GUATEMALA TRAVEL ADVENTURE 1999
Cipriano Calmo, a young Mam Indian at the two crosses of Todos Santos
Guatemala, the Land of the Maya, is the place to travel for an ethnic, scenic,
adventure-ecotour that will blow your mind! Rutahsa Adventures will introduce
you to the colorful Highland Maya people who proudly retain their customs and
beliefs in spite of 500 years of European colonial influence. We will show you
Copán, Quiriguá, Zaculeu, Tikal and other archeological sites
dating back over a 1000 years, startling ruins of a once mighty civilization.
And you will visit (and stay in) graceful and charming Spanish colonial homes,
reliving the romantic aspects of Guatemala's turbulent colonial history. All
this set amid the natural splendor of soaring volcanoes, dramatic mountain
lakes, tropical lowland jungle and high cloud forest teeming with exotic fauna
and flora. Who could ask for more?
Explore classic Mayan temples, climb an active volcano, swim in hot springs,
hike cloud forest trails in search of the resplendent quetzal, explore a
cavern, haggle with modern Mayan merchants in native markets.... Don't just
dream of adventures that take you out of the ordinary, travel to Guatemala
and experience your dreams.
Join Rutahsa Adventures for a trip to Guatemala like no other trip offered by
any other travel service. We guarantee it. Reservations are now being taken
for the 1999 Guatemala travel adventure, an 18-day excursion scheduled for late
July-early August of 1999. The itinerary is described below.
Trip highlights include:
- ...hiking into the remote Highland Maya town of Todos Santos
Cuchumatán, where ancient costume, ritual, and way of life is proudly
- ...witnessing, from as close a safety will permit, active Pacaya volcano erupt;
- ...prowling the romantic ruins of
earthquake-shattered Spanish colonial Antigua Guatemala;
- ...boating across breath-taking Lago
Atitlán --declared by Aldous Huxley to be the world's most beautiful
- ...hiking through cool, dense cloud forest
in search of the magnificent quetzal bird revered by the Maya;
- ...bargaining with native Mayans for crafts in the Chichicastenango market,
the most colorful native market in the Americas;
- ...swimming in hot springs;
- ...exploring the fabulous ruined Classic Maya city of Copán, with
its wondrous carved details and mysterious stelae;
- ...learning to pronounce wonderful polysyllabic Guatemalan names like
Huehuetenango, Cuchumatán, Chichicastenango, Totonicapán, and
- ...PLUS optional side trip to Tikal Ruins, famous for its soaring pyramids rising out of the jungle, and
for its abundant wildlife.
- ...PLUS much more! See the ITINERARY!
AN 18-DAY TRIP TO GUATEMALA & HONDURAS FOR ONLY $1950!
Trip inscription fee of $1950 includes RT air fare from Nashville to Guatemala
City, all lodging (double occupancy rooms), ground transportation, bilingual
guide, most museum and park entries, plus the Guatemala exit tax. Fee does not
include: meals, beverages, souvenirs, or tips. [Allow $16-18 per day for
meals in Guatemala.] As of the date of this writing (Aug. 31, 1998) this
inscription fee is an estimate, based on 1998 costs; it is subject to change
in the event of an air fare hike, or other cost increases beyond the control of
Trip will be priced at $1350 for travellers who prefer to make their own flight
arrangements or who wish to embark from a point of origin other than Nashville.
Tikal Extension: A 2-day trip extension to Tikal Ruins is offered for an
additional $250. Extension fee includes round trip air fare from Guatemala
City to Flores, transportation from Flores to Tikal National Park, lodging
in the famous Jungle Lodge, park and museum entry fees. As in the case of the
main trip inscription fee, this extension trip cost is subject to change in the
event of an air fare or other major cost increase beyond the control of Rutahsa
Although the price of this Guatemala excursion is very economical, this is NOT a
trip based on budget accommodations or cheap transportation. All the hotels are
of good to spectacular quality, and all possess a marvelous Central American
ambience. The great price merely reflects our 30 years of experience in
Guatemala: we know where the deals are and we have connections! Ground
transportation is by private bus with a professional driver.
A minimum of eight travellers is necessary to make this trip go; a maximum of
16 participants will be allowed.
This trip is a unique experience: awesome scenery, wonderfully colorful
indigenous people, fascinating history, astounding archeological sites, lush
tropical jungle flora and exotic fauna, good food, and some interesting geology
and geography thrown in to boot!
HOW TO GET ON BOARD
A deposit of $450 is required to secure a reservation for this excursion.
