3217
Honduras/Guatemala/Belize
The Maya and More: History and Culture of Honduras, Guatemala and Belize
Learn the complex story of the Maya and their enduring legacy as you visit ancient monuments, traditional markets and indigenous villages where Mayan culture remains strong.
Rating (4.96)
Program No. 3217RJ
Length
15 days
Starts at
3,499
Special Offer
Flights start at
595
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15 days
14 nights
36 meals
14 B 13 L 9 D
Getting There
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DAY
1
Arrive to Belize City, Check-in, Orientation
Belize City
D
Radisson Fort George Hotel and Marina

Activity note: Participants must book flights that arrive into Belize City no later than 4 p.m. on this day if they plan on attending the program orientation at 6 p.m. From the airport to the hotel is about 11 miles, approximately 1/2 hour.

Afternoon: Upon arriving at the hotel, check in and get your room assignment. Then take some time to freshen up and relax before attending a program orientation. 6 p.m. Orientation. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule and any changes, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. Meals included in our program feature local cuisine. In some cases, they will be plated and served with a set menu; in others, we will have buffets with multiple options. Included beverages are typically coffee, tea, water; other beverages usually available for purchase. NOTE: Participants often inquire about bringing items to donate during the school visit. Although not required or expected, basic school supplies such as pencils, erasers, pens, coloring pencils, magic markers, coloring books, safety scissors, etc., are very useful and much appreciated by local schools. Free time is reserved for your personal independent exploration. Evenings at leisure offer opportunities to make the program more meaningful and memorable through personal independent exploration, attending performances or other events on your own, or simply relaxing and making new friends among fellow Road Scholars. The Group Leader will always be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: At leisure. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and prepare for check out and transfer tomorrow. Get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

DAY
2
Lamanai Ruins, Transfer to San Ignacio
San Ignacio
B,L,D
San Ignacio Resort Hotel

Activity note: This is a very full day. Activities include boat and bus transfers and considerable walking in potentially hot/humid conditions. From the hotel to the boat dock is about 52 miles, 1-1.5 hours. The scenic boat ride to Lamanai is about 31 miles, approximately 1 hour.

Breakfast: Early at the hotel, enjoy a buffet breakfast with a selection of hot dishes, fruit and breads, plus juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: We will check out of the hotel, transfer to the New River dock and embark on a scenic boat ride upstream to the Mayan ruins at Lamanai. While navigating the calm waters of the New River, try to find and identify some of the many bird species found in the area, including: Black-collared Hawks, Northern Jacanas, Mangrove Swallows, Olive-throated Parakeets, American Pygmy Kingfishers, and Purple Gallinules, to name just a few. If lucky, we may even catch a glimpse of the rarely seen Jabiru Stork! Get close-up views of mangroves and virgin forests flanking the narrow waterway and try to spot the colorful orchids that grow along the river banks. Disembarking at Lamanai we'll go on an expert led walking exploration amid the more than 50 impressive structures found at the archaeological reserve. This large Mayan ceremonial center is set in a tropical forest on the banks of the New River Lagoon in the north central region of Belize. Unlike most Mayan sites, the ruins found at Lamanai were built in layers; each generation adding on to the existing structures. Some of the site's highlights include the Jaguar Temple, the High Temple, and the Mask Temple. A beautiful panoramic view of the lagoon and surrounding jungle can be seen from the top of the High Temple. It is believed that the ancient center was occupied during more than 3,200 years, and as recently as in the 18th century.

Lunch: At the site, plated meal featuring typical Belizean fare plus water.

Afternoon: Boat ride and bus transfer to San Ignacio. Late afternoon arrival at the hotel and check-in.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
3
San Ignacio Town, Iguana Project, Cahal Pech Ruins & Museum
San Ignacio
B,L,D
San Ignacio Resort Hotel

Activity note: Optional early morning birding around the hotel. From the hotel to Cahal Pech is about 1 mile.

Breakfast: At the hotel, plated meal with juice, coffee, water, tea.

Morning: With our Group Leader, we'll head out for a walking field trip in San Ignacio Town. At a local market, we’ll learn about fruits and vegetables grown in the region and find out what varieties were consumed by the ancient Maya. Returning to the hotel, we’ll visit the Green Iguana Conservation Project on the grounds. The project was established in 1996 and operates in collaboration with Belizean primary and secondary schools, a local university, and foreign affiliates. It works to protect the species that had been decimated by over hunting and educate people individuals about these amazing reptiles. The project follows a continuous, cyclical course of rearing the Iguanas from eggs to the juvenile stage and later releases them into their natural habitat. Visitors are allowed to interact with the iguanas under supervision. We’ll learn about the importance of these green reptiles in the Maya culture.

