Antigua, Lake Atitlan, and Tikal

8 Days/7 Nights

From $2,329 per person

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Overview

Guatemala offers the visitor a fascinating combination of colonial history, breathtaking natural attractions, and Maya cultural heritage. This tour begins in Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that features numerous restored colonial era convents and cathedrals, and an interesting traveler and language school scene. Next, you will head to the highlands, where the traditions and customs of the indigenous people are strongest. There, you will visit Comalapa and Chichicastenango markets, and the Village of Santiago on the shores of Lake Atitlan. The last part of the tour takes you to the jungles of the El Petén to experience the Yaxha ceremonial site, and the impressive Maya ruins of Tikal.

Lodging, Meals, and Airfare: This tour includes accommodations for 7 nights (2 nights in Antigua, 2 nights in Lake Atitlan, 2 nights in Flores, and 1 night in Guatemala City), and 11 meals (7 breakfasts and 4 lunches), and domestic airfare in Guatemala.

Best Time to Go: December-March.

Destinations: Central America and Guatemala

Interests: Culture & History

Day-by-Day Itinerary

Depart to Guatemala. Upon arrival, you will be met by our representative and transferred to your hotel in Antigua. You will have the rest of the day free. Overnight in Antigua.

Founded in the sixteenth century, Antigua is a cosmopolitan destination with a rich colonial past. Its cobblestone streets are lined with pretty, pastel-hued homes, luxe boutique hotels, and an exceptional selection of smart restaurants and shops. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979, this city of 35,000 people sits in a valley between coffee farms, indigenous villages, and three imposing volcanoes. At the heart of town is the parque central, a European-style plaza busy with shoe-shiners, ice cream vendors, families, and tourists. During its architectural peak, Antigua was home to dozens of colonial monuments, churches, and monasteries, but an earthquake in 1773 damaged or reduced most to rubble. In the centuries thereafter, efforts were made to rebuild and restore, and the city today is filled with melancholy but gorgeous relics and ruins. In the morning, you will have a choice of the following tours: AGAIG Fairly Traded Coffee Tour. You will be transferred to the small town of San Miguel Escobar, just outside of Antigua. In town you will be met by a local guide from As Green as it Gets (AGAIG). AGAIG is a charity working to support small independent coffee producers and promotes environmentally responsible agriculture in Guatemala. This tour takes you to visit some of the families supported by this organization where you can work side-by-side with small coffee farmers in their daily coffee processing, pick, pulp, ferment, wash, dry, trilla, sort, and grade the coffee (depending on the season), roast coffee over an open fire and grind by hand on a grindstone before sampling their handiwork. Coffee Season is November-March. This tour includes a donation to AGAIG. Antigua Walking Tour. You will be met at your hotel by your private guide to begin the half day walking tour of Antigua. This tour will cover the cultural, historical & social highlights of this colonial city with a behind-the-scenes look at some of the many ruined churches, convents, and cathedrals. Entrances are included to the Iglesia San Francisco, the Cathedral and La Merced Church. This tour is flexible and if you have specific sites that you wish to see please notify your guide. If you wish to visit other monuments you will need to pay the entrances directly. At the end of the tour your guide can accompany you back to your hotel or take you to a place of your choosing. Overnight in Antigua. (B)

