Our Guatemala Highlands Extension features elegant Antigua, colonial capital of the Spanish realm in Central America, the mountain village of Chichicastenango, with its famous open-air market, and stunning, volcano-ringed Lake Atitlan, surrounded by traditional Mayan villages.
Guatemala City / Antigua
After a morning arrival in Guatemala City, transfer to enchanting Antigua, set in the coffee-growing Panchoy Valley at 5,000 feet with spectacular Volcano Agua (12,400') dominating the skyline. In this same valley are Volcano Acatenango and the always-steaming Volcano Fuego. Founded in 1543, Antigua was the seat of Spanish colonial government for the Kingdom of Guatemala, which included Chiapas (southern Mexico), Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. It was one of the first planned cities in the Americas, with a grid pattern inspired by the Italian Renaissance and a European-style plaza at the center of town. The Spanish Colonial style permeates every part of town, from the elegant stucco houses painted in bright colors to its traditions and folklore. On arrival enjoy a city tour with your guide. The balance of the day is free to explore on your own, and lunch and dinner are on your own. Overnight at the Casa Santo Domingo, a 16th century monastery converted into a lovely accommodation...B
Antigua’s beautifully preserved Spanish Renaissance architecture make you feel as if you’ve stepped back in time 300 years, and the city offers a glimpse into the modern-day Maya culture. Enjoy a day to explore the cobbled streets, fine public plazas, and ornate colonial churches. Some of Guatemala’s most skillful Mayan artisans sell their wares here through galleries and open-air markets. Their work includes stunning weavings that express the history and traditions of the Mayan people. An optional visit to the weavers’ village of San Antonio Aguas Calientes is available. Overnight at Casa Santo Domingo...B
Chichicastenango / Lake Atitlan
En route to Lake Atitlan, we visit Chichicastenango (6,500'), a small town famous for its open-air market, the largest in Central America. The handicraft market draws not only the K’iche’ Maya of the surrounding region, but also vendors from all over Guatemala, representing linguistic groups including the Mam, Ixil, and Kaqchikel. All gather in this densely packed outdoor market full of color and traditional clothing. After roaming the market, visit the adjacent Santo Tomás Church, built in 1540 on the site of an existing Mayan altar. Shamans still use the church for their rituals, burning incense and candles. Each of the 18 stairs that lead up to the church stands for one month of the Mayan calendar year. Overnight at the lakeside Villa Santa Catarina, with its lovely gardens full of birds...BL
Lake Atitlan, a natural wonder of blue, wind-tossed waters, is set against a backdrop of three 10,000-foot volcanos—Toliman, Atitlán, and San Pedro. Lining the shores are Indian villages where life has changed little over the centuries. Journey by private motor launch to the beautiful lakeside villages. including the Kaqchikel town of San Antonio Palopó on Atitlán’s eastern shore, where both men and women still wear traditional clothing. Women wear backstrap-loomed red striped huipiles (blouses), red head-ribbons, and blue skirts, while men dress in traditional striped shirts and pants with a small woolen blanket called a rodillera around the hips. There is also a chance to visit Santiago Atitlán and the shrine to Maximón, a colorful pagan saint. Overnight at the Villa Santa Catarina...BL
Lake Atitlan / Guatemala City
Transfer to Guatemala City for departure on homeward-bound flights.