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Explore Guatemala & Mexico

from £3425
A journey through the landscapes and history of Central America.

We start in Guatemala, a country shaped by volcanoes where Antigua City is our first stop. From there we explore Pacaya, one of Guatemala’s youngest volcanoes and enjoy a chocolate workshop. At Panajachel on Lake Atitlan, a boat ride takes us to visit a Mayan village to learn about local traditions and beliefs on a guided tour. 

We then cross into Mexico’s southern state of Chiapas, staying in San Cristóbal, one of Mexico's most attractive colonial towns. From here we can visit many typical Mayan villages and hike in the Arcotete Ecopark. Next is Palenque to discover its Mayan heritage, the jungle covered complex is probably the finest surviving Mayan site in Mexico. 

We continue to Mérida to enjoy the flamingo sanctuary at Celestun. Our last stop is Chichén Itzá to uncover the famous pyramids, one of the ‘New 7 Wonders of the World’. 

Holiday Highlights

  • Discover colourful Antigua City, with a guided tour.
  • Explore the lower slopes of Guatemala’s volcanoes. 
  • Walk through the impressive Mayan site of Palenque.
  • Join a boat tour through the Mexican mangroves at Celestun.
  • Visit Chichen Itza, one of the New Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
The holiday inclusions and exclusions at a glance
What's included in this holiday Items that are covered in the cost of holiday price.

      Flights from Heathrow to La Auroa, Guatemala via Madrid (Iberia), returning Cancun, Mexico to Gatwick (British Airways)
      Airport transfers 
      En suite accommodation with breakfast in some lovely characterful hotels 
      Dinners taken in local restaurants each night 
      English speaking local guides throughout 
      All entrance fees 
      All local transport costs.
Whats not included in this holiday Items that are not covered in the cost of holiday price.

  • Entrance fees to some museums and historic buildings (unless otherwise specified)
  • Personal expenses (such as your bar bill)
  • Discretionary tips
  • Optional excursions
  • Insurance
Please select Departure Date to view:

Please see Holiday Information Sheet for this holidays individual departures itinerary (located under View Departures & Book tab)

Whilst every effort will be made to adhere to the outlined itinerary and advertised programme, local conditions can change due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances. This may mean that routes and timings need to be amended or the order of days may change, sometimes at short notice.

This departure: Grade SS/4

  1. Day 1

    We depart the UK for our flight to Guatemala via Madrid. On arrival we transfer to our centrally located hotel in Antigua. The transfer takes about an hour and a half depending on traffic.

  2. Day 2

    Antigua is considered by many to be one of the most attractive cities in Latin America. Rightly declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the colourful, colonial city attracts visitors from all over for its unique history and renowned Spanish language schools. Above the tiled roofs of pastel houses there are impressive views of the Agua and Fuego volcanoes, standing in excess of 3700m above the city. Antigua was the capital of the Spanish empire in Central America from 1543 to 1773, a highly religious period that left the city with an abundance of convents and churches packed with religious art.  Unfortunately, many buildings are now in ruins from centuries of earthquake damage - our guided walking tour of the city will bring its fascinating history to life. We begin in Antigua’s historic centre, starting from the main plaza and visiting the main monuments of the city. Later in the day we visit a coffee farm to learn about the history of coffee and its production.

  3. Day 3

    Today, we will hike Pacaya, one Guatemala’s youngest volcanoes. A relatively easy climb of 1.5 hours brings us to the fertile shelf just below the cinder cone called “la Meseta.” From here we get a stunning view of recent lava flows. We will explore these lava fields, and as the smoking crater looms above, the environment quickly changes to resemble that of an extra-terrestrial setting. We have plenty of time to enjoy the views before we make our way back down. We return to Antigua, where we will enjoy a chocolate workshop. The workshop lasts approximately 2 hours and offers a chance to learn all the steps from the harvest to eating. Starting with cacao beans we roast them, peel them, and grind them into a paste. This cacao paste is used to prepare the first known cacao drink (invented by the Mayas), the traditional chocolate. In the end, from refined chocolate you will prepare your own chocolate.

  4. Day 4

    After breakfast, we depart from Antigua towards Panajachel. En route, we will visit Chichicastenango’s market, held twice a week and reputed to be the largest in Central America.  The town’s census population is about 45,000, but the day before each market day many people stream in from the surrounding area to set up shop. Many of the vendors, often whole families, flock into town the evening before with their wares and bed down in their stalls space. And since the town is about 6,500 feet above sea level–this is the Guatemalan highlands–it can get pretty chilly at night for those sleeping in the street stalls. The local population is mostly K’iche’ Maya (hence the “Chichi” part, which is attached to the root “tenango” meaning roughly “place of”). Most of the locals speak one of the 31 Maya languages as their first language and Spanish as a second language. English, to the extent it’s there at all, is mostly market English. A further drive of 1.5 hours brings us to Panajachel, a small town on the shore of Lake Atitlan. Guatemala's largest lake is dominated by three volcanoes and was formed following an ancient eruption. Many of the villages that exist around the lake are only accessible by boat.

