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Guatemala - Land of the Maya (Day of the Dead Festival)

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Our Price From 4,390 Per Person
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 Trip Length
15 Days
 Trip Starts
Guatemala City
 Trip Finishes
15 Day Guatemala - Land of the Maya (Day of the Dead Festival) Itinerary (Explore)
Countries Explored: Guatemala Honduras
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Full On
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Guide Level:
Fully Guided
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Book online and enjoy exclusive savings on Explore's 15 Day Guatemala - Land of the Maya (Day of the Dead Festival). Guatemala is one of the only remaining places where the living Maya culture can be truly experienced. This trip contrasts old and new, visiting modern indigenous communities thriving in the highlands around Lake Atitlan, as well as the early Maya cities of Tikal, Quirigua and Copan (Honduras). Hitting the highlights as well as getting far off the beaten path, this trip encompasses the beauty and colour of ancient Central America.


Arrive in Guatemala City, the country's busy capital. Much of the city is quite modern, but the colonial centre around the main square harks back to the time when the city was officially declared Guatemala's new capital in the eighteenth century.

Due to the number of evening flights into the international airport, your Leader plans to do the welcome meeting on the morning of day two, and will leave a message in reception with details on timings and everything else that you'll need for the day. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Guatemala City at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into La Aurora International Airport (airport code: GUA), approximately a 40 minute drive from our hotel. If your flight arrives earlier in the day, perhaps you might choose to visit the bustling Mercado Central or one of the city's many museums. Stay: Hotel Best Western Stofella (Comfortable)

Before leaving the city this morning we'll begin the day with a short drive around by vehicle, just to get a feel for Guatemala's capital before setting off to Copan, in Honduras. It will take around 6 hours including a lunch stop and customs formalities, before we arrive at this small, relaxed town just at the other side of the Guatemala-Honduras border. With a small plaza principal, and some cafes and restaurants to enjoy, the town of Copan is so unassuming that it's hard to believe that it's home to one of the jewels of the ancient Mayan world. We may not have a lot of time here when we arrive, but we'll take a stroll around the town centre this evening before dinner. Stay: Hotel Plaza Copan (Comfortable) (B)

This morning, a local guide will escort us around the spectacular ruins of Copan - one of the richest archaeological sites to be uncovered in Central America and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Anyone familiar with Catherwood's incredible drawings (which first appeared in John Stephens' 1841 narrative - 'Incidents of Travel in Central America and Yucatan'), will recognise scenes and objects from this marvellous site. Stephens actually bought the entire site from a local farmer for just $50.

The Great Plaza is one of the most amazing achievements of the Classic Maya period and contains the greatest collection of Maya sculpture anywhere in Meso-America. Next door is the Acropolis - a group of massive pyramidal structures where royal power was once concentrated. Ascending one structure is the famous Hieroglyphic Stairway. Composed of some 2500 individual glyphs, its sides flanked by serpentine birds and snakes, this is the New World's longest inscribed Pre-Colombian text.

Copan has been the subject of exploration and investigation since the 1830s. Remarkable finds continue to be unearthed by archaeologists, making it the most thoroughly researched and understood of all Maya sites. We have the day to enjoy this special place, leaving you plenty of time to explore on your own.

This afternoon, you could visit the museum dedicated to the site, or take a trip to Macaw Mountain, a rescue and rehabilitation centre for tropical birds and other animals. Stay: Hotel Plaza Copan (Comfortable) (B)

This morning we will stop en route at Quirigua, renowned for its fine Mayan carvings, covered with intricate glyphs which still remain a mystery to scholars and archeologists. Quirigua was dominated by Copan but was valued as a trading centre for the jade that can be found throughout the surrounding area. Independence from Copan was finally achieved under Quirigua's most powerful leader, Cauac Sky in 737AD. We will then continue to Puerto Barrios where we will board our launch and cross the bay to the lazy, laidback town of Livingston on the Caribbean coast. Here we can enjoy the colourful, lively Garifuna town, with its unique racial blend. In the evening there may be the chance to hear the increasingly popular local music or enjoy the fresh seafood in one of the many restaurants along the main street. Stay: Villa Caribe (Premium) (B)

