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  • Aracari Toucan in Belize
  • Cahal Pech Ruins in San Ignacio, Belize
  • Beautiful Caye Caulker, Belize
  • Antigua and the Volcano de Agua, Guatemala
  • Lake Attilan, Guatemala
  • Tikal Mayan ruins, Guatemala
  • The Kukulkan Pyramid (El Castillo) at Chitchen-Itza, Mexico
  • Mayan ruins at Palenque, Mexico
Route:
Antigua to Antigua
Days:
22
Style: Worldwide Adventures
Code: YYA
From:

US$2,199

Chichén Itzá, Palenque and Tikal are the three most famous pre-Columbian ruins on the Yucatan peninsula. Explore all of these amazing sites and discover the history of the ancient civilisation that built them. The contemporary culture of Central America is equally fascinating and there will be plenty of opportunities to meet local people, buy wonderful handcrafts at vibrant markets, explore beautiful colonial towns and discover the stunning landscapes around them.

About this tour

  • Type of Travel: Public Transport
  • Group Size: Average 10-14. Maximum 16.
  • Recommended Age: 18-65
  • Physical Rating: Central 2
  • Country: Belize, Mexico, Guatemala

What you need to know

  • The first day of your tour is simply an arrival day with no pre-organised activities. You will meet your Tour Leader at 18.00 for the pre-departure meeting. In order to allow time to relax and see some of the sights you may wish to add pre-tour accommodation.

Itinerary

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Day 1 to 1 - Arrive Antigua

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Antigua is one of the most delightful colonial towns in Central America. The local indigenous can be seen throughout the cobbled streets and plazas of the city in their colourful costumes, selling their crafts and textiles. As the cultural centre of Guatemala, Antigua is an ideal place to experience the traditional music, architecture and art of the country. Rich in ornate churches, convents, parks, plazas, cafés, restaurants, bars and colourful street markets and surrounded by awe-inspiring volcanoes, Antigua is one place you will never forget.

Optional Excursions

Pacaya volcano climb – US$20 • Walking tour – US$30 • Chocolate making class - US$30 • Coffee farm tour - US$25

Accommodation

1 night(s) in hotels at Hotel Posada Los Bucaros or similar

Day 2 to 2 - Rio Dulce

We depart Antigua by mini van to the river town of Rio Dulce where we overnight in cabins right on the water.

Accommodation

1 night(s) in hotels at Hotel Catamaran or similar

Meals

1 Breakfast(s)

Day 3 to 3 - Flores

This morning we can enjoy a boat tour along the 23 kilometre stretch of waterway to Livingston allows you to experience one of the most scenic areas of Guatemala. Livingston is situated at the mouth of the Rio Dulce, where it joins the Bay of Amatique, and is inhabited by the Garifuna people. This lively little town has a Caribbean atmosphere different to the rest of Guatemala and is a great place to try the delicious local specialty tapado (seafood coconut soup) and listen to the local African-style punta music.

We continue to the charming island-town of Flores, the last town to be conquered by the Spanish and situated in the centre of Lake Peten Itzá.

Included Excursions

Rio Dulce boat tour to Livingston

Accommodation

1 night(s) in hotels at Hotel Sabana or similar

Meals

1 Breakfast(s)

Day 4 to 5 - San Ignacio

Flores is our base for exploring the breathtaking Maya site of Tikal which is regarded as the greatest city of the Maya world and is nestled deep in the jungle. This complex is one of the biggest Maya sites discovered, and you will have most of the day to explore and learn about the flora, fauna, and amazing Mayan history with our knowledgeable local guide.

The area around Tikal has been declared as the Tikal National Park and the preserved area covers 570 square kilometres. The ancient city has been completely mapped and at its height covered an area greater than 16 square kilometres, with more than 3000 structures. Today the main centre covers an area of approximately two and a half square kilometres. As you wander the site, you will see several tall mounds which are temples that have not yet been excavated, and you will have the opportunity to climb some of the tallest Mayan temples.

