Day 1: Monday 3rd April
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, 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: Tuesday 4th April
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: Wednesday 5th April
In the morning, we will visit 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.
I have raised funds to have the internet installed at the school, so you will be able to introduce the children you meet to your class via skype when you return to the UK.
During the afternoon, we will visit Cerro de Cruz for stunning views
over the city and its volcanoes.
This will be followed by a chocolate workshop learning how Maya chocolate is made as well as preparing your own chocolate drink and and chocolate bar.
Day 4: Thursday 6th April
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 learn how to make tortillas with Ixnal, the language scholar in her community in Santa Maria de Jesus. We will eat lunch with the Maya women from her community, a traditional dish called pepian
During the afternoon, a special Maya day ceremony will be held for us by Kawoq, a Maya shaman.
Day 5: Friday 7th April
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: Saturday 8th April
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: Sunday 9th April
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: Monday 10th April
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: Tuesday 11th April
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 jungle in the dark to see the great pyramids in the moonlight and then onto Temple IV, to see sunrise on top of the highest pyramid in Tikal (64 metres high).
We will then take a tour of the site. In the afternoon there will be time for
further exploration, museum visits or relaxing by the hotel pool.
Day 10: Wednesday 12th April
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 and will tell you everything you want to know about the rainforest environment. You will also gain some insight into what it is to
Roxy is a naturalist and archaeologist and 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!
Afterwards, we will spend some time in 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 Immaculada
Day 11: Thursday 13th April
We will visit the extensive collection of ancient Maya artefacts and
modern Maya textiles at Ixchel & Popul Vuh museums in Guatemala City.
We will fly out of Guatemala in the afternoon.
Day 12: Friday 14th April
We will arrive in the UK.