Private Journeys

Family Guatemala and Belize: Ancient temples and Caribbean isles

14 days from £2,560pp

Guatemala / Belize

Itinerary

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Day 1

Arrive in Guatemala City and transfer to hotel in Antigua.

You will be met by our local representative and taken to your hotel in Antigua. It’s a journey of about one hour along a winding paved road.

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Day 2

Guided walking tour of Antigua and a coffee farm.

Begin the day by travelling to the village of San Antonio Aguas Calientes, 10 mins' drive from Antigua, famous for its textiles and handicrafts. Continue to the Centro Cultural La Azotea, where you will be guided on a tour of a coffee farm and Casa K'ojom, a Mayan traditional music museum. Afterwards, head back to the cobbled streets of Antigua's historical centre for a walking tour. The city is a colonial work of art, with overhanging tiled roofs and a beautiful, leafy central plaza.

There’s an abundance of huge ruined churches, convents and monasteries, testimony to a time when Antigua was the country’s capital and its main religious centre. It seems that every doorway opens onto a fragrant tiled courtyard. A dramatic backdrop of smouldering volcanoes and ruined churches and convents surrounded by parkland bear witness to the city’s destruction a volcanic eruption in 1773. 

Antigua is a welcoming place to relax. You may have some time to do some shopping in tempting boutiques and art galleries, and in the evening enjoy the excellent food from a large range of restaurants and pavement cafés. Wander around the courtyards and enjoy the floral displays in beautifully tended gardens. 

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Day 3

Drive to Lake Atitlán via Chichicastenango market.

Travel by a gradually-ascending road to Lake Atitlán. The landscapes in the highlands west of Antigua are dominated by watchful volcanoes and compact, busy farming villages. You’ll stop at Chichicastenango, a chilly mountain town, which has a decidedly mystical air. The symbols and practices of overt Catholicism sit side by side or even amalgamate with esoteric Mayan religious ceremonies, centred round the simple, whitewashed façade of the church.

There is a vast, bustling market, and you can wander the labyrinthine streets. Here are textiles, clothes and tapestries of striking colour and extraordinary intricacy, as well as extravagant hand-carved masks and good-quality leather goods. Local farmers both barter and sell an array of fruit and vegetables from the surrounding villages.

Continue to Lake Atitlán. The lake is one of the most captivating in the world and its beauty has been eulogised by poets and travellers.  On a sunny day, the closely forested volcanic cones are reflected in cobalt waters. Traditional villages and indigenous agricultural settlements skirt its fertile shores, each with its own character and identity, its own dialect and often a unique costume still worn by the proud inhabitants.

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Day 4

Kayaking on Lake Atitlán.

Kayaking on Lake Atitlán offers your family immersion into one of the most important activities of the local people. Entering the water at Panajachel and or San Pedro you will have the opportunity to view the lake from both villages. Having enjoyed views of the lake from the shore, you will now get to enjoy the stunning 360° panorama of the surrounding mountains and villages.

Stopping along the way to visit native Mayan communities you will also get to relax and bathe in the warm waters of the hot springs that are dotted around the lake's edge. The trip is led by an English-speaking guide, and life-jackets are included.

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Day 5

Visit to San Juan la Laguna community.

A private boat will transport you across the full length of the lake from Panajachel to the village of San Juan La Laguna on its western edge. Here you will have a unique opportunity to interact with the local indigenous people and gain first-hand insight into and understanding of the Maya Tzutujil way of life. You will visit a number of artisans and workshops that still use traditional methods, including natural dyes to colour their vibrant textiles.

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Day 6

By road to Guatemala City; fly to Fly to Flores in the jungle Petén.

Drive to Guatemala City and take an hour-long flight to Flores, in the dense, sticky jungles of northern Guatemala, and from here you continue to your secluded lodge.  Spend the rest of the day at leisure. From the lodge you might venture out on a bike or on horseback; there is an attractive swimming pool and a restaurant overlooking the lake.  

