Mundo Maya and Mexico tours

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GUATEMALA EXPLORATION

10 Day Itinerary

DAY 1, Thursday:

Fly from USA to Guatemala City. After arrival and reception in Guatemala City, transfer to the Zona Viva (Zone of Life), an area of great shops, restaurants and hotels for your overnight at the Hotel Biltmore Express, or similar. Welcome dinner and orientation. (D)


DAY 2, Friday:

A drive out of the highlands into the Montagua Valley and onward to Lake Izabal. This day’s geography varies from verdant highland forests to dry, desert-like valleys and mountain ranges. (A quick stop along the way to stretch and learn is the Estanzuela Paleontology Museum, near Rio Hondo). Along the way is a visit to the 75 acre park and Mayan site of Quiriguá. Here, where you will witness the tallest stelae (35 feet) of the Mayan world and zoomorphic geoglyphs that are sure to astound - its iconography is some of the best in the Mundo Maya! Then on to Fronteras on the Río Dulce for the next two overnights at the Hotel Catamaran, or similar. (B, L)


DAY 3, Saturday: 

A day on the water with a scenic boating excursion on Lago Izabal and through the dramatic Río Dulce gorge to the Caribbean Coast. Including visits to the Garifuna town of Lívingston on the Gulf of Honduras, the Chocón-Macahacas Nature Reserve and the Spanish-Colonial, Castillo San Fillipe. A great nature day while learning of Guatemala's Caribbean history. The boat trip down the Río Dulce to the Caribbean port of Lívingston takes you through incredible green canyons, lined with giant tropical trees that are loaded with orchids and bromeliads. In addition to experiencing the Garifuna culture in the "melting pot" that is Lívingston, the Manatee Reserve and it's jungle nature trails are naturalist's dreamland!  (B, L)


DAY 4, Sunday:

Early morning departure for the drive to Tikal. Accommodations for the next two overnights at the Jungle Lodge located in Tikal National Park. A tour of the Tikal Museums provides a good introduction to this important Mayan center. Time in the evening for your first look at the magnificent ruins of the Classic Period Mayan city of Tikal. Experience nightfall in a lush tropical lowland rainforest.  (B, L)


DAY 5, Monday:

Walk the ancient Mayan roads, or sacbes, and tour the principal pyramid groups. Interpretations of the iconography on the existing stelae will help bring the ancient rulers back to life. You can climb the pyramids and try to envision an ancient city of possibly up to 100,000 people. Also, time enough to follow the monkey troops such as the boisterous howler monkeys from tree to tree in the overhead forest canopy and recognize the abundant birds and wildlife. At the Tikal Jungle Lodge, you will be staying within easy walking distant of "downtown" Tikal. Tikal is often considered the most spectacular of the ancient Mayan cities. Surrounded by a vast rainforest, the site of Tikal has been protected as a park for over 75 years and has been declared a "World Cultural and Natural Monument". The park offers some of the very best wildlife viewing in all of the Mundo Maya for howler monkeys, spider monkeys, foxes, kinkajous, macaws, toucans, parrots, a myriad of beautiful butterflies and much more!  (B, L)


DAY 6, Tuesday:

Time in the morning for personal exploration of the expansive site and rainforest. Before catching the afternoon flight back to Guatemala City, you will explore the island of Flores on Lake Petén Itzá. Its long history includes being the last holdout from the Spanish of the Itzá Maya. A lunch here allows the opportunity to try some unusual cuisine. Reception in Guatemala City and transfer to Anitgua for the next two overnights at the Posada de Don Rodrigo, or similar. Antigua is the heart of Spanish Colonial Guatemala, with tremendous early architecture including some of the oldest churches and monasteries in the New World and picturesque views of the surrounding mountains and volcanoes, some of which are over 13,000 feet high.  (B, L)


DAY 7, Wednesday:

All day to explore Guatemala's ancient capital city of Antigua. A city rich in history with colonial churches and buildings dating back to the 1500's. A morning city tour of the colonial architecture will provide a background for Antigua's long and fascinating history. The afternoon and evening are free for personal exploration, relaxation, shopping, and/or museums. Stroll around the main plaza and cobblestone streets, visit the markets and various interesting shops, all while enjoying the views of the neighboring volcanoes and splendid architecture.  (B, L)


DAY 8, Thursday:

Early morning drive through Guatemala's fertile central valley, an area of majestic scenery and verdant landscapes. Then see why Chichicastenango is considered Guatemala's most famous native market. Time to explore this colonial town’s architecture, churches, shops and witness age old traditions and rituals. In the afternoon, a drive through the cloud forested mountains to Panajachel, on the shores of picturesque Lake Atitlán, nestled amidst towering volcanoes. The afternoon is free to take a boat excursion across Lake Atitlán to the, Tzutuhil Mayan village of Santiago Atitlán, or enjoy the afternoon shopping and lounging in Panajachel surrounded by a beautiful scenery of natural and man-made colors. Overnight in Panajachel at the Posada Don Rodrigo, or similar. (B, L)


DAY 9, Friday:

A morning visit to witness the historic trade center of Sololá and its Friday local market (one of Guatemala’s best), where various traditional dress identifies the participant’s distant village homes. Then on to visit Tecpán-Guatemala with its post-classic Iximché ruins and learn of its incredible history. Return to Guatemala City for the overnight at the Hotel Biltmore Express, or similar. (B, L)


DAY 10, Saturday: 

Early morning transfer to the airport for return flight to USA. (B)



   

GUATEMALA Textiles and Traditions

10 Day Itinerary

DAY 1, Friday

Fly from USA to Guatemala City. After arrival and welcome reception in Guatemala City, you are transferred into the Zona Viva (Zone of Life), for your overnight at the Hotel Biltmore Express, or similar. (No meals included this day.)


DAY 2, Saturday

Morning tours of the Ixchel Textile Museum (named for the Maya goddess of weaving and devoted solely to the display of textiles) and the Popul Vuh Archaeological Museum (with its extensive collection of Pre-Colombian pottery, carvings and artifacts). Afternoon drive through Guatemala's fertile central valley, an area of majestic scenery and verdant landscapes, to the traditional Maya town of Chichicastenango, for overnight at the beautiful, colonial Hotel Santo Tomás.


DAY 3, Sunday

Witness (and shop) Chichicastenango's market day on the last day of 2006 and see why it is considered Guatemala's most famous native market. Also time to explore this colonial town’s architecture, churches, shops and witness age old traditions and rituals. Through the veil of smoke from burning incense, experience the vitality of the vendors, along with the incredible color and variety of the textiles, handicrafts, and local goods. With time permitting, we can witness the outstanding textiles during Market day at the traditional Indian village of Nahuala. We then drive to Guatemala's second city, Quetzaltenango, often referred to as Xela. The city has preserved it's colonial, neoclassical-style architecture, lending to its charm. Overnight at the  charming Pension Bonifaz, located right on the principal Plaza.


DAY 4, Monday

A day visiting traditional indigenous villages, including Zunil, famous for its extremely colorful textiles, in what many consider as Guatemala's most colorful market. Also while there and if he is not too busy, we can pay a respectful visit to San Simon. Then on to the busy and colorful market at Almolonga, the market garden of Guatemala and possibly visit the hot springs of Fuentes Georginas, in the Pacific cloud forest on the side of Zunil Volcano. Later, in the old village of Salcaja we can watch demonstrations of hand weaving jaspe cloth (tie-died yarn). The village's stately Church of San Jacinto is claimed to be the first built in Guatemala. Later is a stop at the beautiful Church of San Andrés Xecul. We then continue on through the lush mountains to Panajachel on the shores of picturesque Lake Atitlán, nestled amidst towering volcanoes. The next two overnights are at the Posada de Don Rodrigo, or similar.


DAY 5, Tuesday

A morning drive above Lake Atitlán to witness the historic trade center of Sololá, where various traditional dress identifies the participant's distant village homes. Then tour Santa Catarina and San Antonio Palopó, two villages perched on the hills surrounding Lake Atitlán. Today, we meet master Maya weavers and visit the local markets and art galleries. We can also see textile demonstrations of both the backstrap and treadle, or foot-loom. In the afternoon, we tour the textile market in Panajachel.


