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Luxury Guatemala and Belize: Tikal and the Caribbean

11 days from £2,428pp

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Luxury Guatemala and Belize: Tikal and the Caribbean:
Trip Dossier

This brief luxurious holiday combines two very contrasting countries.  But distances are short, you travel at a lazy pace and you are based at intimate, high quality properties owned by film director Francis Ford Coppola, where the attention is on premium service..

Guatemala is steeped in indigenous and Spanish colonial tradition and religious mysticism. Belize, a truly Caribbean country, is English-speaking, utterly laid-back, and a popular destination for outdoor adventure enthusiasts.

Start off in Antigua, Guatemala’s colonial masterpiece. On to jungle-stifled Flores and a visit to Tikal, the vast Mayan ruined city where ancient temples and pyramids penetrate the rainforest canopy. Cross the border into Belize and visit the cool forests of Mountain Pine Ridge, before rounding off the holiday at the sugar white beaches of low-key Placencia, maybe with a bit of snorkelling or scuba diving.

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Guatemala and transfer to your hotel in Antigua.

Day 2

Guided walking tour of Antigua.

Day 3

Fly to Flores in the jungle Petén region.

Day 4

Guided tour of the archaeological site at Tikal.

Day 5

By road to the Belize border and over to Blancaneaux Lodge.

Day 6

Guided horse ride to Big Rock Falls.

Day 7

At leisure at Blancaneaux Lodge.

Day 8

Transfer to Placencia on the Caribbean coast.

Day 9

Optional manatee spotting expedition.

Day 10

At leisure on the beach.

Day 11

Fly to Belize City and connect with international flight.

Detailed itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Guatemala and transfer to your hotel in Antigua.
 
antigua

You will be met by our local representative and taken to your hotel in the old colonial capital, Antigua. It’s a journey of about one hour along a winding paved road. You are staying in a romantic restored colonial monastery.

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antigua

Day 2

Guided walking tour of Antigua.
 
Antigua

The city is a colonial work of art, with cobbled streets, overhanging tiled roofs and a beautiful, leafy central plaza. There’s an abundance of huge ruined churches, convents and monasteries, testament to a time when Antigua was the country’s capital and its main religious centre. You’ll have plenty of time to absorb this fascinating city, including on a walking tour of the historic 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 bears witness to the city’s destruction by a volcanic eruption in 1773: but much has been painstakingly restored.

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Antigua

Day 3

Fly to Flores in the jungle Petén region.
 
Tikal

You’re driven (1hr) to Guatemala City airport for an hour-long flight to Flores, in the sticky jungles of northern Guatemala, and from here you continue to your lodge.

You are staying at La Lancha, a unique and innovative property conceived and owned by the film director Francis Ford Coppola.  You’ll sleep in a cottage with a view over jungle-fringed Lake Petén.

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Tikal

Day 4

Guided tour of the archaeological site at Tikal.
 
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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Tikal

Day 5

By road to the Belize border and over to Blancaneaux Lodge.
 
Mountain Pine Ridge

The drive across the border into Belize to the lodge takes about three hours. The first part of the journey is on the well paved Western Highway, the last section is mainly on dirt track heading to Mountain Pine Ridge to Blancaneaux Lodge, another exclusive Coppola property making an ideal base to explore the surrounding forest, waterfalls, rivers and caves.

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Mountain Pine Ridge

Day 6

Guided horse ride to Big Rock Falls.
 
Swimmers by natural pool in Belize

A gentle ride through the forest takes you to the well hidden falls, where you can swim beneath the water as it tumbles through rich foliage. This gentle-paced excursion is suitable for first time riders, beginners or equestrians who just want a short time in the saddle. Care is taken to match the rider with the most suitable horse to ensure comfort and safety. Wear long trousers and sturdy shoes for comfort. Riding helmets are available.

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Swimmers by natural pool in Belize

Day 7

At leisure at Blancaneaux Lodge.
 
jaguar

There are several optional excursions and activities offered by the lodge n this lovely cool and shaded mountain region. Hikes, sunrise bird watching, even jaguar spotting by moonlight. 

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jaguar

Day 8

Transfer to Placencia on the Caribbean coast.
 
Placencia

This 3-4 hour journey takes you from the lush highlands to the coastal tropics. From a dirt road you join the Western Highway to the country’s capital, Belmopan where you turn onto the Hummingbird highway with some outstanding views of the Maya Mountains and Victoria Peak in the Cockscombe reserve. The vegetation thins out as you approach the coast and your journey ends surrounded by water and driving down the peninsula to Placencia.

The village is a friendly and low-key beach resort typified by its ramshackle and colourful wooden houses built on stilts, linked by paths weaving under swaying palms. With some of Belize's finest beaches and one or two top notch hotels, it is developing into an increasingly popular tourist retreat. The nearby Monkey River and Placencia Lagoon provide good opportunities for spotting wildlife including the rare manatee.

You are staying at the charming, unique and idiosyncratic Turtle Inn, which lies behind a small sandy beach 3km from the village. Like La Lancha, it’s a luxury property conceived and owned by American film director Francis Ford Coppola.

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Placencia

Day 9

Optional manatee spotting expedition.
 
