The history of the fascinating local culture of Lake Atitlan can be traced in the movements of the brush that paints the mystical Maya nahual. Pick up a brush in a local artist’s studio and with it discover your life energy, soul companions, and your destiny. Your 2-night Feature stay at Hotel Atitlan in Panajachel has lake-facing balconies with a rustic Spanish colonial style as well as a manicured botanical garden and volcano views. The brightly painted houses of Flores are a reflection of the radiant colours that stretch across the town at sunset. Enjoy memorable lakeside drinks while the sun sinks below the horizon. Journey into the jungles of Guatemala and uncover the magnificent remains of the lost Maya civilisation in Tikal
Combining classic Central American destinations Guatemala and Costa Rica with Belize and El Salvador, this journey delves deeper into the continent than many go. Begin on the beautiful beaches of Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and finish down in San Jose. Discover butterfly-filled cloud forest, volcano-ringed waters, hidden swimming holes, scenic coffee plantations and tiny villages bursting with Latin American colour and verve. Belize is Peregrine’s latest addition to its destinations in the region, and adventures into its dense jungle reveal an incredible spread of wildlife and a lost Maya underworld shrouded in mystery.
DISCONTINUED for 2019. This is mainly due to lack of traveller interest. There will be new standalone trips in Guatemala and Costa Rica; ‘Guatemala Highlights’ (PSGH) and ‘Costa Rica Highlights’ (PSCH). These trips can both be booked independently or together; however they will not be offered as a packaged combination trip. Please check back in a few months for more details on these itineraries.
Breakfast Included: 28 Lunches Included: 6 Dinner Included: 4
Playa del Carmen
Arrive in Cancun and transfer to your hotel in Playa del Carmen. The day is free until a welcome meeting at around 6 pm. Check with the hotel reception for details. With azure waters, powdery beaches and a European feel, Playa del Carmen is a delightful resort city close to Cancun. If you arrive early, spend your time snorkelling crystal clear waters, diving in underground caverns or strolling along white sands. In the evening, kick back and watch the waves with a margarita. For adventures further afield take a ferry across the turquoise seas to Cozumel, an island famous for its reef diving.
Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary
Make the journey from Playa del Carmen across the border to Belize (approximately 4 hours). Settle into your accommodation – the small, family-run Crooked Tree Lodge. It is located approximately 2 hours' drive past the border. Nestled among coconut palms and bullet trees in the heart of Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary (and on the edge of Crooked Tree Lagoon), this lodge is ideally located for wildlife viewing. Spot squirrels, iguanas or perhaps even crocodiles.
Wake early and embark on a birdwatching excursion, travelling by boat on the lagoon. Some 250 resident or migratory neotropical birds inhabit this reserve, among them the Jabiru stork (the largest flying bird in the Western Hemisphere). Afterwards, drive to the San Ignacio area (approximately 2.5 hours). Here the afternoon is yours to spend as you please. Relax and unwind at the excellent Pooks Hill Lodge, situated on 300 acres of lush Belizean forest in the foothills of the Maya Mountains.
Enjoy a day of free time. Perhaps go birdwatching, swimming, hiking or walking. A highly recommended option is a day trip to the ATM (Actun Tunichil Muknal) Cave. This begins with a hike (approximately 45 minutes) up the Roaring River Valley and through the rainforest of the Tapir Mountain Preserve. After reaching the cave entrance, you are taken on a tour of the ‘Xibalba,’ the fascinating Maya underworld. This includes a ‘Cathedral’ chamber which used to be a Maya ceremonial and burial ground.
Bid farewell to Belize and head to the Guatemalan border (approximately 1 hour). Once you have crossed into Guatemala, continue to Flores (approximately 2 hours). After settling in, visit Yaxha, an archaeological site situated on the shores of Yaxha Lagoon in the Maya Biosphere Reserve. Surrounded by dense jungle, Yaxha is home to more than 500 buildings, including the impressive Twin Pyramids. Perhaps climb temple 216 for beautiful views across the lagoons, forest and other temples. Afterwards, sit back at a picture-perfect spot by the lake and, over a glass of wine, farewell that same sun the Mayas worshiped hundreds of years ago.
