Astonishingly beautiful and remarkably traditional, wander around Antigua’s cobbled streets, its colourful market and peek through colonial doorways.
For the traveller who is inspired by the indigenous culture of a country, then a Guatemala holiday is hard to beat. Up in the hills, the daily markets are a gorgeous riot of colourful clothing while the landscape is dotted with lakes and a backdrop of perfect volcanic cones.
The Spanish colonial architecture of the towns and the impressive Mayan ruins surrounded by jungle are further reasons for you to enjoy a Guatemala holiday.
An exploration of the ancient Maya sites of Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras, this route strikes the perfect balance between ancient temples, dense jungles and dazzling lakes. Unveil some of the most visually stunning landscapes in the Americas and a series of world-renowned archaeological sites, with the added bonus of having a chance to attend a private Shaman ceremony.
Unveiling some of the most visually stunning landscapes in vibrant Guatemala, this trip journeys from dazzling high altitude lakes to ancient Mayan ruins.
Encompassing Shaman ceremonies, traditional textile weaving workshops and an expertly guided tour of Tikal, this customisable itinerary is designed to give a comprehensive introduction to one of the most vivid countries in Central America.
Geographically small, a holiday in Guatemala does not involve travelling great distances. Rather, the focus of your trip to Guatemala will be the striking variety of topographic features, ranging from the Cuchumatanes Mountains and the beautiful Lake Atitlan to the volcanoes of Antigua and the black beaches of the Pacific. Guatemala’s ecosystems host a huge range of plants and animals, notably orchids and birdlife. A quarter of Guatemala is covered in forests where the noise of spider and howler monkeys and screeching parrots fills the air.
The colourful Mayan people add an additional dimension to your Guatemala holiday. The extensive ruins of their ancestors lie scattered across the Peten region while their heritage lives on today, evident in the bustling markets of Solola, the traditional reed collecting on the shores of Lake Atitlan and the unique weaving methods of the K’iche, Kaqchiquel and Achi communities. Now throw in the cobbled streets, beautiful churches, hidden convents and colonial plazas and you begin to understand the charm of a Guatemala holiday.
Kayak on the lake, enjoy the adrenaline thrill of a zip line or the unique experience of diving in the volcanic crater-lake.
Stay next to Tikal for early access to the archarological zone and to discover the sounds of the surrounding jungle at night.
Explore the archaeological park and then find a shaded spot between the Maya superstructures for a luxury picnic lunch
Meet the independent coffee farmers and have a traditional lunch with a local family.
Hotels and lodges tend to be small and privately owned with a great atmosphere and a winning smile.
A passion for travel runs right through every one of our experts - meaning they're always ready with first-hand insight about their specialist countries.
Roaming agreements exist with most international mobile phone companies and coverage is good. We suggest checking with your network provider before travel. Please consider other guests when using your mobile phone and when in poorer areas. Phones are available at all hotels and at most, if not all, restaurants.
Guatemala is six hours behind GMT and does not observe daylight-saving time.
Anyone wishing to visit Guatemala has a choice of flying via Madrid, or Miami dependent upon the airline. We suggest flying via Madrid as this offers the most reasonably priced airfares and good connections. If you would prefer to travel via the US with Virgin/British Airways and American Airlines, do note that you will need to pre-purchase your ESTA visa waiver.
The flight to Guatemala City departs from London Heathrow and takes approximately 15.5 hours, via Madrid with the longest sector of the journey being Madrid to Guatemala City just over 11 hours. Via the US, the journey time is slightly longer, as you need to allow sufficient time to clear immigration.
Chicken buses are multi-coloured camionetas, which are converted school buses from the U.S. They are quite an experience should you wish to travel on one and you may need to sign a disclaimer before you do so. We can arrange a tour visiting a chicken bus factory with a ride out to a nearby school in Antigua if you would like to experience these. The name derives from being packed on like livestock but this is not a form of transportation for farm animals.
At the larger sites such as Tikal, you can expect to see other tourists but this is not on such a scale as say Machu Picchu or Chichen Itza. Our guides will take you along paths rarely used by the daily visitor and aim to take you at less busy times. We can offer the option to camp around Uaxactun where you can have practically private access into the ruins. Whilst Chichicastenango market is the ‘must-do’ in Guatemala, we prefer the smaller more authentic Comalapa or Solola markets.
We should have discussed this with you and if this is of particular interest, then do ask and your travel consultant can arrange this for you. In short, fiestas revolve around religion. Semana santa ‘Easter Week’ in Antigua offers an incredible procession with carpets of flowers paying homage to Jesus – it is a real spectacle and as a result you will need to book up early to avoid disappointment. In addition to this, the country offers various fiestas with Ladino towns offering fairgrounds, processions and beauty contests, whereas in the Mayan highlands traditional dances with musicians fill the festival.
Guatemala’s staples are black beans, guacamole and rice with tacos. A typical breakfast consists of frijoles negros (stewed black beans), banana, eggs, guacamole, rice and tortillas — a Central American fry up. Guatemalans eat tortillas some three times a day and you will often see and hear women clapping their hands baking these.
Guatemala has many volcanoes and you can expect areas at altitude. For travel to Lake Atitlán and to nearby markets, altitudes reach around 1,500-2,400 metres. Some people experience symptoms, whilst others have none at all and we advise contacting your GP before travel if you have any concerns.
It is always best to pack light and while casual dress has become more acceptable in recent years, Latin Americans tend to devote great care to their clothes and appearance. We find that a good fleece, waterproof jacket, layers and zip-off trousers work well for the chilly mornings followed by warm afternoons in the highlands.
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So many thanks indeed for the care and time that you put into organising this trip for us. I cannot underestimate the value of the latter in terms of reading what we wanted and then advising on the best way to achieve that. As I am sure you will know only too well, other operators are over keen to sell “this is what we do”, and make the sale. So thank you for putting together what will be a really memorable experience for us.
John's advice on unique locations and experiences throughout Guatemala were invaluable.
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