We start our day by heading west on the Rio Dulce by boat. The river squeezes through an impressive gorge of towering cliffs covered in a mass of jungle creepers with Egrets, pelicans and cormorants lining the shores. En route we will stop at the small community project of Ak Tenamit where you will have the opportunity to learn more about this educational support project that has been set up. From the town of Rio Dulce we will continue by bus to Tikal, possibly the greatest of all the Mayan cities, located in the heart of the Peten jungle. The ruins of Tikal can easily be compared with the masterpieces of Egypt and Greece. Initially settled about 600 BC, Tikal was abandoned by its rulers around AD 890 and totally deserted a hundred years later, overgrown by the jungle. Rediscovered in 1848, they comprise many great temples and pyramids. The city covers an area of more than 16 square kilometres with temples, palaces, causeways, ballcourts, spacious plazas, and hundreds of other architectural ruins - a superb example of sophisticated Mayan engineering. Stay: Jungle Lodge (Comfortable) (B)

We will have an early start to get into the site for a guided tour. The site is so large we leave you free time to explore at your own pace this afternoon. Those with a good head for heights could climb one of the pyramids which pierce the jungle canopy for splendid views over the whole area. In the afternoon we will drive to Santa Elena. This evening we have a chance to wander the streets of Flores Island. Situated on a small island in the tranquil Lake Peten Itza and joined to the mainland by a causeway, Flores remains a quaint and peaceful town. Stay: Villa Maya Hotel (Premium) (B)

Leaving Flores behind we head south into the southern mountains for a long day's drive through varied scenery. We drive to Sayaxche where we cross the river by ferry before continuing to the Candelaria Caves. Following our visit to the caves we continue onto Coban, where we will overnight. Stay: Park Hotel (Comfortable) (B)

Today we embark on an adventurous journey into the Cuchumatanes Mountains, a spectacular drive winding west through valleys and passing gushing rivers. We stop at some of the small villages on route, but our destination is Nebaj, part of the Ixil triangle - three small communities of the Ixil Maya people who have lived in almost constant isolation for hundreds of years. This isolation has helped to keep the Ixil culture intact, despite the pervading Spanish language and modern influences. As part of our introduction to the village we see a weaving demonstration from a local co-operative. The Ixil are famous for their fine weaving (some of the best to be found in Guatemala), especially the geometric designs in purple, green, yellow and red on the huipiles (blouses) worn by the Indian women. We are staying in simple accommodation this evening, the best choice in this remote area. Rooms are clean and comfortable with ensuite bathrooms. Stay: Hotel Villa Nebaj (Simple) (B)

We spend the day exploring and plan to follow a trail over and out of the Nebaj Valley to the neighbouring valley. Weather permitting, we will enjoy good views of the mountain range as we walk up over a pass and descend to the village of Acul. We are bound to come across colourfully dressed Ixil using the trails, but there are certainly few other foreigners in this isolated area. Stay: Hotel Villa Nebaj (Simple) (B)

We start today with a visit to the colourful local market of Solola, before continuing to Santa Catarina, a small village on the shore of Lake Atitlan; there are always magnificent views of the impressive volcanic peaks of Atitlan (3537m), San Pedro (3020m) and Toliman (3158m) towering over the lakeside, and the lake's fertile shores are sprinkled with small communities of farmers and fishermen who still uphold the traditions of their Maya ancestors.

