Discover more than one kind of paradise on this tour from Mexico to Guatemala via breathtaking Belize

Discover more than one kind of paradise on this Maya Encounter adventure, from the blazing Yucatan sun to the cool Guatemalan highlands. Relax on the white sands of Tulum, admire the underwater ecosystems in Caye Caulker, amble over the jungle-choked Maya ruins in Tikal and gaze up at the volcanoes while wandering cobblestone streets in Antigua. From narrow laneways and remote jungles to remnants of an ancient empire and powdery beaches, this 17-day journey has everything under the sun (and the water).


Start
Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Finish
Antigua, Guatemala
Destinations
Belize, Guatemala, Mexico
Style
Basix
Code
QVRA
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 16

Why you'll love this trip

  • Soak up the best of Central America on an adventure that covers takes you through Mexico, Belize and Guatemala

  • Enjoy time to stop and smell the barbecued seafood on Caye Caulker during a two-day stop on this quintessential island paradise

  • Explore streets lined with rainbow-coloured colonial buildings in Antigua, a city rimmed by volcanoes

  • Immerse yourself in lakeside life during a homestay in San Jorge La Laguna. Share meals and conversation with your host family, the perfect opportunity to break out your Espanol

  • Dozing on the sands of Tulum, craning your neck to gaze up at the pyramids of Tikal, haggling in the markets of Chichicastenango – this trip will introduce you to the incredible diversity of Central America

  • Discover life at a slower pace on this trip through the regions best spots to chill, from the quiet waters of the Rio Dulce to the relaxed street food dinners of San Ignacio

Is this trip right for you?

  • Travelling between certain locations on this trip can be quite challenging, especially when using local transport. It's also a fantastic way of meeting the locals.

  • Crossing the borders between the various countries visited on this trip is usually straightforward, but you may need to be patient. If there are delays during your journey, be prepared to take part in some car games!

  • The tropical climate of Central America means conditions can be really hot and humid. Always carry plenty of water with you and stay hydrated, especially on walking tours.

  • Conditions during your homestay in San Jorge La Laguna are basic. Your room will consist of a couple of beds with clean bedding, and the bathroom will most likely be shared with the rest of the family. Hearty home-cooked breakfast and dinner will be served during your stay, which can be a lot more basic than what you're used to. However, corn, rice and beans are very filling.

  • Try to learn as many Spanish words as you can. Locals are very friendly, but also shy, so you'll need to make plenty of effort to break the ice. Attempting to communicate in Spanish is a great way of showing you care.

