La Ruta Maya
12 days up to 15 days
David Reyes is a devoted and loving Guatemalan, who has always worked as tour guide since 2004. He became a trip leader and worked for several renowned international travel companies such as Coppola’s Resorts, Overseas Adventure Travel and Intrepid Travel.
Because of his knowledge in the in the travel industry David has designed many trips and David run them as well. David has visited over 70 ancient Sacred Sites (archeological centers) and almost every corner of Mesoamerica (Mexico and Central America).
He has been from Guadalajara in Mexico to Coiba in Panama (the largest island in the Pacific out of North and Central America), he has visited Teotihuacan in Mexico as well as El Mirador in Guatemala.
David has met and guided the world in terms of nationalities, all types of adventurers and intrepid travelers, from High-end helicopters rides with Mickey Hart to jungle hikes or food tours. David Reyes is in short words a great Tour Guide/Trip Leader who will kindly take you through your travel experience and make the beast out of it!
Arrival Day – Belize Airport Arrival
Today Saturday January 13, the rest of the group arrives at the Belize Airport and are transferred to the small town of San Ignacio known locally as Cayo, which in Spanish means coral island.
The town was given this name for its location on the west bank of the Macal River. Before the arrival of roads in the area, like many small towns, San Ignacio was only accessible by boat. This laid back town, with its mixed population of Mestizo, Creole, Lebanese, Chinese and Mennonites, is a great example of multicultural Belize.
San Ignacio, Adventure Center, Belize
We begin the day with a selection of two activities. Please choose one.
Visit the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Caves. ACTIVE PACE
Today we venture into the Mayan underworld at the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave with a professional guide. A 45-minute journey from San Ignacio brings us to the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve, in which the caves are located. They were discovered only recently, in 1989, at which point archaeologists began exploring the site before officially opening it to visitors in the late 90s. The intention has been to preserve the area as much as possible; the majority of cultural artefacts found in the caves are still in their original positions, and only a selected number of guides have permits to lead excursions in this area. The ATM Cave was a sacred site to the Mayan people during the Classic Period. (250 to 909 AD) David will provide a further explanation of this experience.
Botanical Garden at Duploys and Xunantunich Archeological Site LEISURELY PACE with David Reyes
Discover plants used by the ancient Maya for ritual, medicine and daily living. The Maya knew how to make all they needed from the forests around them. This traditional knowledge was handed down generation to generation as part of their cultural identity. For the Maya, this practice meant knowing how to survive from the forests, pray to the gods, heal the sick, and make floors from the earth. Learn about Belize's useful and medicinal native plants, many of which are still used today by people of Belize on our "Medicine Trail"; You'll see what plants were used for clothing, storage, tools, building, ritual and medicine.
After lunch we will stop at the Mayan ruins of Xunantunich to explore its temples and palaces. Located on a ridge close to the border with Guatemala, the site has some fine stucco facades as well as several elaborately carved stelae (an upright stone or slab with an inscribed or sculptured surface, used as a monument or as a commemorative tablet), and an impressive 40 meter high pyramid.
Explore Tikal Ruins, Guatemala
Leaving Belize, we transfer to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Tikal in Guatemala. Tikal is the most famous and probably the most impressive of all Mayan sites; nearly 20 square miles of classic Mayan ruins surrounded by the dense jungles of Peten. We take a tour of the city, visiting the main temples, palaces, squares, tombs, residences and religious monuments. The area was thought to support a population of 60,000 Mayans at its peak and there are some 3,000 separate buildings to be explored.
We stop for lunch on your own at Lake Peten Itza, located only 30 minutes away from Tikal National Park.
Good Morning, Tikal, Guatemala
This is a superb area for observing wildlife in the jungle environment, and visitors regularly see Howler Monkeys, Spider Monkeys, Toucan, Weaver Birds, Coatimundi and Jaguar... if we are lucky!! Today is great day... one of our highlights of the trip.
There are so many things to do at the Park, we have provided a list of activities for all. You could easily do one or a number of them.
- Sunrise Tour, starts at 4:30 am, Box-Breakfast.
- Morning Walk, starts at 6:00 am, Box-Breakfast.
- Sunset and Night Walks, starts at 4:00 pm; finishes at 8:00 pm.
- Afternoon and Sunset Walk, starts at 4:00 pm; finishes at 7:00 pm
Bienvenidos A Mexico
Today we depart early and drive north, to our destination of Corozal in Mexico's southern state of Chiapas. On the way from Tikal we will have the opportunity to visit Flores, Guatemala, which is located on an island.
Enjoy lunch on your own, while watching the little Lanchas (local boats) cross the lake back and forth, taking locals from one end to another. Then we head north to the border with Mexico. After border formalities, we cross the Usumacinta River and then check into our rustic lodge at Corozal.
After breakfast we board a local boat and travel along the Usumacinta River to reach Yaxchilan. This scenic cruise will give us a chance to see some of the wildlife that frequents this region. Occasionally Howler Monkeys and Red Macaws can be seen. There is an excellent chance that we will be "serenaded" by howler monkeys at the archeological site.
After lunch, and time to freshen up at the lodging, we will head through the forest of southern Mexico to Palenque. This little town owes its existence to the ancient city of Palenque.