Day 6 - Wednesday

A morning boat ride across the lake to Santiago Atitlán, the largest and most traditional of the lake-side towns, situated at the base of the San Pedro volcano.  Santiago Atitlán is also home to the halo-style headdress, where a band 20 feet in length is continuously wrapped around the head, creating a disk effect with fabric. A walking tour takes us to the market, church and shrine dedicated to the modern Maya deity, Maximón. While in town, we can witness demonstrations by some of the finest embroiderers in Guatemala. In the afternoon, we drive to Tecpán, Guatemala for market day and the Post-Classic Maya, archaeological site of Iximché to learn of its incredible history as the capital of the Kachiquel Maya at the time of the Spanish Conquest. Then on to the historic city of Antigua and overnight at the centrally located, colonial Posada de Don Rodrigo, or similar, for the next three nights. Antigua is the heart of Spanish Colonial Guatemala, with tremendous early architecture including some of the oldest churches and monasteries in the New World. Enjoy the picturesque views of the surrounding mountains and volcanoes, some of which are over 13,000 feet high.


DAY 7, Thursday

All day to explore Guatemala's ancient capital city of Antigua, rich in history with colonial churches and buildings dating back to the 1500's. A morning city tour of the colonial architecture will provide a background for Antigua's long and fascinating history. The afternoon is free for personal exploration, relaxation, shopping, and/or museums.  You may stroll around the main plaza and cobblestone streets, visit the cathedrals, museums, markets and various interesting shops, all while enjoying the views of the neighboring volcanoes and splendid architecture. Note: Being a few days prior to the crowded and chaotic Holy Week (Easter), the townsfolk and churches will be proceeding with beautifications, pageantry, and processions. The religious processions may involve up to forty men carrying the heavy wooden floats. The women follow with a float of the Virgin Mary, along with marching bands, incense and firecrackers.


DAY 8, Friday

A morning visit to La Azotea Cultural Center. Located just a few minutes from Anitgua, this lovely hacienda complex has three educational museums. The Coffee Museum, set in an old coffee mill, illustrates the history, process, brewing and marketing of coffee and includes a nature walk through a working plantation. The Casa K'ojom has a collection of Mayan musical instruments, from the Pre-Colombian to present. The Rincón de Sacatepéquez Museum has life size dioramas showing the customs and costumes from villages around Antigua. The afternoon and evening are free for personal exploration.


DAY 9, Saturday

Morning drive through the central valley to the villages of San Juan Sacatepéquez and San Pedro Sacatepéquez to experience their market day. Later, explore the important post-classic Maya ruins of Mixco Viejo. Then on to Guatemala City for overnight at the Hotel Biltmore Express. Say good-bye to new friends at the Farewell Dinner.


DAY 10, Sunday

Transfer to the airport for return flights out.


   

MUNDO MAYA Yucatan & Chiapas

24 Day Itinerary

DAY 1,  (Thursday):  Arrival in Cancun, Ouintana Roo, and transfer into the State of Yucatán to the colonial city of Valladolid (for 3 nights). Valladolid is reminiscent of the Mérida of 30-50 years ago. Founded by the Spanish in 1543, it was one of the four main Spanish towns, along with Mérida, Campeche and Bacalar, on the Yucatán peninsula. As per the norm, it was built on the site of an ancient Mayan city - that of Zaci, named for its early water source, the Zaci Cenote. Valladolid has a turbulent history, including involvement in the War of Castes of 1847, during which the Maya struggled for independence from Mexico. A welcome dinner provides an orientation session in addition to authentic Mexican foods. Hotel Meson del Marques, or similar.


DAY  2:    Morning visit to the newly-opened immense site of Ek Balám. Ek Balám has one of the longest records of occupation in northern Yucatán, from about 100 BC until the Spanish Conquest. Recent excavations have uncovered some of the finest of all Mayan sculpture. Later enjoy the mysterious underground cenote of Dzitnup and a refreshing swim in it's clear, subterranean waters.


DAY  3:    Early morning visit to the archaeological site of Chichén Itzá to explore this incredible "Mexicanized/Maya" site. The site is overwhelming and is certainly deserving of its notoriety. The immense scale and variety of architectural styles will definitely amaze. Sitting at the edge of the Sacred Cenote and contemplating is sure to stimulate your imagination. In the afternoon is a visit to the Balancanché Caves. The underground pools, Mayan artifacts, stalactites and stalagmites form surreal sights. The on-site botanical garden also provides a good introduction to the flora of Yucatán.


DAY  4:   Depart for the Spanish Colonial city of Izamal and walk through the  Franciscan Convent of Izamal, site of the largest atrium in the Americas. This historical city also contains one of Yucatán's largest and oldest Mayan pyramids. Continue on to Mérida (for 2 nights), capital of Yucatán State and enjoy a tour of the city and Sunday events. This vibrant Mexican city still retains much of its colonial charm. It is often called the "white city" for its architecture and native dress, but as you will see, it is also a very "colorful" city; full of new sights, sounds and smells. Founded by the Spanish in 1542, Mérida was built over the ancient Maya city of Tiho. It was named Mérida because the Mayan city reminded the Conquistadors of the Roman ruins in Mérida, Spain. Hotel Aragon, or similar.


DAY  5:     Morning tour to the archaeological site of Dzibilchaltún with it's beautiful cenote (bring swimsuit), including a visit to the new Museum of the Pueblo Maya. Drive north to the port of Progreso for lunch and continue along the coast to view colorful flamingos in the various shallow lagoons. Then on to Xcambo, an archaeological site known for it's ancient salt production. 


DAY  6:   Visit to the Regional Anthropology Museum in Mérida. Afternoon transfer to the Puuc region (for 3 nights). In route is an visit to the important Post Classic site of Mayapán, the last major city of the Maya elite in northern Yucatán. Later, go "down under" at Loltún, the most awe-inspiring of the Yucatán cave systems and ancient Maya ritual site.


DAY  7:   A day exploring great examples of the Puuc architectural style at the lovely sites of Labná, Xlapak, Sayil and Kabáh. The ruins and surrounding forest also provide good birding locations.  Hacienda Uxmal, or similar.


DAY  8:    All day to visit the grandiose site of Uxmal. Many consider Uxmal the most ornate and complex Mayan city yet found. The scale of construction and the delicate carved facades are truly remarkable for any culture. Standing over 100 feet up on the Temple of the Magician, one has an excellent viewpoint of the entire site and surrounding Puuc hills. Recent excavations and restorations has brought even more of the site's grandiose structures into the light. Optional Light and Sound show in the evening. 


DAY  9: An "off-the beaten-path" drive into the State of Campeche the historic city of Campeche, (for 2 nights) one of the original Spanish Colonial cites in Mexico. The beautiful old city is fortified and surrounded by 18th-century walls. Although it remains an export center for the surrounding region, Campeche's economy is increasingly linked to the offshore oil fields in the Bay of Campeche. The city, once the site of the pre-Colombian town called Kimpech (whose remains are still observable), was founded in 1540 by the son of the Spanish conquistador Francisco de Montejo. It was sacked frequently by English buccaneers. From 1862 to 1864, French forces blockaded the city. Visits to the imposing Fort San Miguel and it's Regional Museum teach of the area's archaeology and history. Hotel Baluartes, or similar.


DAY  10:  A visit to the Classic Period site of Edzná. This ancient regional Maya capital contains important hydraulic systems of aqueducts, holding tanks, and canals illustrating an advanced technological society. The site also contains a short sacbe that is in relatively good condition along with a large plaza, acropolis, ballcourt, steambaths and large temple/pyramid. Afternoon free for personal exploration in Campeche, a city of old and new.


Day 11: A scenic drive with short stops traveling along the Bay of Campeche and Laguna De Términos to the modern town of Villahermosa (for 2 nights). Villahermosa is located on the banks of the Río Grijalva in the tropical lowlands of the Mexican State of Tabasco and was home to the Olmec and Chontal Maya civilizations, giving it a rich and long history. Hotel Cencali, or similar.