The emphasis was on height when creating these imposing structures because the Maya believed the higher the building, the closer they were to the gods. Around Tikal there is a lot of animal life, and if you're lucky, you will have the chance to spot the noisy howler monkeys, pizotes (a racoon-like animal), exotic birds such as toucans, and much more!

This afternoon we continue on to San Ignacio referred to as "Cayo" by the locals, this agricultural centre is also known to be the 'adventure' and 'nature' capital of Belize. The surrounding jungle, wildlife, waterfalls, rivers and caves, have created the ideal location for the numerous optional excursions that are available, from canoeing downriver and tubing through caves, to visiting the famous caves Actun Tunichil Muknal, where they found untouched Mayan ceremonial and sacrificial remains.

Included Excursions

Guided tour of Tikal ruins

Optional Excursions

Tubing – US$100 • ATM Caves – US$95 • Canoeing – US$85 • Caracol Ruins, the largest and most important Mayan ruin site in Belize – US$95 • Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve – US$85

Accommodation

2 night(s) in hotels at The Aguada Hotel or similar

Meals

1 Breakfast(s)

Day 6 to 8 - Caye Caulker

Leaving San Ignacio, we take a local bus through the centre of Belize to Belize City, where we catch a water taxi out to the Cayes (mangrove islands). Belizeans know how to relax, and hopefully the locals' expertise on relaxation will be contagious during your stay on Caye Caulker. If not, there are signs to remind you to "Go Slow", "Take it easy", and even "No shirt, no shoes, no problem". We spend a couple of very laid back nights on Caye Caulker, where you can throw away your shoes to wander the sand filled streets, spend the evenings eating seafood, drinking cocktails, and listening to reggae music in one of the bars.

During the day we can organise a range of different optional snorkelling trips for you, such as to Shark and Ray Alley, where you can swim within a few feet of nurse sharks and majestic sting rays, or weather dependent, you may have the opportunity to swim with sea-cows! Another optional snorkelling tour takes you out to Hol-Chan Marine Reserve where you are guaranteed to see lots of colourful fish and interesting reef formations. Qualified divers can explore the so-called bottomless "Blue Hole", made famous by the explorer Jacques Cousteau (please note: this optional excursion does not go every day, check locally for availability). Other options include sunning yourself, riding a bike around the island, or trying your luck at fishing. If you are lucky, you can take your catch to one of the local restaurants so they can BBQ it for you.

Included Excursions

Caye Caulker

Optional Excursions

Half/full day Caye Caulker snorkelling – US$45-80 • Scuba diving in the Blue Hole – US$290 • Night Snorkelling – US$70 • Flight over the Blue Hole – US$200pp (min 3 people)

Accommodation

3 night(s) in hotels at Hotel China Town or similar

Meals

1 Breakfast(s)

Day 9 to 10 - Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen is the perfect place for relaxation. The beaches are coated with sugar-white sand with shimmering turquoise waters to swim in. You can also take advantage of one of the several interesting optional activities available in the area such as visiting the island of Cozumel or the amazingly located Maya/Toltec ruins of Tulúm. There are also many 'cenotes' in the area. Cenotes (se-note-tays) are fresh water swimming holes connected to underground limestone cave systems once sacred to the ancient Maya.

Optional Excursions

Tulum Ruins – MXN65 plus transport or MXN80 return • Cozumal day trip –US$24

Accommodation

2 night(s) in hotels at Hotel Playa del Carmen or similar

Meals

1 Breakfast(s)

Day 11 to 12 - Mérida

The hectic days ahead are packed full of surprises for those who are interested in archaeology. We travel first to Chichén Itzá, an impressive Maya/Toltec site recently voted as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. Constructed between the 7th and 10th century AD, Chichén Itzá was a centre of pilgrimage for the Maya for over 1000 years.

Among the sights your local guide will point out during the tour of the site are the ball court where the captain of the winning team was beheaded (no incentive to play your best!) and the sacred cenote where treasures and the remains of human sacrifices have been discovered. The most famous attraction is the great Pyramid of Kukulcan, dedicated to the feathered serpent god Kukulcan and built with such precision that a shadow serpent descends down the steps during the equinox.