Day 7

Guided tour of the Mayan ruins at Tikal.

There will be a guided tour of the archaeological site at Tikal. Steep-stepped and vertiginous temples emerge high above the rainforest canopy; the views over the site from one of these ancient skyscrapers are unforgettable. Spend the day wandering through the palace complexes. Tikal was one of the largest and most important Mayan city states, reaching its peak around AD800 prior to its mysterious demise. The pyramids and temples seem frozen in time, but you’re brought back to the present by the roar of curious Howler monkeys and lithe Spider monkeys as they swing through the trees; and by flashes of colour as toucans and parrots take flight.

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Day 8

Drive into Belize to the San Ignacio area.

Enjoy a beautiful drive across the border into Belize; pass through the town of San Ignacio and into the low-lying Cayo district (3hrs). Spend a couple of days in the country’s lush, unspoilt and sparsely populated hilly interior, based on the rain-forested banks of the Macal river. 

Your accommodation is in cottages in an isolated and peaceful location within the grounds of the more luxurious Lodge at Chaa Creek. The nearest town, San Ignacio, is 40mins’ drive away.

The camp is set in a clearing and surrounded by lush lowland forest beside the river, and the lack of electricity (lighting is by oil lamp) and rustic wooden structures lend the place a real sense of adventurous camping within the forest – it’s bound to thrill the children. There is a camp fire every evening. Along with the flora, wildlife is abundant, particularly the bird life with over 250 species recorded to date.

 

 

 

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Day 9

Visit a butterfly farm

The Blue Morpho Butterfly Farm is a major attraction at the property and you can marvel at the splendid iridescent wings of these magnificent butterflies. The "Belizean Blues" can be observed during every stage of their life cycle. It begins its life as a pale green egg, which looks like a dewdrop, soon after it changes into a voraciously hungry caterpillar, then into the bizarre form of a dormant pupa, and finally into a dazzling beauty that delights the public in butterfly houses throughout the world.

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Day 10

Kayak on the Macal river.

From the river camp you can set off in a canoe to explore. The verdant banks of the Macal river are home to numerous species of tropical birds as well as giant green iguanas. You can just potter around the lodge, or if you want to go further afield, for an extra charge you can take a trip upstream, paddling up as far as you wish, or head downstream, paddling and floating to San Ignacio for a couple of hours. The lodge staff will pick you up for the drive back to the lodge.  The concierge will advise you on what to bring, best times to leave and sights along the way.  There are also mountain-bike trails around the property (bike hire is charged extra) where you will be accompanied by an experienced guide.

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Day 11

Drive/fly to Ambergris Caye, coral atoll in the Caribbean.

By road and air to Ambergris Caye, the most northerly and largest island in Belize, 46km long, and a breathtaking 15min flight low over transparent turquoise waters from Belize City. The island offers a splendid vantage point from which to enjoy the Belize Barrier Reef, less than a kilometre from the shores of the relaxed main town of San Pedro, with its wide choice of restaurants and bars. The island’s main attraction is the first-class diving, snorkelling and fishing on offer.

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Days 12-13

At leisure on Ambergris Caye.

This is your beach time. Your hotel couldn't be more conveniently located for taking advantage of the town's restaurants, bars, shops and water-based activities. The hotel lies directly behind a small sandy beach with a wooden-decked freshwater swimming pool area.  Excursions to local dive sites and PADI tuition can be organised from the hotel's dive centre. Other activities include fishing, windsurfing, bicycle rental and beach volleyball. 

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Day 14

Fly to Belize City and connect with international flight.

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Real Latin America Experts

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    Lina's passion for the continent where she was born really took off when she moved to Córdoba to study, spending the holidays travelling between Argentina and her native Colombia.

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    Sophie lived in Chile before joining us and has travelled extensively across Latin America, from Mexico to the furthest tip of Patagonia.

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    Paul Winrow-Giffin - Travel Consultant

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