Guatemala, the Land of the Maya, is the place to travel for the cultural and eco-adventure trip of a lifetime! With Mayan ruins to explore, volcanoes to climb, vestiges of Spanish colonial history to marvel at, exotic tropical jungle flora and fauna to observe, colorful native markets to bargain in, and best of all, beautiful Mayan Indian people to get to know, who could ask for more?
Explore Mayan temples, climb a live volcano, swim in hot springs, hike cloud forest trails in search of the Quetzal, haggle with modern Mayan merchants in native markets.... Don't just dream of adventures, live them!
Join Rutahsa Adventures for a trip to Guatemala like no other trip offered by any other tour service. We guarantee it. Reservations are now being taken for the 1998 Guatemala travel adventure, a two-and-one-half week long excursion scheduled for July 21-August 6 of 1998. The itinerary is described below.
Trip highlights include:
Trip inscription fee of $1850* includes RT air fare from Nashville to Guatemala City, all lodging, ground transportation, bilingual guide, most museum and park entries, and country exit fees. Fee does not include meals, beverages, souvenirs, or tips. [Allow $16-18 per day for meals in Guatemala.]
Trip will be priced at $1250* for travelers who prefer to make their own flight arrangements or who wish to embark from a point of origin other than Nashville.
Tikal Extension: A 3-day extension of the trip to Tikal Ruins is offered for an additional $300. Includes air fare from Guatemala City to Flores, bus to Tikal National Park, park and museum entry fees, and two overnights at the Jungle Lodge.
*This trip inscription fee is subject to change in the event of a major air fare hike, or other cost changes beyond the control of Rutahsa Adventures.
Although the price is very economical, this is not a trip based on budget accommodations or cheap transportation. All the hotels used are of good to spectacular quality, and all possess a marvelous Central American ambience. Ground transportation is by small bus. A maximum of 18 participants will be allowed; as of 25 April 1998 three spaces remain. Reservations will not be taken after May 12.
This trip is a unique experience: awesome scenery, wonderfully colorful indigenous people, fascinating history, astounding archeological sites, lush tropical jungle flora and exotic fauna, good food and some interesting geology and geography thrown in to boot!
A deposit of $450 is required to secure a space on this excursion. This deposit will be 100% refunded if the trip is cancelled for any reason. For further information, or to send in your deposit, please contact:
Dr. Richard Finch
Dept. of Earth Sciences
Tennessee Technological Univ.
Cookeville, TN 38505
Tues. 7/21: Fly from U.S. to Guatemala City; stay at the Pan American Hotel just off the Plaza Nacional, the heart of the capital city. Afternoon walking tour of the Palacio Nacional, national cathedral, and central market.
Weds. 7/22: Visit the amazing giant relief map of Guatemala on the outskirts of the city. Next, leave Guatemala City for Copán, descending from the volcanic highlands into the semi-desert of the upper Motagua Valley with brief stops en route at little known archeological sites. Enter Honduras via a backwoods border crossing that looks like a scene from a movie about banana republics. Overnight at Copán Ruinas in the first-class Hotel Marina Copán.
Thurs. 7/23: Walking tour of Copán Ruins, the splendid new Museum of Sculpture, the smaller old Copán Museum, and the interesting town of Copán itself. Copán Ruins are the partially excavated and restored remains of a major Classic Maya city over 1000 years old. It is most famous for the abundance of sculpture found in abundance on the temple and palace walls, and in the form of statues, known as stelae, depicting the kings of Copán. Another famous sight is Copán's fine ceremonial ballcourt. Second night at the Hotel Marina Copán.
Fri. 7/24: Return to Guatemala and drive north up into the high Chuacús Mtns. Many things to see en route, geological, colonial, and scenic, and a climate change ranging from desert to cool cloud forest. Overnight at the Park Hotel near the Indian town of Purulhá.
Sat. 7/25: Up before daylight for a short drive to a place where the magnificent quetzal bird can be seen feeding in the early morning. The quetzal, a near-indescribable bird covered in shimmering metallic emerald plumes, is one of the world's most beautiful creatures. The long plumes of the male were reserved for the use of Maya nobility.
