La Ruta Maya – Day of the Dead Festival Departure – Reverse

Resort: La Ruta Maya - Day of the Dead Festival Departure - Reverse
Operator: Exodus
Destination: Guatemala
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Overview


Discover lively colonial towns, active volcanoes and the palm-fringed beaches
along with experiencing Day of the Dead festivities.

The Mayans forged a powerful and mysterious empire across southern Mexico,
Guatemala and Belize. Following La Ruta Maya we explore the hidden
treasures of this region – magnificent cities, pyramids and temples. These
incredible architectural feats have captivated historians since their
discovery. The ancient Mayan civilisation is also apparent in the customs,
language and dress of the Indian towns and villages we pass through. The
Mexican Day of the Dead celebration is possibly the most vibrant and
colourful tribute to human mortality there is. Citizens pay tribute to the
dead, especially close relatives, visiting graves and congregating round the
stones to lay edible offerings at the headstones alongside beautiful golden
mounds of marigolds, the Flor de Muerto (flower of the dead). Spanning three
countries, we discover lively colonial towns, active volcanoes and the
palm-fringed Caye Caulker, a paradise for snorkelling and diving, along with
experiencing Day of the Dead festivities.

Highlights

* Day of the Dead Festival
* An in-depth exploration of the highlights of the Mayan world
* Guided visits to the Mayan sites of Palenque, Uxmal, Chichen Itza, Tulum,
Tikal and Xunantunich
* Colourful colonial cities of Antigua, San Cristobal de las Casas, Campeche
and Merida
* Traditional communities in the Mexican highlands
* Two nights at beautiful Lake Atitlan, surrounded by volcanoes
* Idyllic Caribbean waters in Mexico and Belize

Itinerary

Day 1
Fly to Guatemala

Fly to Guatemala

Day 2
Fly from Guatemala City to Flores; Visit Tikal.

Early flight at 06.30am from Guatemala City to Flores. Upon arrival, Transfer
to Tikal National Park (approx. 1 hour duration) and visit the most famous
and probably the most impressive of all Mayan sites (approx. 45 minute
drive). Here, in the middle of the jungle are nearly 20 square miles of
classic Mayan ruins, surrounded by the dense jungles of Petn. We take a
tour of the city, visiting the Q complex, Main Plaza, North and Central
Acropolis, Seven Temples and Mundo Perdido (Lost World). Tikal is a superb
area for observing wildlife in the jungle environment and visitors regularly
see Howler monkeys, Spider monkeys, toucan, Weaver birds, coatimundi and even
tarantula (if you know where to look and wish to find one!). In the afternoon
we transfer to El Remate (duration approx. 30 minutes), on Lake Peten Itza,
where we have the opportunity to learn more about sacred plants in a
traditional Mayan garden and enjoy a group dinner.
*Standard Hotel*

Day 3 To Belize City via Xunantunich; Boat to Caye Caulker.

After breakfast, we leave the heavily forested and sparsely populated Maya
Mountains, encountering some spectacular scenery en route. We cross the
border into Belize, and will stop at the Mayan ruins of Xunantunich to
explore its temples and palaces. Located on a ridge close, the site has some
fine stucco facades as well as several elaborately carved stelae and an
impressive 40 metre high pyramid. After looking around the ruins, we cross
travel to Belize City, from where we board the water taxi for the 60 minute
transfer to Caye Caulker. This laid-back Caribbean Island is just west of the
Belize Barrier Reef and offers fantastic snorkelling and diving
opportunities. There will be some border formalities this morning, but this
afternoon has been left free to relax into island life and understand the
meaning of Belize’s motto: ‘no shirt, no shoes, no problem!’ The tiny village
of Caye Caulker has only three sandy main streets (Front, Middle and Back
Street), but they are full of bars and restaurants, many of which serve
excellent fresh seafood. Total drive time today is just under 3 hours (2
hours between Belize City and the border with an additional 45 minutes from
El Remate to the border).
*Standard Hotel*

Day 4 Free day.

Today is a free day for optional excursions and activities, or simply for
relaxation. Diving, snorkeling, sea kayaking and fishing can all be arranged
locally. As the island is small, it is very easy to complete a circuit on
foot. As well as the marine activities there is also a forest reserve in the
northern part of the island which offers great bird watching in the
mangroves.
*Standard Hotel*

Day 5 To Belize city; transfer to Tulum.

