Discover the ancient Maya ruins of Central America visiting Guatemala, Mexico and Belize

Through Guatemala, Mexico and Belize, this trip combines the volcanic beauty of the highlands, the mystery of the ancient Maya ruins, and the perfect beaches of the Caribbean in a truly unique adventure. From Antigua to Playa del Carmen and back, this three-week journey offers the chance to get out and get active, or enjoy a more relaxing pace while exploring the colour, culture and adventure of Central America.


Start
Antigua, Guatemala
Finish
Antigua, Guatemala
Destinations
Belize, Guatemala, Mexico
Style
Original
Code
QVSKC
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 12

Why you'll love this trip

  • Explore the colonial streets of Antigua

  • Gawk at jungle creatures from the temples at Tikal

  • Maybe swim with sharks around Caye Caulker

  • Become a part of local life at a lakeside homestay

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 Jan 2019 to 31 Dec 2019.
View the 2018 itinerary
Bienvenidos! Welcome to Antigua! Surrounded by three volcanoes, it wasn’t until the late 20th century that the city became the tourism hub of Guatemala. Today, the city is filled with coffee shops and international restaurants, and is always buzzing with live music and salsa classes. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm where you'll meet your tour leader and travel group. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. If you arrive with time to spare, why not get a taste of local tradition with a chocolate-making workshop in the ChocoMuseo, or perhaps tour some of the coffee or macadamia nut plantations tucked into the hills that surround the city.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Antigua - Chocolate-making workshop - USD25
  • Antigua - Coffee/Macadamia nut plantation tour - USD45
  • Antigua - Salsa lesson (per hour) - USD7
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Some departures of this trip are part of a combination trip. As such, some of your fellow travellers may have started their trip 10 days ago in El Tunco on Explore Central America (QVSPC) or Central America - Coast to Coast (QVSOC). Or perhaps may be continuing on longer itineraries from Playa del Carmen to start the second part of their trip – Guatemala & Costa Rica (QVSAC) or Mayan Adventure (QVSKC). Please contact our sales team if you wish to book or know more information on these longer combination trips.

If you would like to experience a salsa lesson, you can try one of the below schools for a class:

New Sensation Salsa
7a Avenida Norte #78, Antigua
+502 5033-0921
Open daily from 9 am to 9 pm

Salsa Con Gloria
6calle Poniente #9 LA Sala Bar y Rest, Antigua
+502 4374-1391
As the seat of the Spanish colonial government, Antigua was once the most important city in Central America. The city was destroyed by an earthquake in 1773, but many of the colonial-era buildings have been carefully restored and the architecture from its glory days can still be admired. Take an informal Spanish lesson and enjoy a guided wander around the city with your leader in the morning. Walk through the quiet cobblestone streets past heavy, carved-wood entrances, then take the afternoon to explore at your own pace. There are many fascinating markets and museums to explore, or if your tastes run to more active adventures, hire a mountain bike and ride through the countryside – the views of mountain peaks and deep valleys, covered in lush vegetation, are simply beautiful. Otherwise, just grab a coffee from one of the many cafes in central park, sit back and enjoy the beauty of this incredible city. Foodies won't want to miss trying tamales, a local dish usually prepared on the weekend and served in a corn leaf. Pepian – a meal consisting of a rich dark sauce and three meats (chicken, beef and pork) – is also worth a try. Local tip: you'll find the best value food next to the artisan market close to the bus station.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Informal Spanish Lesson
  • Antigua - Leader-led walking tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Sadly, more than half the population of this beautiful country lives below the poverty line, which may explain why Guatemala has the lowest literacy rate in Central America. This is why The Intrepid Foundation is a proud supporter of CasaSito, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping youth to reach their academic, personal and professional potential.