After breakfast, we go into a biosphere preserve for a hike up into the mist-shrouded cloud forest lush with giant hardwoods, tree ferns, bromeliads, orchids, and, for the lucky quiet hiker, possible glimpses of wildlife.
Next, we continue on across the mountains to the important coffee-growing town of Cobán. Here pause we for a bite of lunch, then roll on down the road past the end of the pavement onto a long gravel road across rugged karstic mountains, through coffee country, and finally precipitously down to the lowland town of Lanquín and the Hotel El Recreo. Nearby are the famous Grutas de Lanquín, and we should arrive in time to witness the evening bat flight.
Sun. 7/26: Today we visit the fabulous Semuc Champey. This natural wonder defies description: a bridge of spring-deposited travertine, completely covering over the Río Cahabón for several hundred meters. The upper surface of the bridge consists of a series of clear green pools, perfect for swimming, each cascading over a travertine dam into the next pool down. The tranquil jungle setting with its overhanging cliffs, lush with trees, ferns and vines, belies the fact that underneath the pools is a seething, raging torrent, visible (with care!) at both the upper and lower entrances to the tunnel. We will swim, picnic, and marvel at this bit of jungle paradise.
A visit to the Semuc Champey is not to be forgotten in a lifetime. But like every worthwhile experience, there is a price to pay....the three-hour, bun-pounding drive out and back! So before the afternoon is over, we must load up and return to Cobán, where we will enjoy a cooler climate and rest up from the bouncy road in the charming colonial-style Hotel La Posada. Delicious food here!
Mon. 7/27: Today is a long day on the road, travelling from Cobán via Ruta 7 along the Río Chixoy valley, then up into the Altos Cuchumatanes mountains to the town of Nebaj. Nebaj is the principal town in the Ixil Triangle, an area that was especially hard-hit during the guerrilla warfare in the early 1980s. We may learn something of this wartime legacy while here. Women of Nebaj wear one of the most elaborate and beautiful of all the many native costumes in Guatemala; in fact, the Nebaj traje has won an international judging of native costumes of the world. Lodging in the Posada de Don Pablo, a small hotel, but pretty luxurious for a mountain town far off the beaten path like Nebaj-- hot water and private bathrooms!
Tues. 7/28: A morning hike in the mountains surrounding Nebaj is planned, however those who prefer not to hike may remain in the town of Nebaj. Both hikers and non-hikers will spend the day becoming more familiar with the lifestyle of the Highland Maya. An afternoon outing by bus is planned to a nearby town, where the indigenous costume will be completely different from that of Nebaj. Overnight again in the Posada de Don Pablo.
Weds. 7/29: Leave Nebaj after lunch for Chichicastenango. The road is an all-weather gravel road, crossing the central volcanic highlands. We regain the pavement in the departmental capital of Santa Cruz del Quiché, then continue another 20 km to Chichicastenango.
In Chichi we stay in the internationally renowned Mayan Inn, consisting of several century-old buildings converted into a beautiful hotel furnished with antiques, including many Spanish colonial-era pieces of museum quality. The Mayan has been sheltering tourists ever since the 1930s, and possesses an ambience that no new hotel can create.
Thurs. 7/30: Market day at Chichicastenango: the most colorful native market in all the Americas. Mayan Indians come from all over Guatemala to sell their colorful cloth goods, wood carvings, candles, necklaces, pottery, musical instruments, vegetables, pigs and chickens, etc. The cloth goods include a wonderful variety of clothing, tapestries, wall hangings, blankets, sashes, shawls and purses that make great bargain souvenirs.
At 3 PM, we leave for Quezaltenango, crossing the continental divide around 10,000 ft en route. Our hotel in Quezaltenango is the elegant Pensión Bonifaz.
Fri. 7/31: If the weather is good, we will get up at 5 AM and drive up the backside of Santa María Volcano, then hike a short distance through some amazing vegetation to the Santiaguito Overlook. Here we can see the giant 1902 explosion crater and the steaming, rumbling lava dome that has pushed up into the center of the crater since 1922. Then back to the Pensión Bonifaz for breakfast.
