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Small Group Tours

Easter in Guatemala

Guatemala

9 days

Summary

Easter in Guatemala is a one of a kind experience. It is a festivity like no other, and we are sure it will leave you in awe. You will breathe in the heady aromas of frankincense and pine in Antigua’s opulent Lenten processions. Savour the unique flavours of local cuisine in sprawling open-air markets. Treat your eyes to handwoven fabrics, ornately carved wood, and naif paintings depicting everyday Guatemalan life in Chichicastenango market.
And then, centuries-old mysteries will whisper to you in the archaeological jungle sites of Iximché, Tikal, and Uaxatún. Witness the timeless beauty of a sunset from an observation tower before sleeping in a tent by the ruins. As this is an escorted tour you will be travelling with an expert guide. Learn all about Guatemala’s rich culture, storied history, and natural wonders as you experience daily life on a coffee farm, visit a weaving cooperative and hike the shores of glistening Lake Atitlan. Awaken all your senses during Easter in Guatemala!

Saturday, March 28th to Sunday, April 5th, 2020

Highlights

  • Antigua streets & eats food tour with San Bartolo Lent procession
  • Festive “Alfombra” making (processional street carpet) activity
  • De La Gente Sustainable Coffee Farm tour, including lunch with local families
  • Comalapa market & Iximché Maya ruins with Mayan ceremony, en-route to Lake Atitlan
  • Scenic lakeshore hiking on Lake Atitlan
  • Chichicastenango market
  • Uaxactún jungle tented camp, 2 nights
  • Sunset drinks at the jungle observation tower in Uaxactun
  • Off-the-beaten track Tikal tour

Inclusions

  • Fully escorted with local English speaking guide (max 16 passengers)
  • Domestic roundtrip airfare Guatemala City to Flores
  • 8 nights accommodation in 4-star hotels & Jungle Camp
  • All breakfasts (except on arrival day)
  • All lunches (except arrival and departure days)
  • Welcome dinner in Antigua & dinner at the Maya ruins of Uaxactún
  • All tours and activities as described
  • Land and boat transfers as mentioned (private for the group)
  • Entrance fees and local guides as required

ITINERARY

Day 1 Guatemala City/Antigua

Fly into Guatemala City. On arrival, you will be met and transferred to your hotel in beautiful Antigua, Guatemala. Free evening to explore the city on your own.
Antigua, Guatemala is one of the most idyllic destinations in the world. It has a carefully restored Spanish colonial architecture, superb international cuisine and a horizon shaped by three spectacular volcanoes. Nestled in a mountain valley and surrounded by evergreen forests, Antigua retains the aura of the 17th-century capital that it was while blending modern amenities that make it an internationally appealing getaway.
Walking along cobblestone streets, you will find high-end art galleries, fascinating museums, and traditional markets packed to the rafters with locally made textiles and woodcrafts. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, with its architecture, culture and a unique setting, Antigua, it is undoubtedly one of the most charming cities in all the Americas.
Overnight: 4 Star hotel. Meals: None

Day 2 Antigua

Antigua Street & Eats tour and Alfombra Making & San Bartolo Lent Procession. Today you will depart on a colonial walking tour of Antigua with food tour twist. Begin the walking tour along the cobblestone streets, stopping to visit one or two of Antigua’s most picturesque sights. Then it’s on to some of the comedores (eateries) most loved by locals. You may sample delicious, authentic Guatemalan cuisine such as chuchitos (Guatemala-style tamales), pupusas (cheese-filled corn tortillas), rellenitos (plantain dough filled with beans and then fried), and even pigs’ feet while your guide tells you all about the cultural background of these delicatessens. Later, explore Antigua’s bustling community market where you can see, smell, touch, and taste the fresh ingredients used in their preparation. (Please note: This tour is for more adventurous eaters!)
In the afternoon visit the San Bartolomé Lent Procession & “Alfombra” Making. 2020 marks the 118th anniversary of the procession that leaves San Bartolomé on the 5th Sunday of Lent, which is the largest procession leading up to Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Guatemala. Hundreds of volunteers dressed in vibrant purple robes will carry huge wooden floats weighing up to 3,000kg on their shoulders as the procession winds its way through the streets of Antigua. Exquisite “Alfombras” (carpets) made of flowers, pine needles, and coloured patterned sawdust line the streets along the processional route. Tonight welcome dinner will be served at a local restaurant.
Overnight: 4 Star hotel. Meals: BLD

