Tikal and the Land of the Mayas

Overview

Enter the heart of El Mundo Maya, with its intriguing Mayan culture and lavish temple cities rising out of misty rainforests. Our Private Journey in Guatemala features elegant Antigua, colonial capital of the Spanish realm in Central America, the mysterious mountain village of Chichicastenango, with its famous open-air market, and the stunning volcano-ringed lake called Atitlan, surrounded by traditional Mayan villages. For a grand finale, explore Tikal, the greatest Mayan religious center yet discovered, where thousands of structures have been cleared from the surrounding jungle. Tikal is magnificent not just for its towering temples and pyramids but also for its situation within a vast canopy forest of mahogany, cedar, palm, and ceiba where you’ll see playful monkeys and fantastic birdlife. We also offer optional extensions to the extraordinary Mayan city of Copan in Honduras and to the glorious Barrier Reef of Belize for world-class snorkeling adventures in an extraordinary coral reef kingdom.

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-2
Colonial Antigua, Maya Culture

Surrounded by three majestic volcanoes, Antigua is an enchanting highland city of cobbled streets, courtyard cafes, finely preserved plazas, and ornate colonial-era fountains. Its beautifully preserved examples of Spanish Renaissance art and architecture make you feel as if you’ve stepped back 300 years in time. Explore this exquisite city—once one of the great cities of the Spanish empire and now designated a World Heritage Site—on a fascinating walking tour, discovering its traditional artisan markets. Textile weaving has played an important part in Guatemala’s indigenous K’iche culture for centuries, and the region is renowned for its unique fabrics and complex use of color. Weaving is done by K’iche women on backstrap looms, with each village and family retaining its own distinct weaving patterns, motifs, and colors.

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Days 3-4
Chichicastenango and Lake Atitlan

World-famous for its outdoor market full of color and textiles (the largest in Central America), the highland town of Chichicastenango is a rainbow-hued cache of traditional Mayan designs. Explore narrow lanes that lead to the mystical 16th century Santo Tomas Catholic Church, where Mayan shamans perform ancient ceremonies on the front steps. Each of the 18 steps that lead up to the church stands for a month of the Mayan calendar year. Continue to Lake Atitlán, one of the most beautiful mountain lakes in the world, ringed by three majestic 10,000-foot volcanoes—Toliman, Atitlan, and San Pedro. Enjoy an excursion by private motor launch on Atitlan’s deep blue waters where simple wooden dugout canoes remain the primary form of transport, and visit lakeside villages where life and customs have changed little over the centuries.

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Day 5
Guatemala City / Flores

Return to Guatemala City and, time permitting, visit the Museo Ixchel del Traje Indigena, with its extraordinary collections of ceramics, textiles, jewelry, and indigenous clothing from different regions of Guatemala. You will also visit the Museo Popol Vuh to view its collection of pre-Hispanic art (stone sculpture and ceramics) as well as Pre-classic, Classic, and Post-classic Maya exhibits. Fly to the pretty lakeside city of Flores, gateway to Tikal.

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Days 6-8
Secret World of Ancient Tikal

Explore Tikal, an unforgettable towering temple-city spread over a dozen square miles in the heart of the wild Peten jungle. Once a wealthy metropolis of 100,000 inhabitants and the seat of power for the great Jaguar Clan lords, Tikal now lies still and mysterious, its immense temples and multi-level palaces cloaked in vines. As you explore this ancient Mayan world, you’ll learn about the enigmatic civilization that built thousands of amazing structures here. The pyramids and giant temples are incredibly breathtaking, most notably the famous Temple IV, the highest Mayan temple still standing and the highest known structure built in the Americas before the arrival of Europeans. On Day 7, return to Tikal for a half day tour or explore the seldom visited Maya ruins of Yaxha, set on the northern shores of a lagoon. Optional afternoon nature walk on hanging bridges or ride the local ziplines for an up-close view of the fantastic rainforest canopy world of screeching howler monkeys and squawking parrots, Depart on Day 8.

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Highlights

Highlights

The towering temples of Tikal soaring from the rainforest
Antigua, Chichicastenango, and mountain-ringed Lake Atitlan
Extension to the Belize Barrier Reef, with its famous Blue Hole

Details

Length: 8 days
Cost From: $2895  
Arrive: Guatemala City, Guatemala
Depart: Guatemala City, Guatemala
Lodging: 7 nights in comfortable, well-appointed hotels
Meals: All breakfasts and 1 lunch included
Activity: Walking, Archaeology, Cultural Adventures
Trip Level:

Easy day hikes, exploration of ruins