GUATEMALA | The Mystical Maya
Guatemala is the the homeland of the Mayan people. A vibrant and complex culture, the Maya still form more than 60% of the country's population. For over 600 years they held a splendid, high culture of arts, architecture, mathematics and astronomy. Based on their observation of the rhythms of nature and the heavens, they developed one of the most complex and nuanced calendar systems known to this day.
After a few days in the ancient colonial capital Antigua, we embark on an unforgettable journey into the small traditional villages around Lake Atitlán, dwarfed by three towering volcanoes. Here we will learn about the resurgence of ancient Mayan cultural traditions and rituals that were for decades suppressed by the government. Morning yoga and evening meditation frame our days. We will participate in healing fire ceremonies at dawn; learn how to weave on the back-strap looms, and how to make authentic Guatemalan tortillas. We may indulge in a morning visit to a papaya vendor or participate in a lakeside yoga class, followed by a leisurely day spent soaking in the sun and swimming. The evenings will be spent watching the sun set over the lake, a home cooked meal and perhaps venturing into a Mayan sweat lodge, before tucking into bed under a deep blue starry sky.
By joining this journey you will support Centro Taa’ P’it, a Mayan-founded intercultural learning center, with an after school program using both 21st century technology and environmental education rooted in their traditions and culture. Travelers will also get a chance to immerse themselves with the Center while in San Pedro, meet the founders and learn about their important work for the children in the community. The trip will conclude with a full day journey to Tikal, the Ancient Mayan capital of the North. This remarkable journey will have a particular focus on the resurgence of Mayan culture and its presence in today’s Guatemala.
Day 1 | Antigua Arrive in Guatemala and transfer to the hotel in Antigua. After settling in and a short rest, gather together to meet the other members of your group. Receive a short orientation and stroll to dinner through the central streets of Parque Central, enjoying your first impressions of the city and pastel-hued facades of the avenidas. Enjoy a welcome dinner in a local restaurant. Antigua Hotel (D)
ANTIGUA is a city that refuses to surrender. Though earthquakes and volcanic eruptions have riddled its history, the city’s resilience has preserved a charming, dynamic culture full of pastel hued facades and Spanish Baroque flair. This UNESCO World Heritage Site offers speckled ruins of colonial architecture peppering the surrounding landscape. As a cultural center of linguistics, Antigua’s horizon basks three volcanoes, dominating the horizon.
Day 2 | Antigua We will begin the day with a round of optional yoga in the hotel patio with views of the volcano, to wake up the body and our senses for the sights and sounds of the day ahead. After breakfast at your hotel, meet with a local historian for a walking tour of the city’s central plaza with its principal architectural features, including the colonial edifices and religious beacons peppered throughout. If you are feeling active, hike to the large cross on the northern hill, called Cerro de la Cruz, enjoying the stunning vista over Antigua and the Volcán de Agua rising high in the South. Enjoy lunch on your own at a local eatery and take time to explore the smells and sights of the colorful Antigua. Dinner together with the group. After dinner your trip manager, Cilla Utne, will lead you through a welcoming circle and an optional intro to evening chakra mediation. Antigua Hotel (B/D)
LAKE ATITLÁN Located in the Western highlands of Guatemala, the volcanic Lake Atitlán is considered by many to be the most beautiful lake in the world. This mile high deep blue lake is overseen by three massive volcanoes; San Pedro, Atitlan, and Toliman. Thirteen small indigenous villages speckle the shores of this sacred body of water, all easily accessible by a network of lanchas (boats). This land is rich in ash and minerals and supports a variety of agriculture such as extensive coffee and avocado orchards, and a variety of farm crops- most notably corn and onions. The lake also serves as a rich food source for the indigenous communities that inhabit the area.
