MEXICO | GUATEMALA | BELIZE
Starting and finishing in one of the world's most idyllic beach resorts, this exhilarating tour highlights the key attractions and lesser-known wonders of Mexico, Guatemala and Belize. Experience the Mayan sites of Chichén Itzá, Palenque and Tikal with their famous stepped pyramids. Bask on the Caribbean beaches of Caye Caulker and go snorkelling in crystal clear waters. Shop up a storm at Chichi markets and enjoy the atmosphere in vibrant colonial towns.
DAY 1 - ARRIVE IN PLAYA DEL CARMEN
Welcome to Mexico! The first night of this tour will be spent at Playa del Carmen, a beachside paradise only one hour away from Cancún. We recommend booking extra nights to enjoy the paradise beaches as well as the optional activities including the Maya ruins at Tulúm.
> Tulum Ruins – MXN65 plus transport or MXN80 return
> Cozumal day trip –US$24
> 1 night(s) in hotels at Hotel Playa del Carmen or similar
DAY 2 & 3 - MÉRIDA
We travel first to Chichén Itzá, an impressive Maya/Toltec site recently voted as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. Constructed between the 7th and 10th century AD, Chichén Itzá was a centre of pilgrimage for the Maya for over 1000 years.
Among the sights your local guide will point out during the tour of the site are the ball court where the captain of the winning team was beheaded (no incentive to play your best!) and the sacred cenote where treasures and the remains of human sacrifices have been discovered. The most famous attraction is the great Pyramid of Kukulkan, dedicated to the feathered serpent god Kukulkan and built with such precision that a shadow serpent descends down the steps during the equinox.
Leaving Chichén Itzá we head to Mérida, Capital of the Yucatan province, the 'white city' of Mérida is a pleasant mixture of colonial buildings, churches and plazas. At night the city comes alive with live theatre and concerts. If you want to explore the region near Mérida you could visit the small fishing town of Celestún with its large flamingo population. You could also take a swim in the local 'cenotes' (sen-o-tays), fresh-water swimming holes connected by spectacular limestone caverns and deep underwater rivers once sacred to the ancient Maya.
> Guided tour of Chichén Itzá
> Anthropological Museum – MXN30
> Mérida city tour – free
> Uxmal ruins – US$65 (approx)
> Cenotes, it is possible to swim and snorkel in various cenotes – US$ 44
> Hop-on hop-off bus – US$8
> 2 night(s) in hotels at Hotel Colonial or similar
> 1 Breakfast(s), 1 Buffet Breakfast(s)
DAY 4 & 5 - PALENQUE
Next we take a scenic and lengthy bus journey to Palenque. You will pass beautiful views as we travel for nine hours to the town and ruins of Palenque, famous for the tombs found filled with riches in honour of the renowned Lord Pakal and the Red Queen. Palenque is unquestionably one of the most important Mayan archaeological sites. Paths cutting through the jungle lead to various temples and the gorgeous waterfalls.
Other attractions near Palenque include the fantastic Agua Azul Nature Reserve with more than 200 small waterfalls, and the incredible
Misol-Ha waterfall with a 30 metre drop (optional half day tour includes both these falls).
> Guided tour of Palenque ruins
> Tour by minivan to Agua Azul and Misol Ha waterfalls – US$25
> 2 night(s) in hotels at Hotel Xibalba or similar
> 1 Buffet Breakfast(s), 1 Breakfast(s)
DAY 6, 7 & 8 - SAN CRISTÓBAL
Ascending into the mountainous Chiapas region we arrive at the fascinating colonial city of San Cristóbal de las Casas. Situated in the middle of the highlands, here you will find Mexico's richest example of indigenous culture, as it is surrounded by 21 indigenous villages with distinct languages, dress and customs.
We can enjoy an included tour of the nearby villages where you can buy beautifully made local handicrafts and get a true feel for how modern descendents of the ancient Maya people live today.
There is also an option to visit the stunning Sumidero Canyon on a guided speedboat tour along a 30 kilometre section of the Grijalva river to the hydro-electric dam. There are plenty of opportunities to photograph local wildlife such as birds, crocodiles and iguanas. The cliffs towering over the river reach 100 metres at the highest point, which will provide a dramatic backdrop to your pictures.
> San Cristóbal village tour
> Na Bolom Museum, the old house of Frans and Trudy Blom – MXN50
> Canyon Sumidero. A tour to a deep impressive canyon, where you can spot several sun-bathing crocodiles. – US$25
> 3 night(s) in hotels at Palacio de Moctezuma or similar
> 3 Breakfast(s)
DAY 9, 10 & 11 - PANAJACHEL
Leaving Mexico we cross the border into Guatemala at Ciudad Cuauhtèmoc. You will be required to pay a departure fee of 533 MXN in Mexico and an entrance fee of 10Q when in Guatemala but these fees are subject to change. Passing through the Guatemalan highlands we travel towards the Pan American Highway from where we will head down to Panajachel on the shores of Lake Atitlán. The drive down has simply stunning scenery, with breathtaking views of the lake and its three volcanoes, San Pedro, Atitlán and Toliman, all of which are over 3000 metres high.
A relaxing lakeside town, Panajachel is known to the locals as 'Gringotenango' due to its popularity with foreigners and its hippie influence in the past. Lake Atitlán sits at a little over 1500 metres above sea level. Here you can take a boat tour to some of the many surrounding villages (optional) or possibly go for a swim in the lake. Panajachel also has many restaurants and interesting bars lining the main street, where you can have lakeside sunset drinks, listen to 60s music, and even eat some Asian food.