Surrounded by rugged hills, a trio of towering volcanoes, and a handful of small villages, it’s easy to wax poetic about Lake Atitlán. Located in the Guatemalan highlands, the lake was formed more than 80,000 years ago during a violent volcanic eruption. Tz’utujil and Kaqchiquel Mayas have plied its shores for centuries and continue to do so today, wearing vibrant traditional clothing and practicing age-old Maya customs, particularly in towns like Santiago Atitlán and Santa Catarina Palopó. Panajachel is the lake’s main hub. From here, boats depart regularly for destinations like San Juan La Laguna, which is known for its hand-woven, naturally dyed textiles, and San Pedro, where intrepid visitors can summit a 3,020-meter (9,908-foot) volcano. The area also offers great opportunities to kayak, bike, and zip-line. Today, you will visit Comalapa Market and the Iximche Ruins on the way to Lake Atitlan. The ride to Comalapa is approximately one hour. On arrival to the town, you can see the famous painted mural that the school children of the town painted depicting major events in Guatemala’s history up to the signing of the peace accords in 1996. From there, you will visit some local painters who continue the tradition of naïve paintings, and visit the authentic market of Comalapa to see the local people go about their daily life buying produce and goods for the rest of the week still dressed in the traditional textiles of the area. You can also stop by the small museum dedicated to the composer who wrote Guatemala’s national anthem who came from Comalapa. After a local lunch (included), you will explore the Mayan ruins of Iximiche, and then continue on to Lake Atitlan and your hotel. Overnight in Antigua. (B,L)

Today, you will visit two of the Mayan villages situated on the shores of Lake Atitlan. The first stop is San Juan La Laguna where you will visit a local textile cooperative to see the back strap loom in use and to see how textiles are colored with natural dyes. Guests also visit the home and workshop of local naïve painters before boarding the boat onto Santiago Village for lunch. After lunch you will walk with your guide to find the house where the Maya God Maximon is living. Each year a different “brotherhood” has the privilege of taking care of their God so his location changes. Once with Maximon, you may see local shaman performing rituals for local people and if you wish you can ask your guide to help you hire the services of a shaman for you to have a personal ceremony performed. After visiting Maximon, you will visit the local church and learn about the history of this very traditional town and also see the market and learn about the distinctive textiles and primitive art that is famous from this area. When you are ready, you will be transferred back to your hotel. Overnight in Lake Atitlan. (B,L)

Today, you will be transferred to the highland town of Chichicastenango. Along the way you will pass through the central highland region and see the local Maya people in their traditional dress going about their daily lives – working in the fields, collecting firewood, travelling between markets, selling their wares. Upon arrival at Chichicastenango, your guide will take you to explore this famous market – the local areas of the fruit and vegetables and everyday items, as well as the craft area where you can find an endless variety of beautiful textile, wooden, and ceramic crafts. You can also visit the famous St. Tomas Church where local Maya people come to perform Maya rituals within the Catholic church – demonstrating the interesting way the two faiths have combined in recent times. If desired, you can also hike up the hill to the Pascual Abaj ritual site to see if any local shaman are performing rituals and/or to the cemetery on the outskirts of town. Lunch is provided. After lunch, you will be driven to Guatemala City for the afternoon flight Flores. Overnight in Flores. (B,L)

Although it covers nearly one-third of the country, El Petén is Guatemala’s most sparsely populated department. Here, parrots and monkeys far outnumber people, and the crumbling ruins of the ancient Mayas stand in for modern cities. A large tract of El Petén belongs to the Maya Biosphere Reserve, a wildlife haven that stretches from Belize through Guatemala to Mexico. The Tikal archaeological site is the department’s biggest draw, though it’s certainly not the only spot for ruins. Archaeology buffs will also enjoy Yaxhá, Ceibal, Aguateca, and Uaxactún (you can camp at the latter). El Petén’s main towns include Flores and El Remate; both provide easy access to Tikal and the Mundo Maya International Airport. Morning free. In the afternoon, you will be met at your hotel and transferred to Yaxha National Park (one hour) where you can enjoy a private guided tour of this lesser visited, Mayan ceremonial site. Set atop a hill overlooking two scenic lakes this is a particularly picturesque site. Temple 216 in the East Acropolis towers above the site and provides magnificent panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. Before dark, you climb to the top of the temple where you enjoy sunset drinks and snacks while watching the sun set over the surrounding rainforest and nearby lake Yaxha. You then trek back through the jungle with torches as it starts to turn dark; perhaps spotting some nocturnal wildlife along the way. Overnight in Flores. (B)

