Visit the land of the Maya
The success of the Teacher Trip to Guatemala prompted me to organise a similar tour for the general public.
The Maya: Past and Present
This 12-day trip to Guatemala is a unique opportunity to learn from the Maya themselves about their lives, guided by a leading expert in the field.
You will learn about both the ancient and modern Maya by visiting archaeological sites and museums, as well as local communities.
“The energy and passion from Diane translated into everything we did and everyone we met and to say she created the experience of a lifetime would be a huge understatement.”
“Particular thanks go to you, Diane, for a magnificent feat of organisation, unending flexibility, and selflessness in sharing not only your own expertise but also your friends/fellow experts and their knowledge and insights across such a range of topics.”
Day 1 – Antigua
We will arrive at Guatemala City’s international airport, La Aurora and travel by shuttle to the beautiful colonial city of Antigua.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, the colonial city of Antigua was once one of the regional capitals of the Spanish Empire. The city is full of colourful colonial architecture and is sandwiched between several volcanic peaks.
We will be staying at Hotel Los Pasos
Day 2 – Antigua
Presentation and workshop at Casa Herrera, a beautifully preserved 17th century mansion, which acts as a research and teaching facility for Central American archaeologists.
This will be followed by a Kaqchikel language workshop with Ixnal, a Maya woman and Kaqchikel language scholar.
Day 3 – Antigua
In the morning, we will visit the wonderful Melody Primary School in Chimaltenango where 80% of the children are Maya.
The school is part of the Doctors in Action Charity and provides quality schooling to underprivileged children. We will meet the teachers and children and learn about their school day and life in their community.
During the afternoon, we will visit Cerro de Cruz for stunning views over the city and its volcanoes.
Later, we will participate in a chocolate workshop learning how Maya chocolate is made as well as preparing your own chocolate drink and chocolate bar.
Day 4 – Antigua
Visit the jade museum and factory to learn how the precious stone of the Maya was made by the owner, archaeologist Mary Lou Ridinger.
We will then visit Ixnal, the language scholar and her community in Santa Maria de Jesus. We will eat lunch with the Maya women from her community and also learn how to make tortillas.
During the afternoon a special Maya day ceremony will be held for us there by Kawoq, a Maya shaman and Ixnal’s brother.
Day 5 – Lake Atitlán
The morning will be spent visiting the pre-colonial archaeological site of Iximche, the capital of the Kaqchikel Maya. The site includes pyramids and a ballcourt.
We then travel to Lake Atitlan, one of the most scenic places in the world, where we will catch a boat to Santiago Atitlan, a beautiful village on the lake.
We will be staying at Posada Santiago
Day 6 – San Juan de la Laguna
We will visit the traditional communities that live on Lake Atitlan’s shores, each with distinct languages, costumes and cultures. The day includes visits to the workshop of local painters and trying our hand at creating our own piece of art!
We will also spend time with Ixoq Ajkeem (women weavers) learning how the women use natural dyes to make their beautiful textiles, how the back strap loom is used and how they make medicines out of the local plants.
We will eat a traditional meal of the area with the women.
Finally, we will learn how maize, a sacred food to the Maya is grown.
Day 7 – Chichicástenango
We will visit the famous market of Chichicástenango, the centre of K’iche’ Maya culture and also Santo Tomas Church, where both Maya and Catholic rituals are blended together.
After some serious shopping we will visit the archaeological museum in Casa Santa Domingo, a wonderfully restored convent.
The day will finish with a visit to Cerro San Christobal, an organic farm and restaurant to watch sunset over dinner and drinks.
Day 8 – Tikal
We will take a flight to the truly breathtaking ancient site of Tikal, right in the middle of the Guatemalan rainforest.
Tikal was one of the largest Maya cities, including great pyramid-temples over 50 metres high, palaces and stelae and is home to many howler and spider monkeys and coati mundi (pisote).
The site is part of the one-million-hectare Maya Biosphere Reserve. Over 54 species of mammals and over 300 species of birds have been identified at Tikal including toucans and parrots.
We will be staying at Tikal Inn in the middle of the rainforest.
Day 9 – Tikal
If any Classic period city aspired to become the capital of the Maya world, it was Tikal. The central part of the ancient city alone contains 3,000 buildings and covers about 16 square kilometres.
Estimates vary on its population but likely had approximately 90,000 inhabitants. Tikal was occupied for 1,500 years—from 600 B.C. to 900 A.D., and archaeologists know of at least 33 rulers.
We will hike through the rainforest in the dark to see the great pyramids in the moonlight and then watch the sunrise from the top of Temple IV, the highest pyramid in the park (64 metres high).
After a tour of the site, there will be time for further exploration, museum visits or relaxing by the hotel pool.
Day 10 – Explorations in the Rainforest – Uaxactun
With my colleague Roxanda Ortiz, we will venture off the tourist trail and take you deeper into the rainforest, visiting the ancient site of Uaxactun, famous for its architectural complex that served as an astronomical observatory.
Roxy is a naturalist and archaeologist, who will tell you everything you want to know about the rainforest environment.
You will also gain some insight into what it is to be an intrepid jungle explorer!
In the afternoon, we will visit Flores, a beautiful village on an island in Lake Peten Itza, the last place where the Maya succumbed to the Spanish in 1697.
We will then fly to Guatemala City, a sprawling metropolis that is the city’s commercial centre and main transport hub.
We will be staying at the Hotel Inmaculada
Day 11 – Guatemala City
In the morning we will visit the extensive collection of ancient Maya artefacts and modern Maya textiles at Ixchel & Popul Vuh museums in Guatemala City.
We will then fly out of Guatemala in the afternoon.
Day 12 – UK
We will arrive in the UK.
Price – £ 2050
The cost includes all accommodation, meals, transport -including internal flights, entry to all sites and museums, workshops and gratuities.
Accommodation, meals and transport are all of a high standard. The only thing that is excluded is your flight from the UK to Guatemala City, which starts at £ 490.
This trip is hugely discounted (tour operators quote £ 4,000 excluding flight), although you will be following a similar itinerary and staying in quality hotels.
Moreover, the people you meet will all be friends and colleagues of mine, so rest assured you are getting not just the best treatment and an expert to answer all your questions, but you will be able to meet people and visit places that tourists would not normally have access to.
“Excellent and varied accommodation, the hotel in Antigua was beautiful and the quality of the meals was outstanding.”
“The trip was beautifully organized with considerable care and consideration for all our needs. The days spent were a great balance between learning and being sociable. Also, the balance between teaching and being ‘mother hen’ was superbly achieved by Diane!”
- 2017 Maya Archaeologist trip to Guatemala – April
- 2016 Expert Guide with Steppes Travel – Guatemala & Honduras – February-March.
- 2016 Maya Archaeologist trip to Guatemala – March-April
- 2012 Expert Guide with the Stone Center for Latin American Studies, Tulane University, US