Day 3 | Lake Atitlán After our optional wake up yoga on the patio and a delicious breakfast we board a private coach for the journey to the Western highlands and what is often called “Eden on Earth” - Lake Atitlán. The locals, in their colorful, traditional Mayan dress can be seen shuttling across the lake between their villages. We will have lunch en route to Late Atitlan. Upon arrival, once you’ve had a chance to settle in to your hotel, join Juan Manuel Chavajay Cotuc, the director of our partner NGO, Centro Taa’ 'Pi't for an optional lakeside swim. Join in conversation to learn about the organization at the heart of the cultural renewal of the Mayan community in San Pedro la Laguna. As the sun lowers, enjoy dinner with Juan Manuel, his staff, local families and respected elders from the community of San Pedro. We will wrap up the day with an optional evening chakra meditation. San Pedro Hotel (B/L/D)
Founded and led by Mayans, CENTRO TAA’ 'PIT is a non-profit, intercultural learning center supporting local Tz'utujil children in computer technology and ecological education. This unique program began in an effort to strengthen the Tzutujil Mayan culture and to also protect the sacred “Mother Lake” whose material and spiritual resources are invaluable to the indigenous people.
Day 4 | Lake Atitlán Wake up with morning yoga on the patio surrounded by the sound of roosters and enjoy a breakfast at the hotel. We will head out on a private boat cruise to the charming village of Santiago Atitlan. We have the chance to take a tour with Dolores Ratzan Pablo to learn about Mayan historical, cultural and political history. We will have lunch nearby. Afterwards, we will return on the boat to our hotel and have dinner on our own. In the evening we will have an option to take a Mayan sauna or Temascal, a traditional curative ceremony that relaxes the body and purifies the spirit. San Pedro Hotel (B/L)
Day 5 | Lake Atitlán After coffee, we will have a chance to take an experimental workshop learning about the Maya calendar and nawales with local teacher Hilda Resch. You may take advantage of the opportunity for your own astrology reading based on the Mayan Calendar and an exploration of your personal profile, known in in Mayan cosmology as your nawal. We will enjoy a lunch at Cafe La Puerta, then be escorted to a ceremonial site to experience a traditional Mayan Fire Ceremony. This ancient ceremony is traditionally led by a shaman, which in Mayan culture, is known as an ajq’ij. The ceremony includes burning of incense and candles, offerings of chocolates, flowers and gifts to the Mayan deities (Ajabs), rituals related to the energies of the days (nawales), an acknowledgment of ancestors, a blessing of the four directions and the four colors of the corn (maiz). Our facilitator will give a brief introduction about the nawales and provide translation. After the ceremony, return to our hotel for dinner on your own. San Pedro Hotel (B/L)
Day 6 | Lake Atitlán/Panajachel Following a fresh breakfast, we have three choices for the day’s activities. Choice 1: Day on own; Choice 2: Group trip to San Juan tour of women’s weaving cooperative; or Choice 3: Boat to Santa Cruz for short hike along waterfront to Laguna Lodge for lunch and swimming. We will meet up together as the sun sets for a delicious dinner. San Pedro Hotel (B/D)
Day 7 | San Pedro After optional morning yoga on the patio and a healthy breakfast, we will spend the day at the Centro de Taa”Pi’T, Experience re-introduction Mayan agricultural practices, meet local leaders. We will have lunch at the center. Return to the hotel for dinner on your own. After dinner we have another chance to experience the Mayan sauna (Temascal) and an optional evening chakra meditation. San Pedro Hotel (B/L)
Day 8 | San Pedro Starting the day with morning yoga overlooking the lake, we will breakfast, then spend the day at the Centro de Taa”Pi’T. Along with the children who are involved in the center, we will participate in a variety of inter-cultural activities at school. We will have lunch with the children and continue our activities throughout the afternoon. In the evening, enjoy a catered good-bye dinner at Nancy-Lynn McCoy’s home, with the group Dances of Universal Peace, on a terrace roof. We will end the day and our entire experience at the lake, and with an optional evening chakra mediation. San Pedro Hotel (B/L/D)
Day 9 | Guatemala City Morning begins with a final yoga overlooking the lake then a farewell breakfast with Centro de Taa”Pi’T. Checking out of the hotel we will head to Guatemala City. Lunch will be en route. Check in to the hotel and we will have dinner, before we tuck into bed for an early start the following morning. Guatemala City Hotel (B/L/D)
Day 10 | Flores/Tikal After breakfast, the group will split. For those who have chosen not to go on the Tikal extension, head to the airport for flights home.