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 20 Jan 2019 to 31 Dec 2019.
View the 2018 itinerary
Hola! Welcome to Mexico! Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm today. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be checking your passport details, insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so it’s important that you arrange a flight that will get you there in time. If you want to fly in a few days early so you can spend some more time in Playa we may be able to assist with securing extra accommodation, so ask your booking agent. If you are lucky enough to have extra time this beachside playground, why not use your time snorkelling in fresh water rock pools (called Cenotes), strolling along the white sands or reef diving on Cozumel. Check out the full range of recommended optional activities below for more inspiration. After the welcome meeting tonight, why not head out for a cocktail and a meal with your new travel buddies.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Playa del Carmen - Mayan Underworld Explorer - Urban Adventures - USD77
  • Playa del Carmen - Ferry to Cozumel (Round-trip) - MXN326
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
COMBOS:
This trip is part of longer Central America combination trips. As such, some of your fellow travellers may have commenced their trip in Mexico City or continue they journey to Costa Rica or Panama. For more information on these longer trips see: Central American Adventure (32 days), Best of Central America (42 days), Ultimate Central America (58 days) or Complete Central America (65 days).
Leave behind one paradise for another, quieter version. Travel south by local bus to Tulum, where white sand beaches and Maya ruins await after a mere one-and-a-half-hour journey. Take an orientation walk with your leader around the small town when you arrive, then head to the cliffs or the shore to enjoy the sunshine at your own pace. The famous ruins that hug the cliff edge are no longer a well-kept secret, so if crowds aren’t your thing it’s best to get up early tomorrow to beat them. Maybe grab a snack and a beer at a beach shack, then hit the sand and the water (rinse and repeat). In the evening, maybe grab a few of your fellow travellers and find a spot to watch the sunset with a margarita in hand.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Tulum - Orientation walk
Optional Activities
  • Tulum - Archaeological Site (Entrance fee) - MXN65
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today is as clear as the waters of the Caribbean, so you can spend it how you like. Perhaps start your morning by renting a bike and exploring on two wheels. Then maybe head to Akumal Bay for a change of scenery or check out one of the many fresh water rock pools known as cenotes. You can buy an organised tour to each of these attractions or venture off on your own as both are easily accessible using local transport. Cenote Dos Ojos is perhaps the most spectacular of the natural pools, but it be prepared for a three-kilometre walk each way from the local bus drop off. Remember, pack plenty of water and snacks so you don’t get caught out! If you haven't already, you might want to take the opportunity to head to Mexico's most famous archaeological site, Chichen Itza, which is about a two-hour drive away. Chat to your leader about what’s on offer and how to organise optional activities.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Dos Ojos Cenote - Fresh water rock pool (Entrance fee with snorkelling gear included) - MXN350
  • Cenote Cristalino - Entrance fee (snorkelling gear included) - MXN150
  • Tulum - Bicycle rental (per day) - MXN185
  • Chichen Itza Ruins - Entrance Fee - MXN242
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
MEALS:
We do recommend you use some time today to buy something to take for lunch on the bus tomorrow. There isn't much on offer to buy to eat along the way to Belize and it is a long day!
Bid adios to Mexico early this morning and head south to Belize. Be prepared for a long day of travel on the road without a chance to stop for lunch, as the total driving time including the border crossing will take around eight or nine hours. First, travel to the town of Chetumal by public bus (3.5 hours approximately). Then jump on a local bus the border (20 minutes), undertake border formalities, then board the same bus to Belize City (3 hours approximately). Once in Belize City take a water taxi to Caye Caulker (1 hour). Expect to arrive on Caye Caulker by 6 pm. Phew! What a day, but trust us, it’s worth it. Perhaps go for an evening stroll to get your bearings on the island, then if you have the energy why not hit a beach bar and unwind. Belize is the only English-speaking country in Central America, which will make chatting with locals much easier.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Caye Caulker - Orientation walk
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Good morning and welcome to heaven! Today is free for you to explore the island and surrounds or simply relax. Whatever you choose to do, it’s bound to be impossible to keep the smile off your face. If you feel like snorkelling, ask your leader about organising a trip to the colourful coral reef nearby, or perhaps head further afield to Hol Chan Marine Reserve, home to the world’s second-longest coral reef. Manatee spotting is one option nature lovers should consider, as the opportunity to encounter these gentle giants is a special one. Of course, you could always take a stroll and find a swaying palm tree with your name on it. They make the perfect place to nap, read a book and soak up the island vibes.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Caye Caulker - Snorkelling trip (half day) - USD35
  • Caye Caulker - Guided snorkelling trip (full day) - USD75
  • Caye Caulker - Manatee tour - USD85
  • Caye Caulker - Sea kayaking (half day) - USD25
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
What’s better than one day in paradise? Two, of course! Wake up when you like, because you’ve got another free day. Like any good seaside Eden, Caye Caulker is home to super fresh seafood, which you can dig into with your feet planted in the sand at one of the many ‘floor free’ outdoor restaurants. The islands famous lobster are available between 15 June and 15 February, and you can expect to pay far less than at home but more than your average island meal. Some of the best meals can be found by the roadside, so why not grab some grilled shrimp and a rum and coke made with fire water to really get into the spirit.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Caye Caulker - Stand up paddle board rental (per hour) - USD25