Tikal / Flores
Embrace an early start (about 7 am) for a leader-led tour of Tikal. Home to some of the world's most magnificent Maya ruins, Tikal's five major temples rise above the jungle canopy while an array of smaller structures remain hidden in the undergrowth. Explore the highlights of the area, including Temple I, which is perhaps the iconic image of Guatemala. This area is a repository of Maya wisdom, containing insights into traditional medicine, astrology, agronomy and architecture. The jungles thrum with life, with toucans and macaws swooping between trees and monkeys crashing through the canopy. Those interested can climb to the top of the ruins for unsurpassed vistas over the forest. Return to Flores early in the afternoon (approximately 2 pm) and enjoy free time to stroll the cobblestone streets, shop for locally-made souvenirs or swim in Lake Peten Itza.
Flores / Guatemala city / Suchitoto
Take an early morning transfer to Flores Airport for an 8 am flight to Guatemala City (approximately 1 hour). From here, make the journey Suchitoto via the El Salvadorean border (approximately 6 hours). It's a long travel day, but the destination is well worth it. With its festive atmosphere, stately colonial-era architecture, shaded plazas and lack of traffic, Suchitoto is a dream to explore on foot. The town overlooks the Embalse Cerron Grande (also known as Lago Suchitlan) which is a haven for migrating birds – particularly falcons and hawks.
Enjoy a guided city tour which involves a mix of walking a transport (approximately 3 hours). Learn some of the city's history along the way. During the civil war, Suchitoto became virtually a ghost town, the battles at nearby Guazapa compelling most of its inhabitants to flee for safety. Grim times that they were, this abandonment actually helped to preserve the city's colonial architecture that you'll be admiring today. You also make a visit to Los Tercios waterfalls and rock formation, attend a cigar rolling demonstration with the 98-year-old Nina Victoria, and enjoy lunch at a local pupusa's restaurant. Enjoy some free time in afternoon.
In the morning, hike through the nearby Cinquera Rain Forest Park with a local guide (approximately 2 hours). The trail you hike is somewhat steep but takes you to a former guerilla camp. The park was created by the former FMLN guerillas and their families to protect the forest from loggers. When the hike is over, you can cool off by taking a dip in a nearby swimming hole. Meet with one of the original guerilla fighters to learn his story and ask questions about the civil war in El Salvador. Afterwards, enjoy some free time. You might like to spend the afternoon boating, kayaking or attending a local indigo dying workshop.
Antigua via Ruta de las Flores
Drive to the renowned 'Ruta de las Flores' (Flowers Route) (approximately 2.5 hours). This is one of the country's premier attractions, full of verdant coffee plantations, tiny towns bursting with colour, and of course the wildflowers from which the area takes its name. For lunch, stop in at what may well be El Salvador's best restaurant, El Jardin de Celeste. After a leisurely repast in this idyllic garden setting, head off to the border and cross back into Guatemala (approximately 4 hours). Arrive in Antigua in the early evening.
As you'll come to appreciate, Guatemala’s volcanic soils and altitudinous valleys offer just the right conditions for coffee cultivation, and today you'll visit a coffee farm to see just how its's done. From a bean plant nursery to the plantation itself to a cupping lab where you will be offered a freshly brewed sample, this is a rare chance to sip coffee straight from the source.
How you spend the rest of your time in Antigua is up to you. Due to its historical relics, pleasant ambience and friendly locals, the town is a popular one among travellers. There are a number of interesting markets to peruse, plus no shortage of restaurants and cafes to check out – be sure to sample the country's other important bean: chocolate! If you’re feeling adventurous, perhaps finish off this journey to the tune of some salsa at one of the local dance spots.
Encircled by emerald mountains and misty volcanoes, Lake Atitlan has often been ranked one of the world's most beautiful lakes. Here your accommodation boasts incredible views across Atitlan's reflective waters and surrounding peaks. Spend the day cruising around by boat and stopping in at local villages – San Juan La Laguna included – and visit local artist workshops. Meet local artists Antonio and Angelina Coche and learn from them about your Maya 'Nahual', a local equivalent of the zodiac that assigns animal spirits based on birth date. You might even want to try painting your own symbol. Along the way you will see that life in many of the villages around the lake has changed very little over the past few centuries. In some you'll see locals still getting around in traditional garb that incorporate designs passed down through generations, and the atmosphere is peaceful and unpretentious.