> Lake Atitlan boat trip – US$25
> Nima'ya de Atitlan, walk the path past waterfalls (in season), across hanging bridges, to a bird observation deck, a monkey rescue centre, a butterfly reserve and a coffee finca. – US$5
> Lake Atitlan villages by ferry – US$5
> 3 night(s) in hotels at Posada K'amol B'ey or similar
> 1 Breakfast Box, 2 Breakfast(s)
DAY 12 & 13 - ANTIGUA
We now visit Guatemala's most famous market town, Chichicastenango. This village's population swells from approx. 1000 to over 20,000 on market day (when we visit). The local indigenous people, mostly descendents of the K'iche' (Quiché) Maya people, come down from the nearby hills to sell everything from kitchen pots and pans to live turkeys! Handicrafts, bags, jumpers and wall hangings are just a few of the bargains to be found here. After lunch we depart the market town and continue to Antigua. We take a private transfer to Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most delightful colonial towns in Central America.
As the cultural centre of Guatemala, Antigua is an ideal place to experience the traditional music, architecture and art of the country. Rich in ornate churches, convents, parks, plazas, cafés, restaurants, bars and colourful street markets and surrounded by awe-inspiring volcanoes, Antigua is one place you will never forget.
> Pacaya volcano climb – US$20
> Walking tour – US$30
> Chocolate making class - US$30
> Coffee farm tour - US$25
> 2 night(s) in hotels
> 2 Breakfast(s)
DAY 14 - RIO DULCE
We depart Antigua by mini van to the river town of Rio Dulce where we overnight in cabins right on the water.
> 1 night(s) in hotels at Hotel Catamaran or similar
> 1 Breakfast(s)
DAY 15 - FLORES
This morning we can enjoy a boat tour along the 23 kilometre stretch of waterway to Livingston allows you to experience one of the most scenic areas of Guatemala. Livingston is situated at the mouth of the Rio Dulce, where it joins the Bay of Amatique, and is inhabited by the Garifuna people. This lively little town has a Caribbean atmosphere different to the rest of Guatemala and is a great place to try the delicious local specialty tapado (seafood coconut soup) and listen to the local African-style punta music. We continue to the charming island-town of Flores, the last town to be conquered by the Spanish and situated in the centre of Lake Peten Itzá.
> Rio Dulce boat tour to Livingston
> 1 night(s) in hotels at Hotel Sabana or similar
> 1 Basic Breakfast(s)
DAY 16 & 17 - SAN IGNACIO
Today we explore the breathtaking Maya site of Tikal which is regarded as the greatest city of the Maya world and is nestled deep in the jungle. This complex is one of the biggest Maya sites discovered, and you will have most of the day to explore and learn about the flora, fauna, and amazing Mayan history with our knowledgeable local guide.
The area around Tikal has been declared as the Tikal National Park and the preserved area covers 570 square kilometres.
This afternoon we continue on to San Ignacio referred to as "Cayo" by the locals, this agricultural centre is also known to be the 'adventure' and 'nature' capital of Belize.
> Guided tour of Tikal ruins
> Tubing – US$100
> ATM Caves – US$95
> Canoeing – US$85
> Caracol Ruins, the largest and most important Mayan ruin site in Belize – US$95
> Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve – US$85
> 2 night(s) in hotels at The Aguada Hotel or similar
> 1 Breakfast(s)
DAY 18, 19 & 20 - CAYE CAULKER
Leaving San Ignacio, we take a local bus through the centre of Belize to Belize City, where we catch a water taxi out to the Cayes (mangrove islands). Belizeans know how to relax, and hopefully the locals' expertise on relaxation will be contagious during your stay on Caye Caulker. We spend three very laid back nights on Caye Caulker, where you can throw away your shoes to wander the sand filled streets, spend the evenings eating seafood, drinking cocktails, and listening to reggae music in one of the bars.
During the day we can organise a range of different optional snorkelling trips for you, such as to Shark and Ray Alley, where you can swim within a few feet of nurse sharks and majestic sting rays, or weather dependent, you may have the opportunity to swim with sea-cows! Another optional snorkelling tour takes you out to Hol-Chan Marine Reserve where you are guaranteed to see lots of colourful fish and interesting reef formations. Qualified divers can explore the so-called bottomless "Blue Hole", made famous by the explorer Jacques Cousteau (please note: this optional excursion does not go every day, check locally for availability). Other options include sunning yourself, riding a bike around the island, or trying your luck at fishing. If you are lucky, you can take your catch to one of the local restaurants so they can BBQ it for you.
> Caye Caulker
> Half/full day Caye Caulker snorkelling – US$45-80
> Scuba diving in the Blue Hole – US$290
> Night Snorkelling – US$70
> Flight over the Blue Hole – US$200pp (min 3 people)
> 3 night(s) in hotels at Hotel China Town or similar
> 1 Breakfast Box
DAY 21 - PLAYA DEL CARMEN
After a long day travelling by bus, you will return to Playa del Carmen for a final night. Spend the night enjoying your final taste of delicious Mexican cuisine and celebrating the end of the adventure with several margaritas!
Please note: There is an exit fee when leaving Belize of B$40, and if staying in Mexico for more than 7 days the "exit fee" is payed upon entry, 533 Mexican pesos.
> 1 night(s) in hotels at Hotel Playa del Carmen or similar
DAY 22 - DEPART PLAYA DEL CALMEN
Your adventure of a lifetime comes to an end today. If you have a late flight or have lengthened your stay by adding post tour accommodation you will have more time to explore the sights.
> 1 Breakfast(s)
PRIS fr: 1 085 EUR (+ local payment 250 USD)
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