Day 12: In the morning is a visit to the nearby Putún (Chontal) Mayan ruins of Comalcalco, one of the highlights of Tabasco’s rich archeological heritage both because of its size and its unusual use of bricks as building material. The architecture and fine stucco work combined with an excellent on site museum offers an good excuse to explore the verdant countryside. After lunch, you may gain a better understanding of the fascinating Olmec culture with a visit to La Venta Park. This archaeological museum is set in a wooded park with neat, well-trimmed paths winding around tropical vegetation and the ancient, gigantic stone monoliths of the Olmecs. The stone monuments, including some famous giant heads (the largest weighs 24 tons,) were brought to Villahermosa from the original site of La Venta located some 85 miles to the west. This was done to preserve the monuments that were threatened by the expansion of a huge petrochemical plant adjacent to the original site. Currently displayed amidst natural jungle foliage, they look much as they did when originally found in the 1940's. Built along the shore of the Laguna de las Ilusiones, the park has a zoological preserve that includes deer, monkeys, armadillos, coatimundis, crocodiles, jaguars, parrots and macaws.


Day 13:  Another great educational visit to CICOM and its Regional Museum of Anthropology. In addition to its extensive collections of Olmec and Maya art, the museum has displays of ancient artifacts hailing from Tlatilco and Teotihuacán, the Totonacs from the Gulf coast, the Zapotecs and Mixtecs from Oaxaca and the Mexica from the central highlands. Then travel into the State of Chiapas to Palenque (for 3 nights), where you can explore one of the most beautiful of all ancient Mayan cities. An ancient name for the city was Lakam Ha, which translates as "Great Water", for the springs and small rivers which flow from the site. Palenque was the capital of the important classic-age Mayan city-state of B'aakal (Bone). The ruins are set on a high plateau in the foothills of the Tumbalá mountains, allowing for a panoramic view of the lowlands of Chiapas and Tabasco from atop the pyramids. Hotel Tulipanes, or similar.


Day 14:  All day to explore this Classic Period site famous for its well-preserved and unique architecture, elaborate stucco ornamentation and extensive hieroglyphic texts. Considerable restoration fieldwork during the last few years has exposed even more of the impressive architecture. First visited by Spanish explorers in 1787, these spectacular ruins have been a source of fascination ever since. The American explorer John. L. Stephens arrived in 1837 to find (in his words) "all that remained of a cultivated, polished people who passed through all stages incident to the rise and fall of nations, who had reached their golden age, and perished unknown".  Fortunately, through the complex study of the remaining hieroglyphics, many of the names and deeds of the ancient rulers of Palenque have been deciphered and are spoken once again. With a jungle walk through elite residential complexes along the Otolum River in  Palenque's rainforest park, it is common to see forest creatures and to hear the awesome roar of howler monkeys.


Day 15:  Early morning departure for a scenic drive deep into the Lacandón Rainforest to the Maya community of Frontera Corozal, located along the Usumacinta River, the largest river in Mesoamerica (seventh largest in the world) which is shared by Mexico and Guatemala. It has a basin of 65,720 square miles and drains one of the largest areas of contiguous tropical forest in the region, the Selva Maya. The Lacandón Indians were never conquered and converted by the Spaniards and until about 35 years ago, where the most isolated of all Mayan communities. They survived culturally intact for hundreds of years by retreating into the remotest parts of the Chiapas jungles where they lived simply with hunting, gathering and basic agriculture. Then you boat down the mighty Usumacinta River, sided by lush jungle to famous Yaxchilán. The ruins are what many would expect of a “lost city” - encased amongst the towering tress, temples emerge from the thick vegetation and the damp air is thick with smells and sounds of the insects, birds and howler monkeys. Besides it’s magical setting, Yaxchilán is best known for its detailed iconography, especially from temple doorway lintels and the large quantity of sculpture. Yaxchilán was a large center, important throughout the Classic era, and a dominant power in the Usumacinta area. It dominated such smaller sites as Bonampak, and was long allied with Piedras Negras and at least for a time with Tikal; it was a rival of Palenque, with which Yaxchilán warred with in 654. Yat-Balam, founder of a long dynasty, took his throne on 320AD when Yaxchilán was a minor site. The city-state grew to a regional capital and the dynasty lasted into the early 9th century. Yaxchilán had it's greatest power during the long reign of King Shield Jaguar II, who died in 742AD. The main structures follow the natural lay of the land along the banks of the river, arranged in an east-west direction atop rises along the south side of a broad plaza. Yaxchilán (sometimes referred as Menché) may had the ancient name of Izancanac. After the scenic boat ride back upriver and a short drive, you visit Bonampak. This classic Maya site is well-known for the spectacular murals that changed the way the world viewed Maya civilization. In addition, it has three magnificent carved stelae and four carved lintels.


Day 16:  In the morning you depart up into the foothills of Sierra Madres mountains to visit the Maya ruins of Toniná, whose strategic mountain-side location gives it a commanding view over the orchid filled, pine covered hills of Ocosingo Valley. With a distinctive monument style and high relief structures built into the hillside, Tonina is unique in it’s art and architectural styles and layout. Its carved stonework and stelae are very impressive and show that all was not peaceful in ancient Maya cities. Much of the newly discovered iconography at this site illustrates the conflict in the Late Classic Period Maya societies. It may have also been the last great Mayan city as its last dated inscription is 909AD, the latest known to date in the Mundo Maya. Afterwards on the return, you explore the famous cascades of Agua Azul ("blue water") where majestic white waterfalls crash down into beautiful turquoise pools, surrounded by verdant tropical rainforest. This national park was designated as such for its indescribable beauty. The falls are formed by the indigo-blue Yax River cascading down a staircase of 500 individual falls. Be sure to have a swimsuit and plenty of film - this is definitely one of Mexico's natural wonders. Later is a stop at the secluded 130 foot waterfall of Mishol Ha. Set in lush jungle surroundings, this exotic locale was used as a location in the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, "The Predator", (talk about culture shock...)!


DAY  17:  A morning departure into southern Yucatán to the Rio Bec region (for 3 nights). On the way is a stop at the seldom visited site of Balamkú to witness it's impressive iconography in one of the largest and colorful stucco friezes in the Mundo Maya. Then an exploration of Xpuhil where the restored temples of Group I are excellent examples of the Río Bec style architecture. Its massive towers, with fake stairs and doorways, stucco masks and tall roof combs seem to be an effective imitation of the Petén style architecture as seen at Tikal and others. With an optional trek across the road to "Xpuhil II", you can explore the seldom visited but interesting Bird Mask Temple-Complex. Hotel Calakmul, or similar.


Day 18: A tour of nearby Becán, built on a natural limestone outcrop, with temples reaching over 100 feet high, the site commands a scenic and strategic view. One of the sites most unique features is the surrounding a moat. The 1.2 mile ditch surrounds 46 acres of the site and is one of the earliest and largest constructed fortifications known in the Mundo Maya. Crossed by seven causeways, the moat was later used as a trash pit. Spanning a long period of occupation, the site's residents also interacted with the Maya of the Petén and the Teotihuacán peoples in Central Mexico. (Be sure to have a flashlight to explore the interior rooms.) Then on to the lovely site of Chicaná, named for its most restored structure, the House of the Serpent Mouth. The ornate central doorway of this building is a beautiful example of the Chenes style "monster-mouth entrance". Its complex iconography creates a terrifying image of great importance in Mayan cosmology. On the opposite side of the plaza is a twin-towered, typical Río Bec style structure. The excellent condition of the buildings make this a premier site to visit and photograph. Most of the visible construction dates from 550 - 1050 AD.


Day 19:  All day to explore the lush Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, an exciting day of ruins and nature. A beautiful drive (1-2 hours) through the protected rainforest takes you to this important city and regional center of the ancient Maya. New reconstruction has exposed massive temples rivaling any in the Mundo Maya. The site has over a hundred stelae, many of them carved with dynastic hieroglyphics. Everywhere you walk, the grounds are littered with the broken potsherds of various ceramic styles. In one burial crypt alone approximately 2,000 pieces of jade were found! Its largest pyramid rises 175 feet from its nearly 5 acre base and is similar in dimensions to the El Tigre pyramid in El Mirador. In fact, it is said that from the top of the Calakmul pyramid you can sometimes see El Mirador which is located across the border in Guatemala some 23 miles away. Maybe even larger than Tikal, the site covers about 27 square miles and the site nucleus, which was surrounded by canals, is 8.5 square miles. Its occupation spanned the Middle Pre-classic to the Terminal Classic.