To learn more about the inspiring work CasaSito does, check out this short video: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=3KBiGdEcV4w

If you want to help CasaSito support Guatemalan’s youth, you can donate through The Intrepid Foundation.  No amount is too small, and donations are matched dollar-for-dollar by Intrepid. Visit our website to help: theintrepidfoundation.org/projects/casasito
It’s a long day of travel as you make your way to Rio Dulce by private minibus. Depart early for the eight-hour journey, arriving in the middle of the afternoon. Rio Dulce, which means 'Sweet River' in Spanish, refers to both the Guatemalan river that flows from Lago de Izabal (Lake Izabal) to the Caribbean Sea and the town of Fronteras, which sits at the east end of the lake. Upon arrival, the rest of the day is free to enjoy at your leisure. Maybe stretch your legs on a jungle walk, rent a kayak for a bit of exploration or simply curl up in a hammock and enjoy the tropical surrounds.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Use a free day in Rio Dulce to take advantage of the optional activities on offer. Perhaps take a boat ride down the river to Livingston, a laid-back, Afro-Caribbean town that offers a unique taste of Garifuna culture on the shoulder of Guatemala. Located 30 kilometres (18 miles) from Fronteras, the boat ride is quite scenic, taking you past waters clogged with water lillies, tropical forests and a spectacular canyon before arriving in Livingston one and a half hours later. The Garifuna population here are descendants of a community forcibly removed from the Caribbean by the British in the late 18th century. Livingston was one of the towns the displaced Garifuna settled in, and it's relative isolation means the culture has remained undiluted by Guatemalan norms. Spend a little time here and perhaps grab a Garifuna meal like tapou, a creamy soup made with fish.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Livingston - River boat trip to Garifuna town
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Travel about four hours to Flores – your base for exploring the Maya ruins of Tikal tomorrow. Upon arrival, enjoy a free afternoon to explore Flores. This tranquil island had a long history before it was colonised by the Spanish in 1697, most significantly as the capital of the Itza people after the fall of Chichen Itza. Perhaps use your free afternoon to wander the town's cobblestone streets, taking in its pastel-coloured buildings and shopping for local handicrafts. It's a tiny island, and walking the whole thing will take less than an hour. At around 4 pm, the lakefront starts to hum with street food vendors, making it a good place to grab a bite ad watch the world go by.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Embrace an early start for a guided exploration of Tikal National Park. Among the thick, evergreen jungle are some of the most significant remnants of the ancient Maya civilisation. Wonder at the towering granite temples and other monuments set among the thick, green jungle while pondering the mystery of the ancient city's demise. Spend a few hours playing archaeologist and then say goodbye to Guatemala and head across the border to Belize. As the only English-speaking country in Central America, Belize is a great place to get chatting with locals. You'll reach San Ignacio after a three-hour drive, and since you're leaving tomorrow it's a good idea to plan which optional activities (if any) you want to join before you get there. Nature lovers may be interested in a trip to the Green Iguana Conservation Project, where the scaly beasts are protected. Or perhaps stretch your legs with a short walk to the ruins of Cahal Pech, which was once the residence of a well-heeled Maya family. Tomorrow, you have the option of travelling to Belize City via Actun Tunichil Muknal. In order to take advantage of this optional activity, you will need a group of at least four people, so start asking around now if you’re interested.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Tikal National Park - Archaeological site (Entrance fee, Guide & Transport)
Optional Activities
  • San Ignacio - Cahal Pech Ruins (Entrance fee & Transport) - USD10
  • San Ignacio - Xunantunich Ruins (Entrance) - USD10
  • San Ignacio - Iguana Conservation Project (Entrance) - USD9
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
All guests at our hotel in San Ignacio are required to pay an additional charge of USD 20 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 – USD 20 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.
This morning, you can choose whether you would like to pay a visit to the caves of Actun Tunichil Muknal (the ATM cave), relax in San Ignacio or take part in some of the other optional activities on offer. A living museum of Maya relics, the ATM cave system is home to ceramic pots and crystallised skeletons, preserved by the natural processes of the cave for over 1400 years. If you choose to explore the cave system (and it is highly recommended), you’ll spend most of the day there before re-joining your fellow travellers at the water taxi in Belize City. If you do not wish to explore the caves, you’ll leave San Ignacio behind in the late morning and head north to Belize City on a local bus (about 3 hours). There are very few official stops in Belize and the driver will pick up passengers along the way as they hail the bus, so be prepared for a journey that moves in fits and starts. Use this time to make conversation with the person next to you; Belizeans love to talk about their country! Arrive in Belize City and take a one-hour water taxi ride to Caye Caulker. From here, it is possible to arrange day trips to other nearby cayes (islands). Each island has its own unique character, but all of them have an unmistakable Caribbean pace and charm.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • San Ignacio - Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM Cave - inc. transport, guide and lunch) - USD95
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Good morning! Take a deep breath and let it out, you've got two whole days of sandy shores, crystal waters and no schedule to speak of. The beach is calling, of course, but mybe start your day with a Belizean breakfast classic – the fry jack. These deep fried dough pieces are served up with whatever you like, and they go well with everything from fruit to eggs. Then, maybe explore the calm waters on a stand up paddleboard, or rent a bike for a fairly inexpensive way to explore on land. Just remember to follow the super-relaxed law of the island and 'go slow', no matter what you choose to do. 
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Caye Caulker - Snorkelling trip (half day) - USD35
  • Caye Caulker - Sunset sail - USD38
  • Caye Caulker - Manatee tour - USD85
  • Caye Caulker - Sea kayaking (half day) - USD25
  • Caye Caulker - Stand up paddle board rental (per hour) - USD25
  • Caye Caulker - Bicycle rental (per day) - USD15
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Enjoy another free day on beautiful Caye Caulker. Perhaps hire a local boat and head to Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley for a chance to snorkel among colourful corals, tropical fish, sharks and manta rays. You could also choose to go manatee-spotting – these huge, peaceful creatures are often quite curious to meet their visitors. If you're interested in sampling local cuisine, Caye Caulker is famous for its lobster. Not the cheapest meal you can find on the island, but still way less than you'd pay back home! If lobster isn’t available (regulations stipulate lobster can only be caught between June 15 and February 15), some of the best meals on the island are cooked on the road side. How about some grilled shrimp and a lovely rum and coke made with the local fire water?
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Rise, shine and shake off the sleep with a 6.30 am water taxi to Belize City. Today you're leaving one paradise behind for another. Hop on a bus and head for the Mexico border, a journey that will take about four hours. Deal with formalities at the border and then continue to Chetumal, where you will swap buses and hit the road again for Tulum (3 hours). A long day of travel will see you arriving in the afternoon with plenty of daylight to spare. Why not use what's left of the day to soak up the sun on one of the city's many beaches? While Paradise Beach is the most well known of the sandy stretches, it can get a little crowded. Las Palmas Public Beach is (in our opinion) just as beautiful, but with far fewer people. 
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Tulum - Orientation walk
Optional Activities
  • Tulum - Archaeological Site (Entrance fee) - MXN65
  • Tulum - Bicycle rental (per day) - MXN185
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Enjoy a day on the Caribbean coast. The ruins that Tulum is famous for sit on a cliff-top platuea that overlooks the glittering water below. Choose whether to explore the small site, or find a spot on one of the white-sand beaches and get horizontal with a cocktail. This cruisy resort town is stuffed with cafes and restaurants serving up seafood-heavy Mexican fare, often in the great outdoors so you can catch a sea breeze while you eat.  

Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Chichen Itza Ruins - Entrance Fee - MXN242
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
The last leg of your journey is a short one. Hop on a local Mexican bus and travel about 1.5 hours to Playa del Carmen. With azure waters, powdery beaches and a European feel, Playa del Carmen is a resort city similar to Cancun, but with a less intense party atmosphere. Take a brief orientation stroll with your leader to get your bearings, then take your pick of a bunch of optional activities. Maybe take a snorkel in the fresh waters of Dos Ojos Cenote, a flooded cave system. Or perhaps head further afield on a ferry ride to Cozumel, where the colourful reefs are perfect for scuba diving. If you'd prefer to stay where the margaritas are cold and close by, you might want to rent a bike to explore Playa on two wheels.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Playa del Carmen - Orientation walk
Optional Activities
  • Dos Ojos Cenote - Fresh water rock pool (Entrance fee with snorkelling gear included) - MXN350
  • Playa del Carmen - Bicycle rental (per day) - MXN250
  • Playa del Carmen - Ferry to Cozumel (Round-trip) - MXN326
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Enjoy a free day in this beautiful location. Spend your time snorkelling, swimming in sinkholes or strolling along the white sands. In the evenings kick back and watch the waves with a margarita.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers.
Rise and shine! At 8 am take a private minivan to the Maya ruins of Chichen Itza, and on the 3-hour journey you can practice your Spanish and spot charming villages. You’ll have a good couple of hours to explore the remains of Chichen Itza, an ancient city that fuses of religion, architecture and geometry. Then, travel on to the Yucatan capital of Merida for a beguiling dose of old-world charm. After a 2-hour ride, take a brief tour of the town centre and main attractions and then do as you please for the rest of the evening.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Chichen Itza - Archaeological site (Entrance fee & Transport)
  • Merida - Orientation walk
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Founded in 1542, it still retains much of its old-world charm with a well-preserved Old Town, wonderful museums and city streets alive with art and culture. Hang out in the green and shady Plaza Grande, with the twin-towered 16th century Cathedral on one side and City Hall, State Government Palace and Casa Mantejo on the others. For a taste of Merida's 19th century glory go for a walk along the mansion lined Paseo de Montejo. Mornings are the best time to visit the outdoor markets. It's a great place to try out the local food specialities, like cochinita pibil (barbecue pork) or the head-blowingly spicy El Yucateco hot sauce. Merida is also the gateway to the Maya ruins of Uxmal and there is an opportunity to visit these impressive ruins. Little is known about the site's origins but it is thought the city was founded around AD500.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Merida - Contemporary Art Museum - USD5
  • Merida - Celestun Bird Sanctuary (Entrance and Transport) - MXN1035
  • Merida - Uxmal Ruins tour (inc. shared transport and guide) - MXN810
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today we have an early start in order to jump on one of the very comfortable first or second class buses heading to Chiapas. These buses are equipped with bathrooms and TVs, though you may want to spend your journey staring out the window. There's plenty to admire in the landscape of Mexico's South, particularly once you reach the mountainous region of Chiapas. There will also be time for an informal Spanish lesson. Arrive at your hotel in the evening and get some rest for tomorrow—a day full of archaeological wonder.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Informal Spanish Lesson
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today we will hit the ruins with a local guide in Palenque to give you all the information that you need on the impressive Maya city state, entry fee included. The pyramids and structures that formed this once thriving hub are now swallowed by jungle. Whilst walking amongst the ruins it is often possible to hear the eerie calls of howler monkeys echoing from the jungle, giving an added dimension to this magnificent site.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Palenque - Archaeological site (Entrance fee & Transport)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
After breakfast you'll grab a seat on a bus bound for San Cristobal de las Casas.The roughly 5-hour journey will be broken up with a refreshing dip in the the turquoise waters of the multi-tiered Agua Azul falls and a visit to the cascading Misol-Ha waterfall. Continue southward to San Cristobal de las Casas and explore this lovely city in a guided tour. With winding cobblestone streets and colonial Spanish architecture, San Cristobal maintains a lovely old-world feel mixed with strong indigenous roots. Maybe make a note of any particular points of interest during your tour, which you can then come back to during your free evening.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • San Cristobal de las Casas - Leader-led city tour