Lunch: At the hotel, plus coffee, tea, water. Other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: This afternoon’s highlight is an expert led field trip to the Cahal Pech ruins, Belize's oldest Mayan site, and its museum. Cahal Pech is a Maya ceremonial center situated near the Belizean town of San Ignacio, in the Cayo District. Its location on the top of a steep hill makes for great views of the Maya Mountains and the Belize River valleys. The complex contains 34 structures including ball courts, stelae, temples, and palaces. Archaeological findings point to Cahal Pech as being one of the earliest Maya settlements in the country—thriving through the Classic Maya Period and possibly beyond. Human bones and corn, cacao, and anato seeds were found at nearby caves, strong indicators that the site may have been used for ritual sacrifices and food offerings to Maya deities.

Dinner: At the hotel, plus coffee, tea, water. Other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
4
Transfer to Flores, Yaxha Ruins, Flores Walking Orientation
Tikal
B,L,D
Hotel Villa Maya

Activity note: From San Ignacio to Yaxha is about 35 miles, approximately 1-1.5 hours; from Yaxha to Flores is about 43 miles, approximately 1.5 hours; from Flores to the hotel is about 8 miles.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Transfer to the border of Belize with Guatemala. Stop for border crossing procedures and then transfer to Yaxha National Park to enjoy a walking exploration of the Mayan site. The Yaxha ruins are part of the Maya Biosphere Reserve along with the sites of Nakum and El Naranjo. Findings indicate that the city was occupied throughout the pre-classic and post-classic periods and that it was allied to Tikal. Yaxha has more than 500 buildings, including a twin pyramid complex not seen anywhere else save in Tikal. The national park is located less than an hour's drive from the town of Flores.

Lunch: At a local restaurant en route.

Afternoon: We will continue our transfer to Flores and check in to our hotel upon arrival. Next, we'll ride to Flores with our Group Leader and a local expert for a walking orientation to the town. Usually used as a base for trips to Tikal, this quaint town, set on an island in Lake Petén Itzá, has Mediterranean style architecture and a unique history.

Dinner: At a local restaurant.

Evening: At the hotel, we'll enjoy a film presentation on Tikal before our field trip tomorrow.

DAY
5
Tikal National Park and Museum, UNESCO World Heritage Site
Tikal
B,L,D
Hotel Villa Maya

Activity note: From the hotel to Tikal is about 38 miles, just over 1 hour. Walking and standing for over 1 hour at Tikal site over paths of dirt and grass with some elevation. Wear sturdy walking shoes with lug soles.

Breakfast: At the hotel, buffet with juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: This morning’s highlight is a field trip to Tikal National Park archaeological site. We’ll have on-site instruction by a local expert on the history and architecture of this impressive Maya complex. Tikal, with its massive temples rising high above the Petén Jungle, is the kind of exotic place one would expect to see in an Indiana Jones movie. Walking within this enormous archaeological complex can be overwhelming if not accompanied by a knowledgeable guide or a good map. During its apogee in the Classic Period, Tikal was the center of a powerful kingdom that dominated the region both economically and politically. The remains of this once vibrant city are still impressive and include more than 4,000 structures and six of the tallest temples of its kind (some are over 200 feet tall!).

Lunch: Box lunch at the archaeological site.

Afternoon: Our next field trip is to the Tikal Museum. The Tikal Museum (Museo Sylvanus G. Morley) is a small museum filled with exquisite ceramics and artifacts excavated from Tikal. One of the more notable pieces include the three long-nosed, pale turquoise rain gods. Returning to the hotel, the remainder of the afternoon is free.

Dinner: At the hotel with coffee, tea, water. Other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check out, transfer, and flight to Guatemala in the morning

DAY
6
Flight to Guatemala City, National Museum, Lake Atitlan
Lake Atitlan
B,L,D
Posada de Don Rodrigo - Atitlan

Activity note: The flight from Flores to Guatemala City takes approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes. From Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan is about 111 miles, approximately 4-4.5 hours.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We’ll check out and transfer to the airport for our flight to Guatemala City. Upon arrival, we’ll accompany our Group Leader on a visit to the National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology (Museo Nacional de Arqueología y Etnología — MUNAE), established in 1989 and dedicated to the conservation of archaeological and ethnological artifacts and research into Guatemala's history and cultural heritage. The museum’s collection includes some 25,000 items. We’ll then transfer to Panajachel on Lake Atitlan. Lake Atitlan is a large endorheic (internal drainage) lake recognized as the deepest lake in Central America. It is renowned as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world and its basin is an important source of water for local crops.

Lunch: At a local restaurant en route.