  5. Day 5

    Today we will explore some of the area surrounding Lake Atitlan. A 60-minute scenic boat ride on the lake takes us to the village of San Juan La Laguna, where we will visit the home studios of local painters and a textile cooperative where women are engaged in hand weaving and natural dyeing processes. We continue by boat to Santiago Atitlan where we can learn about the Mayan traditions and beliefs from our local guides. It may be possible to visit a shaman's house to see this fascinating practice, held amidst clouds of burning incense. Later we board the boat in Panajachel, and transfer to Santa Cruz. At Santa Cruz we walk to Jaibalito (approx. 1 hour). In Jaibalito we reboard the boat, and transfer to San Juan La Laguna to explore and finally return to Panajachel.

  6. Day 6

    Today we begin early and drive north, crossing the border into Mexico's southern state of Chiapas. The road takes us through rugged mountain scenery before we come to the old capital of the region, San Cristobal de Las Casas. This is one of the most attractive colonial towns in Mexico, with many old churches and squares amongst a lively cafe scene. It is also a major centre for the Tzotzil Indians, each group having different, colourful costumes. The extensive market has some good handicrafts for sale and plenty of interesting foodstuffs on offer! San Cristobal has a very pleasant climate because of its altitude. Today is a full day drive of around 11 hours including stops for lunch in a simple restaurant in a small town and the border crossing.

  7. Day 7

    There are many Mayan villages near San Cristobal and today we visit San Juan Chamula. This is a fascinating typical native town, where the local people have retained traditions, language, customs, beliefs as well as their social structures. Arriving here feels like stepping back 500 years. We visit its church, dedicated to St. John the Baptist. A simple white church with turquoise-coloured trim, you find the pagan beliefs of the indigenous Mayan people intermingled with the Catholic faith. Stepping into the dimly lit church you see families in colourful costume huddled in small groups on the floor, praying behind an assortment of candles. Occasionally you hear the squawk of a chicken that is being sacrificed to the gods. It is almost unbelievable that such old customs still exist however the scene is real. This is not something laid on for tourists. We will then make a hike from San Juan Chamula to Zinacantan, a town known for its traditional textiles and majority indigenous population. We will visit a local family, where you will have the chance to learn how to make tortillas.

  8. Day 8

    We will take some time to explore San Cristobal de las Casas and its surroundings. The city is characterized by its peaceful and welcoming atmosphere, coupled with an artistic and bohemian flair. The colonial streets and alleyways lined with red-roof tiles and white-washed walls invite exploration to discover the nooks and crannies. Alleyways open into picturesque arcades and plazas showing off their authentic colonial architecture and hosting churches, museums, cafés, restaurants and artisan workshops, among other delights. In the afternoon, we will hike in the Arcotete Ecopark. Here we will walk amongst rock formations and caves created by the river that flows through the park.

  9. Day 9

    We set off for Palenque today, stopping our journey after around 2.5 hours at the archaeological site of Tonina. Less well known than some of Mexico's other sites it tends to have relatively few visitors. Tonina is an impressive site with two ball courts, one that is sunken and, at 60 metres long, one of the Mayan world's largest. Another has an altar where it is thought that sacrifices took place. We will enjoy a challenging hike through this site. A 3.5 hour drive this afternoon brings us to Palenque where we check into our hotel for the next two nights.

  10. Day 10

    This morning we have a guided walking tour of the impressive Mayan site of Palenque. The jungle-covered complex is one of the most famous in Mexico and is located in the low hills of Chiapas. The pyramids, sanctuaries and temples, with their sculptured wall panels and roofs are remarkably well preserved and are probably the finest surviving examples of Mayan construction. We will take a walk through the dense jungle, and then visit the local Museum, where a duplicate of the tomb of Pakal is exhibited.

  11. Day 11

    In the morning, we drive for around 5 hours to the historic fortified city of Campeche, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which boasts incredibly well-preserved colonial architecture. Most impressive are the city walls, built to protect the city from the constant attacks of English and Dutch buccaneers and pirates during the 16th and 17th centuries. We should arrive early afternoon and head out to sample some local cuisine overlooking the Bay of Campeche - seafood is a local specialty and widely available. Later we continue to Uxmal, where we will stay in the authentic Hacienda Uxmal.