DAY  20: Drive east into the State of Quintana Roo to Chetumal (for 2 nights) and Laguna Bacalar, visiting en route the rainforest surrounded ruins of Kohunlich. Much of the monumental construction here has been restored, including a ball court, plazas and residential areas. It also contains one of the best examples of large-scale Early Classic period architecture. Its Pyramid of the Masks has some of the finest Maya sculptures ever produced. The well preserved, stucco masks are amazing. Probably named for the abundant majestic cohune palms, the site has a long history of occupation. Later you visit the expansive sites of Dzibanché & Kinichná, once an important ally of Calakmul. Newly opened, a visit here offers the incredible experience of literally driving through an ancient Maya city. Cleared and overgrown ruins literally are roadside as you drive to the central plazas. Dzibanché, meaning "writing on wood', was a major site throughout the Classic Period. Its inhabitants settled on some 40 sq. km. (9880 acres) of hilly lands surrounded by flats. There is no doubt about the importance of this site once you look out over the countryside from the top of its massive monumental buildings. Hotel Laguna Bacalar, or similar.


Day 21:  A day of education and relaxation. First is a visit to the Museo de la Cultura Maya in Chetumal to learn from it's imaginative modern displays of Mayam Cosmology. Later is a visit to the Fuerte de San Felipe de Bacalar. Like Valladolid, Mérida and Campeche, Bacalar was one of the first original Spanish outposts in the Yucatán Peninsula. It has a nice museum and of course, a commanding view of Lake Bacalar. Later you can enjoy some of the area's wonderful seafood and swim in the beautiful clear waters of the Lake of Seven Colors.


DAY  22:  Another fantastic nature day with travel to Muyil for a boat ride into the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve on Lake Chunyaxache and a chance to get out and float in the clear waters through the grass and mangrove-lined historic canals. Then travel northward up the Caribbean Coast to Tulúm (for 1 night). The afternoon is free for beaching and relaxation. Hotel Los Lirios, or similar.


DAY  23:  In the morning is a visit to the famous Maya seaport ruins of Tulúm. Ancient walls and the coast protect this Late Post Classic city which has become popular tourist attraction. Later you continue up the coast to the old seaport of Puerto Moreles (for 1 night). This low-key place has managed to escape most of the modern development along the "Mayan Riveria". The afternoon is free for beach relaxation and exploring this charming town. A farewell dinner offers a last opportunity to try some of Mexico's delicious cuisine. Hotel Casita del Mar, or similar.


DAY  24: Transfer to Cancun airport for flights home. (B)


   

MUNDO MAYA Chiapas

10 Day Itinerary

DAY 1, Monday:Reception at the Tuxtla Guitiérrez airport from Mexicana flight #267, arriving at 4:20pm and transfer to the luxury Camino Real for the overnight. Before a welcome dinner at Las Pichanchas Restaurant (known for it’s regional foods and music) you stop at Marimba Park to listen to the sounds of Mexico. Tuxtla Guitiérrez is located at the base of the Sierra Mountains and is the modern capital of the Mexican State of Chiapas. The Zoque Indian women of this area are partial to gold filigree and wear necklaces of amber beads and small gold coins with gold filigree crosses.  (D)


Day 2, Tuesday: In the morning you depart up into the Sierra Madres mountains and an exhilarating boat ride into the El Sumidero Canyon. This 26 mile long and 3800 foot deep canyon was cut by the churning waters of the Río Grijalva. This area is where the fiercely independent Chiapanecan Indians made their final stand against the invading Spaniards in the middle of the sixteenth century. Story has that many jumped into the sacred canyon rather than submit to the invaders. More recently, engineers tamed the whitewater by building the Chicoasén dam, the fifth-highest in the world. The canyon’s vegetation is rich due to the area's high humidity and fertile soil. A variety of birds are abundant here, including white herons, cormorants, and kingfishers, and visitors may also see monkeys, raccoons, iguanas, and crocodiles. The area is also famous for its variety of butterflies. At the canyon's entrance are the remains of a Chiapanecan ceremonial center, which may have been dedicated to a water goddess.

Then you continue into the Black Forest of the Chiapas highlands with a stop on the way for lunch and to see the picturesque, colonial village of Chiapa de Corzo, founded by the Spanish on the site of an Indian settlement in 1528. Its zócalo or central plaza is dominated by an unusual octagonal fountain built of Mozarrabic brick and fashioned after the crown of the King of Spain. Built in the Moorish style of the sixteenth century, it is one of the finest examples of this architectural style in Mexico. The handicraft specialty of this area is lacquered gourds called "jicaras" and the local potters specialize in green and black glazed ceramics. Prior to the Spanish intrusion Chiapa was a crossroad for trade used sequentially by the Olmecs, Teotihuacanos, Zapotecs, Mayas and other precolumbian cultures making this site invaluable to archaeologists trying to piece together the development and occupations of these civilizations. Afterwards, you continue higher into the cloudforested mountains for five overnights in historic San Cristóbal de las Casas at the lovely Casa La Mexicana. Open courtyards and colonial architecture add to the hotel's charm. (B, L)


Day 3: A day exploring one of Mexico’s most scenic cities, with a city tour including visits to the Na Bolom Institute and the Amber Museum. Amber is still mined and traded from the nearby village of Simojovel de Allende as it has been for more than 1,500 years. The ancient Maya elite treasured this stone using it for jewelry and sacred burial items. We will have opportunities to see what the modern artisans have done with this medium and a multitude of other highland crafts such as pottery, leathergoods and wood carvings. Affording beautiful views throughout, historic San Cristóbal is set in a lovely valley and the colonial influence on the architecture is immediately apparent. The buildings are mostly one-story stucco houses painted in pastel tones, filled with open-air courtyards dripping in bougainvilleas and topped with red tile roofs. As if it was not enough, the colors of highland Chiapas are enhanced by the brilliant mountain sun and the contrast of vivid blue skies, towering green pines and the deep burnt-orange of the soil. The baroque style cathedral dates back to the 1500's as do many of the numerous churches, convents and homes. Mayas of various tribes from the surrounding mountains fill the town and marketplace, each group wearing its own particular clothing style and speaking their own language. Their textile and ceramic handicrafts are outstanding!  (B)


Day 4: A day of exploring the colorful surrounding Tzotzil Maya villages of San Juan Chamula and Zinacantán. There are few other places where you can see and hear so many distinctive Maya peoples speaking their own languages, wearing native costumes, and still following ancient customs. We will learn about and meet members of the traditional religious brotherhoods with their mayordomos and cargoholders that play such an important role in the ceremonial and civic life of the indigenous villages. In Chamula we can experience the sights, smells and sounds of candles, incense and chanting of ancient Maya religious ceremonies that take place in the somber 17th century parish church. The town of Zinacantán is only a short distance away, but the differences are remarkable. Since the Postclassic Period this village has been an important trade center that was strong enough to resist take over by the Aztecs in the 1400's. Today they continue their heritage of successful commerce and are wealthy enough to easily maintain centuries-old traditions as they enter a new era. The difference in the colors, designs and styles of the clothing and textiles among these two villages is astonishing.

Two thirds of the people in Chiapas live in rural areas with traditions and dress that has changed little in hundreds of years. This area is extremely picturesque. But please be respectful of photographing Mayas. Some will encourage photography (for a tip, of course) but many are especially sensitive and at certain times and places, photography is strictly forbidden. If in doubt, ask permission. As always, especially when among a different culture, exercise good sense and sensitivity. (B)


Day 5: A day of beautiful natural wonders and scenery with a drive and visit to the Lagunas de Montebello National Park and Chiflon Waterfalls. These string of exquisite mountain lakes are very deep and surrounded by almost sheer slopes which give their unpolluted waters a superb richness of color, hence their other name of Lagunas de Colores. The area’s landscape seems exaggerated as the road winds through pine cloudforest, mountain and tropical jungle. The El Chiflon cascades are a multistage waterfall featuring a stunning "angels wings, offering an excellent place to cool off. Be sure to have plenty of film - this area definitely one of Mexico's natural wonders. (B)


Day 6: A free day in San Cristóbal for personal exploration, shopping and relaxation. A good day to visit (and shop) at S'na Jolobil (a Tzotzil Maya phrase meaning weaver's house) a weaving cooperative that represents 800 women from the surrounding villages. Or you can explore the grand churches such as Santo Domingo and the nearby indigenous market. (B)


Day 7: In the morning we depart out the Sierra Madres mountains. This amazing 5,000 foot decent through magnificent mountain scenery has spectacular panoramas at almost every turn. First stop is to the Maya ruins of Toniná, whose strategic mountain-side location gives it a commanding view over the orchid filled, pine covered hills of Ocosingo Valley. With a distinctive monument style and high relief structures built into the hillside, Tonina is unique in it’s art and architectural styles and layout. Its carved stonework and stelae are very impressive and show that all was not peaceful in ancient Maya cities. Much of the newly discovered iconography at this site illustrates the conflict in the Late Classic Period Maya societies. It may have also been the last great Mayan city as its last dated inscription is 909AD, the latest known to date in the Mundo Maya.