Afternoon: We expect to arrive at the hotel for check in mid-afternoon. Settle in and freshen up. The remainder of the afternoon is free. You might like to explore the hotel grounds, relax in a hammock, or take a rejuvenating nap. We'll regroup for a presentation by a local expert on Lake Atitlan, one of the most beautiful and mystical lakes in the world.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
7
Local Villages, Cultural Traditions & Customs
Lake Atitlan
B,L
Posada de Don Rodrigo - Atitlan

Activity note: Boat transfers on Lake Atitlan can become bumpy depending on weather conditions; bring medication if you are prone to motion sickness. Walking on paved and unpaved village streets.

Breakfast: At the hotel with juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: Boat transfer to San Juan La Laguna. Feel time slow down as you walk into the small village. Watch as locals, clad in traditional dress, go about creating their handicrafts and traditional weavings as though the world outside did not exist.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: During our walking explorations in the village of Santiago La Laguna we’ll learn about Mayan religious syncretism represented by the folk “saint” Maximón. There are numerous deities in the Mayan religion, as well as many spirits. The idea of Maximon originated in pre-Columbian times, later overlaid with elements of Christian identities introduced by Roman Catholicism. Many towns have effigies of Maximon, but Santiago’s is one of the most popular. He travels from house to house for a year at a time, bringing “blessings” to the hosts in the form of visitors who offer everything from money to alcohol and cigars to keep Maximon happy in exchange for favors and benefits. From Santiago, we'll transfer back to Panajachel. The remainder of the afternoon is free for your personal independent exploration or just to relax.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
8
Transfer to Antigua, Chichicastenango, Santo Tomas Church
Antigua
B,L
Hotel Posada de Don Rodrigo Antigua

Activity note: Driving on winding mountain roads; bring medication if you are prone to motion sickness. From Panajachel to Chichicastenango is about 26 miles, approximately 1.5 hours. From Chichicastenango to Antigua is about 61 miles, approximately 2.5 hours. Walking on cobbled stone streets, some standing and steps. Do not bring/wear anything of great value to the market.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: After checking out of the hotel, we’ll begin our transfer to Antigua with stops for field trips along the way. The first of these is to the famous Chichicastenango Market. "Chichi," as it is locally known, is the site of a colorful, indigenous market. Mayans from miles around come on Thursdays and Sundays to bring their products and produce to the market and exchange gossip and information.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: Our next field trip is to the church of Santo Tomas to see how the Mayan religion has blended with Christianity. We’ll learn from our Group Leader about religious rituals of the people of Guatemala. Continuing our transfer, we’ll arrive in Antigua and check in to our hotel. Before dinner we'll regroup for a presentation by a local expert on what's behind the walls of Antigua.

Dinner: On your own to enjoy what you like.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
9
Maya Textiles, Textile Cooperative, Jade Museum
Antigua
B,L
Hotel Posada de Don Rodrigo Antigua

Activity note: Walking on irregular cobbled stone streets and standing.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We'll have a presentation by a local expert on traditional Maya textiles. Next, we'll take a field trip to San Antonio Aguas Calientes Textile Cooperative to learn more about local textiles and view weavers at work. Return to the hotel.

Lunch: At the hotel.

Afternoon: A local expert will lead us on a walking exploration of historic Antigua--a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Our walk will include a visit to the Jade Museum that has been featured in National Geographic Magazine and a TV special on the Discovery Channel. From the museum’s website: “Jadeite Jade was discovered approximately 3,000 years ago by an early Mesoamerican culture, The Olmecs. They became expert lapidary artists and carved jade into beautiful statues, ceremonial ornaments and objects for their rituals. Their descendants, The Maya, used it as ornaments and jewelry for nobles and priests…Only the very wealthy and powerful could afford to wear jade both in this life and in the afterlife.” Returning to the hotel, the remainder of the afternoon is free.

Dinner: On your own to enjoy what you like.

Evening: Free time.

DAY
10
Casa K’ojom Music Museum, Maya Spirituality
Antigua
B,L
Hotel Posada de Don Rodrigo Antigua

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Our field trip this morning is to the Casa K’ojom Music Museum, where we'll learn about the evolution of Mayan music during an expert presentation. Casa K’ojom is a private, educational, non-profit research center and museum, dedicated to research, preservation, and dissemination of traditional music of the Mayan communities of Guatemala. Since 1984, founder and current Director Samuel Franco has carried out extensive field work, through several expeditions to different Maya areas during their local Patron Saint celebrations and other rituals, recording their music and photographing their contemporary ceremonies. The museum houses an important audiovisual archive including sound recordings, photographs, and video footage.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: Free time. We’ll regroup at the hotel for a pre-dinner presentation on Maya spirituality with a reenactment of a religious ceremony. Religious rituals were an integral part of Mayan culture. A period of fasting signaled the start of preparations; the ceremony itself usually began with purification rites followed by prayers, chanting, ritual dancing, and the burning of incense.

