Day 1: Guatemala City, Guatemala
Welcome to Guatemala. A Big Five’s representative will greet you at the airport and transfer to your hotel in Guatemala City. La Inmaculada Boutique Hotel
Day 2. Guatemala City
In the company of your specialist guide, begin your day’s exploration of the nearly universal art form of graffiti. The area near the international airport at Juan Pablo II Boulevard features murals and sculptures by local Guatemalan artists. You also take in the Modern Art Museum, dedicated to the national art and artists. Your guide will take you through the exhibition, which traces the origins of Guatemalan art in the 20th century. The exhibition is organized in a chronological order, with references to the various political and social periods. After the museum, visit an industrial area where graffiti artists create some of their amazing work, and watch a graffiti demonstration by a local artist. In Guatemala, graffiti can be dated back to the ancient time of the Mayan Civilization in Guatemala. Graffiti were incised into the stucco of interior walls, floors, and benches, in a wide variety of buildings, including pyramid-temples, residences, and storerooms. Graffiti have been recorded at over 50 Mayan sites, particularly clustered in the Guatemala Petén Basin. At Tikal, where a great quantity of graffiti has been recorded with subjects that includes drawings of temples, people, deities, animals, banners and thrones.
This afternoon, enjoy lunch in the historic part of the city called “paseo de la sexta.” Here, your guide will take you to discover panoramic views of the most important monuments and buildings that have been inspired by graffiti, and to areas downtown. There are boutique art galleries and sculptures all along the walk down “Paseo de la sexta.” And later in the afternoon, you will head on to “Paseo Simeon Cañas” where you will find the 1905 Guatemala Relief Map – reportedly the only three-dimensional cement map in the world! Drawn almost perfectly to scale in relation to Guatemala’s original geography. The map is a reproduction of the country as it existed at the start of the 20th century. Francisco Vela designed the map to have 3D mountains, volcanoes, towns, rivers – one of which even has running water – roads and ports. Vela’s map has a complex level of detail that includes hundreds of smaller cities and pueblos and pinpoints exactly the country’s altitude, latitude and longitude, along with the accuracy of the model – 1:10,000 km horizontal and 1:2,000 vertical. You gain a bird’s-eye view of the map via two observation towers. Here, too, you will see Guatemalan graffiti artists’ work.
La Inmaculada Boutique Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 3: Guatemala City / Lake Atitlan
This morning, you drive to Lake Atitlan. On the road, stop at San Juan Camalapa, nestled among pine trees and cornfields just an hour and a half from Guatemala City. The town is famous for its 'naive' style artisans and was Camalapa Camalapa home to Andrés Curruchich (1891–1969), the first oil painter who was Kaqchikel, indigenous Maya peoples of the midwestern highlands. The painting tradition started in the 1930s when Curruchich started painting. His creativity gained him international success. This led him to teach new generations his form of painting. Today there are some 500 painters in San Juan Comalapa, the majority of whom still use Curruchiche’s techniques.
At the entrance of the town is a mural depicts its history. Here you have opportunities to not only visit local artists’ home-galleries but also see them at work. You will meet one of Comalapa's most noted artists and share a meal with him and his family in his home. After the tour, drive on to Lake Atitlan. Casa Palopo (B,L)
Day 4. Lake Atitlan – San Juan La Laguna – Lake Atitlan
Today, a boat ride takes you to the village of San Juan La Laguna. The paintings here are descriptive testimonies of the Tz'utujil daily life. Most of these local artists are self-taught without any formal training, which is why objects and people are presented on different levels and without symmetry. Local artists express themselves on the walls of their villages, businesses or even their own homes. Many of these indigenous cultures survive today and are great part of the Guatemala’s population. Your guide will take you to see some of the more than 30 murals throughout the town and visit more homes-cum-art galleries. After lunch, cruise back to the hotel to enjoy the spectacular sunset over the lake and drinks on the deck of your hotel. Casa Palopo (B,L)
Day 5. Lake Atitlan / Antigua
This morning is at leisure to relax or participate in one of the activities such as kayaking, zip lining or trekking around the lake. Later, you take in Antigua on a walking tour of this enchanting colonial city, one of the best preserved in the Americas. A living museum and colonial masterpiece founded in 1542, the highland city of La Antigua, commonly known simply as Antigua, is known for its well-preserved Spanish baroque architecture as well as several spectacular ruins of colonial churches. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Antigua is among the best-preserved colonial cities in the Americas. This magical and captivating small town makes you feel like time might have stopped some 300 years ago. Hotel Boutique Mil Flores (B)
Day 6. Antigua
In the morning, you will visit Antigua’s market. Your guide will point out the unique market culture of Guatemala. See, smell and learn about the traditional ingredients used in the Guatemalan cuisine. During the tour, you will visit a Tortilleria. No matter where you eat, from a restaurant to a market to a local family's home, tortillas are bound to accompany your traditional Guatemalan meal. Here you will take part in an ancient tradition by making your own tortilla.
