Guilt Free Guatemala (11n/12d)

Antigua at night

Antigua at night

Sunday, Day 1, Arrival to Antigua
Guests arrive into Guatemala City airport and are transferred (1hr) to the Spanish colonial city of Antigua where they overnight in Lazos Fuertes Hotel for 2 nights.

Monday, Day 2, Community Tours & Programs – Coffee Farms & Textile Coops (B,L)
In the morning guests will enjoy an active and participating tour of small local coffee farms to learn about the coffee history and process and in the afternoon there will be a local, village traditional lunch followed by a community tour of a village textile and handicraft cooperative.  As Green as it Gets (GAIG) is a charity working to support small independent coffee producers and promoting environmentally responsible agriculture in Guatemala. This tour takes guests to visit some of the families supported by this organization where they can work side-by-side with small coffee farmers in their daily coffee processing, pick, pulp, ferment, wash, dry, trilla, sort, and grade the coffee (depending on the season), roast coffee over an open fire and grind by hand on a grindstone before sampling their handiwork. Coffee Season is Nov to Mar. This tour includes a donation to GAIG and the Viaventure Foundation also supports this organization on an annual basis. With the help of Casasito Association the handicraft center of Santiago Zamora began in 2006 offering both tours but also serving as an education center where workshops and courses are offered to the local women to help the protection and growth of traditional Guatemalan weaving in the village. During the tour guests visit the village itself and the handicraft center and learn about the local history, language and traditional way of life as well as the difficulties faced by today’s rural Guatemala. The tour includes a walk through the village, demonstrations of traitional weaving methods and a family-style lunch where you can learn how to make “tortillas”. 100% of the entrance fee here goes directly to the villages and to a special fund used for social purposes such as education, medicine and emergency help. The price of this tour also includes a small donation to Casasito Association and the Viaventure Foundation also supports this organization on an annual basis

Tuesday, Day 3, Comalapa Market, Local Naif Painters & Transfer to Lake Atitlan (B,L)
Guests will be transferred to visit the colorful authentic market at Comalapa (1hr) which is a small, not so often visited town and market in the highlands near Antigua nestled in amongst some beautiful agricultural scenery. On the transfer guests will be able to see traditional farming life of the maya people of the area and local crops. Once in Comalapa your guide will take you for a tour of the local market and for a visit to some of the famous local primitive painting galleries as well as a stop at a local bakery to try out the “rosca” biscuits and finally a stop at the famous town mural which was painted by the local children to commemorate the signing of the peace accords. When guests are ready they will transfer on through the highlands to Lake Atitlan (2.5hr) and take a boat across the lake to their hotel – Posada Santiago (2 Nights).

Wednesday, Day 4, Friendship Bridge Micro Credit Program & Maximon the Maya God (B,L)
This morning we take guests to participate in a Friendship Bridge, micro-credit re-payment meeting in an area close to the lake. Guests will sit in whilst the women’s loan group meets and receives some form of education / skills training in either Spanish or their local language and then see how they work amongst themselves to sort out payments and hand it over to the loan officer from Friendship bridge. After the meeting guests can then visit the home of one of the participants to see first hand what they do with the loans and how the money has helped them to initiate and/or grow their business. The tour is accompanied by a staff member of Friendship bridge who can elaborate about the work of Friendship Bridge across Guatemala and answer guest’s questions in detail on the subject. The cost of the tour includes all expenses for Friendship Bridge staff as well as an additional donation to Friendship Bridge Micro Credit Program and the Viaventure Foundation also supports this organization on an annual basis.  In the afternoon guests will return to Lake Atitlan to the village of Santiago to tour this interesting village and to meet the Maya God, “Maximon” who is a drinking and smoking god to the Maya people. This is a fascinating insight into the beliefs and the rituals of the Maya people that have been held on to for centuries.

Thursday, Day 5, Chichi Market & Totonicapan Homestay (B,L,D)
Today guests travel back across the lake and across the highlands to the famous market town of Chichi for a tour of this interesting market and an opportunity to barter for arts and crafts. In the afternoon they transfer on to the small town of Totonicapan – also famous for its heritage of arts and crafts – where they will be given a performance of a traditional local dance in full costume and have dinner with a local family. Guests then spend the night in a local home and have time to explore the town.

Friday , Day 6, San Francisco Market & back to Antigua (B)
This morning we visit the famous market at San Francisco El Alto which is one of the largest open air markets in Central America and is famous for its interesting animal market. Once guests are ready they will then transfer back through the highlands to Antigua for time to relax back in this beautiful town. Overnight Lazos Fuertes.

Sat, Day 7, Into the Rainforest  Yaxha Sunset Tour (B)
Guests have an early start today to take the morning flight from Guatemala City up into the northern rainforest to the town of Flores. From here they check into their hotel and have some time to relax and have lunch. After lunch guests are met by their driver and guide for the transfer to Yaxha National Park (approx 1hr) where upon arrival they can explore this atmospheric lakeside Maya archaeology site ending their tour with refreshments & wonderful views at sunset over the rainforest canopy from atop the main temples. Overnight Maya Internacional.

Sun/Mon/Tue, D8/9/10, Community Tour Jungle Trek – El Zotz to Tikal (B,L,D)
This trekking trip is done with a local community guide and porters to help support the local communities in the area gain an alternative income to slash and burn farming in the area.

Sunday, Day 8, Flores to El Zotz (24kms Trekking – 8 hours approx.) (B,L,D)
Guests leave Flores in the early morning and journey to the village community of “Cruce dos Aguadas” where they will begin the hike to the ancient site of El Zotz. The trek will take them through the rainforest and along many of the routes used by the “Chicleros” who work to collect sap from trees to produce chewing gum.  Upon arrival at El Zotz guests will help to set up camp and prepare for the amazing dusk performance as thousands upon thousands of bats fly out of the nearby cave on their nightly search for food. This is truly an amazing sight! Overnight Camping

Monday, Day 9, Exploration of El Zotz. (B,L,D)
Today guests will have time to explore the overgrown ruins of the El Zotz site with its pyramids as they must have been found the first time explorers came across them. Guests can also learn about medicinal plants in the area and keep an eye open for some of the varied wildlife such as toucans, parrots, spiders and howling monkeys, tapir and jaguars! Overnight Camping

Tuesday, Day 10, El Zotz to Tikal (32kms – 8 hours approx.) (B,L)
An early start today to begin the jungle trek across to the Mayan Temple site of Tikal. Guests can take your time as you trek through this beautiful rainforest scenery and enjoy the excitement of arriving at the huge temples of Tikal from the middle of the jungle! We would suggest that upon arrival at Tikal you take the rest of the day to relax, perhaps entering the site to enjoy the sunset from one of the temples but leaving the main exploration until the next day. Overnight at Jaguar Inn Hotel in Tikal National Park

Wednesday, Day 11, Wed, Tour of Tikal. (B,L)
Today guests awaken in Tikal National park and can explore this amazing UNESCO protected Mayan Temple site of Tikal with their guide. Huge Mayan temples rise above the jungle canopy and monkeys and tropical birds are abundant in the surrounding rainforest. After lunch guests have some time to relax and refresh before transferring to Flores airport for their flight back to Guatemala City (30min) and transfer to their hotel. (Approx 10min). Overnight Biltmore Express.

Thursday, Day 12, Transfer out (B)
Guests are met at their hotel by their driver for the private transfer to Guatemala City airport in plenty of time for their international departure.

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