  • Agua Azul waterfall - Visit with option to swim (Entrance fee)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
The local Zapatista movement in the region around Palenque has been quite active in recent years, occasionally holding protests or blocking roads. Our local operations team is constantly monitoring this situation to ensure the safety of our passengers and leaders. In some cases we might need to use an alternative route from Palenque to San Cristobal to avoid this activity - more so to bypass long traffic delays than any real danger.
In nearby San Juan Chamula, you'll find an insular indigenous community where life is heavily informed by a spiritual blend of ancient ritual, animism and Catholicism. Make sure to visit the church, where the floor is covered with pine needles and the air is heavy with incense. Shamans come here to carry out cleansings with firewater, ancient prayer and sometimes chickens. There are also markets with colourful handicrafts for sale. Back in town, why not go for a stroll and try to spot the cafe with the most locals in it for a taste of the traditional 'elote', a corn cob which makes a common snack in the highlands of Chiapas.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Maya village - San Juan Chamula
Optional Activities
  • San Cristobal de las Casas - Jade Museum - USD5
  • Sumidero Canyon - Boat Excursion (Entrance & Transport) - USD30
  • San Cristobal de las Casas - Mountain bike tour - USD45
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Now entering Guatemala! From San Cristobal we head down by van. It takes about 4 hours to get to the Guatemalan border, just make sure you have your passport ready and the tour leader will give you detailed instructions on what to do once at the border. Our first stop is located on beautiful Lake Atitlan. Panajachel has a thriving market, good eateries and many water-based activities to enjoy. The surrounding area is dotted with villages which can be reached on foot or by boat. After a leader-led orientation walk, why not pick one and start exploring? In each village the local life has changed little over the last few hundred years. Each village has its own typical dress and make all the textiles themselves in designs passed down through generations.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Panajachel - Orientation walk
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today is wide open for you to continue exploring this fascinating region of Guatemala. You could go for a swim or hire a kayak, soaking up the sun and the breathtaking mountain views. If you're feeling adventurous, you could jump on the zipline that takes you through lush forest and spits you out over the lake. Just chat to your leader about the various optional activities you can partake in today.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Panajachel - Water taxi to Santiago, San Pedro or San Juan - USD8
  • Panajachel - Kayak rental (per hour) - USD8
  • Panajachel - San Pedro Volcano hike - USD75
  • Panajachel - Bicycle rental (per day) - USD10
  • Panajachel - Zipline - USD52
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
The old colonial capital of Guatemala, Antigua remains the cultural centre of the country. Its cobbled streets, local markets, colonial buildings, and indigenous marimba music emanating from the many bars and restaurants create a fantastic atmosphere. After a 4-hour drive, an orientation walk will get you started in the city, then it's up to you. If you're into salsa dancing or you'd like to learn some steps, Antigua is the place to be. Many dancing schools offer hourly lessons that give you the preparation to hit the discos at night and show your moves.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Antigua - Orientation walk
Optional Activities
  • Antigua - Pacaya Volcano hike - USD16
  • Antigua - Chocolate-making workshop - USD25
  • Antigua - Bike tour - USD40
  • Antigua - Coffee/Macadamia nut plantation tour - USD45
  • Antigua - Salsa lesson (per hour) - USD7
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
The trip ends after breakfast this morning.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Unfortunately, more than half the population of this beautiful Guatemala you have come to know so well lives under the poverty line, which may explain why Guatemala has also the lowest literacy rate in Central America. With this in mind, the Intrepid Foundation is proud supporter of CasaSito, an outstanding not for profit organization dedicated to assist youth to 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 – it’s inspiring: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=3KBiGdEcV4w