Day 3 Antigua

De La Gente Fairly Traded Coffee Tour. Your private guide and driver will meet you for the short ride to the town of San Miguel Escobar, just outside of Antigua. In San Miguel, meet a local guide from De La Gente (DLG), a nonprofit organisation working to support small independent coffee producers and promote environmentally responsible agriculture in Guatemala.
On this tour, you will visit some of the families supported by this organisation. You can work side-by-side with local coffee farmers as you help pick, pulp, ferment, wash, dry, thresh, sort, or grade the coffee. It depends on the season, but you might also roast the coffee over an open fire and grind it by hand on a grindstone before sampling the brew.
Overnight: 4 Star hotel. Meals: BL

Day 4 Antigua/Lake Atitlan

San Juan Comalapa Market and Iximché Archaeological Site & Maya Ceremony. This morning transfer to San Juan Comalapa, a town known for its more than 500 painters, primarily of Maya Kaqchiquel heritage. On arrival, you will see the famous mural, painted by local schoolchildren and adults, depicting major events in Guatemala’s history from the pre-Columbian era through the signing of the 1996 peace accords.
You will then visit a few of the artists who continue the tradition of naïf painting for which the town is famous. Finally, you can walk through Comalapa’s authentic market for a glimpse into daily life in this region. Witness the locals dressed in the traditional colourful textiles buy their weekly produce and goods.
You can also visit the small museum dedicated to the Comalapa-born composer who wrote Guatemala’s national anthem before you head off to explore the Mayan ruins of Iximché.
Explore well-preserved temples, ball courts, and remnants of ancient palaces of the compact but crucial Maya site of Iximché. A fascinating stop en route from Antigua to Lake Atitlán, Iximché once served as the capital of the Kaqchikel Mayas. Surrounded by steep slopes and pine trees, the ceremonial centre thrived from 1470 to 1524 A.D., until Spanish conquerors declared it as their first capital in Guatemala. Modern-day shamans, chanting in a local Maya language, still use part of the site for rituals.
Often incorporating fire, candles, and mysterious potions, the ceremonies can have any number of intentions, including health, fertility, protection, safe travels, or success. To participate in a ceremony, just let your guide know. It’s an incredible experience and goes a long way toward better understanding traditional Maya beliefs. After the service, enjoy lunch at a nearby restaurant and resume the drive to Lake Atitlán.
Lake Atitlan: surrounded by rugged hills, a trio of towering volcanoes, and a handful of small villages, Lake Atitlan will fascinate you with its grandeur. Located in the Guatemalan highlands, the lake was formed more than 80,000 years ago during a violent volcanic eruption. Tz’utujil and Kaqchiquel Mayas have plied its shores for centuries and continue to do so today, wearing vibrant traditional clothing and practising age-old Maya customs. Panajachel is the lake’s central hub. From here, boats depart regularly for destinations like San Juan La Laguna, which is known for its hand-woven, naturally dyed textiles. There are also services to San Pedro, where intrepid visitors can summit a 3,020-meter volcano. The area also offers excellent opportunities to kayak, bike, and zip-line.
Overnight: 4 Star hotel. Meals: BL

