Day 1: Arrival in Antigua
Arrival and transfer to Antigua (1 hour)
La Antigua, former colonial capital of the Kingdom of Guatemala, combines 17th and 18th century buildings and ruins with all the modern conveniences discerning travelers desire. The city was established as Santiago (St. James) in 1543 after a mudslide destroyed the former capital. Santiago’s history was punctuated by massive earthquakes, followed by rebuilding and reparation, until the earthquake of Santa Marta in 1773 prompted a move to the present capital in Guatemala City. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, Antigua exudes a unique atmosphere of history, intrigue and surprise. Resting in a fertile valley at 1530 m and surrounded by hills and volcanoes, Antigua’s climate is likened to “eternal spring”.
Panza Verde is a beautiful colonial style boutique hotel with only 12 rooms and an excellent restaurant – one of the best in Guatemala. Set around a central courtyard, the rooms are decorated in a romantic and stylish fashion and the hotel offers a lush garden patio and terrace areas to relax in as well as a bar lounge, restaurant, small lap pool, art gallery and inside and outside dining.
The hotel believes in green practices and sustainable tourism, which will be evident upon your arrival.
Day 2: AGAIG & Santiago Zamora
Enjoy a Continental Breakfast Buffet (8am-10am) at Panza Verde, followed by a tour of AGAIG Fairly Traded Coffee Santiago Zamora Textiles Coop
As Green as it Gets (AGAIG) is a charity working to support small independent coffee producers and promoting 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 to pick, pulp, ferment, wash, dry, sort, grade roast and grind the coffee before sampling their handiwork. Coffee season is Nov to Mar. This tour includes a donation to AGAIG.
After the coffee tour, continue onto the village of Santiago Zamora to visit a community tourism program. Santiago Zamora is an association where women work together to produce and sell traditional weavings and other products and to distribute the benefits equally in order to improve their living condition. Since the association was founded, the women have been working hard to promote education and to support children from poor families with school fees and materials. At the same time, they raise women’s social status in a male-dominated society and encourage others to participate in social development activities.
In Santiago, you will meet your local guide for a walk though the village followed by demonstrations of their traditional weaving methods and a family-style lunch. You can also learn how to hand-process coffee and make your own tortillas. A small traditional lunch is provided.
Day 3: Comalapa Market, Iximche, Lake Atitlan
Continental Breakfast Buffet (8am-10am) at Panza Verde
Then, enjoy a visit to Lake Atitlán, which was cited by author Aldous Huxley as being “the most beautiful lake in the world.” It was formed over 80,000 years ago by a violent volcanic eruption; the caldera now contains 130 km2 of sparkling water, encompassed by hills and three towering volcanoes of subsequent birth: Atitlán (3,537 m), Toliman (3,158 m), and San Pedro (3,020 m).
Being such a beautiful place, the lake has been home to many different cultures, dating back to 1000 B.C. or more. By 1250, the Tz’utujil Maya were established around the lake and by the 1520’s they ruled over the whole of the lake area, except for a strip from Panajachel to San Antonio Palopo, which was ruled by the Kaqchikel Maya. In 1524, the Tz’utujiles surrendered to the Spanish conquistadors, their Mexican allies and the Kaqchikeles, and began paying tribute to the Spanish crown. When the Kaqchikeles refused to provide ever increasing tributes in gold, the Spanish used their old enemies the Tz’utujiles to conquer them.
Overnight in Laguna Lodge near St Cruz Village on Lake Atitlan
Laguna Lodge is a luxury, eco-boutique hotel on the shores of Lake Atitlan close to the village of St Cruz. The hotel is in fact located on a large private area of land called the Tzantizotz Nature Reserve and the hotel is operated with a strong focus on sustainable travel best practice. The rooms and bathrooms are spacious and with balconies that offer wonderful views across the lake to the San Pedro and Atitlan Volcanoes. Food is gourmet vegetarian. A great hotel for honeymooners, couples and small groups.
Day 4: San Juan, Santiago Village
Enjoy breakfast a la carte, followed by a full-day tour of San Juan & Santiago Village.
You’ll be picked up from your hotel and transferred to San Juan La Laguna Village to visit a local textile cooperative where you’ll see the back strap loom in use and watch how villagers still dye with natural dyes. Also visit the home and workshop of local naïf painters before boarding the boat to Santiago Village for lunch. After lunch, 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 can visit the local church and learn about the history of this very traditional town, see the market, and learn about their distinctive textiles and primitive art. When you are ready you will be transferred back to the hotel.
Day 5: Guatemala City
Camino Real Guatemala City
Guatemala City, home to one-fourth of the country’s entire population and the capital of Guatemala, features a huge range of restaurants, hotels, and shopping facilities. Guatemala City is the country’s commercial and financial center, as well as the hub of the nation’s transportation. The main sites in the City include the museums of Ixchel, Popul Vuh, and the Archaeology Museum, the national palace, the cathedral, and the relief map.
You’ll be met at your hotel by your private driver and guide for the one hour transfer out to the highland town of Chichicastenango. Along the way, you’ll 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 both the local areas of the fruit and vegetables, and everyday items as well as the craft area where you can find endless variety of beautiful textile, wooden and ceramic crafts. Guests 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 guests want to, they 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. When you are ready you’ll be driven to Guatemala City.
Day 6: Flores, Ni’tun
Begin your day with a box breakfast at Camino Real Guatemala City, followed by a transfer to the airport. Hop on a flight to Flores, where you’ll arrive at Ni’tun in time for lunch and a Yaxha sunset tour.
Ni’tun is a fabulous eco-lodge in the Peten Rainforest area located about 1hr from the Tikal National Park. The lodge is one of the most environmentally and culturally aware accommodations in Guatemala and offers the best in rustic chic accommodation with sustainable tourism as a key driver in their operations. The lodge has 4 cabanas located in tropical scenery and a main restaurant and bar area. There is easy access to the lakeshore and the lake offers warm water swimming. The owners provide unique and warm, friendly service with excellent food and hospitality.
Day 7: Tikal National Park
Camino Real Guatemala City
Begin your day with breakfast at leisure, then enjoy a private Tikal tour on your own schedule.
Huge temples rise up through the jungle canopy, and a variety of tropical animals and birds are on show. You can enjoy the sights and sounds of the howler and spider monkeys as well as many colorful tropical birds and other mammals. Lunch is provided inside the Tikal site itself.
When you’re ready, you’ll transfer to the Flores Airport, and fly back to Guatemala City for your last night.
Day 8: Departure
Enjoy your last breakfast at Camino Real Guatemala City, then transfer to the airport for your international departure.