Best of Guatemala and Belize

Guatemala
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Looking for a Central American trip that dives into the hearts of colourful Guatemala and untouched Belize? Take a 15-day trip from colonial Antigua and dive into the rich cultural blend of Catholicism and traditional Mayan religion in the Guatemalan Highlands. Meet the deity-with-vices at the Temple of San Simon, soak in volcanic hot springs, hop on a chicken bus to local markets and take a boat ride on Lake Atitlan. Then, laze in the tropics of Rio Dulche, explore a laidback Afro-Caribbean town and witness the ancient ruins in Tikal National Park. End it all in paradisical Caye Caulker, where you’ve got loads of free time to ‘go slow’ and relax on the white sands, take a day trip or snorkel in the Belize Barrier Reef.

Availability

From 04/03/2024 to 05/01/2026

Departure dates & prices

Dates Availability Price
  • Mar Mon 04 2024 to Mar Mon 18 2024
    Sold Out
    From
    $3,755*
  • Nov Mon 25 2024 to Dec Mon 09 2024
    Available
    From
    $3,650*
  • Dec Mon 09 2024 to Dec Mon 23 2024
    Available
    From
    $3,695*
  • Dec Mon 23 2024 to Jan Mon 06 2025
    Available
    From
    $3,765*
  • Jan Mon 20 2025 to Feb Mon 03 2025
    Available
    From
    $4,025*
  • Feb Mon 03 2025 to Feb Mon 17 2025
    Available
    From
    $3,875*

What's included

Take an elaborately decorated chicken bus to a local market and witness the larger-than-life vegetables this region’s known for – decide for yourself whether it’s the result of the fertilizer or the blessings from God.
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Gaze in wonder at the jungle-shrouded limestone temples of Tikal, one of Central America's most impressive Mayan sites, as howler monkeys call from the canopy.
Relax and recharge on the white sands of Caye Caulker, a tiny Belizean island made for beach BBQs, snorkel trips and lazy afternoons spent swinging in a hammock.
Explore Livingston – a one-of-a-kind riverside town where the Afro-Caribbean Garifuna population heavily influences the local culture.
Take a scenic boat ride on Lake Atitlan to Santiago Atitlan, with 95% of the population of Mayan descent, and meet the shamanic keepers of Maximon and share a bottle of local spirits with them as they tell you stories of local life.
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By travelling on this trip, you’ll directly support our Intrepid Foundation partner, Eden Reforestation Projects.
Donations help them provide local employment opportunities and tackle climate change one tree at a time as they restore forests across 10 different countries.
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Breakfasts Included: 10.
Lunches Included: 2.
Hotel (12 nights),Lodge (2 nights).
Private vehicle,Public bus,Local bus,Taxi,Ferry,Shared boat.
Age: min 15.
Group Size: 1 - 16.
Xela - Las Fuentes Georginas Hotsprings.
San Andres Itzapa - San Simon shamanic ceremonies.
Western Highlands - Almolonga vegetable market.
Quetzaltenango - Chicken Bus Experience.
Chichicastenango market visit.
Santiago Atitlan - Shamanic Keepers of the Shrine of Maximon.
Lake Atitlan - Boat to Santiago Atitlan.
Antigua - Informal Spanish Lesson.
Antigua - Leader-led Orientation Walk.
Livingston - River boat trip to Garifuna town.
Flores - Leader-led orientation walk.
Santa Ana Vieja - Cooperativa Nuevo Horizonte visit.
Flores - Tortilla Making Workshop.
Tikal National Park - Archaeological site (Entrance fee, Guide & Transport).
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Itinerary