We leave Caye Caulker by boat bound for Belize City (approx. 1 hour) and then
drive from the coast towards the border with Mexico (around 2.5 hours). We
cross the border, stopping for lunch en route, and arrive to Tulum in the
afternoon, (approx. 3 hours). This is a fantastic beach community, where we
stay for the next 2 nights. Just outside the town lies one of the most
photographed sites in the Yucatan; the ruins of an ancient Mayan city that
overlook the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea.
*Standard Hotel*

Day 6 Visit Tulum ruins; swim in a cenote; free afternoon.

This morning we have a short tour of the ancient Mayan fortress of Tulum
followed by an optional visit to the sacred underground Mayan waters to cool
off in a nearby cenote that is suitable for swimming. The most famous
buildings in the complex are the ruins that overlook the lapping waves of the
Caribbean, but there are also several temples, ritual platforms and houses to
be explored. In common with many other Mayan cities, the whole site is
surrounded by a huge defensive wall. This afternoon is free to relax on the
beautiful Tulum beach.
*Standard Hotel*

Day 7 Visit Chichen Itza; to Merida.

We will spend the morning exploring one of the largest Mayan ceremonial
centres at Chichn Itza, located approximately 3 hours from Tulum. En route
we will stop in Valladolid to further explore the mix of Mayan and colonial
Spanish culture on the Yucatan. The impressive El Castillo Pyramid sits in
the middle of the site and is surrounded by temples, palaces and ball courts.
Nearby, we stop to visit the Cenote Sagrado (‘Sacred Well’), dredged in the
early 20th century and found to contain precious gold, silver and jade
artifacts as well as the remains of sacrifice victims. After the tour we
drive (approx. 2 hours) to the bustling colonial city of Mrida. Many of its
buildings were constructed using stones from the Mayan city which existed on
the site and these are still visible in the walls of the imposing cathedral.
The city flourished following the conquest and the 19th century homes
designed in French style contribute to the attractive appearance of the
historical centre. We arrive in the middle to late afternoon and will enjoy a
walking tour of the city; the main square is particularly impressive when lit
up at night.
*Standard Hotel*

Day 8
Uxmal and Campeche

From Merida it is around a 1 hour and 30 minute drive to reach the
fascinating Mayan ruins of Uxmal. Uxmal dates back to the late classic
period, having been built by the Xiu tribe. The site is dominated by the
Pyramid of the Magician and the Nunnery Quadrangle which consists of long
buildings with elaborately carved faades. There are remnants of a ball
court used in ritual games that sometimes ended in sacrifice, and the whole
site is quite exposed, which is a real contrast to the ruins of Palenque.
After lunch (not included), we travel for around 2 hours the historic
fortified city of Campeche, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which boats
incredibly well preserved colonial architecture. Most impressive are the city
walls, built to protect the city from the constant attacks of English and
Dutch buccaneers and pirates during the 16th and 17th centuries. Arrive in
the early evening and head out to sample some local cuisine overlooking the
Bay of Campeche – seafood is a local specialty and widely available.
*Standard Hotel*

Day 9 Drive to Palenque and guided tour.

This morning we drive for around 5 hours to the small town of Palenque, where
the Mayan site of the same name is located just on the outskirts. In the
afternoon we have a guided tour of the impressive Mayan site of Palenque. The
jungle-covered complex is one of the most famous in Mexico and is located in
the low hills of Chiapas. The pyramids, sanctuaries and temples, with their
sculptured wall-panels and roofs are remarkably well preserved and are
probably the finest surviving examples of Mayan buildings. Enjoy an optional
trip to El Panchn for dinner this evening, a nearby bohemian rainforest
hangout (dinner not included).
*Comfortable Hotel*

Day 10
Visit Agua Azul Waterfall; to San Cristobal.

Today we ascend from the humid forests of north-eastern Chiapas to the
highlands – expect some winding roads but plenty of spectacular scenery en
route. We break our journey at the Agua Azul Falls, a glittering series of
cataracts which often appear blue due to the high mineral content. In Spanish
the name of the falls means ‘Blue Water’. (Please note that on the rare
occasions where we are unable to visit Agua Azul Falls, we will endeavour to
visit the Misol Ha waterfalls instead). We come to the old capital of the
region, San Cristobal de Las Casas. This is one of the most attractive
colonial towns in Mexico, with many old churches and squares amongst a lively
caf scene. It is also a major centre for the Tzotzil Indians, each group
having different, colourful costumes. The extensive market has some good
handicrafts for sale and plenty of interesting foodstuffs on offer! San
Cristobal has a very pleasant climate because of its altitude. The total
driving time today is approx. 8 hours.
*Comfortable Hotel*

Day 11 Day of the Dead festivities.

