnificent archaeological sites. Overnights are at Francis Ford Coppola's charming La Lancha Lodge. In the classic Maya city of Tikal, probably settled around 700 BC and mysteriously abandoned in 705 AD, ancient temple pyramids soar out of the lush rainforest canopy of an immense jungle reserve. You’ll feast your eyes on towering steep-sided limestone structures including the famous 144-foot-tall Temple of the Giant Jaguar, with its nine stories representing the nine layers of the Maya underworld, walk the steep central stairways of the pyramids, explore the ball courts and great plazas, listen to the howler monkeys and calls of birds (there are some 400 resident bird species in unbridled abundance), and marvel at the sheer scale of the setting. Today this site is protected within Parque Nacional Tikal, set on the edge of the huge Maya Biosphere Reserve, the largest tropical reserve in Central America. (Our optional mid-trip 2- or 3-night extension to Chaa Creek Lodge in Belize’s Maya Mountains begins on Day 5 and is followed by the excursion to Tikal.)
Transfer to Flores then fly to Guatemala City and depart.