  • 1 - Antigua Welcome to Guatemala! Your trip starts in the colonial city of Antigua - surrounded by volcanos, the views from this city are all you need to make the trip. Antigua is known for its Spanish buildings, many restored after the 1773 earthquake that ended Antigua's status as Guatemala's capital. Your trip starts with a welcome meeting at 6 pm, followed by an optional group dinner.
  • 2 - San Andres Itzapa This morning after breakfast, travel to San Andres Itzapa in Chimaltenango. The Guatemalan Highlands are the best place to see the result of Mayan culture and Catholic religion coming together. Witness the unique culture firsthand with a shamanic ceremony at the Temple of San Simon. San Simon, the chain-smoking saint also known as Maximon, is a somewhat morally ambiguous deity. As few Mayan gods survived Spanish colonialism, scholars now think that San Simon is a symbol of numerous lost deities. After leaving your rum or tobacco offering (which can be purchased at the on-site liquor store), you'll stop for a group lunch, before heading to Las Fuentes Georginas - volcanically heated hot springs in Xela. Surrounded by ferns, these luxurious hot springs are also the entrance to the forest reserve, with trails to the Zunil volcano. When you start to prune, you'll carry on Quetzaltenango, where you spend the night.
  • 3 - Quetzaltenango This morning after breakfast, you'll hop on a chicken bus - a truly local experience, chicken buses are a source of national and personal pride. This popular transport option unique to Guatemala has little to do with actual chickens - they are old American school busses passed down to new owners who decked them out in bright colours and decorations. Each bus is unique to the independent driver, many of whom have made this their sole business. The chicken bus will take you to a local market - Almolonga - famed for its giant vegetables, which some believe were blessed by God. Whether you believe the vegetables are a gift from above or due to the high amounts of fertiliser used by locals, this colourful market is a great place to rub shoulders with the locals and maybe pick up a giant carrot.
  • 4 - Chichicastenango Market As Guatemala is home to many markets, today's adventure is a great contrast to yesterday's Almolonga. After breakfast, you'll head to Chichicastenango market (nicknamed Chichi), home to textiles, wooden handicrafts and jade jewellery. This is one of the largest outdoor markets in Latin America and Guatemala's most historic. Surrounded by mountains, you'll explore the market with an expert local leader who knows all the best spots and walk among thousands of locals and tourists who hit these stalls weekly. Maybe grab some souvenirs or a huipils for yourself - a traditional garment worn by the Indigenous girls and women of the area. You can also pick up some handmade jewellery, pottery, incense, tablecloths, a ceremonial mask used in traditional Mayan dances or some leather goods. Tonight, spend the night in Panajachel on the shores of Lake Atitlan, where you'll have a free evening for dinner.
  • 5 - Santiago Atitlan This morning after breakfast, head for hop on a boat (called a lancha) on Lake Atitlan - surrounded by volcanoes, rolling hills and Mayan villages, this is definitely one of the most beautiful lakes in the world (as said by Aldous Huxley). Take the scenic ride to Santiago Atitlan, taking in the sweeping views from the water. Although this is the largest town on the lake, it sees far fewer tourists, making it the perfect spot to find authentic Guatemalan people, culture and activities. Here, you'll visit the current shrine of Maximon (San Simon), where the local shamans keep watch. Your group will bring a gift of local spirits to share with the shamans, and while you drink, you'll discuss the holy shrine, the perplexing deity and local life on the lake. Tonight, take a minibus back to Antigua.
  • 6 - Antigua Enjoy a free day to explore the city, with nothing scheduled until a meeting to welcome any new travellers joining you on your adventure. Maybe grab some roasted beans from a street vendor and munch them while you stroll around. If you've got a historical bent, perhaps check out the 18th-century ruins of the Monastery of Santa Clara. Why not get a taste of local tradition with a chocolate-making workshop in the ChocoMuseo, or strut your stuff with a salsa dance lesson?
  • 7 - Antigua As the seat of the Spanish colonial government, Antigua was once one of the most important cities in Central America. The city was destroyed by an earthquake in 1773, but many of the colonial-era buildings have been carefully restored. This morning, wander the quiet cobblestone streets with your leader, who will point out many fascinating markets and museums. The afternoon is yours to spend exploring the city and its surrounds. Prefer to take it easy? Grab a coffee on the main plaza and settle in for some people watching. Don't miss the chance to taste a tamale, a local dish served in a corn leaf. Or try pepian, a meaty dish of chicken, beef, pork, or all three at once, in a rich sauce. You'll find the best value food next to the markets near the bus station.
