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Guatemala - Land of the Maya (Semana Santa)

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Our Price From 4,596 Per Person
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 Trip Length
15 Days
 Trip Starts
Guatemala City
 Trip Finishes
15 Day Guatemala - Land of the Maya (Semana Santa) Itinerary (Explore)
Countries Explored: Guatemala, Honduras
Trip Style
Max. Group Size
Full On
Guide Level
Fully Guided
Trip Code


Book online and enjoy exclusive savings on Explore's 15 Day Guatemala - Land of the Maya (Semana Santa). 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 30 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 archaeologists. 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 restaurants along the main street. Stay: Villa Caribe (Premium) (B)

This morning we head out on a boat trip to the 7 Altares waterfalls. These falls are located in a lush rainforest and the water is cool and clean. It is the perfect place for a dip to cool off. Once we have had enough time enjoying these beautiful natural formations we jump back on the boat and head to Playa Blanca, a taste of the Caribbean in Guatemala. We will spend a few hours on this white-sand beach and can enjoy lunch here (not included). For those that would like, there is the chance to take an optional boat trip and hike to Tapon Creek. Alternatively, you can have some relaxation time on Playa Blanca Beach. We will then head back to Livingston in the early afternoon.

Once back in Livingston we will embark on a walking tour of the town. 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 Flores (driving time approximately four hours) where we will stay for the next two nights.

Flores is situated on a small island in the tranquil Lake Peten Itza and joined to the mainland by a causeway. On arrival we will have a short walking tour of this quaint and peaceful town. Stay: Maya International (Comfortable) (B)

We will have an early start to drive the one and a half hours to Tikal for a guided tour. Tikal is 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.

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 Maya Biosphere Reserve.

Late afternoon we head back to Flores where we have a free evening in this charming lake side town Stay: Maya International (Comfortable) (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 stay for the next two nights. Stay: Park Hotel (Comfortable) (B)

Today is a long day - but it will be worth it to see one of Guatemala's natural highlights! Semuc Champey is a natural monument made up of turquoise pools and set in a lush mountainous jungle. We leave our hotel early this morning and drive two and a half hours to the town of Lanquín. From Lanquín we take a 45-minute bumpy pickup truck along unpaved roads to the natural wonder of Semuc Champey. We will have a few hours here to enjoy some swimming in the natural pool formations. For those looking for more of an active adventure there is the option to hike up to a viewpoint which offers panoramic views of the jungle and pools below. The walk is quite difficult and is on uneven terrain with wooden steps that can become slippery (we highly recommended walking shoes for this!). It is expected to take one and a half hours.

Once we have spent enough time exploring and enjoying this natural paradise, we will make the journey back to Coban where we will arrive in the evening. Stay: Park Hotel (Comfortable) (B)

This morning we will drive for approximately one hour to the Quetzal Biotope. This cloud forest is 1,044 hectares and was officially established as a protected area on June 2, 1976 with the main objective of protecting the Quetzal and its habitat. We will embark on a 2 hour walk through the cloud forest, passing small rivers and creeks and keeping our eyes peeled for the elusive quetzal and other wildlife. The trail is mainly made up of steps and uneven ground - good footwear is recommended.

Once we have finished our walk, we will continue on a five-hour drive to the breathtaking city of Antigua where we will arrive in the evening. Antigua is a beautifully preserved colonial city founded in 1542 and surrounded by volcanoes. The streets are cobbled and colourful, packed with interesting architecture and buzzing with great cafes, restaurants, and bars. We are using Antigua as our base tonight to break up the long journey to Lake Atitlan, but we will be back at the end of the trip to fully enjoy this city! Stay: Villa Colonial (Premium) (B)

We will leave Antigua this morning for Lake Atitlan. On arrival 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. By visiting different 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.

In the afternoon we continue to the fascinating archaeological site of Iximche. We will stop here for a one-and-a-half-hour guided tour, where we will learn all about the history of this site which dates to the 15th century. After the visit we continue to the beautiful city of Antigua. Stay: Villa Colonial (Premium) (B)

Taking 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. Antigua is famous for its Easter Week processions and so will be very busy. In the afternoon we watch one of the processions and learn about the creation of the many flower carpets that line the streets. Stay: Villa Colonial (Premium) (B)

We spend Good Friday watching Easter Week processions, viewing the flower carpets and generally enjoying this festival time in this elegant colonial city. Stay: Villa Colonial (Premium) (B)

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

  • From the ancient ruins of Tikal to Maya villages on Lake Atitlan, experience Guatemala
  • Explore the intriguing site of Copan in Honduras
  • Enjoy the famous Antigua Easter processions and flower carpets

  • 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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About Explore!

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