The Mayan Route Your Own Way
- Price from:
- 1050 GBP /person
- 01273 322046
- Payment Types:
- Credit Card
- Travellers cheque
- Wire Transfer
- 22 days
- Location Start:
- Playa del Carmen
- Location Finish:
- Playa del Carmen
- We Speak:
Last updated: 02/19/2009
See the highlights of Mexico, Guatemala and Belize. Explore the ruins, colonial towns, volcanoes, beaches, lakes, rivers and tropical islands on this fantastic trip following the ancient Mayan route.
Playa del CarmenOn arrival at Cancun airport you'll be met in the arrivals hall by our local representative and transferred to your hotel in Playa del Carmen. Your hotel is centrally located: to the left are the broad pearly white beaches, to the right is the Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue), a lively shopping street with lots of restaurants, bars and souvenir shops.
Playa del CarmenThe next morning head to the beach to soak up the Mexican sun and enjoy a leisurely lunch at one of the cheerful beach bars. There's always plenty to see and do, particularly in the evening.
Playa del Carmen - Chichen ItzaOn day 3 of your Mayan trip you'll take the bus from the bus station to Chichen Itza. The bus stop is close to the entrance of the Mayan ruins. Bear the suspense just a bit longer and first take a taxi to your hotel, a romantic hacienda surrounded by tropical gardens. The starry sky is best admired from the ancient Mayan city: every evening there's a spectacular light show in Chichen Itza. Listening to the legends of the city through your headphones you're taken back in time as you look at the ancient buildings all around you. Learning how the Mayans lived here centuries ago makes your walk around the ruins in daylight tomorrow morning all the more meaningful.
Chichen Itza - MeridaMake sure you're at the entrance at 8am so you're one of the first in. That way you can really experience the serene atmosphere of the ruins before the coach loads of tourists arrive. Wear light clothing and bring plenty of water as it can get very hot here during the day. ChichÃ¨n Itza was the last major Mayan city. Focal point is El Castillo (the castle), a temple dedicated to the god Kulkulkan. Because it's so steep climbing the temple is no longer allowed, though it remains one of the most impressive buildings in this complex.Around midday you can freshen up and have some lunch back at the hacienda before making your way to the bus station. We've booked the afternoon bus to Merida for you, where you can spend the evening around the beautiful central plaza. Your hotel is close by.
Merida and surrounding areaToday you'll be free to visit the surrounding area of Merida. If you've been hit by Mayan-fever after your visit to Chichen Itza then book an excursion to Uxmal, a Mayan city built in 'Puuc' style. With its decorative statues, frills and tassels we considered it one of the most beautiful Mayan ruins. If you'd rather see some local wildlife then head to the Gulf of Mexico for a boat trip through the Rio Celestun nature reserve, home to thousands of bright pink flamingos. Day trips can easily be arranged from your hotel in Merida. Departure daily around 8am, returning around 6pm. Price of these excursions approx. US$45.
Merida - CampecheAround 9.15am take the bus from Merida bus terminal to Campeche where you'll arrive around midday. You can take a taxi to your hotel in the historic colourful centre, within walking distance of all the sights.
Campeche is a surprisingly interesting town. A tram from the main square takes you past the various sights including the fortress walls and bastions that once protected the city against pirates. Many of the original colonial buildings have recently been restored and are beautifully lit at night.
Campeche - PalenqueWe couldn't resist an early morning walk through the old centre. The cobbled streets of Campeche are without a doubt the cleanest in the whole of Mexico. Your bus leaves around 11am for the lush green hills surrounding the jungle ruins of Palenque. Though within walking distance of the bus station and the village, your hotel is set in tropical surroundings and bar the sporadic twittering of birds and the occasional howler monkey swinging through the trees above you, you'll be able to enjoy some peace and quiet as you relax by the pool.
Palenque - Agua Azul - San CristobalAt 8 am you will be picked up at your hotel for the short trip to Palenque, probably the most impressive Mayan ruin in Mexico. Take your luggage with you as you won't be returning to the hotel.Palenque is hidden deep in the jungle and is one of the few Mayan cities where archaeologists were able to decipher details of the life of the ancient Mayans. You'll have plenty of time to wander through the ruins before the heat drives you back to the comfort of your air-conditioned minibus waiting by the entrance.Not much later you'll find yourself immersed in the refreshingly cool waterfalls of Agua Azul. If you're feeling fit you can follow the path up to the top of the waterfalls, the view is amazing.After this refreshing stop it's another 5 hour drive to Chiapas province where you'll be dropped off at your posada in San Cristobal. The rooms at the posada are beautifully decorated.
