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Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Join trip in Antigua Guatemala, the graceful colonial city that sits just next door to the country's capital Guatemala City. Set in a beautiful valley between the volcanoes of Agua, Fuego and Acatenango, its cobbled streets and pastel-coloured buildings make it one of the most charming and picturesque cities in Central America. Despite the damage caused by a series of earthquakes and floods over the centuries, Antigua's colonial heritage has seen it designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Due to the number of evening flights into the international airport, your Leader plans to do the welcome meeting on the morning of day two, and will leave a message in reception with details on timings and everything else that you'll need for the day. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Antigua at any time. If you would like an airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into La Aurora International Airport (GUA). The drive between the airport and our hotel is only 40km but can take between 1.5 and 4 hours depending on the traffic and the time of day.
If your flight arrives earlier in the day, we recommend a gentle stroll around the compact centre of town, famed for its well-preserved Spanish Mudejar-influenced architecture.
Hotel Posada Don Rodrigo (or similar)
The stunning city of Antigua is set in a beautiful valley between the volcanoes of Agua, Fuego and Acatenango. This graceful old colonial city, with its cobbled streets and magnificent old buildings, identifies it as one of the most charming in the country and shows how it can justly claim to be one of the most picturesque in Central America. This morning we intend to take a walking tour of the centre with a local guide, visiting the churches of San Francisco, Santa Clara, La Merced and Las Capuchinas. Once the country's graceful capital and the first fully planned settlement amongst Spain's New World colonies, much of the city has been repeatedly devastated by earthquakes, yet has still managed to retain an elegant charm, whilst its buildings and ruins give it the air of a snapshot in time. This afternoon has been left free for you to explore more of this fascinating city or relax back at the hotel.
Today has been left at leisure for you to further explore the area. You may wish to spend the day in the lovely colonial Antigua, wandering through the markets or visiting one of its many museums. Alternatively, you can venture further afield. One option is to take a full day trip to Panajachel from where you can take a boat trip on Lake Atitlan, a former volcanic crater resulting from an eruption over 80 000 years ago.
This morning, we board our bus for the approximately six hour journey to Copan. En route we'll cross the border from Guatemala into Honduras, the second country on our journey through Mesoamerica. This afternoon has been left free to enjoy the facilities of the hotel or perhaps visit the macaw mountain project, a tropical bird reserve that cares for rescued or endangered birds of the American tropics.
Don Udo's Hotel (or similar)
This morning we visit this remarkable UNESCO World Heritage Site of Copan with a local guide. Everyone familiar with Catherwood's incredible drawings (which first appeared in John Stephens' 1841 narrative - 'Incidents of Travel in Central America and Yucatan') will recognise scenes and objects from this marvellous site. Stephens actually bought the entire area for US$50 from a local farmer! Our exploration of the archaeological park begins with the Great Plaza, one of the most amazing achievements of the Classic Maya period (AD 750), which contains the greatest collection of Maya sculpture anywhere in Mesoamerica. Next to the Great Plaza is the Acropolis, a group of massive pyramidal structures where royal power was once concentrated, and which hold beneath them a wealth of information about Copan's ancient past. Scribed on one structure is the famous Hieroglyphic Stairway, composed of some 2500 individual glyphs, its sides flanked by serpentine birds and snakes, this is the New World's longest inscribed Pre-Colombian text. The subject of exploration and investigation since the 1830s, the continual discoveries being unearthed by archaeologists are uncovering remarkable finds that represent a Maya resurrection and have made Copan the most thoroughly researched and understood of all Maya sites. The afternoon has been left free for you to remain on site and explore at your leisure, perhaps utilising the time to visit the museums and learn a little more about what was once one of the most significant city-states in the southern Maya world.
Leaving early this morning we head back across the border into Guatemala, towards the small site of Quirigua, lying on the western fringes of the Sierra de Espiritu. Once an important trading centre between Tikal and Copan, this UNESCO Heritage Site is home to the tallest stelae to be found anywhere amongst the ruins of the ancient Mayans. Explored by Catherwood and Stephens in the mid 19th century, Quirigua reached its zenith during the 8th century, becoming an independent kingdom that controlled much of the surrounding Motagua Valley, before being abandoned sometime during the 9th century. The impressive stelae tell of the wars with nearby Copan, of the beheading of the Copan king and the emergence of Quirigua from the shadow of its powerful neighbour. The tallest of the stelae reached an impressive 12 metres and over a period of some 55 years the rulers of this tiny kingdom had a new monument erected every 5 years. After this we continue to Rio Dulce where we will spend the night.