Afterwards, you continue to the famous cascades of Agua Azul ("blue water") where majestic white waterfalls crash down into beautiful turquoise pools, surrounded by verdant tropical rainforest. This national park was designated as such for its indescribable beauty. The falls are formed by the indigo-blue Yax River cascading down a staircase of 500 individual falls. Then on to Palenque for two nights at the enchanting and tropical landscaped Chan Ha Resort. Complete with pool and lush flower-filled gardens, it is an attractive place to relax and refresh. Since the hotel is near Palenque's rainforest park, it is common to see forest creatures and to hear the imposing roar of howler monkeys! (B)


Day 8: All day to explore one of the most beautiful of all ancient Mayan cities, Palenque. An ancient name for the city was Lakam Ha, which translates as "Great Water", for the springs and small rivers which flow from the site. Palenque was the capital of the important classic-age Mayan city-state of B'aakal (Bone). The ruins are set on a high plateau in the foothills of the Tumbalá mountains, allowing for a panoramic view of the lowlands of Chiapas and Tabasco from atop the pyramids.  This Classic Period site is famous for its well-preserved and unique architecture, elaborate stucco ornamentation and extensive hieroglyphic texts. Considerable restoration fieldwork during the last few years has exposed even more of the impressive architecture. First visited by Spanish explorers in 1787, these spectacular ruins have been a source of fascination ever since. The American explorer John. L. Stephens arrived in 1837 to find (in his words) "all that remained of a cultivated, polished people who passed through all stages incident to the rise and fall of nations, who had reached their golden age, and perished unknown". Fortunately, through the complex study of the remaining hieroglyphics, many of the names and deeds of the ancient rulers of Palenque have been deciphered and are spoken once again. In the morning is a introduction tour to the site and visit to the excellent site museum. Later you can enjoy a jungle walk through elite residential complexes along the Otolum River. Palenque often becomes a traveler's favorite of all the Mayan sites. Many visitors also enjoy exploring this surrounding rainforest which provides excellent nature/wildlife viewing and relaxing in the natural clear water pools, formed by the streams that runs though the hillsides.  (B)


Day 9: Drive to Villahermosa located on the banks of the Río Grijalva in the tropical lowlands of the Mexican State of Tabasco. The region was home to the Olmec and Chontal Maya civilizations, giving it a rich and long history. Later you may gain a better understanding of the fascinating Olmec culture with a visit to La Venta Park. This archaeological museum is set in a wooded park with neat, well-trimmed paths winding around tropical vegetation and the ancient, gigantic stone monoliths of the Olmecs. The stone monuments, including some famous giant heads (the largest weighs 24 tons,) were brought to Villahermosa from the original site of La Venta located some 85 miles to the west. This was done to preserve the monuments that were threatened by the expansion of a huge petrochemical plant adjacent to the original site. Currently displayed amidst natural jungle foliage, they look much as they did when originally found in the 1940's. Built along the shore of the Laguna de las Ilusiones, the park has a zoological preserve that includes deer, monkeys, armadillos, coatimundis, crocodiles, jaguars, parrots and macaws. Overnight at the upscale Cencali Hotel. (B)


Day 10: Airport transfer for flight out. (B)


   

MUNDO MAYA Northern Yucatan

10 Day Itinerary

DAY 1: Friday

Flights from USA to Mérida. Airport reception and transfer to hotel. Enjoy the evening downtown at the colonial Hotel Casa Del Balam. An evening walking tour of the nearby main plaza introduces you to the history, sights and sounds of Mexico. Excellent people watching and shopping opportunities around the nearby plazas. Welcome dinner planned for orientation and introductions.


Day 2: Saturday

Morning tour to the archaeological site of Dzibilchaltún with it's beautiful cenote (bring swimsuit if desired), including a visit to the new Museum of the Pueblo Maya. Upon the return to Mérida is a visit to the splendid white Palacio Canton, home of the Museum of Anthropology for an overview of the history and archaeology of Yucatán. Later is more touring around the zócalo and special dinner.


DAY 3:  Sunday

Depart for the Spanish Colonial city of Izamal to walk through the  Franciscan monastery of San Antonio de Padua, site of the largest atrium in the Americas and explore the massive Kinich Kak Mo pyramid. Next is a visit to the newly-restored, immense site of Ek Balám. Ek Balám has one of the longest records of occupation in northern Yucatán, from about 100 BC until the Spanish Conquest. Recent excavations have uncovered some of the finest of all Mayan sculpture - which are sure to impress! Then on to Valladolid for the overnight at the 200 year old, renovated colonial mansion, El Meson del Marques. Complete with courtyard gardens, pool and famous restaurant, this charming hotel is located directly across from the main plaza.


DAY 4: Monday

A full day to explore the incredible ruins of Chichén Itzá. The site is the most excavated and famous of all the great Mayan cities. Containing the largest ballcourt in the Mundo Maya,  the famous El Castillo, astronomical observatory, large cenotes, skull racks - it's incredible archaeology and iconography must be seen to be believed. (Admission to the nighttime Light & Sound Show among the ruins is included except for headphone rental.) Overnight at the enchanting Hacienda Chichén Itzá, a wonderful place to relax.


Day 5: Tuesday

In route to the Puuc Hills region is an visit to the important Post Classic site of Mayapán, the last major city of the Maya elite in northern Yucatán. Later, a visit to the recently restored Hacienda Sotuta de Peon opens another door to the colonial past. This large plantation allows for a sisal factory tour and a wagon pulled by mules takes you to a cenote where you can swim in the clear, refreshing waters. A lunch of traditional regional foods is served. Overnight at beautiful Hacienda Uxmal for the next three nights. Time for an late afternoon swim!


Day 6: Wednesday

A full day at expansive Uxmal. Even before the restoration work, Uxmal was in better condition than many other Maya sites thanks to being unusually well built. Much was built with well cut stones, not relying on plaster to hold the buildings together. The intricate Puuc style of Maya architecture predominates. Thanks to its good state of preservation, it is one of the few Maya cities where the casual visitor can get a good idea of how the entire ceremonial center looked in ancient times. (Optional nighttime Light & Sound Show among the ruins.) Overnight at the adjacent Hacienda Uxmal.


Day 7: Thursday

A day exploring great examples of the Puuc architectural style at the photogenic sites of Labná, Xlapak, Sayil and Kabáh. The ruins and surrounding forest also provide good birding locations. We will also be making a stop in the traditional town of Santa Elena for a visit to the Mayan village museum and colonial church.


Day 8: Friday

Morning visit to the Classic Period site of Edzná. One of the earliest Mayan urban centers, it has a unique combination of architectural styles reflecting influence from a variety of ancient cultures. Edzná may have played an important role in early Mayan astronomy and calendar development Then continue on to historic Campeche, a city of old and new. Visits to the imposing Fort San Miguel and it's Regional Museum teach of the area's archaeology and history. Overnight at the seafront Hotel Baluartes.


Day 9: Saturday

Travel north up the Camino Real for a visit to Hecelchakán. It's Museum of Archaeology contains an excellent collection of Jaina figures in addition to other interesting regional artifacts. Next is a stop in the village of Kuck Holocj near Becal, where we will be visiting a family for a demonstration of weaving hats made from the jippi plant. These "panama" hats are woven in caves to create an environment that is humid enough for the plant fibers remain malleable. Later is a visit to the ruins of Oxkintok, one of the largest and longest inhabited Mayan cities in the region. Recent excavations have revealed a unique mixture of architecture styles. Then continue on to Mérida for the overnight at Hotel Casa Del Balam. A "farewell" dinner to celebrate the week.


Day 10: Sunday

Breakfast and transfer for flights out.

 

Below are some past tour itineraries.

We can design a custom program for your group! We also arrange scholar escorts.

Click here for our next upcoming, scholar escorted, small group tour to the Yucatan in November 2013.