  • 8 - Rio Dulce It's a long day of travel today as you make your way to Rio Dulce by private vehicle. During the journey, learn a few handy phrases with an informal Spanish lesson from your leader, before arriving mid-afternoon. Rio Dulce, which means 'Sweet River' in Spanish, refers to both the Guatemalan river that flows from Lago de Izabal (Lake Izabal) to the Caribbean Sea and the town of Fronteras, which sits at the east end of the lake. Upon arrival, the rest of the day is free to enjoy at your leisure. Maybe stretch your legs on a jungle walk, rent a kayak and get out on the water or just laze in a hammock and enjoy the tropical surrounds.
  • 9 - Rio Dulce Join your group on a boat ride down the river to Livingston, a laidback Afro-Caribbean town that offers a unique taste of Garifuna culture in a far-flung corner of Guatemala. It's located 30 kilometres (18 miles) from Rio Dulce and the boat ride is spectacular, taking you through waters laden with water lilies, past tropical forests and through a deep canyon replete with river birds. The Garifuna population in Livingston are descendants of a community forcibly removed from the Caribbean by the British in the late 18th century. Livingston was one of the towns the displaced Garifuna settled in, and its relative isolation means the culture has remained undiluted by Guatemalan norms. Spend a little time here and enjoy an included lunch of local specialties like tapou, a creamy soup made with fish.
  • 10 - Flores Travel to the township of Flores on Lago Peten Itza. On the way, pay a visit to Nuevo Horizonte, a ranch where 130 demobilised families settled after the signing of the Guatemalan Peace Accords in 1998. Beginning with no infrastructure and poor living conditions, the community cooperated to establish fish-farming, agriculture, reforestation and eco-tourism projects. Tour their nature reserve, have lunch on the ranch and speak to the locals about the origins of the community. Continue to Flores, where you'll take an orientation walk with your group leader. Flores had a long history before it was colonised by the Spanish in 1697, most significantly as the capital of the Itza people after the fall of Chichen Itza. Spend your free afternoon wandering the island's quaint streets or shopping for local handicrafts. Around 4 pm, the lakefront starts to hum with street food vendors, making it a good place to grab a bite.
  • 11 - San Ignacio Get up early for a guided exploration of Tikal National Park. Among the thick, evergreen jungle are some of the most significant remnants of the ancient Maya civilisation - plus an array of local wildlife, including coatis and howler monkeys. Wonder at the towering limestone temples and other monuments while pondering the mystery of the ancient city's demise. Spend a few hours playing archaeologist, and afterwards, say goodbye to Guatemala and head across the border to Belize. As the only English-speaking country in Central America, Belize is a great place to get chatting with locals. On your way to San Ignacio, take a break to learn the art of tortilla making!
  • 12 - San Ignacio This morning, you can choose whether you would like to relax in San Ignacio or take part in some of the other optional activities on offer, like a visit to the caves of Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM caves). A living museum of Maya relics, the ATM cave system is home to ceramic pots and crystallised skeletons, preserved by the natural processes of the cave for over 1400 years. If you choose to explore the cave system (and it is highly recommended), you'll spend most of the day there. If not, there are always more local ruins to explore above ground, including Cahal Pech, which was once the residence of a wealthy Maya family. Nature lovers may be interested in a trip to the Green Iguana Conservation Project, where a number of the scaly - and surprisingly large - beasts are protected.
  • 13 - Caye Caulker If your idea of paradise is white sand, clear blue waters and palm trees, then you're going to dig Caye Caulker. The island even has a motto: 'go slow'. Arrive following a scenic boat ride and join your leader for an orientation walk, to help you get your bearings on the petite island. While the island is entirely walkable, you might like to hire a bike and cycle between beach bars and along quiet palm-lined streets. Can't keep your eyes off those Caribbean waters? Get out there for a spot of standup paddleboarding, or if the mood strikes, join a sunset catamaran cruise for an unforgettable end to your first day.
  • 14 - Caye Caulker Your time in Caye Caulker is all about taking it easy, so do as much (or as little) as you want with another day here. If you're keen to find the best snorkelling spots, opt to take a full-day boat tour (just remember to slather on sunscreen). After a day of swimming and lounging in the sunshine, you're sure to get hungry. Belize is famous for its barbequed food, with some of the best meals cooked on the roadside. Caye Caulker is famous for its lobster - not the cheapest meal you'll ever buy, but so (so) good. Always make sure that you respect the season: lobsters can only be caught here between June and February. If you're out of season, how about some grilled shrimp and a lovely rum and coke made with the local firewater?
  • 15 - Caye Caulker There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time following check out. If you would like to spend more time in Caye Caulker, we'll be happy to organise additional accommodation (subject to availability).
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