  • Caye Caulker - Bicycle rental (per day) - USD15
  • Caye Caulker - Sunset sail - USD38
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
From the islands to the highlands, today you’ll bid farewell to Caye Caulker and catch a ferry to Belize City (one hour) and then take a local bus to San Ignacio (three and a half hours). Local buses in Belize are a little more basic and crowded than you may have experienced elsewhere in Central America. Get ready for a stop-and-go experience on the journey; there are very few official bus stops in Belize, so the bus will stop as required by roadside passengers. On arrival, your leader will take you walking tour of San Ignacio and its twin sister Santa Elena, which will give you a sense of how vibrant the local Garifuna and Maya communities are. Perhaps tonight head out in search of a Maya-style dish like cochinita pibil (slow-roasted pork marinated in citrus).
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • San Ignacio - Leader led walking tour
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
All guests at our hotel in San Ignacio are required to pay an additional charge of USD20 per night if they choose to use the air conditioner in their room. Electricity in Belize is incredibly expensive so most hotels charge an extra rate to use the air conditioning and USD20 per night is pretty standard. We could include this extra charge in the trip price but then all of our travellers would have to pay whether they want to use it or not. We believe giving our travellers the option is a fairer way to manage this situation.
You have a full day at your leisure to discover San Ignacio. This beautiful town is surrounded by fast flowing rivers, waterfalls and Maya ruins, making it the ideal base. One optional activity that will appeal to history buffs is a day trip to Xunantunich, an impressive Maya ceremonial site positioned on a hill that overlooks the countryside. Getting to the site is half the fun, as you'll need to take a hand-cranked ferry to cross the river. Also nearby is the cave of Actun Tunichil Muknal, a living museum of Maya relics. Wade through cool waters to find ceramic pots and crystallised skeletons preserved by the calcium-rich environment of the cave for over 1400 years. Easily spooked? Maybe you'd prefer the a cave with fewer (as far as we know) skeletons, like the one in Mountain Pine Ridge. In the late afternoon, the barbecue stalls of Santa Elena start to set up for the dinner rush. It's only a 15-minute walk, so consider wandering over to enjoy a juicy chicken leg and a chat with the locals. 
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • San Ignacio - Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM Cave - inc. transport, guide and lunch) - USD95
  • San Ignacio - Cave tubing - USD95
  • San Ignacio - Butterfly Farm - USD40
  • San Ignacio - Barton Creek canoe trip - USD80
  • San Ignacio - Iguana Conservation Project (Entrance) - USD9
  • San Ignacio - Yaxha ruins complex (Transport, lunch and guide) - USD135
  • San Ignacio - Xunantunich Ruins (Entrance) - USD10
  • San Ignacio - Mountain Pine Ridge day trip (inc. transport and guide) - USD85
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Rise and shine for an 8 am taxi ride to the Belize-Guatemala border. Once you've crossed over, board a bus to Tikal National Park (approximately 2.5 hours). In Tikal there will be time to buy lunch before visiting the impressive archaeological site. Towering above the jungle, the five granite temples of Tikal are an imposing sight and one of the most magnificent Maya ruins. Hidden in the evergreen forest are a maze of smaller structures waiting to be explored. The energetic can climb to the top of the ruins for spectacular views over the canopy and the chance to spot toucans, macaws and other colourful birds. Choose to explore on your own or pay a little more for a guided tour (or maybe see the site from above on an optional zip-line ride). Tonight, set up the tents and mattresses and spend some time under the stars. The weather is always warm in this part of the world but a thin blanket is provided for extra comfort. There are also basic shared bathrooms and showers at the camp.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Tikal National Park - Entrance fee
Optional Activities
  • Tikal National Park - entrance and guided walk - USD45
  • Tikal - Zipline - USD45
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
If you can't get enough of Tikal, you have the option to visit the site again in the (very) early morning at your own cost before departing at 8 am to Flores. It's just a one-hour ride away, and on arrival your leader will take you on a walking tour of the island of Flores. Continue by private minivan to Rio Dulce (approximately 4 hours). On arrival in Rio Dulce, transfer to the hotel by boat. The easiest way to get back into town is also on the water, a journey which can be organised through the hotel. Alternatively, a 40-minute jungle walk will get you there. The hotel is a great place to relax and look over the water, with reasonably priced meals and drinks served in the hotel restaurant. Now that you are back in a Spanish-speaking nation, why not join an informal Spanish lesson put on by your leader? Muy bien!
Accommodation
  • Multishare lodge (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Informal Spanish Lesson
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
With plenty of free time today, consider taking advantage of some of the optional activities available. Maybe take a scenic boat trip down the river to the coastal enclave of Livingston for a taste of Creole-Caribbean culture. This laidback town on the Caribbean coast feels very different from the rest of Guatemala thanks to its Garifuna population. Or perhaps go boating on the lake, take a tour to spot local manatees or explore nearby San Felipe Fort.
Accommodation
  • Multishare lodge (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Rio Dulce - Boat trip to Livingston (Price dependent on boat available & passengers) - USD30
  • Rio Dulce - Natural hot springs (including transportation) - USD25