The Mexican Day of the Dead celebration is possibly the most vibrant and
colourful tribute to human mortality there is. Citizens pay tribute to the
dead, especially close relatives, visiting graves and congregating round the
stones to lay edible offerings at the headstones alongside beautiful golden
mounds of marigolds, the Flor de Muerto (flower of the dead). Today we hope
to visit some cemeteries around San Cristobal de las Casas to see the altars
and tributes made for loved ones. We also hope to visit local markets and
bakeries with ornaments and essentials for the Day of the Dead festivities,
with the chance to sample specialties only on offer during this festival. We
also plan to visit the Chamulan village Romerillo and will hopefully have a
chance to watch the elaborate Day of the Dead parades. The tour leader will
be adding special visits regarding day of the dead festivities where ever
possible, but we cannot plan those activities much time in advance, they will
be spontaneous.
*Comfortable Hotel*

Day 12 Explore San Cristobal de las Casas and nearby villages.

We visit the nearby Indian villages of San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan this
morning. These small communities are very traditional and many of the
villagers continue to follow ancient religious practices within the Catholic
churches. In the main church of Chamula, where locals practice a blend of
Catholicism and Mayan customs, people sit on the pine needle covered floor
surrounded by dozens of candles, chanting prayers in an ancient dialect of
Tzotzil. Our guide will explain some of the local traditions before we enter
the church to see this practice for ourselves. Visitors should note that when
visiting churches in the villages, photography of the worshippers and the
church interiors is expressly forbidden. Your guide will explain the full
reasons behind this, but please remember to exercise discretion when taking
pictures, always seeking permission before using your camera. In the
afternoon, there will be some free time to explore San Cristobal de las Casas
at your leisure.
*Comfortable Hotel*

Day 13 To Panajachel.

Today we begin early and drive south, crossing the border into Guatemala. The
road takes us through rugged mountain scenery before arriving to Panajachel,
a small town on the shore of Lake Atitlan. Guatemala’s largest lake is
dominated by three volcanoes and was formed following an ancient eruption.
Many of the villages that exist around the lake are only accessible by boat.
Today is a full day drive of around 7 hours plus stops for lunch in a simple
restaurant in a small town (not included) and the border crossing.
*Comfortable Hotel*

Day 14 Boat trip on Lake Atitlan.

Today we will explore some of the area surrounding Lake Atitlan. A 60-minute
scenic boat ride on the lake takes us to the village of San Juan La Laguna,
where we will visit the home studios of local painters and a textile
cooperative where women are engaged in hand weaving and natural dyeing
processes. We continue by boat to Santiago Atitlan where we can learn about
the Mayan traditions and beliefs from our local guides. At certain times of
the year, it may be possible to visit a shaman’s house to see this
fascinating practice, held amidst clouds of burning incense.
*Comfortable Hotel*

Day 15
Solola Market; Antigua.

After breakfast, we travel to the ancient market town of Solola (approx. 1.5
hours), where centuries-old economic and cultural traditions of the Kaqchikel
people continue to thrive. In the early afternoon, we drive to get to Antigua
(approx 2.5 hours). Many travellers agree that Antigua is one of the most
attractive cities in Latin America. Rightly declared a UNESCO World Heritage
Site, the colourful, colonial city attracts visitors from all over for its
unique history and renowned Spanish language schools. Above the tiled roofs
of pastel houses there are impressive views of the Agua and Fuego volcanoes,
standing in excess of 3700m above the city. Antigua was the capital of the
Spanish empire in Central America from 1543 to 1773, a highly religious
period that left the city with an abundance of convents and churches packed
with religious art. Unfortunately many buildings are now in ruins from
centuries of earthquake damage – our guided walking tour of the city will
bring its fascinating history to life.
*Comfortable Hotel*

Day 16
The trip ends after breakfast in Antigua for land only passengers. Those on
the group flights will be transferred to Guatemala City Airport for their
flight home.

The trip ends after breakfast in Antigua for land only passengers. Those on
the group flights will be transferred to Guatemala City Airport for their
flight home.

Day 17 Arrive London

Arrive London
**

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