After the market, you will be able to eat delicious Guatemalan dishes just like the locals do. While strolling through the city streets learning about Antigua’s famous churches and ruins, you will have the opportunity to sample different foods such as Chiles rellenos: Chile peppers stuffed with rice, cheese, meat and vegetables. They are served with tortillas and tomato sauce. Chicken Pepian: Chicken in spicy pumpkin and sesame sauce. Kak'ik is a traditional Mayan turkey soup, with spices like coriander, achiote, and chili peppers. Hotel Boutique Mil Flores (B)
Day 7: Antigua / Guatemala City / Peten
You transfer to the airport for your flight to Flores, Peten. You begin your exploration of the ancient Mayan world at Yaxha, an archaeological site and ancient ceremonial center of Mayan civilization northeast of Peten. Your guide will show you the layout and main temples. This site is a mixture of archeology, beautiful jungles landscapes and ecological tourism. This Mesoamerican archaeological site was the third largest city in the region and experienced its maximum power during the Early Classic period (c. CE 250–600). The city was located on a ridge overlooking Lake Yaxha. The name of the city derives from the Mayan for "blue-green water," which is a Classic period place name. The Yaxha kingdom is estimated to have covered an area of 237 sq km/92 sq mi, and to have had, at its peak, a population of 42,000 in the Late Classic period.
Yaxha had a long history of occupation with the first settlement. It was founded sometime in the Middle Preclassic period (1000–350 BCE). It developed an enormous city during the Early Classic (250–600CE). At this time, as is common with other sites in this region, it shows strong influences from the distant metropolis of Teotihuacan in present-day Mexico. Teoberto Maler, who visited them in 1904, was the first outsider to report the existence of the ruined city, which includes more than 500 structures with a number of major archaeological groups linked by causeways. Approximately 40 Maya stelae have been discovered at the site, about half of which feature sculpture. Enjoy a stunning sunset on top of a pyramid with the raucous sound of howler monkeys calling and moving through the jungle around you – a most memorable experience. Las Lagunas Lodge (B)
Day 8: Peten – El Mirador – Peten
After breakfast, your guide will meet you at the lobby and you are taken to the heliport to enjoy an hour ride by helicopter to a remarkable Pre-Classic Mayan city – El Mirador. As you approach, you realize that archeologists are still excavating much of the site.
El Mirador flourished as a trade center from about 300 BCE to 150 CE, with a peak population of perhaps between 100,000 and 250,000 people. Its main attractions are two large pyramid complexes, El Tigre and La Danta, facing each other. La Danta is technically lower than El Tigre, nevertheless it is located on a hillside, making it the tallest structure in the Mayan World. The ruins of this ancient city are more overwhelming than most Mayan sites. The Tiger Pyramid is 18 stories high and it base covers the area of three football fields. The first mention of the site was in 1885, when engineer Claudio Urrutia, who surveyed the area, sited a “ruinas grandes’. El Mirador was officially reported in 1926. Archeologists noted that a large amount of construction predates other Mayan sites including Tikal. Explore the site with your guide, pausing to enjoy a box lunch. After lunch, your helicopter returns you to town, and you are taken back to your hotel. Las Lagunas Lodge (B,L)
Day 9: Peten – Tikal National Park
After breakfast, your tour guide will meet you at the lobby of your hotel and take you to magnificent Tikal National Park. City and ceremonial center of the ancient Mayan civilization, Tikal became an important ceremonial center with the construction of major pyramids and temples. Its prime years were the Late Classic Period (600-900 CE). This UNESCO World Heritage Site contains some of the most fascinating archaeological remains of the Mayan civilization. Your guide offer insights into the world of the Mayans and the layout of the temples, and discuss architecture, history, and some theories as to why the Mayans disappeared. You may also spot some of the local wildlife including monkeys, parrots, macaws and toucans. Enjoy lunch at a restaurant in the middle of the jungle. After lunch, you are at leisure to relax. Las Lagunas Lodge (B)
Day 10: Peten / Rio Dulce
After breakfast, join your guide for the three-hour drive to your hotel in Rio Dulce for a two-night stay. Hotel Nana Juana (B)
Day 11: Rio Dulce
After breakfast, join your guide, who will accompany you to the hotel’s marina to board a boat to explore the Rio Dulce (Sweet River). You will cross through "EL Golfete", the wider area of the river, where the Chocon Machaca Park and the floating gardens are located. Rio Dulce offers a magical passage through time as it was once part of the original route of commerce used by the ancient Mayans. Along the way, stop at Ak'Tenamit, a local cooperative that helps villagers gain access to education and medical services through sustainable methods. An American, who owned a successful business in South Florida, visited Guatemala in 1990 and saw Mayans living on a dollar a day, children without schools, and mothers without vital medicine for their babies. Two years later, with the help of local leaders, he founded Ak’Tenamit. Today, the local Q’eqchi people entirely run Ak’Tenamit. Between "El Golfete" and Livingston is an impressive canyon that features dense walls of jungle and limestone. The tour ends at Livingston, the only town in Guatemala that is the home of the traditional Garifuna community that includes descendants of former slaves, who settled in the area in the 1800s. After a stop for lunch, you are transferred back to your hotel. Hotel Nana Juana (B,L)
Day 12: Rio Dulce / Guatemala City
After breakfast, join your guide for a visit to the ruins of Quirigüa that retain an impressive series of stele and sculpted calendars, partially deciphered, which constitute a remarkable and unique source of the history of the social, political and economic events of the Mayan civilization. The zoomorphic and anthropomorphic sculptures are among the most attractive pre-Columbian works known. In addition to Tikal and Antigua, this small archeological site is also a UNESCO heritage site. You will be transferred to Mundo Maya Airport for the flight to Guatemala City, where you are met and transferred to your hotel. La Inmaculada Boutique Hotel (B,L)
Day 13: Guatemala City / Depart This morning, you return to the airport for the flight back home (B)
Land price, per person, double occupancy: Price starts from US$800 per person per day.