Manatee

Today you have a guided sea-kayaking adventure along the barrier reef home to an abundance of tropical fish and other exotic marine creatures.

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Manatee

Day 10

At leisure on the beach.
 
belize beach

Placencia Lagoon, fringed by stifling mangrove forests and wild orchids, embraces a range of marine, estuarine and freshwater aquatic habitats providing various ecosystem services in which literally thousands of species can thrive. Over 70 species of fish are present and two types of crocodile. Kayak on the calm waters with an eye out for manatees on an optional adventure.

Alternatively just relax at the lodge, or choose another activity at the lodge: there’s complimentary use of cycles, kayaks, windsurfers and Hobie cats; the dive shop (at extra cost) can organise scuba diving, snorkelling and fishing excursions, and a variety of land-based trips.

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belize beach

Day 11

Fly to Belize City and connect with international flight.

Essential information

Transport

2 domestic flights, 5 road journeys.

Accommodation

You will be staying at a restored convent in Antigua,  three first class Francis Ford Coppola lodges and a cottage on a private island.

Meals

Breakfast daily; half board day 3; full board day 11.

Guides

We carefully select our local partners, some of whom we have worked with for over 25 years. Their English-speaking guides understand the expectations of our clients very well, and are consistently singled out for praise by them on their return.

Included excursions

  • Guided walking tour of Antigua.
  • Guided tour of the Mayan ruins at Tikal.
  • Guided kayaking at Placencia.

Summary of nights

12 days, 11 nights: Antigua 2; Tikal 2; Mountain Pine Ridge 3; Placencia 3; Coral Caye 1..

Included in the journey price

• Services of our team of experts in our London office.
• Services of Journey Latin America local representatives and guides.
• All land and air transport within Latin America.
• Accommodation as specified.
• Meals as specified.
• Excursions as specified, including entrance fees.

Not included in the journey price

• Tips and gratuities
• Meals other than specified.
• International flights to Latin America.
• Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket
• Optional excursions.

Currency

The unit of currency in Guatemala is the quetzal.  In Belize it’s the Belize dollar.

Daily spend

It is very difficult to give a guideline for essential expenses but a budget of around US$45 per day should cover the cost of meals not included in the holiday itinerary, drinks and the odd souvenir. Eat at the best restaurants and you will pay considerably more.

How to take it

Cash machines are available in all major cities and towns, and so taking a debit or credit card with a PIN number is the most convenient way of withdrawing money while on your trip, and in most shops and restaurants you can also pay by card. However, since cards can get lost, damaged, withheld or blocked, you should not rely exclusively on a card to access funds. We recommend that you also take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can use as currency in Belize or exchange into local currency. Dollar bills should be in good condition; soiled or torn bills may be refused. You can take sterling, but the exchange rate is not always competitive or even available, which restricts the number of places where you can change money.

Tipping

Tips are expected and local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income.

Most service industry workers will welcome a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have spare change for hotel porters, taxi drivers and the like. It is common to leave 10 - 12% in restaurants.

Tipping guidelines can be found in our Briefing Dossier.

Insurance

Travel insurance is essential.          

Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance page. 

Airport taxes

If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax is usually included in the ticket.

Journey grade

There are no long days of travel on this trip. This holiday is suitable for those wishing to combine first class facilities with a bit of adventure and time to relax in one’s own time.

If you have a disability or other special requirements, please call us. In the summer the weather can be extremely hot and humid.

Climate

Travellers in May to October are likely to encounter high temperatures (around 35°C) and high humidity in the lowlands. There are likely to be some short bursts of heavy rainfall during these months. 

December to April visitors will still encounter high temperatures in the lowlands, but cooler evenings in the Belizean highlands. Rainfall and humidity will be lower at this time.

Clothing and special equipment

Bring plenty of light cotton clothing and good, comfortable walking shoes. Some warm items and good waterproof jackets are also necessary. We suggest that you plan to ‘layer’ your clothing; it is easier and more efficient to put on a couple of light layers than one thick jumper, and sensible to have long sleeves for areas where mosquitos may be a problem. 

Sandals are a good informal option for evenings. Protection against the sun (sunblock, sun hat) and mosquito repellant are essential and you should bring swimwear. A daypack is useful for carrying sunblock, guidebook, water and any extra layers.

Please get in touch with the office before departure if you have any doubts. Good equipment is very important and hard to come by in Central America.

Vaccinations

Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following: typhoid; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. You should consult your GP for specific requirements, including advice on yellow fever and malaria tablets (unlikely for this holiday). For specific requirements you must consult your GP.

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website. 

Visas

Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins. Anyone with a different nationality should enquire with us or check with the relevant consulate.

APIS and ESTA - important flight information:

ESTA - if flying to or via the USA, you will need to fill in your application to ESTA online. This costs $14 per person, and must be done by you personally.
Passports must also be e-passports with a digital chip. Avoid locking suitcases if transiting the USA, as their customs authorities retain the right to break into them.

APIS - Many countries now oblige airlines to provide additional information about passengers prior to the flight departure. This Advance Passenger Information (APIS) must be supplied to us promptly in order to issue tickets and avoid fare increases. We will provide the airlines with the relevant details if we are booking your international flights. If the information is not provided you may be denied boarding.
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