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.
Program No. 3217RJ
Length
15 days
Starts at
3,399
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

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: Orientation to the program. Meet your group leader and fellow Road Scholar participants during a welcome and introduction session at the hotel. We will review the up-to-date daily schedule and any changes, discuss responsibilities, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer any questions you may have. Please be aware that program activities and scheduled times could change due to local circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

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.

Breakfast: Early breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: After breakfast, transfer to the New River dock and embark on a scenic boat ride (approx. 31 miles) 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. Disembark at Lamanai for a walking exploration of 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.

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

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: Time at leisure.

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

Breakfast: Optional early morning birding around the hotel. Breakfast at hotel.

Morning: After breakfast, enjoy a walking orientation of San Ignacio Town, including a visit to a local market. Learn about the fruits and vegetables grown in the region and find out what varieties were consumed by the ancient Maya. Return to the hotel and visit the Iguana Project. During this interactive experience, learn about local efforts to save the endangered green iguana. Find out the importance of these green reptiles in the Maya culture.

Lunch: At the hotel.

Afternoon: This afternoon, take part in a guided visit to the Cahal Pech ruins and its museum (approximately 20 mins from the hotel). Learn about Belize's oldest Mayan site. 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.

Evening: Time at leisure.

DAY
4
Transfer to Flores, Yaxha Ruins, Boat Ride & Orientation
Tikal
B,L,D
Hotel Peten Esplendido

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 approximately 45 minutes from the town of Flores.

Lunch: At a local restaurant en route.

Afternoon: After lunch, we will continue our transfer to Flores and upon arrival we will check-in at our hotel. Boat ride with an orientation to the town of Flores. 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. Back at the hotel, enjoy some free time to rest and enjoy hotel amenities. Our group leader will have an informative video available if anyone wishes to learn more about Tikal before tomorrow’s visit to the site. Optional Video presentation: Tikal - Where Only Legend Survives.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: Free time.

DAY
5
Tikal National Park and Museum - UNESCO World Heritage Site
Tikal
B,L,D
Hotel Peten Esplendido

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Field trip to Tikal National Park archaeological site. During this activity, enjoy on-site instruction 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: At the archaeological site.

Afternoon: Excursion 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. Transfer back to Flores. Time at leisure to enjoy the hotel and surrounding area.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: Time at leisure.

DAY
6
Lake Atitlan: Natural Beauty and Colorful Mayan Villages
Lake Atitlan
B,L,D
Posada de Don Rodrigo - Atitlan

Activity note: The fight from Flores to Guatemala City takes approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes. The transfer from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan takes about 4.5 hours.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Transfer to the airport for flight to Guatemala City. Arrive to Guatemala City. Field trip to the National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology in Guatemala City. Transfer to Panajachel (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.

Afternoon: Mid-afternoon arrival at the hotel and check-in. Enjoy the rest of the afternoon at leisure to explore the hotel grounds, relax in a hammock or take a rejuvenating nap before rejoining the group. Lecture: Lake Atitlan: One of the Most Beautiful and Mystical Lakes in the World.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: Time at leisure.

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

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Boat transfer to the village of Santiago La Laguna for a visit with the notorious Maximón. On-site instruction: Paying Tribute to Maximon, a Mayan "Saint." Maximón is a “saint” worshipped in various forms by the Mayan people of several towns in the highlands of western Guatemala. His origins are not well known though he is believed to be a form of the pre-Colombian Maya god Mam, blended with influences from Catholicism. Maximón is represented by an effigy which resides in a different house each year. Devotees visit offering money, spirits and cigars or cigarettes to gain his favor in exchange for good health, good crops, and marriage counseling etc. His expensive tastes in alcohol and cigarettes indicate that he is a very human character, very different from the ascetic ideals of Christian sainthood.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: Boat transfer from Santiago La Laguna to San Antonio. Feel time slow down as you walk into the small village of San Antonio. Watch as Indians, clad in traditional dress, go about creating their handicrafts and traditional weavings as though the world outside did not exist. Transfer from San Antonio back to Panajachel. Time at leisure to explore Panajachel.

Dinner: On your own, for a chance to explore local fare.

Evening: Time at leisure.

DAY
8
Chichicastenango Market and Santo Tomas Church
Antigua
B,L
Posada de Don Rodrigo - Antigua

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Begin transfer to Antigua. Excursion to the famous Chichicastenango Market. "Chichi," as it is locally known, is the site of a colorful, indigenous market. Mayans from miles around come to “Chichi"on Thursdays and Sundays to bring their products and produce to the market. It is here that the locals exchange gossip and information.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: Field trip to church of Santo Tomas to see how the Mayan religion has blended with Christianity. On-site instruction: The Religious Rituals of the People of Guatemala. Arrive to Antigua and check-in at the hotel. In Antigua you can go back in time and also experience the newness that is part of Guatemalan culture today. By the 1980s, an array of cultural activities including art galleries, performing arts, popular arts, films, forums, and cultural life began to redirect the former focus of religious activities which previously consumed the city. This is caused in part by the numerous visitors and the more than 80 Spanish schools which provide an economic base to the city's population. Known as "La Antigua Guatemala," this colonial capital was founded with the name of Santiago de Guatemala in 1543. Today, still about the same size as in colonial times, Antigua's cobble-stone streets and colonial architecture depict more than 50 monumental buildings including convents, monasteries, churches and chapels around the main square. With the blending of the old with the new, Congress passed a Protective Law for La Antigua Guatemala for the protection of historical buildings and areas that gives much of the city its colonial character. Return to the hotel. Lecture: Behind the Walls of Antigua.

