Discover beautiful beaches, colourful towns and ancient Maya ruins on this epic adventure through Central America

Take an epic adventure through Central America, that combines the volcanic beauty of the highlands, the mystery of the ancient Maya ruins and the perfect beaches of the Caribbean. Travel from the cobblestone streets of Antigua, through blissed-out Belize and along the Yucatan Peninsula to the beachside delight of Playa del Carmen, then venture to deep into the jungles of Mexico to witness the incredible ruins engulfed by rainforest before salsa-ing your way back to the old colonial capital of Guatemala. 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
Theme
Explorer
Code
QVSKC
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 12

Why you'll love this trip

  • Learn some Spanish during an informal lesson in old-world Antigua, then put it to good use during the rest of your Central American adventure.

  • Wonder at steep, granite steps that reach into the sky while exploring the temples and monuments of Tikal: the seat of Maya power that mysteriously collapsed in AD950.

  • Explore Livingston: a unique riverside town where the local culture is heavily influenced by the Afro-Caribbean Garifuna population.

  • Walk along cobblestone streets and shop for local handicrafts in the tiny inland island town of Flores and learn the traditional methods of making tortillas in a small-group workshop.

  • Recharge and rejuvenate on the white sands of the Yucatan Peninsula, relaxing in stunning Bacalar and laidback Tulum. 

  • Encounter one a unique kind of modern Maya culture in San Juan Chamula, a Tzoyzil community where the locals practise a blend of animism, Catholicism and ancient ritual.

  • Beat the Central American heat with a refreshing dip in the turquoise waters of the multi-tiered Agua Azul waterfalls.

Is this trip right for you?

  • 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.

  • As this trip covers destinations across three countries, you'll need to make several border crossings. While these are usually straightforward, please prepare to be patient.

  • While your leaders on this trip will bridge any language gaps you have along the way, you'll find meeting locals easier the more Spanish words you know. Attempting to communicate in Spanish is a great way of showing you care.

  • This trip involves some long days of travel, some of it by local transport. This may be a little more rustic than you are used to, but the it's worth it to encounter local life in a real way.

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 Jan 2020 to 31 Dec 2020.
View the 2019 itinerary
Hola! Welcome to Antigua. Surrounded by three volcanoes dominating the skyline, 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. 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 - GTQ130
  • Antigua - Coffee/Macadamia nut plantation tour - GTQ240
  • Antigua - Salsa lesson (per hour) - GTQ35
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
It’s very important that you attend the welcome meeting as we will be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this time. If you are going to be late please let your travel agent or hotel reception know. Ask reception or look for a note in the lobby for more information on where the meeting 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).
As the seat of the Spanish colonial government, Antigua was once the most important cities in Central America. The city was destroyed by an earthquake in 1773, but many of the colonial-era buildings have been carefully restored so the architecture matches the city’s historical significance. Enjoy a wander around the city with your leader in the morning, learning some key Spanish phrases to make interacting with the locals a breeze. Walk through the quiet cobblestone streets past heavy, carved-wood entrances, and explore are many fascinating markets and museums. The afternoon is free for yours to explore the city and its surrounds, or to just grab a coffee from one of the many cafes in central park and sit back and enjoy the beauty of this city. You won't want to miss trying tamales: a local dish usually prepared on the weekend and served in a corn leaf. Also worth a try is Pepian: a dish of three meats (chicken, beef and pork) in a rich dark sauce. You’ll find the best value food next to the artisan markets, close to the bus station.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Leader-led Informal Spanish Lesson
  • Antigua - Leader-led walking tour
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
It’s a long day of travel as you make your way to Rio Dulce by private vehicle. Depart early for the 8-hour journey, arriving mid-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 just laze in a hammock and enjoy the tropical surrounds.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Use your leisure day in Rio Dulce to take advantage of some of the activities on offer. Join your group on a boat ride down the river to Livingston: a laidback, Afro-Caribbean town that offers a unique taste of Garifuna culture on the shoulder of Guatemala. Located 30 kilometres (18 miles) from Rio Dulce, the boat ride is quite scenic, taking you through waters laden with water lilies, and past tropical forests and a spectacular canyon. The Garifuna population in Livingston 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 its 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 for about 4 hours to the delightful township of Flores on Lago Peten Itza. Upon arrival, take an orientation walk with your group leader and enjoy a free afternoon to explore the tiny island centre that juts into the lake. Flores 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. Sometime during the day, you’ll have the chance to partake in a traditional tortilla making workshop, before using your free afternoon to wander the town's cobblestone streets, taking in its pastel-coloured buildings or shop for local handicrafts. It's a small 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 and interact with the locals.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Flores - Leader-led orientation walk
  • Flores - Tortilla making demonstration
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 lush jungle while pondering the mystery of the ancient city's demise. Spend a few hours playing archaeologist, and afterwards, 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 3-hour drive.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Tikal National Park - Archaeological site (Entrance fee, Guide & Transport)
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 relax in San Ignacio or take part in some of the other optional activities on offer, like a visit to the caves of Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM caves). 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. If not, 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 wealthy Maya family.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • San Ignacio - (ATM Caves) Actun Tunichil Muknal (Entrance fee, Guide, Transport & Lunch) - BZD190
  • San Ignacio - Iguana Conservation Project (Entrance fee) - BZD20
  • San Ignacio - Cahal Pech Ruins (Entrance fee) - BZD10
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Hop on a public 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 Bacalar (1 hour). A long day of travel will see you arriving in the afternoon with some daylight to spare. 
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Cenote Azul - Natural rock pool with option to swim (Entrance fee & Transport) - MXN120
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today, head up the Yucatan peninsula to beachy Tulum – well-known for its laidback vibes and stunning stretches of coastline. You’ll be staying in the centre of Tulum, which is a little while from the beach, however easily accessible by a short taxi ride, or by bike, as roads around here are mostly flat. In the afternoon, head to one of the beaches! Paradise beach is the famous one, however Las Palmas Public Beach is just as beautiful, but with far fewer people. Better yet, head to the south-side of Tulum beach and park yourself in one of the many beach clubs on offer. A spend of about MXN200 gets you a couple of drinks, and a chance to laze on a private beach with the comforts of possibly a sun-lounge.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Tulum - Leader-led orientation walk
Optional Activities
  • Tulum - Archaeological Site (Entrance fee) - MXN75
  • Tulum - Bicycle rental (per 24 hours) - MXN150
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Enjoy a free day on the picturesque Caribbean coast. Perhaps visit the Tulum archaeological site, famous for sitting on a clifftop plateau that overlooks the glistening water below. Choose whether you’d like to explore the small archaeological site, or once again find a spot on one of the white-sand beaches and chill out. This cruisy resort town is stuffed with cafes and restaurants serving up seafood-heavy Mexican fare, as well as many vegetarian and vegan options, so you’ll be able to eat well while you catch those sea breezes.

Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Chichen Itza Ruins - Entrance Fee - MXN481
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
This leg of your journey is a short one. Hop on a local bus and travel for 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 go for 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 seen with great visibility. 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 - Leader-led 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
  • Breakfast
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 - Leader-led orientation walk
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Founded in 1542, Merida 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 - MXN65
  • 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
  • Leader-led 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 (Guide, Transport & Entrance fee)
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. 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.
Travel to 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 Church (Entrance Fee)
  • Maya village - Zinacantan church (Entrance fee)
Optional Activities
  • San Cristobal de las Casas - Jade Museum - MXN65
  • Sumidero Canyon - Boat Excursion (Entrance & Transport) - USD30
  • San Cristobal de las Casas - Mountain bike tour - MXN600
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Now entering Guatemala! From San Cristobal we head down by shuttle bus. 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. Continue on to Lake Atitlan, and settle in Panajachel which 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 - Leader-led 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 (Return) - GTQ40
  • Panajachel - Kayak rental (per hour) - GTQ45
  • Panajachel - San Pedro Volcano hike - GTQ400
  • Panajachel - Bicycle rental (per day) - GTQ55
  • Panajachel - Zipline - GTQ280
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 - Leader-led orientation walk
Optional Activities
  • Antigua - Pacaya Volcano hike - GTQ85
  • Antigua - Chocolate-making workshop - GTQ130
  • Antigua - Bike tour - GTQ210
  • Antigua - Coffee/Macadamia nut plantation tour - GTQ240
  • Antigua - Salsa lesson (per hour) - GTQ35
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
If you plan on staying in Antigua for a day or two more, have a chat to your booking agent and they will be able to help you with securing extra accommodation (subject to availability). Even though your tour is officially over, we still have stuff to recommend! The ‘Holy Guatemole! Food & Market Tour’ with Urban Adventures, for example, is a great way to immerse yourself in Guatemala’s food culture.
Optional Activities
  • Guatemala City - Holy Guatemole! Food & Market Tour (departing from Antigua) - Urban Adventures - USD107
  • Antigua - Antigua by the Bean - Urban Adventures - USD77
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.

Meals

14 breakfasts

Transport

Private vehicle, Public bus, local bus, Taxi, Ferry, Shared boat

Accommodation

Hotel (19 nights), Lodge (2 nights)

Included activities

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

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm on Day 1. There are no activities planned for the final day so you may depart at any time.
2. A single supplement is available if you’d prefer not to share a room on this trip. The single supplement applies to all nights on your trip and is subject to availability. Please speak to your booking agent for further information.
3. To save you money and the hassle of booking multiple trips, this journey is a combination of some of our most popular adventures. Your 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.

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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