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Kinkajou: Best of Guatemala and Belize

12 days from £2,710pp

Guatemala / Belize

Itinerary

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UK clients depart, arriving in Guatemala the same day.

Day 1

Transfer to colonial Antigua.

Those passengers arriving on an international flight will be met by the tour leader and escorted to the group hotel in Antigua. It’s a journey of about an hour along a winding paved road. This popular city is well-endowed with art galleries, restaurants, bars, coffee shops and boutiques.

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Days 2-3

Explore the city, with guided walks.

The city is a colonial work of art, with cobbled streets, overhanging tiled roofs and a beautiful, leafy central plaza. There’s an abundance of huge ruined churches, convents and monasteries, testament to a time when Antigua was the country’s capital and its main religious centre.

You’ll have plenty of time to absorb this fascinating city, including a walking tour of the historic centre. It seems that every doorway opens onto a fragrant tiled courtyard. A dramatic backdrop of smouldering volcanoes and ruined churches and convents surrounded by parkland are testament to the city’s destruction by a volcanic eruption in 1773.

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Day 4

By road to Lake Atitlán via the market at Chichicastenango.

Travel by a gradually-ascending road to Lake Atitlán. The landscapes in the highlands west of Antigua are dominated by watchful volcanoes and compact, busy farming villages.

Stop off en route at Chichicastenango (2 hours). This chilly mountain town, which has a decidedly mystical air, is where the symbols and practices of overt Catholicism sit side by side or even amalgamate with esoteric Mayan religious ceremonies, centred around the simple, whitewashed façade of the church. Here there is a vast, bustling market, and you can wander the labyrinthine streets lined with textiles, clothes and tapestries of striking colour and extraordinary intricacy, as well as extravagant hand-carved masks and good-quality leather goods. Local farmers also bring an array of fruit and vegetables from the surrounding villages, which they both barter and sell.

Later in the day continue onto Lake Atitlán (1 hour), one of the most captivating in the world, its beauty eulogised by poets and travellers. On a sunny day, the closely forested volcanic cones are reflected in cobalt waters. Traditional villages and indigenous agricultural settlements skirt its fertile shores, each with its own character and identity, its own dialect and often a unique costume still worn by the proud inhabitants.

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Day 5

Excursion on Lake Atitlán.

You are based in the peaceful village of Santa Catarina de Polopó, a few kilometres from the lively tourist centre Panajachel.

Take a motor launch across the lake to Santiago de Atitlán. Cruising over the calm and silent morning waters, you’ll have wonderful views of the various shoreline hamlets and pocket-sized cultivated fields alongside some grand houses, and beyond to the gently sloping bottle-green volcanoes that encircle the water. You are greeted as you alight at Santiago by enthusiastic children, and the town is an excellent place to buy brilliantly coloured textiles. The children may also offer to guide you to the current resting place of the smoking, drinking, be-hatted and roguish local idol, Maximón, who is moved to a different house each year, and looked after by a diligent entourage. He’s certainly not politically correct but he will help you with your problems in exchange for a suitable financial donation.

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Day 6

At leisure to further explore the lakeside.

At leisure to explore the lake and its shores, peppered with tiny agricultural and fishing communities.

Each of the villages around the lake has its own traditional dress and speaks its own Mayan dialect. There is plenty of time here to relax and enjoy the peace and quiet or you can take to the lake by canoe, hire a bicycle or visit one of the nearby butterfly or animal parks.

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Day 7

Drive to Guatemala City; fly to Flores.

After a short drive from Antigua back to the capital an hour-long flight from Guatemala City takes you to Flores, in the dense sticky jungles of northern Guatemala, and from here you continue to your lodge by road. It is situated on the shores of tranquil Lake Petén. There are many well-marked tracks to explore and lots of wildlife including monkeys to see, or you can relax by the swimming pool.

Day 8

Guided exploration of the Mayan archaeological site Tikal.

Today there is a guided tour of the archaeological site at Tikal, an hour’s drive away. Steep, stepped and vertiginous temples penetrate the forest canopy; the timeless rainforest views over the site from one of these temple-tops are unforgettable. Spend the day wandering through the palace complexes. Tikal was one of the largest and most important Mayan city states, reaching its peak in around AD800 prior to its mysterious demise. The pyramids and temples seem frozen in time, but you’re brought back to the present by the roar of curious howler monkeys and lithe spider monkeys as they swing through the low branches of the trees, and flashes of colour as toucans and parrots take flight.

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Day 9

Drive across the Belize border to Chaa Creek.

This morning you depart for the little known Mayan ceremonial site of Yaxha, situated on the shores of a lagoon before enjoying a beautiful drive across the border and into Belize, passing through the town of San Ignacio and on into the low-lying Cayo district.

Spend a couple of days in the country’s lush, unspoilt and sparsely populated hilly interior, based on the rain-forested banks of the Macal river.

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Days 10-11

Outdoor activities and excursions.

Stay at the Lodge at Chaa Creek, one of the first of its kind in Belize. This tranquil jungle hideaway, set in its own rainforest, was opened by an Anglo-American couple in 1981. The focus here is on the area’s natural attributes, and activities available include a stroll along some of the many orchid-lined trails, a canoe ride through the mustard-coloured waters of River Macal watching waterside creatures and birdlife emerge from its shoreline habitat.

If you’re feeling more active you can explore the area on horseback or by bike. (Note: some of these excursions may incur an extra charge.) However, you may simply want to relax and enjoy the splendid tropical gardens, or be pampered in the spa. It’s a little piece of paradise here, and the atmosphere is welcoming and informal. You might visit Mountain Pine Ridge where waterfalls, rivers, lakes and caves are surrounded by savannah and pine forest. Other excursions from your hotel include visits to Mayan archaeological sites at Xunantunich and Caracol.

Chaa Creek

Day 12

Depart for international flight or extension.

UK clients arrive home the following day.

Inspired by this trip

Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.

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Real Latin America Experts

  • Ben Line
    Ben Line - Travel Consultant

    Ben fell in love with Latin America on a six month backpacking trip from Colombia to Mexico in 1995. Since then he has explored most of South America, including living in Peru for a year. He is now Manager of the Tailor-made Department.

  • Paul Winrow Giffen
    Paul Winrow-Giffin - Travel Consultant

    After graduating in Computer Science, Paul spent seven months travelling from Colombia to Argentina and came home hooked on Latin America.

  • Lina Fuller
    Lina Fuller - Travel Consultant

    Lina's passion for the continent where she was born really took off when she moved to Córdoba to study, spending the holidays travelling between Argentina and her native Colombia.

  • Carrie Gallagher
    Carrie Gallagher - Travel Consultant

    A former JLA tour leader, Carrie brings a wealth of on-the-ground experience to our London-based Escorted Groups team.

  • Hannah Waterhouse
    Hannah Waterhouse - Travel Consultant

    Hannah had an early introduction to Latin America when her family moved to Ecuador and she returned to study in Buenos Aires for a year before backpacking across the continent.

  • Chris Rendell Dunn
    Chris Rendell-Dunn - Travel Consultant

    Anglo-Peruvian Chris grew up in Lima and spent much of his adult life in between London and Cusco as a tour leader, before settling permanently in our Sales team.

Meet the team