Leaving Chichén Itzá we head to Mérida, Capital of the Yucatan province, the 'white city' of Mérida is a pleasant mixture of colonial buildings, churches and plazas. The markets simply overflow with beautiful weavings, hammocks and batiks, making this a great place to buy handmade crafts and souvenirs. At night the city comes alive with live theatre and concerts. There are many city excursions on offer here - from a comprehensive hop on/hop off bus tour exploring the greater city area to a relaxing horse-drawn carriage tour around the cobbled streets of El Centro and Pasaje Montejo Boulevard. If you want to explore the region near Mérida you could visit the small fishing town of Celestún with its large flamingo population. You could also take a swim in the local 'cenotes' (sen-o-tays), fresh-water swimming holes connected by spectacular limestone caverns and deep underwater rivers once sacred to the ancient Maya, covering the entire Yucatan peninsula.

Included Excursions

Guided tour of Chichén Itzá

Optional Excursions

Anthropological Museum – MXN30 • Mérida city tour – free • Uxmal ruins – US$65 (approx) • Cenotes, it is possible to swim and snorkel in various cenotes which often resemble small, circular lakes or lagoons with vertical edges. – US$ 44 • Hop-on hop-off bus – US$8

Accommodation

2 night(s) in hotels at Hotel Colonial or similar

Meals

2 Breakfast(s)

Day 13 to 14 - Palenque

Next we take a scenic and lengthy bus journey to Palenque. You will pass beautiful views as we travel for just over five hours to the town and ruins of Palenque, famous for the tombs found filled with riches in honour of the renowned Lord Pakal and the Red Queen. This archaeological site houses more than 200 structures including a series of hilltop temples, towers, tombs and pyramids surrounded by steamy jungle. The most important constructions, which date back to the Classical period (400-700 AD) are the Temple of the Inscriptions, the Crypt, the Palace complex, the Temple of the Cross, the Temple of the Foliated Cross, and the Temple of the Sun. Decorated with elaborate friezes, sculptures and inscriptions, Palenque is unquestionably one of the most important Mayan archaeological sites. Paths cutting through the jungle lead to various temples and the gorgeous waterfalls, where over time, strange figures have taken shape in the rock formations. A local guide may offer you the extra option of going on a forest walk where you can see unexcavated ruins enveloped in jungle.

Other attractions near Palenque include the fantastic Agua Azul Nature Reserve with more than 200 small waterfalls, and the incredible Misol-Ha waterfall with a 30 metre drop (optional half day tour includes both these falls).

Included Excursions

Guided tour of Palenque ruins

Optional Excursions

Tour by minivan to Agua Azul and Misol Ha waterfalls – US$25

Accommodation

2 night(s) in hotels at Hotel Xibalba or similar

Meals

2 Breakfast(s)

Day 15 to 17 - San Cristóbal

Ascending into the mountainous Chiapas region we arrive at the fascinating colonial city of San Cristóbal de las Casas. Situated in the middle of the highlands, here you will find Mexico's richest example of indigenous culture, as it is surrounded by 21 indigenous villages with distinct languages, dress and customs. Red tiled houses painted in brilliant colours dominate the city, maintaining a delightful provincial charm. There are numerous interesting museums to see such as the Amber Museum, the Coffee Museum, the Maya Medicine Museum, and the 'Na Bolom' Cultural Centre.

We can enjoy an included tour of the nearby villages where you can buy beautifully made local handicrafts and get a true feel for how modern descendents of the ancient Maya people live today. The tour gives you a fascinating insight into their pre-Columbian beliefs and their daily struggle to be heard in what is one of Mexico's most isolated regions.

There is also an option to visit the stunning Sumidero Canyon on a guided speedboat tour along a 30 kilometre section of the Grijalva river to the hydro-electric dam. There are plenty of opportunities to photograph local wildlife such as birds, crocodiles and iguanas. The cliffs towering over the river reach 100 metres at the highest point, which will provide a dramatic backdrop to your pictures.

