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Ancient Lands Of The Maya GM

Trip Duration 15 Days

Reviews for Ancient Lands Of The Maya

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Ancient Lands Of The Maya reviews verified by reevooReevoo

13 reviews

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Ancient Lands Of The MayaScores 8.4 out of 10 based on 13 reviews
(8 out of 10)


This was a hugely enjoyable tour, led by a terrific tour leader. Marvin was extremely knowledgeable and more than happy to shre with us his insights to various elements of Guatemalan history - and all sorts of other things too. He had a great sense of humour and was excellent company.

Guatemala was a fascinating country to visit. For a developing country, the general standard of roads/hotels/restaurants were better than we expected. The tour featured some memorable destinations, in particular the spectacular Mayan ruins at Tikal, the beautiful Lake Atitlan and the old colonial capital, Antigua, where we were lucky to be able to witness the colourful and unusual processions and other events marking Holy Week.

Even if you've observed the Easter marches in Spain, these are fascinating in a different manner, in particular the beautiful "carpets" which line the routes of the processions. Watching these being made from coloured sawdust, fruit, vegetables, flowers etc in the middle of the night - followed by a 4.00am procession - is one of the most memorable activities of our trip.

As with any trip of this type, some long drives are unavoidable, although these were generally broken by visits - for example to extremely colourful markets.

Local food is very much of the Central American norm - and none the worse for that.

All in all, an extremely enjoyable tour, meeting the standards we'd expect of Explore.
Confirmed traveller: 16 April 2017
Published on: 22 April 2017
(9 out of 10)


Keswick, Cumbria
This is a well planned trip in a delightful country with a huge variety to see and do. The majority of hotels used are owned by one group and are of a very high standard, mostly with pools and views from the bedroom balconies. The Maya site at Tikal is stunning, but our group also enjoyed the markets, churches, women's co-operative weavers, boat trips and so on. Marvin, our leader, gave us many opportunities to do things over and above the essential itinerary which we all appreciated and enjoyed. There is adequate free time and afternoons to relax and I found the pace quite leisurely compared to other trips. Tip: since January 2017 it has become very difficult to change currency, some banks limiting the amount ($100 or $120) some refusing small denomination US$ notes or creased notes, and transactions can take 30 -45 minutes. ATMs can also be empty, closed or unpredictable . . . very frustrating !
Confirmed traveller: 31 January 2017
Published on: 14 February 2017
(9 out of 10)


I have been an independent traveller for the past 35 years, and have never fancied the idea of an organised tour. However, after planning my own itinerary for a trip to Guatemala and Honduras, I compared it to the itinerary offered by like-minded tour companies. The Ancient Lands of the Maya tour by Explore looked like it would go to exactly the places I had intended to visit, plus a few that I hadn’t thought of. Moreover, it looked like the tour would cover the ground much more efficiently than it would be possible for me to organise on my own. So I decided to book it. And I am VERY happy that I did.

In short, the trip was superb. The crucial factor that made it so enjoyable was our guide Marvin Chang. He was knowledgeable, enthusiastic, insightful, helpful, and empathetic….oh, and organised! I am sure that the excellent accommodation, safe and conscientious driver, well-appointed transport, and selection of great places to visit was largely due to Marvin’s skill, knowledge and experience.

In contrast to some other reviewers, I did not object to the long days driving – the length of these journeys was made clear in the trip notes and it is difficult to see how else we could have visited all the places we did in such a relatively short time. And I am absolutely sure that I could not have done it more quickly on my own. Our mini-bus was ALWAYS waiting for us when an where it was supposed to be to whisk us from one place to another, and even the boat rides (which are spectacular) were seamless: we arrived at a jetty, and our private fast launch was waiting to take us across the sea, up the river, or across the lake. There are public buses and boats but they are very slow and the connections are very challenging to figure out.

I am also personally very glad we visited Nebaj. Although I can see why some other reviewers found the drive long (it was), and Nebaj itself unremarkable (it is not at all a “cute” town), I enjoyed seeing a working Mayan town. However, more importantly, it provided an opportunity to gain some insight into the civil war / armed conflict that tore the country apart from 1960 to 1996. The Ixil Triangle, including the town of Nebaj, was the focus of some of the worst human rights violations of that period. To me it was important to see this other side of the country in order for me to understand it better.

On a brighter note, the natural beauty of the country (lakes, volcanoes, rivers, rainforest), its extraordinary Mayan sites, and the richness and diversity of its culture make this a trip not to miss.

So, am I converted to group travel, at least some of the time? Based on this trip, yes.
Confirmed traveller: 28 January 2017
Published on: 23 February 2017
(7 out of 10)


FIRST PROBLEM : This Questionnaire urgently requires a SAVING mechanism.
I am now writing it for a third time, after spending more than 30 mins on my last input, now lost. Will all users have my patience and determination to help you ?