This deposit will be 100% refunded if the trip is cancelled for any reason.
For further information, or to send in your deposit, please contact:
Dr. Ric Finch
Dept. of Earth Sciences
Tennessee Technological University
Cookeville, TN 38505
Mon. 7/19: Fly from the U.S. to Guatemala City; stay at the Pan American
Hotel just off the Plaza Constitucional, the very heart of the capital city.
Afternoon walking tour of the Palacio Nacional, national cathedral, and central
Tues. 7/20: Visit the amazing giant relief map of Guatemala on the
outskirts of the city. Next, leave Guatemala City for Copán, Honduras,
descending from the volcanic highlands into the semi-desert of the upper
Motagua Valley, with brief stops en route at little-known archeological sites.
Enter Honduras via a backwoods border crossing that looks like a scene from a
movie about banana republics! Overnight at Copán Ruins in the
first-class Hotel Marina Copán.
Weds. 7/21: Walking tour of Copán Ruins, the splendid new Museum
of Sculpture, the smaller old Copán Museum, and the interesting and
friendly country town of Copán itself. Copán Ruins are the
partially excavated and restored remains of a major Classic Maya city over 1000
years old. It is most famous for the abundance of sculpture found on the
temple and palace walls, and in the form of statues known as stelae, depicting the ancient city's powerful
kings. Another famous sight is Copán's fine ceremonial ballcourt, where the losers of ritual ballgames
were put to death. Second night at the Hotel Marina Copán, enjoying
their pool, and good restaurant and bar facilities.
Thur. 7/22: Return to Guatemala and drive to Quiriguá Ruins, a
small, but important site with exceptionally fine stelae and unique zoomorphic
boulders. Quiriguá was a vassal city-state to Copán, but rose up
against its oppressor, defeating the larger city in the 8th century AD. From
Quiriguá Ruins we will continue on to the north shore of Lago Izabal
where we will overnight in a group of rustic bungalows on the waters's edge.
Here at El Paraíso, which means "Paradise" we will enjoy the truly
peaceful ambience of a Guatemalan hacienda, remote from city noises,
smells and stresses. Step right outside your bungalow and jump in the lake;
watch the wading shorebirds or parrots flocking in to roost for the evening;
enjoy a marimba played by local Maya men at night.
Fri. 7/23: Today we can relax all day at El Paraíso. There are
various interesting things to do, including a ride in a tractor-pulled trailer
over to a wonderful swimming hole with a waterfall of hot water cascading into it. The truly adventurous can
hike upstream a quarter of a mile, through a narrow canyon, to explore a
spectacular cave. Swinging in a hammock on a bungalow porch, reading and maybe
sipping a beverage, will prove irresistible to many.
For the afternoon, it should be possible for those interested to hire a boat
and ride down the lake to visit a co-operative run by indigenous women. One of
the more interesting crafts produced by the women here is handmade paper.
Sat. 7/24: Around 9 AM we board up, and drive along the north shore of
the lake for some miles before heading up into the Chuacús Mountains.
Part of the way the road follows the old bed of a railroad that once carried
coffee --grown by German plantation owners in the Cobán region-- down to
Lago Izabal to be shipped to Europe. After five and a half hours of driving,
passing through shifting panoramas, we'll arrive at the Posada Montaña
del Quetzal, in the cool elevations of cloud forest. The cabañas here
have fireplaces, and relaxing by an evening fire --perhaps with an appropriate
libation-- will feel very good indeed.
Sun. 7/25: Up before daylight for a short drive to a place where the
resplendent quetzal can be seen feeding in the early morning. The quetzal, a
near-indescribable bird covered in shimmering metallic emerald plumes, is one
of the world's most beautiful creatures. In Classic Maya times, only the
nobility were permitted to adorn themselves with the long tail plumes of the
male quetzal. The bird is the national symbol of Guatemala, but unfortunately
is threatened by habitat loss as cloud forest is cut for lumber and cleared for
After breakfast back at our posada, we will go for a hike up into the
mist-shrouded cloud forest, lush with giant
hardwoods, tree ferns, bromeliads, orchids, waterfalls, and, for the lucky
quiet hiker, possible glimpses of agouti or other wildlife.
Next, we continue on across the limestone mountains to the important
coffee-growing town of Cobán. Here we'll visit an orchid farm and a
coffee plantation. Our lodging will be the wonderful colonial-style Hotel
La Posada, which has a comedor that
turns out truly excellent food.