  • Rio Dulce - San Felipe Fort - USD4
  • Rio Dulce - Quirigua Ruins - USD41
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Leave the 'Sweet River' behind and travel by private minibus to the city of Antigua, a journey which should take around eight or nine hours, allowing time for lunch. The road between Rio Dulce and Guatemala City is one of the busiest in the country. Traffic is slow, there are frequent road works and many, many, many (seriously) slow trucks. Be armed with patience, music and a good book and the journey will be easier to handle. Spend the night in Antigua before heading to Lake Atitlan tomorrow. Though there's not much tie in Antigua today, you owe it to yourself to reward you patience with a tamale – meat and dough steamed in a corn leaf. You could also give the pepian a try, which consists of a rich dark sauce served with vegetables and meat (usually chicken). You may also want to take this time to purchase a few snacks for your time at the homestay on Lake Atitlan as the meals there can be very basic. 
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Be up early and ready for an 8 am departure. Travel by private transport for two and a half hours on winding roads to Chichicastenango. Home to perhaps the most colourful market in the country, on Thursdays and Sundays locals come from the surrounding villages to sell their wares and the streets are lined with stalls offering multi-coloured textiles and fresh produce. After doing a little shopping at the market, head to San Jorge La Laguna, a small Maya village overlooking Lake Atitlan (about 1.5 hours). Arrive in San Jorge La Laguna, meet your host family and start getting to know each other. The group may be split in twos or threes, depending on how large it is. Locals in San Jorge La Laguna are both very friendly and very shy. In order to make the most of this experience, it may take a bit of effort from your side to break the ice first. Draw on your newly learnt Spanish and get ready for some serious hand signals. Houses in San Jorge La Laguna are very basic. Your room may only consist of a couple of beds with clean bedding, and the bathroom will most likely be outside your room and shared with the rest of the family. The mother of the family will cook dinner and breakfast for you and the meals can be very basic but filling, consisting of corn, rice and beans. 
Accommodation
  • Homestay (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Chichicastenango Market
  • San Jorge La Laguna - Traditional Maya Homestay
Meals Included
  • Dinner
Say goodbye to your host family this morning and move on to the neighbouring town of Panajachel. Located on Lake Atitlan with distant volcanoes looming in the background, Panajachel has a thriving market, good eateries and many water-based activities to enjoy. Once you arrive in 'Pana' your leader will take you on a brief walking tour of town so you can get your bearings. The rest of the time is free for you to explore. Why not go for a swim, hike to San Pedro volcano or kayak on the lake, there aren't many places in the world that serve up active adventure in such a beautiful locale. The surrounding area is also dotted with villages which can be reached on foot or by boat. Watch women weaving at Santa Catarina Palopo or explore the colourful markets of Santiago Atitlan. 
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Panajachel - Orientation walk
Optional Activities
  • Panajachel - San Pedro Volcano hike - USD75
  • Panajachel - Guided lake and villages tour - USD36
  • Panajachel - Kayak rental (per hour) - USD8
  • Panajachel - Bicycle rental (per day) - USD10
  • Panajachel - Water taxi to Santiago, San Pedro or San Juan - USD8
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Morning! Hit the road again at 9 am and make the three-hour journey back to Antigua by private vehicle. In 1773 the city was destroyed by an earthquake, but many of the colonial buildings have been carefully restored and the architecture from its glory days can still be seen. Your leader will take you on a walking tour of Antigua including Cerro de la Cruz lookout, the local market and the chicken bus station next door, where the colourfully-decorated American school buses park. The rest of your time in Antigua is free for you to explore at your own pace. If you fancy a spin on the dance floor and want to learn some moves, Antigua is the place to be. Many dancing schools offer hourly lessons so you'll be able to perfect your moves. As always, ask your leader for details.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Antigua - Leader-led walking tour
Optional Activities
  • Antigua - Salsa lesson (per hour) - USD7
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Enjoy a free day exploring this photogenic city. Perhaps check out the ChocoMuseo located on 4th Street West, two blocks away from central park. Learn all about chocolate, which was first documented by the Guatemalan Maya, as well as it's historical importance. Otherwise, grab a coffee from one of the many myriad shops in central park and sit back, relax and enjoy Antigua's chilled-out vibes. If you want to learn more about Guatemalan coffee, you can go on a coffee tour, visit the plantations, do some coffee tasting and buy some to take home. 
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Antigua - Coffee/Macadamia nut plantation tour - USD45
  • Antigua - Antigua by the Bean - Urban Adventures - USD76
  • Antigua - Chocolate-making workshop - USD25
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Your adventure comes to an end this morning, there are no activities planned for the final day. Please note you are required to comply with the check-out time set by the hotel. As there's a great deal to do in Antigua, we recommend staying a few extra days to make the most of this traveller favourite. If you need help booking extra accommodation, our reservations team will be happy to assist.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
THE INTREPID FOUNDATION:
Unfortunately, more than half the population of beautiful Guatemala lives under the poverty line, which may explain why Guatemala also has the lowest literacy rate in Central America. With this in mind, the Intrepid Foundation is proud supporter of CasaSito, an outstanding not-for-profit organisation dedicated to assisting youth reach their academic, personal and professional potential.