1. Leader/Guide
Marvin Chang's organisation, attention to detail and informative tales of the country he was so obviously proud of, was wonderful - and his own story of how the recent troubles have affected his own life was very moving

2. Accommodation
Better than most we've experienced on 7 other Explore holidays.
Is Explore intentionally raising accommodation standards ?

3. Mayan sites and Semena Santa at Antigua more than met expectations.


1. Itinerary
Over ambitious in the time available - either the route should have been shortened or days added.

With roads windy and slow, and distances long, the result was too many tiring days stuck in the bus and hoped-for highlights missed.
We didn’t mind early starts, but strongly disliked arriving at hotels after dark - too late to see three particular places highlighted in the Trip Notes we had looked forward to seeing :
At Livingstone we arrived too late to enjoy its promised laid-back Caribbean vibe.
At Flores we arrived too late to enjoy its colourful narrow streets.
At Coban, the centre of gourmet coffee growing (Guatemala’s top crop), we missed visiting a coffee plantation.
BUT I’d also read that Nebaj was an interesting, unspoiled Guatemalan town in the highlands, noted for its weaving and hiking.
This proved not to be true.
Unspoiled it might be, but the eating options were poor, the hiking unremarkable and we saw plenty of weaving elsewhere.
Altogether Nebaj was NOT worth the long drive there and back.
The two days wasted for Nebaj would have been better used at Livingstone and Flores - both using the fine hotels selected.
Hours were also wasted at the unimpressive Candelaria Caves. These could have been better spent the same day at a Coban coffee plantation, of which we learnt there are many.
And a much earlier start on Day 8, getting us to the Quetzal Reserve as promised at dawn, would have made the walk in the cloud forest worthwhile - as it was, arriving late morning, we never saw a single bird, let alone a Quetzal ! - so 15 minutes here for a quick coffee would have been quite adequate.

2. Guatelaman Coffee
As the Guide already knew, the option quoted in the Explore Notes to visit a Coffee Museum in Antigua is impossible, because it is closed.
But, when we stayed on in Antigua after the tour, we discovered that tours of local coffee plantations are possible and worthwhile.

3. Bad advice from Explore office
I explicitly mailed the Explore office about whether to take Walking Poles - but was advised not to.
In the end my wife took them but I didn't - however they were required on three occasions :
The hike at Nejab was steep and very slippery on loose gravel.
The Candelaria Caves were full of hazardous footings
The walk at the Quetzal Reserve was muddy and steep.
To underline the importance of Sticks, the Leader brought his own for everyone, though I can't believe you expected this or had this in your mind when you advised us not to bring our own.

Tour Pace
This tour was rated "Busy", and possibly only not "Full-On" because two nights were spent at some hotels ? But this didn't alter the fact that when travelling most days started at 7am and very few finished before 6.30pm, long after dark.
Frustratingly you make it impossible to search the Explore website by 'Tour Pace', but very few are 'Relaxed', and those that are are mostly cruising.
I suggest that a large selection of Explore tours with a "Busy" or "Full-On" pace is offered AT LEAST ONCE every year at a slower pace - by adding extra days on the same itinerary.
Not everyone is on a tight time or cost budget.
Properly promoted, I feel sure you would sell extended tours easily to customers like ourselves who have the money and time to enjoy your tours in more depth.
Too many tour companies - including Explore - believe packing as much as possible into the standard 14 day time slot (and bragging about how much they've squeezed in) is the way to please everyone. But there are others, oddly overlooked, who like the Explore style, but hate places half-seen.
Confirmed traveller: 29 March 2016
Published on: 21 April 2016

We really appreciate your feedback for your recent Explore trip – but we’re sorry to hear that the itinerary did not quite meet your expectations. We agree that some of our customers prefer to go at their own pace, with a more relaxed itinerary, but we also know that many of our customers enjoy getting the most out of their trip with a limited amount of time – this itinerary does just that.

We do state in the trip notes that this particular itinerary is busy, which means there will be early starts, long journeys and tiring days – but we feel that this is the best way our customers can get the most out of their trip. We’re glad to hear that there were some highlights for you and we hope you enjoyed the trip regardless.

(7 out of 10)


There was too much time in the bus in spite of the fact that I had enquired beforehand and was told that although there were a couple of long days the other days were comparatively short. In fact most days were about 7 hours travel. I am not sure why we had to travel from Chichicastenano to Nebaj (3 hrs) only to reverse the journey a day later (also 3 hrs). Nebaj was disappointing - a drunk stumbled across the luggage on arrival and the local restaurant struggled to provide food.

We had little chance to explore Flores and there was no chance of seeing a Quetzal - they had been to the feeders whilst we were still abed!