Hotel Catamaran (or similar)
This morning we drive to Tikal, site of one of the greatest of all Maya cities. Tikal can easily be compared with the masterpieces of Egypt and Greece. Initially settled about 600 BC, it was abandoned by its rulers around AD 890 and totally deserted a hundred years later. Rediscovered in 1848, the site itself comprises many great temples and pyramids, covering an area of more than 16 square kilometres, with palaces, causeways, ball courts, spacious plazas, and hundreds of other architectural ruins - a superb example of sophisticated Maya engineering. At its height the extended area of the city and its environs covered some 100km and its population was estimated at between 50,000-100,000. Many of the main buildings were completed between the 6th and 9th centuries, during what was called the Late Classic Period, during which the city traded with Quirigua, Copan and even Teotihuacan to the far west. Economic instability, civil unrest and warfare finally brought the city down, echoing a general demise amongst the Maya civilisation. The remote jungle setting, with the constant companionship of Howler monkeys and parrots, gives the site a feeling of true isolation and its pyramid towers slicing through the lush canopy affords it an almost mystical feel. Our accommodation for the night is near the entrance of the site. You may wish to take the opportunity to visit the site to see the sunset. (optional).
Tikal Inn (or similar)
Today will be spent exploring the site with a local guide. This afternoon, is free to further explore the rest of the site or you may wish to take time to visit the on-site museum (optional). Today there is a second opportunity to visit the site for the sunset.
This morning we head to Bethel on the river Usumacinta where we leave Guatemala and cross the border into Mexico by boat to Frontera Corozal. We continue our journey through Mexico to one of the most beautiful ancient sites anywhere in Latin America, Palenque. Driving time today is approximately seven hours.
Hotel Chan-kah (or similar)
This morning we will visit the site in the company of a local guide, visiting the intricate labyrinth of buildings that surround the palace and temple, its four-storey tower dominating the city. Engulfed by the rainforest and often shrouded in mist, the palaces and ruins of Palenque were only discovered in the 19th century. Once the choking forest was cleared, the ruins revealed the tomb of the high priest Pakal, his body adorned with a marvellous jade death mask - one of the most prized relics of the Maya culture, only discovered in 1952. Evidence indicates that the site was first occupied more than 1500 years ago and reached its zenith around 600-700AD, when many of the plazas and buildings were constructed, all without the use of metal tools, pack animals or the wheel. Palenque flourished for some 600 years, between the 4th and 10th centuries, but it was under the reigns of Pakal and Chan-Bahlum during the 7th century AD that saw it reach the peak of its prestige and power. Many of the buildings that we see today date from this period, including the Temple of the Inscriptions and its tomb (closed to visitors). At the centre of the city lies El Palacio, with its unique tower and intricate reliefs. Later this afternoon there will be an option to stay on the site and explore further, or perhaps take an optional trip out to swim at the picturesque waterfalls of Misol Ha.
Leaving early this morning we drive along the gulf coastline to the pleasant colonial city of Campeche, the state capital and once one of Spain's main ports in Mexico. En route we will stop for lunch. On arrival in Campeche this afternoon there will be time to wander around the old port where defensive walls and fortresses are still in evidence. Although Campeche is not on the usual tourist trail it does boast an elegant and well-maintained colonial quarter with 18th and 19th century houses painted in soft pastel colours.
Hotel del Paseo (or similar)
We start this morning with a short drive to Uxmal. Encircled by hills, Uxmal is expansive in its design, with majestic palaces, temples, pyramids and long geometrical friezes that rank amongst the most splendid examples of ancient American art anywhere. The incredible Pyramid of the Magician and the beautiful Governor's Palace must also rate as two of the finest examples of Mayan art on the entire continent. Today we will visit this extraordinary site, spending some time exploring what for many is considered the crowning glory of Puuc architectural style, with its classical lines and abstract designs. Leaving Uxmal behind we continue on to Merida - famed for its beautiful Spanish- Moorish style architecture. Known as the 'White City', Merida is the capital of the state of Yucatan and its centre reflects its colonial heritage, with a church or mansion on every street and its plazas alive with markets, entertainment and visitors. Indeed the city is probably the most European in feel than any other in Mexico.
Casa del Balam (or similar)
Today is a free day with optional excursions available.
