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Guatemalan Highlands Tour
February 8th, 9th & 10th
Ancient Maya Ruins Tour
February 11th & 12th
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   Post Symposium Excursions / Guatemalan Highlands

Day 1 - Thursday, February 8th
An early morning drive (three hours) takes us to the fabled Kiche village of Chichicastenango, in the heart of Guatemala’s western mountains. We drive through traditional pastoral scenery and the hustle-bustle of modern rural crossroads. The road into “Chichi” testifies to yesteryear needs for fortification. The switchback curves—cut into the mountain leading to the village—are almost as memorable as the market itself. Chichi has been famous for centuries for its native market. Held only two days a week, it is packed both with local shoppers and tourists.

With buyers and sellers coming from dozens of villages to trade fruits, vegetables and handicrafts, Chichi is one of the best places for a visual display of local traditions, especially handwoven textiles. Each village uses a distinctive dress. And within each village, different styles, motifs and colors are worn depending on the activity of the moment. Chichi is a shopping mecca for textiles, leather goods and wooden masks. It is also a wonderful school for hagglers (a good trick is to have your companion pretend it’s not worth buying).

Lunch will be at the famous Mayan Inn, located just at the edge of the market and packed with antiques and tradition. After lunch we head for Lake Atitlán (one hour). We roll by rich volcanic soil arduously terraced to cultivate vegetables, many for foreign markets. Lakeside, we check in at the Porta Hotel del Lago in the town of Panajachel. You can relax, swim in the pool or take a leisurely walk through the village to the restaurant where we will dine together on local dishes.
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Day 2 - Friday, February 9th

In the morning, when the lake is still calm, we set out by boat to explore the rich heritage of a Tz’utujil village, where we will learn about weaving and naïf painting traditions. Upon our return to Panajachel, we will have lunch at the lovely lakeside Hotel Atitlán facing the three volcanoes. You will have “down time” to explore the hotel’s lush tropical gardens and to swim in the pool or lake. Bring your sunscreen and hat!

After lunch, the two-hour drive to colonial Antigua offers “siesta time.” Our hotel in Antigua is the Casa Santo Domingo. Originally a Dominican convent, the hotel was constructed around the ruins left by a series of earthquakes in the 1700s. Every nook and cranny of the hotel is full of original colonial antiques.

Archaeological excavations by the hotel have uncovered so much of interest (burial chambers, a magnificent colonial altar and endless artifacts) that the hotel has converted part of the space into a museum and exhibit areas. Our evening in Antigua is open. We want you to stroll the cobblestone streets, to get a sense of past glory and colonial heritage. For dinner, we will provide you with a list of good restaurants.

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Day 3 - Saturday, February 10th

The day starts with a first class breakfast buffet at Casa Santo Domingo, including local fruits and black beans. After breakfast we will take a specially designed guided walking tour to visit churches (only a few of the thirty-six!) and other historic monuments.

After the tour, you will be free to meander. Among our recommendations for exploration: jade and jewelry factories, antique stores, iron mongers, handicraft markets, art boutiques, and textile stores where traditional weaving techniques are given a contemporary look. You can also drop in at any of dozens of language schools in case you might like to come back to Antigua to learn Spanish. Lunch is on your own.

In the afternoon we are invited to one of Antigua’s legendary coffee plantations, which will still be in full harvest. In the international world of specialty coffees, Antigua is among the most coveted. You will have a chance to see, step-by-step, how one of the finest coffees in the world is processed at the plantation’s beneficio.
Evening and dinner is on your own, since the best way to experience this unique town is by walking around in small groups.

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Day 4 - Sunday, February 11th

Early breakfast and transfer to Guatemala City airport brings us to the end of the Guatemalan Highlands tour.

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