Afternoon: those who want can have a free afternoon getting to know the interesting town of Quezaltenango; those who prefer can take an outing in the van to a hot springs spa about 20 km distant from the city. Overnight again in the Pensión Bonifaz.
Sat. 8/1: Leave in the morning for Lago Atitlán, a dramatic, shimmering sheet of water sunk in a volcanic caldera with three giant volcanic cones rising up beside it. At the town of Panajachel we will take a chartered boat across the lake to the Tzutuhil town of Santiago Atitlán. Here we will overnight at the Posada Santiago, a small hotel run by a couple of gringo ex-pats who have settled into Santiago beguiled by the incomparable beauty of the lake and its volcanic peaks. In Santiago we will see another beautiful native costume, and there will likely be opportunities to see how the traditional backstrap weaving is done by the women. Those who like to swim can join the Indian kids swimming in the nippy waters of the lake.
Sun. 8/2: Boat to the village of San Marcos La Laguna and begin a 4-hour hike along the cliffs overlooking the dramatic lake. We meet our boat again at the end of the hike, and return to Panajachel. At 3 PM we are on the road for Antigua Guatemala, the former Spanish colonial capital of the Kingdom of Goathemala. In Antigua, we will stay at the Posada de don Rodrigo, a colonial home turned into a hotel, complete with several patios, antiquefurnishings, and a daily marimba serenade.
Mon. 8/3: Walking. All day getting to know Antigua, exploring its vast earthquake-shattered ruins, sampling its terrific variety of restaurants, shopping for jade, or more native cloth goods, or just hanging out. Second night at the Posada de don Rodrigo.
Tues. 8/4: Up early and off to climb active Volcán Pacaya. This is a fairly strenuous but non-technical climb. Depending on the nature of the eruptive activity, we will climb to the very peak and peer over into the fuming crater. If the volcano is in an explosive phase we may delay the climb until the afternoon, in order to watch the volcanic fireworks at night.
Those who do not wish to have a strenuous hike can spend another day exploring Antigua; there's sure plenty to see and do here.
Weds. 8/5: Tour a jade factory in the morning. After lunch we clear out of our hotel rooms and load the van. On our way out of town we visit the Casa Popenoe, a 17th-century mansion lovingly restored and featuring the finest collection of authentic colonial furnishings in the country. Drive 45 km into to Guatemala City, and overnight once again in the Hotel Pan American.
Thurs. 8/6: Those who end their Guatemala excursion today will be taken to the international airport to catch the flight back to the U.S. Those taking the optional 3-day Tikal Extension will board a local carrier and fly out to the town of Flores in the hot Petén lowlands.
3-DAY TIKAL EXTENSION: Fly over much of the mountainous terrain we crossed by road from Cobán to Chichi, and on north to Flores, the last Maya stronghold to fall to the Spanish conquistadores (not until 1697). Here we'll be taken by the bus to the rustic Jungle Lodge inside Tikal National Park.
Thursday afternoon spent exploring the sprawling, jungle-covered ruins of this spectacular Classic Maya urban center. Tikal is most famous for its soaring pyramids, but the flora and fauna make the site as fascinating as the huge ruins themselves. Common birds include parrots, toucans, mot-mots, oropendulas, oscellated turkeys, and hummingbirds. Commonly seen animals include spider monkeys, foxes, agoutis, coatimundis and bats; javelina, howler monkeys, alligators, and other creatures are also sometimes sighted.
Fri. 8/7: Today's options include: guided early morning wildlife walk, all day exploring the mammoth ruins, part of the day lounging in the Jungle Lodge's pool, or, a day-trip by 4WD vehicle to the little-visited ruins of Uaxactún, about 23 km north of Tikal. Overnight again in the Jungle Lodge.
Sat. 8/8: Half day seeing more of Tikal ruins and visiting the Tikal Museum. After lunch, bus back to the airport to catch the afternoon flight back to Guatemala City. Final night in the Pan American.
Sun. 8/9: Back out to the airport again, to catch the flight back to the good old U.S. of A., carrying back a pile of souvenirs and memories that will last a lifetime.
Thanks for visiting!