From colonial cities to indigenous villages to ancient pyramids, Guatemala has it all. This photo adventure takes us to several UNESCO World Heritage sites including the old capitol, Antigua and the even more ancient Mayan pyramids in Tikal, one of the largest archaeological sites of the pre-Columbian civilization. Guatemala also has 37 volcanoes, including several that are still active. Our tour will include a climb up one of those that overlooks the city of Antigua. It also includes a trip up to the mountainous region to the gorgeous Lake Atitlan. Home to many indigenous people, the lake is dotted with small villages. The easiest travel method will be by taking a boat across the waters. We will further explore one of the most amazing Mayan markets in the country where villagers from all the across the region meet to sell their handicrafts and food. This is an amazing country with friendly people and spectacular scenery.
Itinerary: arrive in Guatemala City and be transferred to Antigua
Day 1 – Your flight will arrive in Guatemala City. From there you will be transported to Antigua. Founded in 1548, it was Guatemala’s capital until an earthquake largely destroyed it in 1773. After you settle in, we will meet for dinner, discuss your equipment and what you are hoping to achieve on this photo workshop. (D)
Day 2 – In the morning, after breakfast, we will begin to explore the colonial city. We will walk to the main plaza and photograph colonial churches, such as La Merced and monasteries, such as Santa Clara as well as a traditional market. There is a lot to see within the old town so be prepared for an extended day of walking along the cobblestone streets. After the walk, you can rest at the hotel, whose grounds include the ruins of an old convent and temple, or you can continue to explore on your own but we head out again in the late afternoon to take a simple hike to Cerro de la Cruz for our sunset photos of the city and surrounding volcanos. Afterwards, at night we will stroll around the city and eat at any of the plentiful restaurants. (B)(D)
Day 3 – The country has 37 officially named volcanoes—three of which that are still active. We will take a morning hike up Pacaya, an active volcano about an hour from Antigua. The trek has an elevation gain of around 1,500 feet and is considered moderate in difficulty but horses/mules are available for separate rental and they can take you right up to the lava fields.
In the afternoon we head north to Lake Atitlan, which is actually a massive volcanic crater surrounded by other volcanoes. We will stop on the way to photograph at a number of vistas before checking into our lake view hotel in Panajachel. If we arrive before sunset, a quick walk to the public piers will give you a fantastic view of the volcanoes rising up across the lake. (B) (D)
Day 4 – In the morning we take a boat to the Mayan village of Santa Catarina Palopo. Most of the residents are descended from the Kaqchikel Maya and speak mostly Kaqchikel dialects with Spanish as a second language. In the afternoon we will take another boat ride further across the lake to Santiago Atitlán. In pre-Columbian days, this was the capital of the Tz’utujil people. Here we will be able to photograph the town and the people as they go about their daily lives. We will spend the night in Panajachel. (B)(D)
Day 5 – After breakfast we will check out of our hotel and take a boat ride across the lake to San Pedro la Laguna, another small indigenous village situation along Lake Atitlan. We will drop off our luggage at the hotel before exploring the village. It is about a 2 mile walk between San Pedro and the neighboring village of San Juan La Laguna. Taking a Tuk-Tuk will get you there in just a few minutes. There you can find and photograph Mayan women at their looms creating the colorful outfits that they wear on a daily basis. We spend the night in San Pedro. (B)(D)
Day 6 – This is a very early start. At 4am our local guide will pick us up for a hike to Indians Nose for a sunrise shot. This is one of the most gorgeous spots in the entire Lake Atitlan area for photography. Our guide will give us an in depth explanation of the special geology that makes up this volcanic area. On the way down the mountain, our guide will show us the maize fields and coffee plantations and explain the local customs.
From there the tour will head east to Chichicastenango. We will be there on Market day when local Mayans from all the surrounding villages meet to sell and exchange goods. We’ll photograph the vegetable market and the myriad of indigenous people in their colorful outfit. From there we head to Guatemala City to board a plane for our next destination – Tikal – where our lodgings will be located within this UNESCO World Heritage Center. (B) (D)
Day 7 – The Mayan city of Tikal is one of the best preserved and extensive Mayan ruins in existence. It once was the capital of one of the most powerful kingdoms of the ancient Maya, dating back as far as 400BC. Here you will be able to see and photograph pyramids that reach over 230 feet high, royal palaces, ball courts and numerous other buildings and features. You will be able to climb to the top of a pyramid to survey the jungle environment that encompassed the Mayan city while listening as howler monkeys cry out. We will spend the entire day exploring. (B) (D)
Day 8 – We start at 4am for a sunrise tour of Tikal. We will be in the jungle as it wakes up with the singing of birds and the howling of monkeys. From Temple IV we will take photos as the sun rises over the Mayan landscape. The guide will then take us to explore some of the highlights of Tikal.
You are free then to wander about or rest. At 2 we head off to another nearby archaeological site – Yaxha. Located about 18 miles southeast of Tikal, Yaxha is spread out over 500 structures with several pyramids and ball courts. From the pyramid known as Structure 216 we will take our sunset photos with its views over the forests and lake. We then head back to the lodge for a farewell dinner. (B) (D)
Day 9 – In the morning, depending on your return flight time, we can explore more of the wonders of Tikal. Afterwards we leave the lodge to Flores where connecting flights back home can be found. (B)