Highlights, Livingston, Tikal, Lake Atilan and Antigua. Marvin the guide was first class and the group were all good company. There are places in Guatemala I would like to revisit so I suppose this trip was an introduction but not really what I had expected.
Confirmed traveller: 27 March 2016
Published on: 09 April 2016

Hi Michael, many thanks for taking the time to write a review, and I’m sorry that this trip didn’t meet your expectations. If there is any other feedback that you’d like to give, we would be happy to hear it. I’m going to look into the driving times that you experienced on your itinerary, and why they were so much longer than expected. I would expect 2 of the days (to Coban and to Santa Catarina) to be over 7 hours, along with stops at the various sites, with other days being between 0 – 5 hours of driving, and I’m very sorry that it wasn’t the case on your trip. Regarding Nebaj, there is positive feedback from other people who have enjoyed seeing 'the real Guatemala’, but I will be monitoring reviews of this location in future to ensure that aspects of the tour appeal to everyone. I’m glad that there were some highlights for you, and that Marvin did such a great job.

(7 out of 10)


The concept of this tour is very well concieved, the combination of Maya ancient places and Guatemala natural scenario and people, is well balanced and gives to the participants an wide scope of interest.

Copan and Tikal Ruins are splendid and Atitlan and Antigua deserves a really good time, specially the good quality of accomodation.

1) Tikal is a huge place to see and the clima in this time of the year is really hot. A two days visit will be better suited and will improved the Itinerary
2) Livingston is a really interest place to appreciated, specially if a beach time is included. We arrive in the afternoon and leave in the morning, therefore no appreciation of the place was possible. The hotel is really nice and a two days visit could be a better scheme
3) Everybody asked about the reason we took a very long trip to Nebaj, to see nothing remarkable in this small town and the excursion to the hill was no nice.
4) Antigua could be a very good place to cover some of the surroundings including a Chichicastenango day visit

You have to change that hotel in Guatemala City. It is the worst first impression we had of the tour
Confirmed traveller: 26 March 2016
Published on: 14 April 2016
(9 out of 10)


Sutton Coldfield
Marvin Chang, our tour leader, was excellent - very knowledgeable & informative with a great sense of humour. Nothing fazed him, even the non arrival of our luggage & that of a fellow passenger's was dealt with calmly & efficiently. The tour is well thought out & well balanced. We particularly enjoyed going to Nebaj which is unspoilt by mass tourism - we really felt we were seeing the real Guatemala. The standard of accommodation was very good throughout, the hotel at Nebaj being much better than basic as described in the tour notes. We would have preferred to see the Mayan site of Ceibal rather than the cave at Candelaria which is not that impressive. Overall though Guatemala is a wonderful country well worth visiting.
Confirmed traveller: 31 January 2016
Published on: 17 February 2016
(9 out of 10)


good tour with diverse exposure to what guatemala has to offer, but means a fair bit of bus time. marvin chang an excellent informative and open leader.
highlights antigua, atitlan, livingstone but mostly tikal. other reviews have been critical of nebaj, although hotel/ meals more basic, it does give a view of a more real/ less touristy rural mayan town and good countryside.
Confirmed traveller: 31 January 2016
Published on: 17 February 2016
(9 out of 10)


An excellent trip, which provided an overview of all things Guatemalan - ancient Mayan history, Spanish colonial rule, the turbulent recent history, modern Mayan culture, the countryside and wildlife! Be prepared for lots of time spent travelling though in order to fit it all in.
Confirmed traveller: 31 January 2016
Published on: 17 February 2016
(9 out of 10)


Tour as expected. Highlights: Tikal, Copan, Rio Dulce boat trip, Lake Atitlan boat trip, Antigua, Solola market and chicken bus ride, pick up and tuc tuc rides fun. Mayan women traditional woven costumes and textiles superb. Buy more at Atitlan.
One problem was that trip members arrived on so many different flights and even necessitated our bus returning to the airport the next day because of a cancelled flight, not that that was a fault of Explore. However, impromptu visit to tourist market near airport while waiting was actually good but too near beginning of our trip to assess products. More time at Antigua. Our very early flight home gave us less time than some. Some day drives very long ( although good consideration for breaks) meaning a late arrival at next hotel e.g Livingston ( traffic jam in Puerto Barrios). Small boat transfer and need for overnight bag not fully understood and swimming costume overlooked! Picnic at Candelaria caves good but could have had dip in river as well or instead, in preference to cave visit. Many of us had visited large caves before which might have not been appreciated although the cavern was impressive.
Walk at Nebaj to Acul interesting but was too challenging for some group members, probably because of heat and altitude. However, we were supporting this less visited part of Guatemala.
Marvin's site guiding was excellent, so informative and possibly superior to the local site guides.
Confirmed traveller: 31 January 2016
Published on: 17 February 2016