Bienvenidos! Welcome to Guatemala! Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm on Day 1. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. As there's a great deal to do in Antigua we recommend staying a few extra days to make the most of this exciting city. If you need help booking extra accommodation, our reservations team will be happy to assist.If you would like to experience a Salsa lesson, you can try one of the below Schools for a class: New Sensation Salsa 7a Avenida Norte #78, Antigua +502 5033-0921 Open from 9 to 9 every day. Salsa Con Gloria 6calle Poniente #9 LA Sala Bar y Rest., Antigua +502 4374-1391
As the seat of the Spanish colonial government, Antigua was once the most important city in Central America. In 1773 the city was destroyed by an earthquake but many of the colonial buildings have been carefully restored and the architecture from its glory days can still be admired. Walk through the quiet cobblestone streets past heavy carved-wood entrances. There are many fascinating markets and museums to explore, or if your tastes run to more active adventures hire a mountain bike and ride through the countryside. The views of mountain peaks and deep valleys, covered in lush vegetation are simply beautiful. Perhaps check out the CHOCOMUSEO located on two blocks away from central park. Here you will learn all about chocolate, its history and nutritional values and you may be lucky enough to get a sample bag of chocolates at the end of the tour. Otherwise just grab a coffee from one of the many coffee shops in central park and just sit back relax and enjoy the beauty of this incredible city and the amazing people you will find. If you want to learn more about the famous Guatemalan coffee you can go on a coffee tour, visit the plantations, do some coffee tasting and even buy some to take back home. Go out for a stroll and try tamales, a local dish usually prepared traditionally on weekends and served in a corn leaf. You could also give the pepian a try, a meal that consists of a rich dark sauce and three meats (chicken, beef and pork). The best value food you find is next to the artisan market close to the bus station. Unfortunately, more than half the population of this beautiful Guatemala you are about to discover lives under the poverty line, which may explain why Guatemala has also the lowest literacy rate in Central America. With this in mind, the Intrepid Foundation is proud supporter of CasaSito, an outstanding not for profit organization dedicated to assist youth to reach their academic, personal and professional potential. If you have 2’ to spare (2’41’’ to be exact!) take a look at this short video about CasaSito – it’s inspiring: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=3KBiGdEcV4w If you want to help CasaSito and Guatemalan’s youth, you can donate through the Intrepid Foundation, which means that your donation will be match dollar for dollar by Intrepid too. No donation is too small. $5, $10, $50 it all goes a long way to help this fantastic organization. Simply visit our website: www.theintrepidfoundation.org/projects/casasito/
This morning we make an early start and travel by private minibus to Rio Dulce (approx 8 hrs).
Take an included boat trip down the river to visit Livingston, a fascinating Garifuna town on the coast.
We continue on to Flores today (approx 4 hrs), our jumping off point for exploring the ruins at Tikal. The afternoon is free to explore Flores. Flores was officially founded by the Spanish in 1700, but had existed in various forms well before. It has long remained isolated with locals relying on subsistence farming of corn and beans and the gathering of chicle from nearby trees to produce gum. Many of the locals still get about in the traditional way, by dug out canoe. Take time to stroll through the cobblestone streets past pastel-coloured buildings, buy local handicrafts or take a dip in Lake Peten Itza.
This morning we rise early and take a guided tour of the ruins of Tikal National Park. Towering above the jungle of the Tikal National Park, the five granite temples of Tikal are an awesome sight and one of the most magnificent Maya ruins. Hidden in the jungle growth is a maze of smaller structures just waiting to be explored. The energetic can climb to the top of the ruins for spectacular views over the canopy. You may even spot toucans, macaws and other colourful birds. Following our visit it's time to say goodbye to Guatemala and head across the border to San Ignacio (approx 3 hrs). The journey to the border is on a dirt road, so you really feel like an explorer crossing from one country to another. Belize is the only English speaking country in Central America, which will make chatting with locals much easier. The Belizeans are known for their relaxed and easy going way of live. You will be amazed how many different cultures coexist harmoniously here. We have limited time in San Ignacio but you can choose to join one of the optional activities, including the ATM Cave, en route to Belize City on Day 7. The cave of Actun Tunichil Muknal is a living museum of Mayan relics. Wade through water until you reach the Mayan ceremonial site. Here you will find ceramic pots and crystallised skeletons, preserved by the natural processes of the cave for over 1,400 years. All guests at our hotel in San Ignacio are required to pay an additional charge of USD20 per night if they choose to use the air conditioner in their room. Electricity in Belize is incredibly expensive so most hotels charge an extra rate to use the air conditioning - and USD20 per night is pretty standard. We could include this extra charge in the trip price but then all of our travellers would have to pay whether they want to use it or not. We believe giving our travellers the option is a fairer way to manage this situation.
Today we leave San Ignacio in the early morning and head north to Belize City on a local bus (approx 3 hrs). Get ready for stop and go as there are very few official bus stops in Belize and the bus will keep stopping to pick up passengers. Use this to make conversation with the person next to you on the bus; Belizeans love to talk about their country! Once in Belize City we take a water taxi to Caye Caulker (approx 1 hr). The Belize Cayes are a group of islands a short boat ride away from the coast. There are a number of these islands to choose from, but we base ourselves on Caye Caulker as this is one of the more popular islands with travellers. From here it is possible to arrange day trips to other cayes, to the best reefs for snorkelling, or simply to take a local boat out to the reef of Caulker itself. Each island has its own particular character, but all of them have the unmistakeable Caribbean pace and charm.
Relax on the beach or head out to Hol Chan Marine Reserve, home to Shark Ray Alley and the world's second longest barrier reef. Snorkel among the colorful corals and see tropical fish, sharks and manta rays. You could also choose to go manatee spotting. These huge peaceful creatures are often called sea cows and are quite curious to meet their visitors. If you're interested in sampling local cuisine, Caye Caulker is famous for its lobster. Not the cheapest meal you'll ever buy, but so good. Always make sure that you respect the season: the lobsters can only be caught between June 15th and February 15th. Some of the best meals on the island are cooked on the road side. How about some grilled shrimp and a lovely rum and coke made with the local fire water?
Very early this morning (about 6.30am) we head back to Belize City by water taxi, and travel by bus to the border with Mexico (approx. 4 hrs). After crossing the border we head to the Mexican town of Chetumal where we swap buses and head to our final destination: Tulum (approx. 3 hrs).
Tulum is a beach paradise on the Caribbean coast. Spend your time relaxing on the beach or strolling along the white sands. In the evenings kick back and watch the waves with a margarita. For a taste of Mayan architecture take an optional visit of the ruins of Tulum. These ruins sit atop a cliff amid palm fringed beaches and white sand beaches. You can even go for a swim within its ancient walls.
The last leg of our journey is a short one after all this travelling. We hop on a local Mexican bus that will take us to Playa del Carmen (approx. 1.5 hours), our departure destination. With azure waters, powdery beaches and a European feel, Playa del Carmen is a resort city close to Cancun but without the party atmosphere. Spend your time snorkelling among the mangroves, diving in underground caverns or strolling along the white sands. For adventures further afield take a ferry across the turquoise seas to Cozumel, an island famous for its reef diving.
There are no activities planned for the final day. In order to make the most of what Playa has to offer, we strongly recommend that you extend your stay in Playa del Carmen for one or two extra days. Please contact us if you need us to assist you with additional accommodation. If you can afford a few extra days in Playa, you may want to spend time snorkelling among the mangroves or strolling along the white sands. For adventures further afield take a ferry across the turquoise seas to Cozumel, an island famous for its reef diving.