  12. Day 12

    Right after breakfast we will take a hike through the archaeological site of Uxmal, in order to be the first visitors of the day. Uxmal dates to the late classic period, having been built by the Xiu people. The site is dominated by the Pyramid of the Magician and the Nunnery Quadrangle consisting of long buildings with elaborately carved facades. There are remnants of a ball court used in ritual games that sometimes ended in sacrifice, and the whole site is quite exposed, which is a real contrast to the ruins of Palenque. From Uxmal we travel for around 30 minutes to reach Kabah. This small archaeological site set deep in the jungle is roughly 200 meters square. Kabah is thought to mean ‘strong hand’ in ancient Maya and while the area was inhabited from 3rd century BCE, many of the structures date from the 7th-11th centuries CE. The most unique and striking structure at Kabah is the Palace of the Masks, with its intricately detailed facade made up of 260 masks of Chaac the rain god, his long nose protruding prominently. The building design is unusual for the area but since there are no cenotes (sinkholes) around Kabah, the inhabitants relied solely on rain that they collected in underground wells and therefore Chaac was highly revered. From Kabah it is around a 2hr drive to the bustling colonial city of Mérida. Many of its buildings were constructed using stones from the Mayan city which existed on the site. These are still visible in the walls of the imposing cathedral. The city flourished following the conquest and the 19th century homes designed in French style contribute to the attractive appearance of the historical centre.

  13. Day 13

    We drive approx 1.5 hours to the Flamingo sanctuary at the Celestun Biosphere Reserve. Here we explore the mangroves by boat among the great congregations of birdlife. This afternoon, we enjoy some free time on the Sea of Campeche coast under a beachfront Palapa before returning to Merida. The city was founded in 1542 by the Spaniard Francisco de Montejo over the ruins of the Mayan city T'ho. We will visit the Cathedral of San Ildefonso built with the huge stones dismantled from the pyramids. Merida is known as the White City, nowadays one of the most tranquil and safest cities in Mexico. Remote Mayan roots, superb colonial monuments and the splendour of the turn to the XIX century architecture, has made Merida a captivating mixture of cultural influences.

  14. Day 14

    Today we will start with a visit to the traditional Maya village of Tixkokob to see how local families still practice the age-old tradition of hammock weaving. Afterwards, you will continue on to the Magic Town of Izamal to explore the mysterious Yellow  City. We will have the  chance  to climb  and walk the Kinich Kakmoo pyramid  before continuing to the UNESCO Heritage Site of Chichen Itza. We overnight very close to the archaeological site.

  15. Day 15

    We have an early start to explore one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, World Heritage Chichen Itza.  The famous Mayan pyramids of Chichen-Itza are over 1500 years old and are located only 75 miles from Mérida. The name Chichen Itza is a Mayan word: CHI (mouth) CHEN (well) and ITZA (of the Itza tribe). Today it is one of the most popular and recognized tourist sites of Mexico and as of 07/07/2007, it is one of the Seven New Wonders of the World. Built by the Maya between  1000 and 1200 AD, "El Castillo" served as a temple to the god Kukulkan and is believed to have served as a calendar. Later we travel to the airport of Cancun. 

  16. Day 16

    We arrive back in the UK.

Travel Details

  • Flights from Heathrow to La Auroa, Guatemala via Madrid (Iberia), returning Cancun, Mexico to Gatwick (British Airways)
  • Airport transfers by road c.1hr 30mins
  • Upgrades are available on most flights. For scheduled flights Premium Economy, Business or First Class and most low-cost carriers have extra legroom seats. Please ask us for details and a competitive quote.
  • If direct regional flights are not available, we can often offer add-on flights to a London airport at a competitive rate. Please ask us for details and a competitive quote.

Trip Map

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Our Accommodation on this holiday

Below is the accommodation featured on this holiday. If you are on a multi-centre holiday, these are highlights of the places where we stay. Please refer to your Holiday Information sheet (which can be found under View Departures & Book), for your departure date and for all your accommodation details.

Hacienda Uxmal

The Hacienda Uxmal is located close by Uxmal Archaeological site, the historic resort sits amongst a working cacao plantation. It maintains many historical features. The decor is a blend of traditional Mayan and Spanish and includes terraces overlooking the pools and tropical gardens. All rooms are equipped with air conditioning, a ceiling fan and a flat-screen Satellite TV. Free Wi-Fi is available in most rooms, terraces and all public areas. Previous guests at the hotel include: Queen Elizabeth II & Prince Phillip of England and Prince Rainier & Princess Grace of Monaco.

Hotel Caribe

The Hotel Caribe is full of Hispanic character and charm, with such features as a pretty inner courtyard and a pool that has magnificent views of the Cathedral and the Principal Plaza. It is well located in the historical part of town and a block away from the main plaza. The old exterior belies modern and clean rooms that include, Wi-Fi, air conditioning, TVs, en-suite bathrooms, safes and phones. The restaurant and bar serves traditional Mexican and international flavours.