Today we discover Chichen Itza. One of the most outstanding archaeological ruins in Central America, Chichen Itza was founded in AD432, re-founded in 987 and reputedly conquered by the Toltecs in the 10th century, the culture of the Maya and the Toltec gradually fusing together to create an amalgam of designs and influences. The pyramids, palaces, temples and ball court (where death was the penalty for defeat) are adorned with astonishing sculptures. Believed to have reached its zenith during what was termed the Terminal Classic Period (800-1000AD), the city's origins can be traced back some 500 years previously and there is some debate still as to the influence that the Toltecs had on the city and its architectural styles. Whatever its origins and influences though, little can detract from what is, for many, the quintessential image of a Maya city. We will actually explore the city today during the quieter periods, allowing more time to soak up the feel and ambience of this most magical of settings. The buildings to the north are dominated by the imposing presence of El Castillo (also known as the Pyramid of Kukulkan), a remarkable building that is in fact a stone representation of the Maya calendar, its summit decorated with symbols of Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent. One unique feature of the building occurs at sunset on the spring and autumn equinoxes, when the heads of the serpents at the foot of the staircases are joined to their tails at the top by the shadows cast by the setting sun. The 'Toltec Plaza' is littered with more structures, including the Temple of the Warriors and the Group of a Thousand Columns, whilst the ball court that occupies its western edge is largest of its kind anywhere.
The Mayaland Hotel is a creation of Old Yucatan style hacienda with an air of genteel hospitality and old-fashioned charm. With over 100 acres of gardens and its superb location makes it a unique place to overnight.
Hotel Mayaland (or similar)
Departing Chichen Itza this morning we drive to Cancun International Airport (airport code: CUN), where we will arrive at about 9.00am and this is where our trip ends. The earliest your flight can depart is 12.00pm.
In the high plains (1524m-1981m) the climate is temperate all year round. In lower areas the climate is semi-tropical. The mountains can be cool especially at night. In general, the dry season in Guatemala lasts from Nov - April. From May to October there are often fine mornings and clear evenings but afternoon rains tend to be heavy. The Peten lowlands tend to be rainy all year round though less so from February to April.
2 Pin Flat
Catholic and Protestant
Climate change varies depending upon altitude. Mid range temperatures reach about 28°C. Rainfall is low to moderate with May to October being the wettest season. Temperature ranges in the lower reaches of the slopes and along the coast are more constant, with less rainfall.
Roman Catholic and Protestant
Mexico is a vast country whose weather varies by season and region. The optimum time to travel is generally between December and April when rainfall is at a minimum. Temperatures are coolest between December and February and temperatures start to rise from March and the hottest months are May, June and July. The rainy season runs from May until October when humidity and temperatures are highest. The rains tend to be intense and short, clearing the humidity before building up again. The Caribbean coast can be affected by hurricane season between June and November. Please bear in mind that at altitude the temperatures can drop considerably at night and sudden changes can occur at any time.
Roman Catholic, Protestant
Spanish is the official language, but around 50 languages/dialects are also spoken by the indigenous peoples of Mexico.
Antigua - Chichicastenango and Panajachel US$70 inc boat (min. 7 pers); Panajachel only US$80 (min. 7 pers) Copan - Macaw Mountain US$ 10; Museum of Sculpture US$ 7; Visit tunnels US$ 15 Rio Dulce - US$50 (5 pers), US$40 (10 pers) Tikal - Sunset tour on arrival - US$ 25 plus a guide Palenque - Misol Ha US$20 Chichen Itza - Yokdzonot cenote swim - US$ 10 Merida - Excursion to Celestun US$150 (min 5 pers) inc. lunch; Dzibilchaltun US$70 inc. guide; Mundo Maya Museum US$25 + transport
Lightweight clothing is essential though a warmer sweater is advisable for cooler evenings in the highlands. A waterproof is essential. The jungle lowlands are hot and muggy, and it can rain at any time of year. Long trousers and long-sleeved shirts are recommended on jungle walks. Don't forget swimwear.
Comfortable walking boots or shoes and trainers or sandals.
One main piece and a daysac. Please remember not to overload yourself.
Bring a torch, water bottle, insect repellent, high factor sunscreen, camera, a waterproof bag for your camera and motion sickness tablets/patches for the boat. Binoculars are very useful for bird and animal spotting. An umbrella can be useful in short downpours.