Mon. 7/26: Today is a long day on the road, traveling from Cobán
via Ruta 7 along the Río Chixoy valley, through Uspantán,
Sacapulas, and Aguacatán to the city of Huehuetenango in western
Guatemala. Though a long day, the rewards are spectacular mountain vistas
seldom seen by tourists. We will take a number of rest breaks along the way
in a series of interesting Indian towns. As the day goes by, you will note
that more and more native costume is evident, as we are getting into the "real"
Guatemala, that is the Guatemala of the Highland Maya. In Hueheutenango, the
departmental capital and a major regional city, we will stay in the Hotel
Tues. 7/27: Today we'll be joined by Mike Shawcross, a well-known,
long-time resident of Antigua Guatemala who has a special knowledge of and love
for the Huehuetenango area. On our way out of "Huehue" we'll stop for an hour
at Ruinas Zaculeu, a Mam fortress occupied at the time of the Spanish conquest.
Although damaged when taken by the conquistadores, the site is
relatively well preserved, and retains much of its original plaster. Your
guide can even show you a Maya handprint in plaster a half a millenium old.
From Huehue we'll drive up to the mountain village of San Juan Atitán.
The Mam dialect, one of Guatemala's 20-or more Maya dialects is spoken in San
Juan, and the tradition of traje, that is, native costume, remains very
From San Juan, with Mike as our guide, we'll hike across the mountains to the
town of Todos Santos Cuchumatán, about 10 km away. This is a hike of
about 6 hours, with a lot of uphill. Mike says it's strenuous, but the rewards
are "stupendous views". Our luggage-- and anyone who prefers not to hike--
will go around a different route with the bus-- to join us at our rustic hotel
in Todos Santos. This Mam pueblo was made famous by anthropologist Maud Oakes
with her two studies published in the 1950s ("The Two Crosses of Todos Santos"
and "Beyond the Windy Place"). Todos Santos men and women all wear their
distinctive traje, and the children are
all decked out as miniatures of their parents. This will be a good place for
travelers interested in textiles to buy some authentic pieces from the
weavers who made them.
Weds. 7/28: Today we return to Huehue by bus, crossing glaciated valleys
at nearly 12,000 ft above sea level in the Altos Cuchumatanes before descending
the bold escarpment back down to the central plateaux. After lunch in Huehue
we'll visit the huge city market, an excellent example of a "pristine" people's
market (i.e., unaltered by tourism; you might not want to eat meat bought in the butcher area of this
market, but the sights and scents are certainly unforgettable!). Next we bus
along the Pan American highway to Quetzaltenango, Guatemala's second largest
city, affectionately known by its Maya name, Xelajú. Overnight
in the elegant Pensión Bonifaz.
Thur. 7/29: If the weather is good, we will leave our hotel at 5 AM and
drive up the backside of Santa María
volcano, then hike a short distance through some amazing vegetation to the Santiaguito overlook.
Here we can get a close view of the giant 1902 explosion crater and the
steaming, rumbling lava dome that has pushed up into the center of the crater
since 1922. Then back to our pensión for breakfast. (Try the
festival de frutas with ice cream!)
After lunch we head out to Fuentes Georginas, a hot springs spa. En route we pass through the Indian town of Zunil
and the most picturesquely beautiful agricultural lands imaginable. Second
night in the Pensión Bonifaz.
Fri. 7/30: Free time in the morning to enjoy Quezaltenango. The market
and several museums and the cathedral are right on the main square, as is our
Afternoon: Drive to Panajachel on Lake Atitlán, a dramatic,
shimmering sheet of water sunk in a volcanic
caldera, with three giant volcanic cones rising up beside it. Panajachel,
jokingly referred to by Guatemalans as "gringotenango" is a shopper's mecca,
with open-air markets lining the streets selling products from all over
Guatemala. We will stay in the Hotel Tzanjuyú, the somewhat faded queen
of the lakeside hotels, but boasting a location that can't be beat.
Sat. 7/31: In the morning we'll take the 9 AM boat across the dramatic lake to the Tz'utujil town of Santiago
Atitlán, where the women wear halo-like
headdresses similar to those seen on some of the Mayan kings depicted by
the stelae of Copán. Much of the Santiago costume is still woven by
the women of Santiago on backstrap looms.
Return to Panajachel for lunch, and then a short drive to Chichicastenango, to
observe the preparations for market day on Sunday. Our hotel is the
internationally renowned Mayan Inn, consisting
of several century-old buildings converted into a beautiful hotel, furnished
with antiques, including many Spanish colonial-era pieces of museum quality.
The Mayan has been sheltering tourists since the 1930s, and possesses an
ambience that no new hotel can create.