If you have 2’ to spare (2’41’’ to be exact!) take a look at this short video about CasaSito: youtu.be/v62Ou9czWyE

If you want to help CasaSito and Guatemalan’s youth, you can donate through our own not-for-profit organization (see the Responsible Travel section of this trip’s Essential Travel Information or ask your tour leader for more information), which means your donation will be match dollar for dollar by us too. No donation is too small. $5, $10 or $50, it all goes a long way to help this fantastic organization.

Meals

1 breakfast, 1 dinner

Transport

Private vehicle, Public bus, Taxi, Shared Boat, Ferry

Accommodation

Hotel (12 nights), Camping with facilities (1 night), Multishare lodge (2 nights), Homestay (1 night)

Included activities

  • Tulum - Orientation walk
  • Caye Caulker - Orientation walk
  • San Ignacio - Leader led walking tour
  • Tikal National Park - Entrance fee
  • Informal Spanish Lesson
  • Chichicastenango Market
  • San Jorge La Laguna - Traditional Maya Homestay
  • Panajachel - Orientation walk
  • Antigua - Leader-led walking tour

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm on Day 1. There are no activities planned for the final day so you may depart at any time.
2. To have a private room on this trip, a single supplement is bookable (subject to availability) with exception of Days 10 & 11 (Rio Dulce) where you would be in shared accommodation.
3. Please be careful when booking flights to/from Antigua; make sure you fly into/out of Guatemala City Airport [GUA]. Guatemala City Airport is the closest airport to Antigua. Please do NOT book flights to/from Antigua & Barbuda Airport [ANU] as this is an island in the Caribbean.
4. Hurricane season in this region is June to November, when landslides, mudslides, flooding and disruptions to essential services can occur. Intrepid monitors any situations that arise, and may need to change itineraries or activities in response to these natural weather occurrences.

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

View Essential Trip Information