We have over 40 years of travel experience in Guatemala, Belize and MEXICO (yucatan, chiapas, campeche, quintana roo, tabasco, oaxaca) to help you design a educational tour to suit your interests! We specialize in archaeology and anthropology in concert with the natural history of the area.



BELIZE MAINLAND

10 Day  Itinerary

Day 1, Saturday

Upon arrival in Belize City, you will be met at the airport and all transferred to the DuPlooy’s riverside lodge in the western Cayo District, located on the Macal River for a 3 night stay.A welcome dinner is planned for orientation and program overview. www.duplooys.com (D)


Day 2, Sunday

After breakfast is a visit to El Pilar Reserve and Mayan Ruins. On the return is a tour of the Masewall Forest Garden Trail. In the afternoon is a tubing float on the Macal River.  (B/L/D)


Day 3, Monday

Before breakfast is an optional sunrise hike on surrounding area trails for birding, plants, and wildlife. After breakfast is an exploration of the 45 acres Belize Botanic Gardens. www.belizebotanic.org Afterwards is a canoe outing downstream on the Macal River to visit the Xunantunich archaeological site, with return by road. (B/L/D)


Day 4, Tuesday

After breakfast and departure is a cave and canoeing excursion on Barton Creek. Later is a visit to Green Hills Butterfly Ranch. Then transfer to Pook's Hill Lodge in the central Belmopan region for a 3 night stay. (www.pookshilllodge.com) After dinner is a night walk in Pook's Hill Nature Reserve. (B/L/D)

 

Day 5, Wednesday

Before breakfast is a sunrise hike in the surrounding reserve for birding, flora/fauna. After breakfast is a cave tubing excursion at Cave's Branch. In the afternoon is time for tubing & swimming on-site at Pook's Hill Roaring Creek. (B/L/D)


Day 6, Thursday

Morning tour into the Guanacaste National Park. Later is a visit to the Belize Zoo. The afternoon is free for relaxation or more explorations of the surrounding forest. (B/L/D)


Day 7, Friday

After breakfast and departure, transfer by road and boat with nature viewing enroute to the riverside Lamanai Outpost Lodge in the Northern District for a 2 night stay. (www.lamanai.com). In the afternoon explore the Outpost grounds and surrounding rainforest. After dinner is a night spotlight safari by boat on the New River Lagoon. (B/L/D)


Day 8, Saturday

Morning tour of the Lamanai Archaeological Reserve and its visitor center. In the afternoon visit Indian Church Village to learn of their Community Enhancement Project with artisan center, library, & more. (B/L/D)


Day 9, Sunday

Morning transfer by boat and road to the Belize City airport for flights out. (B)


   

BELIZE Rainforest & Caribbean

10 Day Itinerary

DAY 1, Saturday:

Upon your airport reception at the Belize International Airport you will be presented with travel vouchers and tickets. You will then be locally air transferred on Tropic Air to Gallon Jug where

you will be picked up for road transfer to world-famous, Chan Chich.

Overnight at the remote and  upscale Chan Chich Lodge. The 12 thatched-roof cabanas surround two central buildings that contain the reception desk, restaurant, bar, gift shop, and library. Each cabana is fully screened and has two queen-size beds, ceiling fan, private bath with hot and cold water, 24 hour electricity and a wraparound veranda complete with hammocks. The cabana is beautifully finished inside with local exotic hardwoods. http://www.chanchich.com/


Day 2

Free day for optional activities. Located within a 250,000 acre private reserve, Chan Chich Lodge is bordered to the north by another 262,000 acres of protected lands managed by Programme for Belize.

At Chan Chich you can retrace the footsteps of the Maya on your own, or local guides with extensive knowledge of the flora, fauna and Maya history are available to guide you through this tropical paradise Overnight at Chan Chich Lodge.


Day 3

Today you will be locally air transferred on Tropic Air from Gallon Jug to the Belize Municipal Airstrip where you will be picked up by a representative for a guided tour of the world renowned Belize Zoo. (http://www.belizezoo.org/)  After the tour, you continue to Jaguar Paw Resort for the overnight and where you have an option to go cave tubing (this tour is not included in cost).  Situated on 215 acres of jungle reserve skirted by the Caves Branch River and honeycombed by miles of underground caves it is where ancestors of the Maya lived and worshipped. http://www.jaguarpaw.com/About.html


Day 4

After optional morning caving or river tubing, you will be road transferred from Jaguar Paw Resort to Gales Point on the coast.  Overnight at Manatee Lodge in the Southern Lagoon next to the Maya Mountains. Located approximately 25 miles due south of Belize City, the colonial style buildings of the Lodge are at the tip of a two and a half mile long peninsula running north into the Southern Lagoon. Scattered along this narrow finger of land is the Creole Village of Gales Point. The Southern Lagoon is surrounded by varying ecosystems- thick mangroves, open savanna grasslands, heavy jungle, rivers and creeks, and the Caribbean Sea and shore- each offering a unique experience on wildlife, terrain and vegetation. http://www.manateelodge.com/home.html


Day 5

Free day for optional activities, such as: canoeing, fishing, hiking, caving, birding, and watching for manatees, crocodiles, or sea turtles.  Overnight at Manatee Lodge,


Day 6

Today you will be road transferred from Manatee Lodge to Dangriga. Overnight at Bonefish Hotel, located in the heart of Dangriga, the Bonefish Hotel offers warm Belizean hospitality and good accommodations with a scenic view of the Caribbean Sea, which is only 200ft from your doorsteps. (The Bonefish Hotel is the sister hotel of the Blue Marlin Lodge so arrangements can be made to this island property for diving, fishing, tours or relaxation.) http://www.bluemarlinlodge.com/bonefish.html


Day 7

Today you will be road transferred from Bonefish to the Dangriga Airstrip where you will be locally air transferred to Belize Municipal Airstrip.  From there you will be locally air transferred to San Pedro, Ambergris Caye.  Overnight at the modern and deluxe Ramon's Resort Village, with thatched roof cabanas, tropical lagoon-style pool, fabulous restaurant and the infamous Purple Parrot Bar. http://www.ramons.com/



Day 8

Free day for optional activities.  Besides the many varied optional activities available at the resort, you also have time to visit the historic fishing village of San Pedro, which is a short 5 minute walk up the beach. Overnight at Ramon's Village.


Day 9

Today your will be locally air transferred from San Pedro, Ambergris Caye to the Belize International Airport in time to connect with your International Departing Flight back home.




  

GUATEMALA EXPLORATION

22 Day Itinerary

DAY 1, January 2006: (Sunday or Wednesday)

Fly from USA to Guatemala City. After arrival and reception in Guatemala City, transfer to the Zona Viva (Zone of Life), an area of great shops, restaurants and hotels. Overnights at the Hotel Biltmore Express, or similar.


Day 2: (Monday or Thursday)

Morning tour of the National Archaeology Museum for orientation. Afternoon visits to the Ixchel Textile Museum (named for the Maya goddess of weaving and devoted solely to the display of textiles) and the Popul Vuh Archaeological Museum (with its extensive collection of Pre-Colombian pottery, carvings and artifacts).



DAY 3: (Tuesday or Friday)

Drive out of the highlands into the Motagua Valley, one the driest places in Central America and then up into the lush Sierra de Las Minas mountains of the Baja Verapaz. There we will explore the Mario Dary Biotope, created to protect the Quetzal, the national bird and symbol of Guatemala. One of the world's most outstanding cloud forests with a unique mix of Neotropical and Nearctic birds, the preserve offers nature paths through the cloud forest on mountains that reach 2,300 meters. The vegetation is wide-leaf and pine trees with orchids, moss, ferns and bromeliads in abundance. Afternoon trail hiking to view waterfalls, orchids and ancient trees. Overnight at the nearby Posada Montana del Quetzal, or similar.


Day 4: (Wednesday or Saturday)

Morning hike in the cloudforest. Then drive out of the mountains to Honduras. Along the way is a visit to the Museum of Paleontology, Archaeology and Geology in Estanzuela. Also a possiblity, is a stop at the Santa Maria hot springs near Zacapa and the market at Chiquimula.


Day 5: (Thursday or Sunday)

Morning tour of the the new site museum and ancient Maya city of Copán. Lunch, swim and siesta back at the hotel and afternoon return to the site.


Day 6: (Friday or Monday)

Full day of touring at Copán and surrounding ruins.