If you want to help CasaSito and Guatemalan’s youth, you can donate through the Intrepid Foundation, which means that your donation will be match dollar for dollar by Intrepid too. No donation is too small. $5, $10, $50 it all goes a long way to help this fantastic organization. Simply visit our website: www.theintrepidfoundation.org/projects/casasito/

Meals

16 breakfasts

Transport

Private vehicle, Public bus, Local bus, Taxi, Ferry, shared boat

Accommodation

Hotel (20 nights), Lodge (2 nights)

Included activities

  • Informal Spanish Lesson
  • Antigua - Leader-led walking tour
  • Livingston - River boat trip to Garifuna town
  • Tikal National Park - Archaeological site (Entrance fee, Guide & Transport)
  • Tulum - Orientation walk
  • Playa del Carmen - Orientation walk
  • Chichen Itza - Archaeological site (Entrance fee & Transport)
  • Merida - Orientation walk
  • Palenque - Archaeological site (Entrance fee & Transport)
  • San Cristobal de las Casas - Leader-led city tour
  • Agua Azul waterfall - Visit with option to swim (Entrance fee)
  • Maya village - San Juan Chamula
  • Panajachel - Orientation walk
  • Antigua - Orientation walk

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.
3. To save your client money and the hassle of booking multiple trips, this journey is a combination of some of our most popular adventures. The leader and the composition of your group may change with the start of each adventure.
4. 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.
5. 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.

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