Dinner: On your own, for a chance to explore local fare.

Evening: Time at leisure.

DAY
9
Antigua - The Architecture of a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Antigua
B,L
Posada de Don Rodrigo - Antigua

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Lecture: Traditional Maya Textiles. Excursion to San Antonio Aguas Calientes Textile Cooperative to view weavers at work and learn about local textiles. Return to the hotel.

Lunch: At the hotel.

Afternoon: Walking orientation to Antigua, including a visit to the Jade Museum which has been featured in National Geographic Magazine and a TV special on the Discovery Channel. Return to hotel.

Dinner: On your own, for a chance to explore local fare.

Evening: Free time.

DAY
10
Antigua - Culture, Traditions and Customs
Antigua
B,L
Posada de Don Rodrigo - Antigua

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Field trip to Casa K’ojom Music Museum. Site lecture: The Evolution of Mayan Music. 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: Time at leisure to explore Antigua. Lecture: Maya Spirituality (with a reenactment of a religious ceremony). Religious ceremonies were a large part of the Mayan culture. Their calendars provided them with many occasions to have ceremonies, feasts, and banquets. Ceremonies usually had lavish decoration, beautiful costumes, storytellers, actors, clowns, and musicians. Religious ceremonies usually started after a period of fasting. The ceremony itself usually started with purification rites followed by prayers, chanting, and ritual dancing. All ceremonies involved the burning of incense.

Dinner: On your own, for a chance to explore local fare.

Evening: Time at leisure.

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

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Transfer to Copan.

Lunch: En route at a local restaurant.

Afternoon: Arrive to Copan and check-in at hotel. 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. Time at leisure to explore the town. Lecture by an expert archaeologist David Sedat: Discovering Copan.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: Time at leisure.

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

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Field trip to Copan archaeological site. On-site instruction: Life in Ancient Copan. 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: Excursion 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. Return to the hotel.

Dinner: On your own, for a chance to explore local fare.

Evening: Time at leisure.

DAY
13
Chocolate - Sacred Mayan Beverage, Copan School Visit
Copan
B,L,D
Marina Copan

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Field trip to a local school (if in session). Lecture: The Educational System of Honduras. Visit the home of a local archaeologist for a demonstration on transforming cacao into chocolate. Lecture: History of Cacao – The Sacred Mayan Beverage. Before chocolate was a sweet candy, it was a spicy beverage. Some of the earliest known chocolate drinkers were the ancient Maya of Central America. The Maya mixed chocolate with cornmeal, chile peppers, honey, and water. They poured this concoction from cup to bowl and back again until a nice, thick layer of foam formed on top. Maya priests presented a chocolate drink at sacred altars during special religious ceremonies. They also made offerings of cacao seeds to the gods.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: Excursion to the town museum. Time at leisure to explore the town of Copan. Lecture: Modern Medicine in the Land of the Maya.

Dinner: Enjoy a festive evening with a poolside BBQ dinner at the hotel.

Evening: Free time at the hotel.

DAY
14
Las Sepulturas Ruins, San Pedro Sula - Guamilito Market
San Pedro Sula
B,L,D
Hotel y Suites Copantl

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Field trip to the Las Sepulturas site. Las Sepulturas is a small archaelogical site, less than 2 km from the main Copán complex. This is where the Copán aristocracy lived. Site lecture: Sepulturas - The Story in the Stellae. Transfer to San Pedro Sula.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: Visit to Guamilito Market featuring Honduran artisans, crafts and produce from around the country. Guamilito Market is the best place in Honduras to purchase everything from rum, coffee and vanilla, to handicrafts. The first rule at Guamilito is to barter any price that is given to you. Handicrafts include handmade wood carvings, as well as the woven baskets and panama hats from Santa Barbara. These items have colorful patterns and are a real bargain. Site lecture: San Pedro Sula. Time at leisure.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: Time at leisure to finish packing, enjoy one last chat with your Road Scholar friends, or to get an early night's rest in preparation for the international flights next day.

DAY
15
Return Flight to U.S.
In Flight
B

Breakfast: At the hotel (dependent on flight time).

Morning: Transfer to the Ramón Villeda Morales International Airport in San Pedo Sula for your flight home. This concludes the program. We hope you enjoyed your Road Scholar adventure! When you get home, remember to stay in touch via the Road Scholar Social Network; share memories, pictures, and comments about your recent travels. Note: 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.