Today, you will have a private guided tour of Tikal National Park, where some 3,000 ancient structures rise from the rainforest floor. Not only will you enjoy a fascinating tour of this impressive UNESCO World Heritage Site, but you will also experience the sights and sounds of tropical birds and animals, including howler and spider monkeys, that live in the jungle canopy. Once home to an estimated at 50,000 residents or more, Tikal flourished from 800 BC to 900 AD. You will follow in the footsteps of Maya royalty and commoners as your guide leads you to such sites as the majestic Great Plaza and its Temple of the Jaguar (44 meters / 144 feet), Temple of the Masks (38m / 125ft), the Acropolis and much more. Lunch is provided at a local restaurant. You can also explore the museum at the visitor center before returning to your hotel. Late afternoon flight to Guatemala City. Overnight in Guatemala City. (B,L)

Home to a third of the country’s population, the capital city of Guatemala is an intense, sprawling mix of contrasts: Chaotic markets flank modern government buildings, madcap bus stations sit beneath tall skyscrapers, and glitzy malls compete with presidential palaces. Sure, Guate (as it’s referred to by most) may not have a stellar reputation, but as with most any urban locale, knowing where to go and what to avoid–and having a great guide with you–is the key to discovering this city’s good side. There are fascinating museums and cultural landmarks, good restaurants, and top-notch hotels. With so much to discover, any effort to better know this town is sure to be worth your while. Check out and transfer to Guatemala City Airport for your return flight to your final destination. (B)

B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner

What's Included

Price Includes

  • South American Vacations’ expert pre-departure planning services and documentation.
  • Round-trip airfare Guatemala City-Flores-Guatemala City.
  • Airport/hotel and other transfers including baggage handling.
  • Hotel accommodations including taxes and service charges.
  • Excursions as indicated on the itinerary including all applicable entrance fees.
  • Meals as indicated on the itinerary.
  • English-speaking tour guides and hosts.

Price Does Not Include

  • International airfare.
  • International airport departure tax ($30), which may be included in your airfare.
  • Airport security fee ($3).
  • Meals not indicated on the itinerary.
  • Gratuities to tour guides, drivers, and hotel staff.
  • Gifts and personal items.
  • Travel insurance.

We will be happy to quote the cost of international airfare and travel insurance and to make these arrangements for you.

Accommodations

Antigua

Lake Atitlan

Flores

Villa Maya, Flores, Guatemala

Budget – Villa Maya

Guatemala City

Hotel Biltmore, Guatemala City, Guatemala

Budget – Hotel Biltmore

The Westin Camino Real, Guatemala City, Guatemala

Standard – The Westin Camino Real

Additional Details

Group Private: All transfers and tours are private. The AGAIG Coffee tour is conducted by a bilingual host driver (essentially, an unlicensed guide), and for Budget Accommodations, the Comalapa Market and Iximche tour, and the Chichicastenango Market tour, are conducted by a bilingual host driver. All other tours are conducted by licensed guides.

Elevations: Antigua is 5,029 feet above sea level, Lake Atitlan is 5,232 feet, and Tikal is 636 feet.

Passport/Visa: U.S. citizens require a passport valid for the duration of their stay, up to 90 days. Australian, Canadian, and EU citizens require a passport valid for at least six months from date of entry for stays of up to 90 days. Citizens of other countries are advised to contact the Guatemalan embassy in their country before traveling.

Travel Insurance: In order to protect your travel investment from unforeseen circumstances that may arise before or during your trip, we strongly recommend that you purchase travel insurance. We offer Allianz Global Assistance’s Classic Comprehensive and other plans. The Benefits and Coverage Limits are summarized on our Travel Insurance page. Call your travel counselor if you have any questions or to purchase a plan.

To Book This Trip: We require a non-refundable deposit of $500 per person plus the cost of the international airfare (if we make the arrangements for you). The balance of the trip cost is due 60 days prior to departure.