From Palenque to Campeche, Mexico
This morning we have a guided tour of the impressive Mayan site of Palenque in the low hills of Chiapas. The jungle-covered complex houses probably the finest surviving examples of Mayan buildings. See the pyramids, sanctuaries and temples, with their sculptured wall-panels and roofs, all remarkably well preserved.
In the afternoon, we drive for around 5 hours to the historic fortified city of Campeche, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, also incredibly well preserved, and far from the typical tourist track. The people of Campeche are likely to give us an extremely warm welcome as we stroll cobblestone streets admiring the restored pastel buildings. Most impressive are the city walls, built to protect the city from the constant attacks of English and Dutch buccaneers and pirates during the 16th and 17th centuries.
Arrive in the early evening and head out to sample some local cuisine overlooking the Bay of Campeche. Seafood is a local specialty and widely available, and suggestions for dining will be given.
From Campeche we travel for around 2 hours to reach the fascinating Mayan ruins of Uxmal. Uxmal dates back to the late classic period, having been built by the Xiu tribe. The site is dominated by the Pyramid of the Magician and the Nunnery Quadrangle which consists of long buildings with elaborately carved façades. There are remnants of a ball court used in ritual games that sometimes ended in sacrifice, and the whole site is quite exposed, a real contrast to the ruins of Palenque.
From Uxmal it is around a 1 hour and 30 minute drive to the bustling colonial city of Merida on the Yucatan Peninsula. Many of its buildings were constructed using stones from the Mayan city which existed on the site and these are still visible in the walls of the imposing cathedral. The city flourished following the conquest and the 19th century homes designed in French style contribute to the attractive appearance of the historical centre. We arrive in the middle to late afternoon and will enjoy a walking tour of the city. The main square is particularly impressive when lit up at night.
We have a morning city tour of Merida. After lunch we visit the Mayan World Museum with an unbelievable collection of Mayan art, as well as a well detailed explanation of the meteorite that caused the extinction of dinosaurs... WOW!!!
Chichen Itza, Mexico
We will spend the morning exploring one of the largest Mayan ceremonial centres at Chichen Itza, located approximately 2 hours from Merida. The impressive El Castillo Pyramid sits in the middle of the site and is surrounded by temples, palaces and ball courts. Nearby, we stop to visit the Cenote Sagrado ('Sacred Well'), dredged in the early 20th century and found to contain precious gold, silver and jade artifacts, as well as the remains of sacrifice victims.
After the tour we stop in Valladolid to further explore the mix of Mayan and colonial Spanish culture in the Yucatan before driving for around 3 hours to the fantastic beach town of Playa del Carmen.
Playa del Carmen, Mexico
This morning we have a short tour of the ancient Mayan fortress of Tulum followed by an optional visit to the sacred underground Mayan waters where we can swim to cool off in a nearby cenote (a deep water-filled sinkhole in limestone that is created when the roof of an underground cavern collapses). The most famous buildings in the complex are the ruins that overlook the lapping waves of the Caribbean. There are also several temples, ritual platforms and houses to be explored. In common with many other Mayan cities, the whole site is surrounded by a huge defensive wall. This afternoon is free to relax on the beautiful Playa del Carmen beach.
Depart Playa del Carmen, Mexico
After our great Mayan learning experience, packed with culture, history, interesting towns and beautiful sights, today you depart on your flights home.
Cancun Airport is located 40 miles north of Playa del Carmen. It can be easily reached by bus airport shuttles or private airport transfers. David will personally help to book your transfer. Airport transfer is included.
Arrival and transfer to Caye Caulker
Your pick up at airport is included. Our journey begins as a Belize City Water Taxi Station where we take a boat transfer to Caye Caulker.
Upon arrival we check into our hotel followed by an orientation walk; then enjoy seafood at a welcome dinner at a local restaurant.
Snorkel tour in Hol Chan Marine Reserve
Just off the southern part of Ambergris Caye, the largest island in Belize and a few minutes on a boat ride from Caye Caulker, is the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. ‘Little Channel’ in Mayan is the result of a natural break in the reef. This area is now an important marine habitat providing refuge for a vast numbers of fish, coral, and several species of sea turtle, the West Indian manatee and two species of dolphin.
Nurse sharks also congregate in an area called ‘Shark Ray Alley’, now a popular dive site. We join a snorkeling tour in the reserve to see a selection of the marine life living in these tropical waters. Free time for lunch and afternoon at leisure.
Free day for optional excursions
Today is a free day as there are many excursions available to match your interests. If you’re a diver, we recommend taking an optional excursion to the Great Blue Hole on the Belize Barrier Reef. It is located 60 miles out to sea within the Lighthouse Reef System. This perfectly circular limestone sinkhole, peculiar to this Reef System, and not to be confused with the sinkhole located inland, drops to a depth of 124m (approx. 400 feet).
It fringed by coral reef, a perfect environment for divers (Jacques Cousteau declared it one of the top 10 dive sites in the world), and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. David will help you make arrangements.
For non-divers there are many other activities available on the island:
- Paddle Boarding
- Or just relaxing and enjoying the ambience
Another option is a day in the life of a fisherman tour with lunch included. This tour is designed to immerse us in the lifestyle of islander fishermen. There is a 20 minute boat ride to a tiny island where we will hear stories from locals and share time with them.