San CristobalSan Cristobal, high in the Chiapas hills is the centre of Mexican Indian culture and the car-free centre is filled with a cheerful mix of Mexicans, Indians and travellers. In the morning, wander up the colourful winding streets that slowly lead uphill through the city. The higher you get, the more beautiful the view: bright sunlight reflects on the green mountains against a background of threatening clouds. If you're feeling sporty you can go horse-back riding in the afternoon or go hiking in the hills around the city.Because San Cristobal is quite high up in the hills the evenings can get quite chilly so you'll need a sweater or a jacket. Or warm up with a tequila in one of the local bars.
San Cristobal, excursion to ChamulaThis morning you will head out to Chamula. To make this visit more interesting for you, we've arranged this excursion with a local guide to give you a full understanding of the place.Chamula is a small mountain village where, after the arrival of the Spanish invaders old local customs were intertwined with Catholic customs. For example, in the local church you won't find a priest but a shaman seated on the ground, giving advice to the villagers.In the afternoon back in San Cristobal you'll have time to visit the local market where you can buy local produce, handmade clothes and souvenirs.
San Cristobal - PanajachelYou will leave early from San Cristobal for the Guatemalan border. Because you'll be re-entering Mexico later on in the trip, ask for a (free) Multiple Entry form, then get your 'exit' stamp and hand in the Mexican tourist pass that you received in arrival in Mexico. Together with the other travellers you'll make your way to the Guatemalan border checkpoint, 4km further on (approx US$5). Once you've crossed the border you'll be met by our local representative and you'll continue on your way to Panajachel. The roads and buses are less comfortable than in Mexico but there's plenty to see on the way to make you forget about that. The streets are filled with all kinds of activity: cobblers, noisy buses and Indian women in brightly coloured dresses carrying children on their back and bags on their heads.After a long but spectacular ride you'll arrive at Lake Atitlan.
PanajachelLake Atitlan is famous for the many the volcanoes around the lake, the fertile fields and the traditional Mayan villages. A walk around the lake stimulates all your senses; the scent of flowers and fresh water, the sounds in the local village market, the view of a solitary boat gliding across the lake. It's beautiful wherever you are on the lake. Today you'll be able to spend 6 hours with your own local guide. He speaks only Spanish, so lots of sign language, depending on your language skills.As the sun begins to set around 4 pm the sky above the lake transforms into a kaleidoscope of colours. So around 5pm find a nice spot to sit back with a drink and enjoy the view.
Panajachel - Chichi(castenango) - AntiguaTry to plan your trip so that this day of your itinerary falls on a Thursday or a Sunday. This way you can leave early in the morning to visit the colourful market at Chichicastenango. It's a local and tourist market and the ideal place to buy some souvenirs. 'Chichi' has just 1000 inhabitants but on market days over 20.000 Mayans from the surrounding area flock to the village to sell their ware.In the afternoon you'll take the shuttle bus to Antigua (Guatemala), the historic capital city and culture heart of the country where you'll spend two nights in a posada at the edge of the historic centre.
AntiguaRise and shine in what many consider to be the prettiest town in Guatemala. Antigua is nestled in a valley between three volcanoes; the Fuego, Agua and the Acatenango. The original churches have been destroyed by earthquakes but the narrow cobbled streets are lined with small, brightly coloured houses and the occasional monastery, church or museum.Wandering through the little streets you might suddenly find yourself in the middle of a patio or garden, or sit down in the shade of the jacaranda trees. For a quirky Antigua experience is catching a not-quite-legal movie in Bistro. The rather entrepreneurial owner bought a couple of VCRs and TVs and the tapes are all illegal copies. Sitting in a dark bar at a table barely big enough to hold your plate you can enjoy a meal while you watch the Spanish (and English-subtitled) movie.
Antigua - FloresToday it's an entire day's travel by bus to Flores (12 hours). If you want to fly instead, we can arrange this for you (at an extra cost).Your hotel in Flores, where you'll be staying for the next two nights is a short walk from the bus stop and directly on Lake Peten Itza. The hotel terrace is a great place the watch the beautiful sunset over the lake. Though Flores is popular with tourists there's not much nightlife and the travellers are surprisingly quiet: everyone's up early the next morning to leave for Tikal.