Dinner: On your own to enjoy what you like.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
11
Copan UNESCO World Heritage Site
Copan
B,L,D
Marina Copan

Activity note: The drive from Antigua to Copan is about 174 miles, approximately 8 hours, and will be broken up with a stop for lunch and bathroom breaks.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Check out and transfer to Copan.

Lunch: At a restaurant en route.

Afternoon: Arriving in Copan, we’ll check in to hotel and enjoy some "down time." Copan is a small town with a population under 5000. Set in a fertile valley, it has remained virtually unchanged since the days when explorer John Lloyd Stephens first arrived in 1839. The quaint cobblestone streets and tile roofs are characteristic of colonial times. The town is quiet and a perfect place to relax. We’ll be joined by an expert archaeologist for a presentation on discovering Copan.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
12
Copan Ruins, Sculpture Museum
Copan
B,L
Marina Copan

Activity note: Walking along paths of dirt and grass at archaeological sites for over 1 hour - wear sturdy walking shoes with lug soles.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We’ll depart on a field trip to the Copan archaeological site to learn about life in the ancient Maya city. The splendors of Copan are represented by its beautiful carvings, inscriptions, and paintings. The Great Plaza, the ball court, several lesser courts, and amphitheater that lie near the base of the Hieroglyphic Stairway are symbolic of the boundaries between the actual and supernatural worlds as games were metaphors for the struggle between good and evil. The Stairway, which has 63 steps is inscribed with a partial history of Copan and is the longest extant Mayan inscription. It features lifelike displays of Mayan temples and sculptures, Mayan stelae, and hieroglyphics.

Lunch: At the archaeological site.

Afternoon: Next, we’ll head to the Copan Sculpture Museum. This beautiful museum is located next to the visitors’ center at the Copán archaeological park. Guests enter the museum by a carved door which resembles the mouth of a dragon, and step into a cool and dimly lit tunnel that wends its way down to the main floor of the museum. As the tunnel comes to an end, it opens out into a bright courtyard dominated by a large and colorful replica of the Rosa Lila temple. Although most of us have become used to seeing Maya architecture and sculpture without any color, archaeological findings actually show that Maya cities were once adorned with stucco and bright paint. In addition to the Rosa Lila temple, the museum showcases both copies and originals of stelae, facades, altars, and other sculptures found in Copán. Returning to the hotel, the remainder of the afternoon is free.

Dinner: On your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
13
Chocolate & the Maya, School Visit
Copan
B,L,D
Marina Copan

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Field trip to a local school and an expert-led presentation on the educational system of Honduras. We’ll then visit the home of a local archaeologist to learn about the history of cacao as a sacred Mayan beverage, and have a demonstration on transforming cacao into chocolate--the Maya way!

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: After a visit to the Copan town museum, the remainder of the afternoon is free. Take this opportunity to explore the town on your own or return to the hotel. We'll gather before dinner for a presentation on modern medicine in the land of the Maya. Lecture: Modern Medicine in the Land of the Maya.

Dinner: At the hotel, enjoy a festive poolside barbecue.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check out and transfer tomorrow.

DAY
14
Las Sepulturas, Transfer to San Pedro Sula, Guamilito Market
San Pedro Sula
B,L,D
Hotel Copantl

Activity note: From Santa Rosa de Copan to San Pedro Sula is about 100 miles; approximately 3-3.5 hours.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: After checking out, we’ll depart on a field trip to the Las Sepulturas archaeological site, a little over a mile (less than 2 km) from the main Copán complex. Las Sepulturas was once a residential area for Copan’s nobility. The construction and carvings are of a high artistic quality. We’ll hear from our Group Leader about the story of Las Sepulturas as seen in its stellae--upright stone slabs that have been inscribed and/or sculpted. We'll then continue our transfer to San Pedro Sula.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: We’ll visit the Guamilito Market featuring Honduran artisans, crafts, and produce from around the country. Next, we'll drive to our hotel for check in and room assignments. The rest of the afternoon is free.

Dinner: At the hotel, share your favorite experiences with new Road Scholar friends.

Evening: At leisure. Say farewells, finish packing, prepare for check out and departure in the morning, and get a good night's rest for the day ahead.

DAY
15
Program Concludes
In Flight
B

Activity note: Hotel check out from 11:00 a.m. Participants with independent travel arrangements and/or scheduled on later flights can keep their hotel rooms until check-out time on this day. Except for breakfast, all other meals are on your own on this day. See your program’s travel details regarding transfers.

Breakfast: At the hotel depending on flight departure time.

Morning: Transfer to the airport for flight to North America. This concludes the program. If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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