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Easter in Guatemala: Semana Santa

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In just a week, you are invited to enjoy a holiday which not only embraces the pageantry of the world-famous Easter celebrations in Antigua, but manages to squeeze in the country’s main highlights.

You’ll be amazed by the variety in such a small geographical area: volcanoes, smoking or stifled by vegetation, glass-clear shimmering lakes, treeless grasslands and valleys choked with orchards and kitchen gardens.

Across all this the wonderful culture, a blend of Mayan, and Spanish colonial; pre-Columbian religion and ritual blended with Christianity – see it in the market at Chichicastenango, the pocket-sized rural communities on the fringe of Lake Atitlán, the long abandoned jungle-stifled Mayan temples and pyramids at Tikal. Imagine being able to do as much as this in 7 days at home... 

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Guatemala City, transfer to your hotel in Antigua.

Day 2

Walking tour of colonial Antigua.

Day 3

Attend the Easter processions in Antigua.

Day 4

Visit Iximché ruins en route to Lake Atitlán.

Day 5

Guided tour of Chichicastenango market.

Day 6

Boat trip across Lake Atitlán to Santiago.

Day 7

Explore Tikal ruins on a guided tour.

Day 8

Transfer to the airport for international flight.

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Places visited on this holiday

Easter in Guatemala: Semana Santa

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Antigua and the highlands
Antigua

Antigua was once one of Spanish America’s greatest cities, its prosperity and importance interrupted by earthquakes. Nowadays it is a peaceful, multi-national place retaining the best aspects of its Guatemalan heritage. Lovely to look at, it hosts lanes and shady plazas where flowering plants spill over crumbly walls, and pastel-painted colonial façades are punctuated with heavy wooden doors.

Boutiques, galleries, arty cafés and restaurants thrive here. The city is encircled by three volcanic peaks, along the fertile skirts of which flourish orchards and kitchen gardens. Beyond in the western highlands are traditional villages with flourishing markets. Chichicastenango, 1,965m, is the best known but others such as Zunil are also a riot of colour.

When to go
The best weather conditions in the upland areas are during the dry season Dec - May. It can be cold in the highlands in winter. Culture lovers may opt to spend Easter in Antigua. The busiest time for tourists is Dec - Mar. 
Language

Spanish.

Getting local currency

Notes can be withdrawn using a UK credit or debit card from ATMs in Antigua and Chichicastenango. You may have ask your bank to authorise withdrawals before you leave the UK and each transaction is limited to about £100.

Time difference

GMT -6 hours.

Combines with

Lake Atitlán, 52 km from Antigua by road; Flores, for a visit to Tikal ruins, 1hr by air from Guatemala City (1 hour by road from Antigua).

Getting there

There are flights to Guatemala City via US and European hubs, the journey from London to Guatemala City takes around taking around 13 hours. It’s an hour’s drive from the airport to Antigua.

Key events
Semana Santa, Easter. Celebrations throughout the country; especially impressive in Antigua – justifiably considered the best in Latin America.
Santo Tomás, Chichicastenango, 13 -22 Dec. Processions, traditional dancing, marimba music.

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Lake Atitlan and villages
Lake Atitlán and villages
In turn cobalt glassy-clear and silver misty, mirror-calm and wispy-waved, Atitlán is one of the most captivating lakes in the world. Many visitors linger here, and the shores are dotted with international communities as well as traditional Mayan villages. The lake is fringed by tiny fields where smallholders cultivate kitchen garden crops on fertile soils, beyond which are fuming green volcanoes which cast ever-changing shadows over the water. Lakeside settlements, most easily reached by boat across the water, are enlivened with textile markets, each with its own costume and character: Sololá and Santiago de Atitlán are among the largest and most interesting.
Key Events

• Semana Santa, celebrations throughout the country. Maximón is paraded through Santiago Atitlán, usually on the Wednesday of Holy Week. 

• Village fiestas: There are fiestas throughout the year in most Guatemalan villages, including on the community’s saint day. Santiago’s main fiesta is 23-27 Jul, Sololá’s 11-17 Aug.
When to go

The best weather conditions in the upland areas are during the dry season Dec-May. It can be cold and in the highlands in winter; but the fields bursting with crops make the landscape look its best when the sun does shine. The busiest time for tourists is Dec-Mar.

Language

Spanish.

Getting local currency

Quetzal. Acquire local currency in a larger town before you head into this region. You may have ask your bank to authorise ATM withdrawals before you leave the UK and each transaction is limited to about £100.

Time difference

GMT -6 hours.

Combines with

Flores (for visit to Tikal ruins), 4.5 hours by road from Lanquín.

Getting there

It’s a 2hr drive to Panajachel from Antigua (52km)

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Tikal

The Petén of northern Gualtemala is a vast lowland blanketed in dense tropical rainforest. Nowadays it’s sparsely inhabited but this was not the case in the past: the Mayan city of Tikal, which began its development before 250AD, grew to be a vast cultural, religious and commercial centre. Following its collapse (c. 900AD) its jungle remoteness kept it isolated until roads and airstrips brought it within reach in the late 20th century. With its surviving temple pyramids piercing the canopy, vast plazas, its wealth of carvings and inscriptions and its location in the midst of a wild-life rich national park it is now one of the continent’s most impressive cultural monuments.

When to go

Mar - Apr are the hottest but also the driest months, while in Dec - Feb it can be chilly at the beginning and end of the day. Most rain falls between May - Oct when there are plenty of mosquitoes and other insects.

Language

Spanish.

Getting local currency
Quetzal. Dollars can be exchanged in banks, hotels and travel agencies in Flores, and there are a couple of ATMs where notes may be withdrawn using a UK credit or debit card. (Best not to rely on these and use this method in a larger town before travelling to the Petén). You may have ask your bank to authorise withdrawals before you leave the UK and each transaction is limited to about £100.  
Time difference

GMT -6 hours.  

Combines with

Belize: Belize City is a 4-5 hours drive east from Flores (220 km) crossing the land border into western Belize.

Getting there

There are daily flights from Guatemala City (1 hour) to Flores. From here it’s a 1 hour 15mins drive to Tikal.

Speak to an expert Travel Consultant or send us your enquiry today.

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Easter in Guatemala: Semana Santa

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