During this trip we use a series of premium and comfortable rated hotels to explore Guatemala and Mexico's natural and architectural highlights. In Antigua Guatemala, we use the Hotel Posada de Don Rodrigo, a characterful colonial house with beautiful patio gardens right in the heart of the city, just two blocks from the Plaza Central. At the Copan ruins, we use another colonial-style bed and breakfast with a delightful courtyard, around the corner from the main park in a quiet and peaceful part of the town. At Chichen Itza, we stay right within the Chichen Itza Archeological park, a wonderful location that gives us better and more immediate access to the Maya world's most famous site. The lodge and bungalows are set in enormous and beautiful grounds, which have their own direct entrance to Chichen Itza, allowing us to walk right into the site.
Can you drink the water?
The water quality is poor and therefore it is recommended to avoid drinking tap water during your trip.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
Mexico: Citizens from UK, New Zealand, Australia, New Zealand, US and Canada require a Mexican Tourist Card to enter. This is obtained on arrival if flying into Mexico City Benito Juarez Airport or Cancun International. Some airlines may give this to you at the check-in desk. Once you receive the tourist card you must keep this on you until you exit Mexico. If entering by another port - you will have to apply for this before you reach the border online - website - https://www.inm.gob.mx/fmme/publico/en/solicitud.html Please note on this departure the border crossing into Mexico is Frontera Corozal. Other nationalities should consult the relevant consulate. All visa information is subject to change. You should confirm all visa related issues with the relevant Embassy prior to departure. Guatemala: Visas are not required for UK, New Zealand, Australian, US and Canadian citizens. Travellers entering Guatemala must complete the immigration pre-clearance form. You will receive a confirmation email, which you should print and carry with you or have a screen shot of the QR code. Please note this is only applicable to customers arriving by air. Honduras: Citizens from UK, New Zealand, Australia and most E.U nationals do not require a visa. Other nationalities should consult the relevant consulate. USA: If your flights pass through the USA, even if only in transit, you will require either a visa or an ESTA (an e-visa). Please read on for more information. Citizens of the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and passport holders from several EU countries can apply for an ESTA under certain conditions. This applies if you enter the country by sea or by air, and this must be done online via https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov, no later than 72 hours prior to travel. Travellers who have not registered before their trip are likely be refused boarding. You must have a biometric passport to apply for an ESTA. UK passports which are biometric feature a small gold symbol (camera) at the bottom of the front cover. If you have visited Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen since 2011 or are dual nationals of these countries, you cannot travel with an ESTA and instead you will need to apply for a visa from the nearest US Embassy or Consulate. If you are unable to provide a valid visa before boarding flights to the US, or entering via another method, you may not be permitted to travel. You should also be aware that if you have travelled to or have been in Cuba since the 12th of January 2021, you will not be eligible for an ESTA visa waiver and will need to apply for a US visa. You should consult the US State Department website to determine which you will need. Your ESTA application will ask for Point of Contact information. Please note that if you're only transiting through the USA then this is not required. If you're visiting or staying in the USA on an Explore trip, then our USA contact information will be listed on your final documentation which you will receive approximately 3-4 weeks before departure. Entry requirements for the USA can change regularly, therefore, please ensure you have the most up to date information before you travel by checking the US embassy website. Visa applications - http://london.usembassy.gov/niv/apply.html Canada: An electronic travel authorisation (ETA) is required by British citizens transiting via Canada. For more information see the official Canadian government website: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/eta.asp Other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
Nothing compulsory, but we recommend protection against typhoid, infectious hepatitis and polio. Please consult your travel clinic for the latest advice on Malaria, Dengue and Zika Virus. Please take preventative measures to avoid mosquito bites - these include mosquito repellent as well as long trousers and long sleeve shirts to cover up when necessary. Please note many countries in Central America, South America and the Caribbean require a yellow fever vaccination certificates if travelling from infected areas. A detailed list of these countries can be found on the NaTHNaC website - http://travelhealthpro.org.uk/countries. Also on the NaTHNaC site there is a list of Countries (and specific areas within a country) which are at risk of infection and a vaccination is therefore recommended. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.
Nothing compulsory, but we recommend protection against typhoid, tetanus, infectious hepatitis and polio. Please consult your travel clinic for the latest advice on Malaria, Dengue and Zika Virus. Please take preventative measures to avoid mosquito bites - these include mosquito repellent as well as long trousers and long sleeve shirts to cover up when necessary. Please note many countries in Central America, South America and the Caribbean require a yellow fever vaccination certificates if travelling from infected areas. A detailed list of these countries can be found on the NaTHNaC website - http://travelhealthpro.org.uk/countries. Also on the NaTHNaC site there is a list of Countries (and specific areas within a country) which are at risk of infection and a vaccination is therefore recommended. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.