Included Excursions

San Cristóbal village tour

Optional Excursions

Na Bolom Museum, the old house of Frans and Trudy Blom, an anthropologist and archaeologist, who worked with the Lacandon Indians. – MXN50 • Canyon Sumidero. A tour to a deep impressive canyon, where you can spot several sun-bathing crocodiles. – US$25

Accommodation

3 night(s) in hotels at Palacio de Moctezuma or similar

Meals

3 Breakfast(s)

Day 18 to 20 - Panajachel

Leaving Mexico we cross the border into Guatemala at Ciudad Cuauhtèmoc. You will be required to pay a departure fee of 390 MXN in Mexico and an entrance fee of 10Q when in Guatemala but these fees are subject to change. You will find the Guatemalans to be some of the warmest and most colourful people in the world. Passing through the Guatemalan highlands we travel towards the Pan American Highway from where we will head down to Panajachel on the shores of Lake Atitlán. The drive down has simply stunning scenery, with breathtaking views of the lake and its three volcanoes, San Pedro, Atitlán and Toliman, all of which are over 3000 metres high.

A relaxing lakeside town, Panajachel is known to the locals as 'Gringotenango' due to its popularity with foreigners and its hippie influence in the past. Rated by those who have seen it as one of the most beautiful and colourful lakes in the world, Lake Atitlán sits at a little over 1500 metres above sea level. Here you can take a boat tour to some of the many surrounding villages (optional) or possibly go for a swim in the lake. Panajachel also has many restaurants and interesting bars lining the main street, where you can have lakeside sunset drinks, listen to 60s music, and even eat some Asian food.

Optional Excursions

Lake Atitlan boat trip – US$25 • Nima'ya de Atitlan, walk the path past waterfalls (in season), across hanging bridges, to a bird observation deck, a monkey rescue centre, a butterfly reserve and a coffee finca. – US$5 • Lake Atitlan villages by ferry – US$5

Accommodation

3 night(s) in hotels at Posada K'amol B'ey or similar

Meals

3 Breakfast(s)

Day 21 to 21 - Antigua

We now visit Guatemala's most famous market town, Chichicastenango. This village's population swells from approx. 1000 to over 20,000 on market day (when we visit). The local indigenous people, mostly descendents of the K'iche' (Quiché) Maya people, come down from the nearby hills to sell everything from kitchen pots and pans to live turkeys! Handicrafts, bags, jumpers and wall hangings are just a few of the bargains to be found here. After lunch we depart the market town and continue to Antigua.

Accommodation

1 night(s) in hotels at Hotel Posada Los Bucaros or similar

Meals

1 Breakfast(s)

Day 22 to 22 - Depart Antigua

Your adventure of a lifetime comes to an end today. If you have a late flight or have lengthened your stay by adding post tour accommodation you will have more time to explore the sights.

Meals

1 Breakfast(s)

What's Included

Excursions & Activities

  • Rio Dulce boat tour to Livingston
  • Guided tour of Tikal ruins
  • Caye Caulker
  • Guided tour of Chichén Itzá
  • Guided tour of Palenque ruins
  • San Cristóbal village tour

Accommodation

21 night(s) in hotels

Transportation

Private Vehicle, Boat, Public Bus

Meals

17 Breakfast(s)

Other

Tucan Travel tour leader

What's Not Included

  • Spending money – budget for meals, snacks, drinks, limited souvenirs, laundry, tips and any extras
  • International flights to/from the start/end of your tour and departure taxes  
  • Tips on included excursions, visas, travel insurance, personal items and single rooms.  
  • Optional excursions - On each trip, you may find there are some excursions that are not included. This might be because they are not to everyone's taste or there may be various options of differing value to choose from. More information on the excursions we recommend is listed under each day of your itinerary though prices may vary. If you are after something in particular, don't hesitate to ask your tour leader.
  • Airport transfers and pre and post tour accommodation

Group

Group Size: Maximum 16. Average 8-12

Tour Suitability: This tour is recommended for people aged 18-65. For more information on what to expect, click here.

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