Sun. 8/1: Market day at "Chichi": the most colorful native market in all
the Americas. Because Mayan people come from all over Guatemala to this big
market, it is a wonderful place to see a wide variety of native costumes, such
as this beautiful woman from Nebaj in full Nebaj
traje. At the Chichi market you will find colorful textiles, wood
carvings, masks, candles, necklaces, pottery, musical instruments, herbs and
native medicines, metates for grinding corn, loom parts, vegetables, pigs and
chickens, etc. The cloth goods include a wonderful variety of clothing,
tapestries, wall hangings, blankets, sashes, shawls and purses, that make
great bargain souvenirs. And bargain you should-- it's part of the art of
buying and selling.
Around 3 PM we'll head out to Antigua Guatemala, the former Spanish colonial
capital of the Kingdom of Goathemala. In Antigua we will stay at the Posada de
don Rodrigo, a colonial home turned into a hotel, complete with several patios,
antique furnishings, and a daily marimba
Mon. 8/2: Walking. All day getting to know Antigua, exploring its vast
earthquake-shattered ruins, sampling its
terrific variety of restaurants, shopping for jade, or more native cloth goods,
or just hanging out. Second night at the Posada de don Rodrigo.
Tues. 8/3: Up early and off to climb active Volcán Pacaya. This
is a non-technical, but fairly strenuous climb. The view from the peak is certainly worth the effort! Depending on the
nature of the eruptive activity we will climb to the very peak and maybe peer
over into the fuming crater. If the volcano
is in an explosive phase we may delay the Pacaya trip until the afternoon, in
order to watch the volcanic fireworks at
Those who do not wish for a strenuous hike-- plus those too enamored with
Antigua to leave-- can spend another entire day exploring this charming city.
There is so much to see here! Third night at the Posada de don Rodrigo.
Weds. 8/4: Tour a jade factory in the morning. After lunch we clear out
of our hotel rooms and load the bus. On our way out of Antigua we'll visit the
Casa Popenoe, a 17th-century mansion lovingly restored and featuring the finest
collection of authentic colonial furnishings in the country. Then we drive 45
km back into Guatemala City to the Hotel Pan American.
Thurs. 8/5: Those who end their Guatemala excursion today will be taken
to the international airport to catch their flight back to the U.S. Those
taking the 2-day optional Tikal extension will board a local carrier and fly
out to the town of Flores in the steamy jungle of the Petén lowlands.
2-DAY TIKAL EXTENSION: Fly over much of the mountainous terrain we
crossed by road in the Cobán region; continue on north to Flores, site
of the last Maya city to fall to the Spanish conquistadores (not until 1697!).
Here we'll be taken by bus to the Jungle Lodge inside Tikal National Park.
Thursday afternoon spent exploring the sprawling, jungle-covered ruins of this
Classic Mayan urban center. Whereas artistic Copán has been likened to
Paris, Tikal may be likened to New York City for its soaring, skyscraper-like
pyramids and the very hugeness of the
metropolis. And for bird-watchers and nature-lovers the flora and fauna are as wonderful as the ruins
themselves. Common birds include parrots, toucans, mot-mots, oropendulas,
oscellated turkeys, and hummingbirds. Commonly seen animals include spider
monkeys, foxes, agoutis, coatimundis and bats. Howler monkeys, javelina,
alligators, and other creatures are also sometimes sighted.
Fri. 8/6: Get up early in the morning: see sunrise from Temple IV,
go bird-watching, and beat the heat. And don't forget to visit both the
Tikal Museums. After lunch we'll head back to Flores to catch the 4 PM flight
back to Guatemala City. Final night at the Pan American Hotel.
Sat. 8/7: Fly back to the U.S. with a load of Guatemalan crafts, rolls
of film to be developed, and a lifetime of memories of an unforgettable people
and their beautiful country.
MAKE YOUR RESERVATION NOW!
- Return to Trip Cost.
- Return to How To Get On Board.
- Return to beginning of page.
- For more information and photos of Chichicastenango market, click here Chichi.
- For more photos and information about Volcán Pacaya, click here
- For more pictures and descriptions of traditional Mayan costume, click here
- For more about the history and architecture of Antigua Guatemala, click
- To see Rutahsa Adventures' plans for Guatemala 2000, click here
- For other great travel opportunities to Cusco & Machu Picchu,
Ecuador & the Galápagos Islands, and Angel Falls, click here Rutahsa Adventures.
- Comments and enquiries can be mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Images on this webpage by Janie and Ric Finch, @copyrighted.