Day 7: (Saturday or Tuesday)

Morning drive back into Guatemala to the scenic Motagua Valley and a tour of the archaeological ruins of Quiriguá, a 75 acre park set amidst a banana plantation. Here, you will witness the tallest stelae (35 feet) of the Mayan world and zoomorphic geoglyphs that are sure to astound - its iconography is some of the best in the Mundo Maya! Afternoon departure for the Caribbean lowlands, where other stops may include looks at rubber tree and cacao plantations. Then on to El Relleno on the shores of Lake Izabal for overnights at the Hotel Vinas del Lago, or similar.


DAY 8: (Sunday or Wednesday)

A day on the water with a scenic boating excursion on Lago Izabal and through the dramatic Río Dulce gorge to the Caribbean Coast. This boat trip takes you over thermal springs and into the incredible green canyons of Cueva de la Vaca, lined with giant tropical trees, whose steep walls are a tangle of orchids, bromeliads and jungle foliage. You will also visit the Chocón Macahacas Biotope, created to conserve the manatee and estuarine ecosystems, with forests of mahogany, palms, tropical hardwoods and flora. Later is time to explore the Garifuna town of Lívingston on the Gulf of Honduras, a true "melting pot" of cultures.


Day 9:  (Monday or Thursday)

A morning visit to the Spanish-Colonial, Castillo San Fillipe, originally built in 1652. Then time for swimming. The afternoon is free for relaxation and mingling with the rich and famous yacht crowd or the local campesinos.


DAY 10:  (Tuesday or Friday)

Early morning departure for the scenic drive into the vast jungle province of Petén to Tikal in the Maya Biosphere Reserve. Accommodations for the next five nights at the Jungle Lodge located in Tikal National Park. A tour of the Tikal Museums provides a good introduction to this important Mayan center. Time in the evening for your first look at the magnificent ruins of the Classic Period Mayan city of Tikal. Experience nightfall in a lush tropical lowland rainforest.


DAY 11: (Wednesday or Saturday)

Walk the ancient Mayan roads, or sacbes, and tour the principal pyramid groups. Interpretations of the iconography on the existing stelae will help bring the ancient rulers back to life. You can climb the pyramids and try to envision an ancient city of possibly up to 100,000 people. Also, time enough to follow the monkey troops such as the boisterous howler monkeys from tree to tree in the overhead forest canopy and recognize the abundant birds and wildlife. At the Tikal Jungle Lodge, you will be staying within walking distant of "downtown" Tikal. Tikal is often considered the most spectacular of the ancient Mayan cities. Surrounded by a vast rainforest, the site of Tikal has been protected as a park for over 75 years and has been declared a "World Cultural and Natural Monument". The park offers some of the very best wildlife viewing in all of the Mundo Maya for howler monkeys, spider monkeys, foxes, kinkajous, macaws, toucans, parrots, a myriad of beautiful butterflies and much more!


Day 12: (Thursday or Sunday)

Another full day to explore the vast ancient Maya city of Tikal.


Day 13:  (Friday or Monday)

A day excursion though the jungle to the nearby early classic-period ruins of Uaxactún.


Day 14:  (Saturday or Tuesday)

Free day for personal exploration of Tikal and nature/wildlife viewing in the Park.


DAY 15:  (Sunday or Wednesday)

Morning flight back to Guatemala City. Then a drive through Guatemala's fertile central valley, an area of majestic scenery and verdant landscapes to Panajachel, nestled amidst towering volcanoes on the shores of picturesque Lake Atitlán.  Along the way is a stop at the mountaintop Iximché archaeological site and learn of its incredible history as the capital of the Kachiquel Maya at the time of the Spanish Conquest. Overnights at the El Cacique Inn, or similar.


Day 16: (Monday or Thursday)

A morning boat ride across the lake to Santiago Atitlán, the largest and most traditional of the lake-side towns, situated at the base of the San Pedro volcano.  Santiago Atitlán is also home to the halo-style headdress, where a band 20 feet in length is continuously wrapped around the head, creating a disk effect with fabric.  A walking tour takes us to the market, church and shrine dedicated to the modern Maya deity, Maximón. Witness demonstrations by some of the finest embroiderers in Guatemala. After lunch, we tour Santa Catarina and San Antonio Palopó, two Mayan villages perched on the hills surrounding Lake Atitlán. Meet master Maya weavers and visit the local markets and art gallery. See demonstrations of both the backstrap and treadle, or foot-loom, and visit the weaving and ceramic cooperatives.


Day 17: (Tuesday or Friday)

A morning visit the San Buenaventura Nature Reserve, which preserves and displays the Lake basin's unique ecology. This private reserve has more than 100 hectares of native forest. Its goal is the conservation of the natural surroundings in the Lake Atitlán Basin. The reserve also serves as bird refuge with a 23 meters (75 ft) high waterfall and three suspension bridges at the end of trails that go past an ancient coffee grove and a beautiful ravine. For bird sustenance and shelter, in 1995 some 600 native fruit trees and more than 5000 flowering and seed plants were planted. The afternoon is free to explore “gringotanango”.



Day 18: (Wednesday or Saturday)

We depart Panajachel and witness the historic trade center of Sololá, where various traditional dress identifies the participant’s distant home villages. Late morning departure through the highlands to historic Santa Cruz del Quiché and a visit to the Utatlán archaeological site. Then continue on to the traditional Maya town of Chichicastenango and overnight at the Hotel Casa Del Rey, or similar.


Day 19: (Thursday or Sunday)

Morning visit to the regional town market and a chance to see why Chichicastenango is considered Guatemala's most famous native market. Witness (and shop) Chichicastenango for it's world-famous market day. Through the veil of smoke from burning incense, experience the vitality of the vendors, along with the color and variety of the textiles, handicrafts, and local goods. Later, a return trip through the cool mountains to Central America's first colonial capital city, Antigua. A stop in route to visit Vallhala, a macadamia nut and blueberry farm to see the workings of a sustainable farm. Then on to historic Antigua, the heart of Spanish Colonial Guatemala with tremendous early architecture, including some of the oldest churches and monasteries in the New World and picturesque views of the surrounding mountains and volcanoes, some of which are over 13,000 feet high. Overnights at the Posada del Hermano Pedro, or similar.


Day 20: Friday or Monday)

A day to explore Guatemala's ancient capital city of Antigua, with colonial churches and buildings dating back to the 1500's. Stroll around the main plaza and cobblestone streets, visit the markets and various interesting shops, all while enjoying the views of the neighboring volcanoes and splendid architecture. A city tour of the colonial architecture will provide a background for Antigua's long and fascinating history.


Day 21: (Saturday or Tuesday)

A free day in one of this hemisphere’s oldest and most beautiful cities.


Day 22:  (Sunday or Wednesday)

Transfer to the Guatemala City airport for flight out.


  

CENTRAL MEXICO

9 Day Itinerary

DAY 1: Evening flight from Miami on Mexicana Airlines #308 (6:30PM>9:05PM) to Mexico City. Transfer north of the city to the Club Med Villas Arqueológica next to the famous archaeological site of Teotihuacán.



DAY 2: All day to explore Mexico's largest and most important ruins, Teotihuacán. Afternoon drive to the colorful city of Puebla. Late afternoon free for exploring the zocalo, checking out museums, shopping, etc. Evenings are free to explore and get accustomed to the sights and sounds of Mexico. Excellent people watching and shopping opportunities in the nearby plazas.Overnight Hotel Colonial.


DAY 3:Morning visit to the archaeological site of  Cacaxtla and view its fabulous murals. Afterwards a city tour of Puebla's famous tiled colonial buildings and a visit to State Regional Anthropology Museum. Late afternoon free for exploring this lovely city, other museums, galleries, shopping, etc. Overnight Hotel Colonial.


DAY 4: Morning transfer to Mexico City airport for flight to colonial Oaxaca. Transfer to Hotel Calesa Real. Afternoon visit to Regional Anthropology Museum and  R. Tamayo Museum.


DAY 5: Daytrip through the dramatic countryside to visit the archaeological sites of Mitla, Yagul, Lambetityeco, Dainzú. Also stop at Teotitlán del Valle, a village noted for its fine weavings and the small town of Santa María del Tule. Late afternoon free for exploring this scenic town, other museums, galleries, shopping, etc. Overnight Calesa Real.



DAY 6: Daytrip to the important and beautiful archaeological site of Monte Albán. Afternoon free for shopping, etc.  Overnight Calesa Real.


