GUATEMALA | RISE OF THE MODERN MAYA
A new series of in-depth spiritual and cultural trips in the highlands of Guatemala, the homeland of the Maya. For over 600 years the Maya 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. Twenty-one linguistic groups are rooted in this ancient culture and have survived a history of colonization and most recently a 30-year civil conflict. With stunning natural beauty and a vibrant and complex culture, the Mayans form more than 60% of the population, and continue to suffer from lingering social, economic and environmental problems, particularly affecting the country’s children. Cross Cultural Journeys will first visit the city of Antigua, the old capital; then embark on a 5-day journey to the smaller traditional towns and villages around Lake Atitlán.
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 1 | Antigua Arrive in Guatemala City 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. Antigua Hotel (D)
Day 2 | Antigua 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. 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 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 breakfast board your private coach for your journey to the Western highlands and what is often called Eden on Earth – Lake Atitlán. This deep volcanic crater-lake is situated a mile above sea level, overseen by three massive volcanoes – San Pedro, Atitlán and Toliman. Thirteen indigenous villages speckle the shores of this sacred body of water. The locals, in their colorful, traditional Mayan dress can be seen shuttling across the lake between their villages. Once you’ve had a chance to relax, 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. San Marcos La Laguna Hotel (B/L/D)
Founded and led by Mayans, Centro Taa’ ‘Pi’t 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 to the sound of roosters in the village of San Marcos La Laguna. After coffee, be escorted to a ceremonial site to experience a traditional Maya 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 intro about the nawales and provide translation. After the ceremony, we will go back to our hotel for breakfast, and then hop on the lancha over to San Pedro for a 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 explanation of your personal destiny as seen in the constellation of nawales. Dinner on your own. San Marcos La Laguna Hotel (B/L)
Day 5 | Lake Atitlán Venture out on a morning excursion with the students, staff, and families of Taa 'Pi't into the neighboring forest of this western highland region where you will visit sacred ceremonial sites, tour permaculture lands - integral to the renewal of lake, and hear traditional stories and legends told from family elders. A picnic lunch will be included today. Enjoy the late afternoon at your leisure before joining your hosts and guides for a traditional community Guatemalan feast at a local casa, created by renown chef Santos Canel on the rooftop terrace of Taa’ Pi’t’s international coordinator Nancy Lynn McCoy’s home - a memorable way to soak in the beauty and say farewell to our hosts in San Pedro. San Marcos La Laguna Hotel (B/L)
PANAJACHEL, or "place of the white sapote fruit trees", is a bustling market town where people from the surrounding region come to shop for food or sell handicrafts. Mayan arts are on display in Panajachel, such as textiles, paintings, jewelery, clothing, accessories & even nuts.
Day 6 | Lake Atitlán/Panajachel Following a fresh breakfast, return to San Pedro and join the staff and families of Taa'Pi't for a more in-depth view of their children’s programs, community and environmental work, and their participation in the re-claiming of their traditional Mayan agricultural practices within their community. Engage in their positive models of community building practices to better understand these styles of communication and their valuable impact on this community. After the program, board your private lancha and be delivered to the market village of Panajachel. Take a stroll through the local market and walk the streets to see what people have on offer to buy and sell. Enjoy an evening near the lake and take in the scents of the surrounding gardens and the fresh Guatemalan cuisine being prepared for your evening meal. Panajanchel Hotel (B/L/D)
Day 7 | Lake Atitlán / Panajachel After breakfast, board a lancha and cruise to the charming village of Santiago Atitlan. Here you will meet Candis Krummel, an American designer who has created a harmonious life in Santiago preserving the Tzutujil Mayan tradition of backstrap weaving and supporting the local artisans who create these colorful textiles. You will be escorted to the beautiful property of Cojol'Ya (featured in Architectural Digest) where the last remaining house built in the ancient Tzutujil Maya style still stands. On these picturesque grounds interact directly with the Maya artisans and observe the tactile skill of reed mat making, spinning of colorful cotton, canoe carving (cayuco), rich coffee roasting, and chocolate processing. Meanwhile, the Tzutujil elders will fascinate with tales of the their peoples’ vibrant history. Retire to the roof top terrace and sip the local Pitaya wine in preparation for your four-course traditional Tzutujil Festival Maya feast. After lunch, make the journey back to Guatemala Cuty. Dinner on your own. Guatemala City Hotel (B/L)
Day 8 | Flores Depart Guatemala City on an early morning flight to the Northern town of Flores. Stroll the streets of this charming village and enjoy the colonial architecture for this 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 taking in the city, make our way to the hotel in the historic Tikal National Park where we will settle in and relax. Fall asleep to the sounds and rhythms of the rainforest. Tikal National Park Lodging (B/L/D)
FLORES Many visitors stop in Flores as the launching point for exploring the ancient ruins of Tikal but this charming village is an attraction in and of itself. Located on the Lago Petén Itzá, the town is famous for the friendly nature of its locals and its safe, walkable streets. The colonial architecture, the narrow cobblestone streets, and the red rooftops feel reminiscent of Europe.
Day 9 | Tikal Following a fresh breakfast join your local guide for a full day of exploring among 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 still perform ancient ceremonies on the grounds. Following a full day of exploring, return in the late afternoon for a relaxing evening and delicious meal at your jungle lodge. Following a full day of exploring, return to the Flores airport our quick flight back to Guatemala City and shuttle to Antigua. Antigua Hotel (B/L/D)
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 10 | Antigua After breakfast, spend your last day in Guatemala exploring the colorful Spanish and French colonial architecture of Antigua. Visit Antigua's many jade shops and handicraft markets, and pay a visit to the stunning Santo Domingo, the ruins of an old convent that has been converted into a five star hotel. In the evening, join your new friends for a farewell celebration feast. Antigua Hotel (B/D)
Day 11 | Guatemala City/Home After your final Guatemalan breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight back home. (B/L)
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, Guatemala and the US. She holds an MBA in Sustainable Business from the Bainbridge Graduate Institute at Pinchot University 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 with her husband and son on Bainbridge Island, Washington.
NANI BARAN: Guatemala has a special place in Nani's heart. In 2011, she took her first trip with her three sons, knowing she would be back. In 2012, she returned as a member of the Compassionate Listening Project's Journey to the Heart of Guatemaya delegation. On that trip, she fell in love with the Centro Taa' Pi't program and people, and has since returned at least once a year. Nani is a co-founder of Friends of Taa' Pi't, which connects the program with people who have similar values and vision. She is drawn to the spiritual, environmental and cultural healing that is taking place on Lake Atitlan. A psychotherapist and grief counselor in private practice, she also works on a palliative care team on end-of-life issues. She lives happily with her wife and two dogs on Bainbridge Island and in Indianola, WA.
NOTE: This itinerary is subject to change to take advantage of the serendipity of the moment when we are in Guatemala… to meet someone special, to engage in an activity that might occur unexpectedly, or to accommodate circumstances beyond our control. Restaurants or hotels may change in similar category.
INCLUDED: All in country transportation per itinerary including round trip airfare to Tikal; hotels in Antigua, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala City, Tikal,; breakfast daily, 8 lunches and 7 dinners (B/L/D per itinerary); guest speakers; all entrance fees on itinerary; preparation materials; tips for bellman and included meals on itinerary; bottled water on the bus.
NOT INCLUDED: International air travel to Guatemala; alcoholic drinks; meals not on itinerary, 2 lunches, 3 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).
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 Tecpán 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.