. Stay: Villa Santa Catarina (Premium) (B)

The volcano-ringed Lake Atitlan is a place of stunning beauty. Some 24km long by 16km wide, it lies at an altitude of 1585m. We take a boat trip across the lake to visit villages inhabited by the Tzutujil Indigenous, including Santiago Atitlan. The Tzutujil can trace their ancestry back to the post-classic period of the Maya (around 900-1500 AD). They still wear a traditional form of dress, with the women in particular sporting colourful blouses with embroidered geometric and bird designs. This is a busy village with lots of visitors and locals going about their business, and we may see more traditional Mayan rituals at the shrine to Maximon. Around the popular town of Panajachel and other smaller villages, we can appreciate the beautiful panoramas around the lake. It changes hue at different times of the day and can appear green, deep blue, or grey, while at sunset it glows fiery red. Stay: Villa Santa Catarina (Premium) (B)

This morning we will head north towards the highlands of the El Quiche Province and the bustling town of Chichicastenango, the 'sacred town' of the indigenous Quiche. Steeped in Maya culture, the town is famed for its market, where you can buy everything, from chickens and copal, to pigs and pottery. The best way to enjoy the market is to throw yourself into the melee and haggle with the traders, or escape to the beautifully colourful cemetery located just a short walk from the market. It is also the perfect place to pick up souvenirs of your visit. From here we return to Lake Atitlan. Stay: Villa Santa Catarina (Premium) (B)

This morning we will drive to Sumpango, just on the hills outside of Antigua to see the All Saints Giant Kite Festival. On November 1st of every year the people of Sumpango, Sacatepequez, put together these giant kites to fly during the Day of the Dead. The kites are made of cloth and paper with bamboo frames, depicting religious or folkloric themes and they are flown to honor the dead. The kites traditionally can take up to 40 days to build, they are held together with a glue made with a mixture of yucca flower, lemon peel and water, the ropes are made of the maguey plant (the plant that also brings us tequila!), and the tails are made from woven cloth. This tradition dates back 3000 years and still today is seen as a way of communicating with the beyond. After watching the spectacle we will continue to Antigua de Guatemala, set in a beautiful valley between the volcanoes Agua, Fuego and Acatenango. Stay: Villa Colonial (Premium) (B)

After an orientation tour this morning you will have free time to explore Antigua further. An orientation tour of this graceful old colonial city shows how it can justly claim to be one of the most charming in Central America despite the damage caused by a series of earthquakes and floods over the ages. The afternoon is free to wander the timeless streets and hunt for souvenirs. One of its lively restaurants makes a perfect setting for our last meal together. Stay: Villa Colonial (Premium) (B)

The trip ends this morning at our hotel in Antigua Guatemala.

There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to depart from La Aurora International Airport (airport code: GUA). The drive between the airport and our hotel is only 40km but can take between 1.5 and 4 hours depending on the traffic and the time of day. (B)

Trip Inclusions

  • Get off the beaten track & discover local Indian culture
  • Explore the intriguing sites of Tikal & Copan
  • Wildlife & quetzal spotting at Biotopo & on the 'Rio Dulce'

  • Full on paced trips are for travellers who like their holidays packed with activities and experiences, moving on quickly from place to place with lots of early starts and long, busy days. Some may find them tiring, but others get a buzz from packing their precious holiday-time as chock-a - block full of new experiences as possible.

  • Accommodation, itinerary and inclusions subject to change.
  • Price is for land, cruise and internal flights as specified. Flights not specified are not included
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Exclusive Savings
Friday 20 Oct 2023
Friday 03 Nov 2023
From: $4,480 $4,390
Save $90 Enquire
Exclusive Savings
Friday 20 Oct 2023
Friday 03 Nov 2023
From: $5,420 $5,330
Save $90 Enquire
A definite departure means minimum numbers have been reached for this departure to operate. Your Global Journeys Travel Advisor will check the availability of your departure date when you enquire. Additional savings may apply. We guarantee the lowest price in Australia. T&C’s apply.
Tour & cruises prices are per person. Prices shown have savings applied, are subject to availability and may be withdrawn at any time without notice. Prices and trip information are correct at the time at this point in time, however are subject to confirmation at the time of booking and are subject to change by Explore.

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