DAY 7: Morning flight back to Mexico (7:55AM>8:50AM). Tour the "new" Templo Mayor site and museum and the Zócalo. Late afternoon free for shopping, etc. Overnight Hotel María Cristina.


DAY 8: Tour Mexico's National  Anthropology Museum, one of the world's best, and Chapultepec Park. Late afternoon free for exploring the world's, metropolitan area, other museums, galleries, shopping, etc. Overnight Hotel María Cristina.


DAY 9:  Morning flights out.


  

MEXICO CITY

6 Day Itinerary

Day 1:  (Monday)

Reception from flights to Mexico City. Assistance with check-in at hotel for a six night stay. If it is a clear day, we may stop at the Torre Latinoamericana, in Mexico City for a breathtaking view of the city’s heart, as well as two snowcapped volcanoes to the east.


Day 2: (Tuesday)

A day touring in Chapultepec Park. This is the biggest park in the city, with a lake for rowing, a zoo, and a castle, and museum perched atop a hill. First we start with visit to the Museo Nacional de Antropologia. Considered one of the most important museums of the world, this anthropology museum offers the most extensive exhibition of pre Colombian art of the planet. It has 24 halls distributed by themes, which range from the origins of American man to contemporary ethnic groups of the Mexican Republic. There is Teotihuacan, the recently renovated Mayan hall, Oaxaca and its  cultures and, of course, the Aztecs, which is the central hall of the museum. After lunch is a visit to the Castillo de Chapultepec home to the informative and accessible National History Museum. (Note: Also in or near Chapultepec Park if time permits or for later independent visit are the Rufino Tamayo Museum of Art, Chapultepec Zoo and the Mercado San Juan, the capital’s most appealing food market. (B)



Day 3:  (Wednesday)

We’ll begin our tour in the morning with a stop at the Plaza de las Tres Culturas (three cultures plaza) and the Basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe, also called "The Empress of America. "The tradition of La Villa de Guadalupe, as we know it today, involved a miracle and an Indian saint. Then lunch in one of the local restaurants, known as "la Gruta", (as it is inside a real cavern and has been operating since the 30's). Next, we’ll visit the famous archaeological site of Teotihuacan, the “city of the Gods”, where we’ll see the monumental Pyramids of the Sun and Moon, the Temple of Quetzalpapalotl and the Avenue of the Dead. Few cities in the world have even been considered worthy of being inhabited by Gods who are typically accustomed to occupying loftier realms than those populated by mere mortals. Teotihuacan is just such a city, with over a thousand years of civilization, you can still feel why today as you stroll along its wide avenues, projecting out towards the cardinal points of the universe. Many years, events and people passed before this amazing place was elevated to the ranks of a mythical city. The most obvious expression of the past generations and peoples who inhabited this site, only 50 kilometers northeast of Mexico City, are the archaeological vestiges of the city itself and the many remnants of fine pottery from Teotihuacan which are found today in exhibitions around the world. (B)


(NOTE: In the evening, is the option to go to Wednesday’s Ballet Folklorico de Mexico, a show built around the folk dances and traditional costumes of Mexico. This internationally acclaimed troupe performs at the Palacio of Bellas Artes, constructed under the supervision of Italian architect Boari. With its art nouveau style and a facade made entirely of marble from Carrara, you’re sure to be impressed. The interior boasts a crystal curtain carved with the images of the Iztlaccihuatl and Popocatepetl volcanoes. Enjoy frescos of Orozco, Siqueiros, Rivera, Tamayo and Montenegro. Adjacent, you’ll find the Latin America Tower if the sky is clear. This is one of the best shows in the city. You’ll be taken on a journey to each unique region of our country as expressed through dance. This beautiful performance delivers - approximately $100 extra.)


Day 4:  (Thursday)

A day of touring through the Historical Centre, including visits to the National Palace, the Constitution Square, the city’s Central Plaza or “Zocalo,” the Aztec Major Temple, and the Metropolitan Cathedral. The ten-acre Historic Center of Mexico City is home to numerous museums and has benefited in recent years from a committed preservation push. We start with a visit to the Templo Mayor Museum and ruins. This main temple of the Aztecs was only part of a much larger sacred center of the great city of Tenochtitlan, which may have contained as many as 78 buildings. Then on to visit the National Palace to see the murals that Diego Rivera painted between 1929 and 1952 that show Mexican history from prehispanic times to the workers' movement of the 1930s. Next is a visit to Metropolitan Cathedral, whose construction and decoration took nearly 3 centuries. The interior of the cathedral is as impressive as its exterior, with many retablos dating from the 16th and 17th Centuries. With time permitting, we can visit the Ministry of Education. A number of structures, some dating from the seventeenth century, are combined into this single building with its beautiful courtyards and surrounding galleries decorated with the murals mostly by Diego Rivera. The murals were begun in 1923, shortly after the end of the Revolution, and Rivera worked on them over a period of five years.  The scenes reflect the social, economic, and political thought which drove the Mexican Revolution as well as the artist's vision for a post-revolutionary, socialist Mexico. (B)


Day 5:  (Friday)

Heading south from the city, on our Setting off, we’ll pass by the World Trade Center, the Siqueiros Cultural Polyforum, the Monumental Mexico Bull Ring, and the Insurgentes Theater with its mosaic mural featuring Cantinflas, painted by Diego Rivera.We’ll explore the university city with its famous library decorated throughout with the mosaic murals of Juan O´Gorman, the Olympic Stadium and the residential area of Pedregal de San Angel, built on lava fields. Arriving at the peaceful waters of the Xochimilco Canals, one of the last traces of the Aztec Era, we’ll enjoy a relaxing, scenic journey through these ancient waters on a traditional punt or pre-Hispanic boat. Next, we’ll visit the impressive colonial district of Coyoacan. We’ll walk down Francisco Sosa Street with its large, old, rambling houses of the 16th century until reaching the main square. Here we’ll find the impressive mansion of the "Conquistador" Hernando Cortes and the Church of Saint John the Baptist with many beautiful paintings and altarpieces. (B)


Day 6:  (Saturday)

A free day for personal exploration and last minute shopping. Take advantage of the city’s Turibus (a double-decker bus service that makes a circuit from the historic center, down the Paseo de la Reforma to Chapultepec Park and into trendy neighborhoods like Condesa, Roma and Polanco) and visit some of the many museums, markets, and attractions. (Optional tours can be arranged direct with local personnel.) (B)


(Sunday)

Morning transfer to airport for international flight out. (B)


Options are available, such as:

1. Day trip to Puebla. We’ll start by heading to Huejotzingo where we’ll visit the Convent of San Miguel and explore several cultural origins of the Mexican race: Spanish, Arab, and Native American. Next, we’ll visit the Cholula archaeological zone to visit the largest pyramid in the world. Continuing on, we’ll reach Puebla Colonial and the cosmopolitan city that preserves its traditional flavor in its food, art and culture while at the same time offering all the amenities of a modern city. As you walk these beautiful streets, you’ll be drawn to the splendid architecture of the city’s cathedral, houses, museums and cultural centers the majority of which are decorated with tiles and beautiful sculpted freestone. We’ll also see the city’s majestic Cathedral, Main Square, Chapel of the Rosary, Convent of Santa Monica, Onyx and Talavera ceramics factories.

2. Gala Night Tour  - Available: Wednesdays, Fridays & Saturdays

We will begin our tour with a delicious Dinner at the famous revolving Bellini Restaurant, on top of the World Trade Center (45TH floor) with a breathtaking panorama of the city. After dinner, we will continue through the most glamorous districts of the city to admire its illuminated monuments, avenues and parks; from the Zocalo we will continue to the famous “Plaza Garibaldi “ that is the meeting place of the Mariachis, to enjoy a Mexican typical show and also dance with live music.






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MUNDO MAYA YUCATAN Exploration:  November 5 - 18, 2013

A small group, 14-day holistic itinerary escorted by anthropologist Charlie Strader, highlighting the past and living history of the Maya in the Northern Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. 

Includes: Mérida, Valladolid, Campeche, Izamal, Ek Balam, Chichén Itzá, Uxmal, Sayil, Akumal, Mayan villages, markets, colonial haciendas, cenotes, three coasts, beautiful natural history, great food, and more.

CLICK HERE FOR THE ITINERARY