For the group on the Tikal extension we depart Guatemala City on an early morning flight to the northern town of Flores. Stroll the streets of this charming colonial village, located on an island on Lago Petén Itzá, only one hour from Tikal. Enjoy lunch with the group at a local eatery for what Guatemalans call comida típica – a blend of Mayan and Latin cuisines. After a quick tour of the city we head into the jungle and check into our lodge. Dinner on your own before an optional chakra meditation. Tikal Jungle Lodge (B/L)
TIKAL In the Mayan language, the name Tikal means ‘the place of spirit voices”. Nestled in the jungle of the southern lowlands near Petén, Guatemala, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Tikal offers travelers a glimpse of the pre-Columbian art and mathematical genius of the Maya civilization. Inhabited from the 6th century B.C to the 10th century A.D., this vast ceremonial city hosts a multitude of towering pyramidal temples, hieroglyphic inscriptions, and ancient tombs and palaces, all bordered by a lush landscape rich in flora and fauna.
Day 11 | Tikal Starting to journey into the historical past we enjoy a morning yoga to greet the jungle. Following a fresh breakfast we join a local guide for a full day of exploring amongst the mystical ruins and temples of the great Mayan city of Tikal. Surrounded by lush jungle, this 2,000-year-old ceremonial gem is rich with complex architecture and history and is considered to be one of the most important archaeological complexes left behind by the Mayan civilization. Climb to the top of an ancient pyramid and listen to the song of the howler monkeys in the rainforest canopy above. The nature lover will find a richly diverse landscape of flora and fauna sprinkled with ruins that date back as far as the 6th century B.C. Perhaps you will be lucky enough to witness a traditional fire ceremony while exploring the grounds, as Tikal is still used to this day by approved Mayan priests who are allowed to perform ceremonies on the grounds. Following a full day of exploring, return to our hotel for dinner and an optional chakra mediation. Tikal Jungle Lodge(B/D)
Day 12 | Tikal After a local breakfast at the hotel we have a whole day to relax by the pool at our lodge, take naps and prepare for our journey home. We will meet for a farewell dinner at the Lodge. Tikal Jungle Lodge (B/D)
Day 13 | Guatemala City/Home After your final Guatemalan breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight to Guatemala City and back home. (B)
NOTE: Travelers should be aware that most streets in the city of Antigua are cobblestones, and there are many uneven surfaces and sidewalks. The Guatemalan countryside around Lake Atitlán, in Flores and Tikal is underdeveloped and has in some areas a bit of a rugged terrain. On the lake, we will be traveling in local motorboats, so called lanchas, that requires the traveler to be able to climb in and out of boats and up on to docks. This journey requires participants to be able to walk a couple hours each day. There are many times to rest but ability to keep up the group’s pace is essential. Most people find no issues with the activity level but those with any conditions should call our office to discuss their limitations.
INCLUDED: All in country transportation per itinerary including round trip airfare to Tikal; hotels in Antigua, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala City, Flores/Tikal; breakfast daily, 7 lunches and 8 dinners (B/L/D per itinerary); guest speakers; all entrance fees on itinerary; CCJ Trip Manager Cilla Utne; preparation materials; tips for bellman and bottled water on the bus.
NOT INCLUDED: International air travel to Guatemala; alcoholic drinks; meals not on itinerary, 4 lunches, 4 dinners, (B/L/D per itinerary); excursions not on the itinerary; tips for local guide and driver (optional, yet customary); travel cancellation and evacuation insurance (strongly recommended, info will be sent upon registration).
CILLA UTNE: Cilla joined Cross Cultural Journeys as CEO in January of 2015. For the past 16 years, she has worked in the field of intercultural consciousness and facilitated cross-cultural training programs for executives living and working across cultures. A native of Sweden and a world traveler, she has lived for extended periods in Spain, the UK, Chile. She lived three times in Guatemala in the past decade, and spent about half the time in Antigua, and half the time on Lake Atitlán. Cilla holds an MBA in Sustainable Business from Pinchot University at Presidio, and is often a speaker on the links between sustainability and cultural values. Cilla is also a budding author, working on a novel about her mother’s childhood, contemplating how unresolved trauma can impact future generations. Based in the US since 1998, she lives on Bainbridge Island, Washington, where she is co-parenting her 12 year old son, adopted from Guatemala in 2007.