Flores, visit to TikalIt's a very early start this morning as your transfer from the hotel to Tikal leaves at 5am (roughly a 1Â½ hour trip). When you come to the entrance, stop to admire the scale model of the ancient temple. As the ruins slowly emerge from the vanishing morning mist you enter the complex. Bring water and food as you'll be walking for a few hours and there are no shops or restaurants in the dense jungle, though luckily paths and trails leading deeper into the forest are all well maintained. You could wander round the ruins all day and still not have seen everything, but by 2pm after 6 hours of walking and climbing in the tropical heat you'll probably be done. The shuttle bus will leave at 2.30pm to get you back to Flores by 5pm, just in time for the sunset.
Flores - Belize City - Caye CaulkerToday you'll be heading for the third country on your Mayan route; Belize. It's totally different to Guatemala and Mexico with lots of Latino influences mixed with the laid-back Caribbean way of life. The Belizeans have afro hair, they speak Creole instead of Spanish, you'll hear reggae music and instead of salsa they dance the punta, a kind of "shake-your-behind" variety. You will be dropped off at the small harbour where you can catch one of the regular boats to Caye Caulker (approx US$ 8). It's a thrilling 45-minute ride as you fly across the smooth turquoise sea, the sun sparkling on the water. As Caye Caulker comes into view you're greeted by the waving palm trees.On Caye Caulker the locals will be waiting for you with friendly curiosity. You'll be staying in a white wooden villa close to the 'Split', so-called because this is the spot where island was literally split in two during a hurricane. The villa has a wonderful garden with hammocks between the trees, perfect for chilling out.
Caye CaulkerEverything on Caye Caulker is within walking distance. The motto is "Go slow" and everywhere you go you're greeted with "Whazzup man" and "Everything okay man?" in a sunny Caribbean accent. After a walk across the island you can try the local cuisine...fish of course. For where else can you get a plate full of fresh lobster for US$13?
Caye CaulkerHave some fun in the sun today, swimming in the warm Caribbean waters and checking out the Spilt where "it's all happening". If you want a bit more action then rent a canoe and head into the mangroves to look for wildlife and deserted beaches on the other (uninhabited) side of Caulker.There are plenty of day trips on offer both in and around the water: at Shark Ray Alley you can swim among the little nurse sharks and rays. Hol Chan marine reserve and Coral Garden are great for snorkelling and to the south of Belize City is a protected mangrove where you can see manatees in their natural habitat. If you're lucky enough to spot dolphins on the way the boat will stop to allow you jump overboard and snorkel among them.Half Moon Caye is a small island nature reserve home to a large breeding colony of the endearingly named Red-Footed Boobies. From a platform you can look right onto the nests of these cute but pompous looking birds. There are also several frigate birds, the males blowing up their bright red throats like a balloon.
If you're a diver then you may have heard of the mysterious Blue Hole (see image), where you can follow in the footsteps (or flippers) of Jacques Cousteau and descend to a depth of 40 metres. Blue Hole is a dark spot in the Caribbean Sea and once at the bottom you'll be surrounded by stalagmites, stalactites and unsettlingly big reef sharks. This dive is for experienced divers only and reputedly one of the best diving spots in the world.
Caye Caulker - Playa del CarmenAfter breakfast (try the Fried Jacks) it's time to make your way to the harbour of Caye Caulker for the boat trip back to the mainland. Then, take a taxi to the bus station (approx US$4) to catch your pre-booked scheduled bus to the border at Chetumal and on to Playa del Carmen. You'll need to pay US$20 departure tax when leaving Belize and approx US$3.50 conservation tax. In Playa del Carmen your hotel is centrally located: to the left the pearly white beaches are 2 min walk away, to the right is the Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue) a lively shopping street filled with restaurants, souvenir shops, cash machines and several bars.
Playa del CarmenIt's time to enjoy the sun, sea and sand in Playa del Carmen. You can spend your days relaxing and having fun on the beach, but you can also go snorkelling or diving along the barrier reefs or visit Xcaret eco theme park where you can float down the jungle river on a rubber tyre. If your budget allows, splash out on a once in a lifetime experience: swimming with dolphins. In the evening you can enjoy your last cold Mexican beer or (fruit) cocktail.
Playa del Carmen - UKThe last day of your Mayan trip. If you're up early, take a last walk along the beach and watch the sun rise over the Caribbean Sea. We've booked you onto the bus to Cancun Airport where you'll say adios to Mexico and board the plane back to the UK.
- Inclusions -
- Transportation, accommodation and excursions as described
- Exclusions -
- International flight and (airport) taxes, admission fees, meals, smaller local transfers to/from bus station
- Extras -
- This is not a group tour. Prices are based on two people travelling together, and the itinerary can be ammended to fit just right for you.
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