Day 5 Lake Atitlan

San Juan & Santiago Lake Tour. Although more than a dozen fascinating towns and villages overlook majestic Lake Atitlán, Santiago and San Juan La Laguna top the must-see list. In San Juan watch indigenous weavers mix natural dyes from locally grown plants and flowers. And then see the women use a back-strap loom to create intricate textiles, thread by colourful thread. From there, peruse a workshop of art naïf painters before boarding the boat for the cruise to Santiago.
After a delicious lunch, head out with your guide to finding the house of Maximón, the Maya folk saint who moves annually with the selection of his new caretaker. A shaman may be performing a ritual for a local follower, or two gathered at Maximón’s candle-lit altar. Afterwards, you can visit the church, learn about the town’s vivid history and explore the thriving market. Be sure to check out more of the distinctive textiles and primitive art, both famous from the lake basin. The tour includes your morning hotel pickup and evening return.
Overnight: 4 Star hotel. Meals: BL

Day 6 Lake Atitlan /Tikal

Chichicastenango Market & Uaxactun. You will be met at the hotel by your private driver and guide for the 1.5hrs drive to the highland town of Chichicastenango. Along the way, you will pass through the central highland region where you’ll see local Maya people. They wear their traditional clothes while they go about their daily lives working in the fields, collecting firewood, travelling between markets and selling their wares. Upon arrival at Chichicastenango, your guide will take you to explore this expansive, world-famous market. Visit the fruit and vegetable markets where locals buy produce and household goods. Spend some time in the artisan craft area where countless stalls overflow with an endless variety of handmade textiles, carved wood, and ceramic crafts. You can also visit the church where both Maya and Catholic rituals are performed in the sanctuary, reflecting the intertwining of these two diverse faiths in this region. If you wish, you can also hike up the hill to the Pascual Abaj, where you may see shamans performing their rituals. Alternatively visit the cemetery on the outskirts of town, where the mausoleums are painted in vivid colours. After the tour, you will have time to enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before heading to Guatemala City for your flight to Flores
It’s one thing to visit Guatemala’s stunning ruins, but wait until you spend the night at one, in particular, Uaxactún, one of the longest-occupied Mayan cities. After your night-time arrival at Uaxactún from Flores, you’ll drop your belongings in your tent at the campsite near the jungle-shrouded temples. But don’t even think about settling into your bed yet! First, you’ll set out along jungle trails in search of nocturnal wildlife, such as owls, opossums, and spooky-looking insects. Uaxactún’s many structures include an elaborate, thoroughly accurate astronomical cluster, where you’ll gaze up at a twinkling blanket of stars and luxuriate in the jungle mystique.
Overnight: Camping site. Meals: BLD

Day 7 Tikal

Uaxactún Archaeological Site and Community. In the morning, you’ll embark on a guided tour of the Uaxactún ruins, stopping at partially restored temples that align perfectly with the sun on key dates of the calendar. In the village, you’ll learn about the natural gum, allspice, and xate (exported globally for floral arrangements) that locals collect. For lunch, you’ll savour a traditional dish prepared with locally sourced ingredients. You can rest or explore at your leisure in the afternoon. At dusk, you’ll climb a lookout tower for sunset drinks, followed by a delicious, locally made dinner before another overnight in the jungle camp.
Overnight: Camping site. Meals: BLD

Day 8 Tikal/Guatemala City

Your final day starts with breakfast and a 45-minute drive to Tikal National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where some 3,000 ancient structures rise from the rainforest floor. Not only will you enjoy a fascinating tour, but you’ll also experience the sights and sounds of tropical birds and animals, including howler and spider monkeys.
Following in the footsteps of Maya royalty and commoners, you will visit the majestic Great Plaza and its Temple of the Jaguar, Temple of the Masks, Acropolis and much more. Lunch is included in the tour. You can also explore the museum at the visitor centre before your transfer to the airport for your flight to Guatemala City.
Overnight: 4 Star hotel. Meals: BL

Day 9 Guatemala City

Today you will be transferred to the airport for your onwards flight.
Meals: B

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