Stride climate

Trip Type : Small Group Tour
Maya Encounter tour
Antigua Caribbean Maya Encounter Trip
Caye Caulker Central America Maya Encounter Trip

Maya Encounter

Intrepid Travel Preferred
Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
4.7 . Excellent
98%
Travel Style: You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
Physical Level: Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
Lodging Level: You'll stay in no-frills, but clean and comfortable, hotels or guesthouses. A 'Basic' trip might also involve a few nights of camping. Basic - 2 star
17 days
From: $ 1,262 $ 74 / day
Checking price

Overview

Highlights

  • Soak up the best of Central America on an adventure that covers takes you through Mexico, Belize and Guatemala
  • Enjoy time to stop and smell the barbecued seafood on Caye Caulker during a two-day stop on this quintessential island paradise
  • Explore streets lined with rainbow-coloured colonial buildings in Antigua, a city rimmed by volcanoes
  • Immerse yourself in lakeside life during a homestay in San Jorge La Laguna. Share meals and conversation with your host family, the perfect opportunity to break out your Espanol
  • Dozing on the sands of Tulum, craning your neck to gaze up at the pyramids of Tikal, haggling in the markets of Chichicastenango – this trip will introduce you to the incredible diversity of Central America
  • Discover life at a slower pace on this trip through the regions best spots to chill, from the quiet waters of the Rio Dulce to the relaxed street food dinners of San Ignacio

Short Description

Discover more than one kind of paradise on this Maya Encounter adventure, from the blazing Yucatan sun to the cool Guatemalan highlands. Relax on the white sands of Tulum, admire the underwater ecosystems in Caye Caulker, amble over the jungle-choked Maya ruins in Tikal and gaze up at the volcanoes while wandering cobblestone streets in Antigua. From narrow laneways and remote jungles to remnants of an ancient empire and powdery beaches, this 17-day journey has everything under the sun (and the water).

Small groups are usually defined as between 10 and 24 travelers, often less. If you're the kind of person who enjoys more intimate experiences and personal service this is a good choice. All else being equal you will pay a premium for this style vs a larger group tour.
Trip Type Small Group Tour
Off the beaten track trips will stretch your comfort zone. They don't always feature tourist highlights, but dive deeper into local life and culture.
Itinerary Focus Off the Beaten Path
You'll stay in no-frills, but clean and comfortable, hotels or guesthouses. A 'Basic' trip might also involve a few nights of camping.
Lodging Level Basic - 2 star
Flights & Transport N/A
Start City Playa del Carmen
End City Antigua
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Itinerary

Day 1 Playa del Carmen

Hola! Welcome to Mexico! Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm today. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be checking your passport details, insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so it’s important that you arrange a flight that will get you there in time. If you want to fly in a few days early so you can spend some more time in Playa we may be able to assist with securing extra accommodation, so ask your booking agent. If you are lucky enough to have extra time this beachside playground, why not use your time snorkelling in fresh water rock pools (called Cenotes), strolling along the white sands or reef diving on Cozumel. Check out the full range of recommended optional activities below for more inspiration. After the welcome meeting tonight, why not head out for a cocktail and a meal with your new travel buddies.

Day 2 Tulum

Leave behind one paradise for another, quieter version. Travel south by local bus to Tulum, where white sand beaches and Maya ruins await after a mere one-and-a-half-hour journey. Take an orientation walk with your leader around the small town when you arrive, then head to the cliffs or the shore to enjoy the sunshine at your own pace. The famous ruins that hug the cliff edge are no longer a well-kept secret, so if crowds aren’t your thing it’s best to get up early tomorrow to beat them. Maybe grab a snack and a beer at a beach shack, then hit the sand and the water (rinse and repeat). In the evening, maybe grab a few of your fellow travellers and find a spot to watch the sunset with a margarita in hand.

Day 3 Tulum

Today is as clear as the waters of the Caribbean, so you can spend it how you like. Perhaps start your morning by renting a bike and exploring on two wheels. Then maybe head to Akumal Bay for a change of scenery or check out one of the many fresh water rock pools known as cenotes. You can buy an organised tour to each of these attractions or venture off on your own as both are easily accessible using local transport. Cenote Dos Ojos is perhaps the most spectacular of the natural pools, but it be prepared for a three-kilometre walk each way from the local bus drop off. Remember, pack plenty of water and snacks so you don’t get caught out! If you haven't already, you might want to take the opportunity to head to Mexico's most famous archaeological site, Chichen Itza, which is about a two-hour drive away. Chat to your leader about what’s on offer and how to organise optional activities.

Day 4 Caye Caulker

Bid adios to Mexico early this morning and head south to Belize. Be prepared for a long day of travel on the road without a chance to stop for lunch, as the total driving time including the border crossing will take around eight or nine hours. First, travel to the town of Chetumal by public bus (3.5 hours approximately). Then jump on a local bus the border (20 minutes), undertake border formalities, then board the same bus to Belize City (3 hours approximately). Once in Belize City take a water taxi to Caye Caulker (1 hour). Expect to arrive on Caye Caulker by 6 pm. Phew! What a day, but trust us, it’s worth it. Perhaps go for an evening stroll to get your bearings on the island, then if you have the energy why not hit a beach bar and unwind. Belize is the only English-speaking country in Central America, which will make chatting with locals much easier.

Day 5 Caye Caulker

Good morning and welcome to heaven! Today is free for you to explore the island and surrounds or simply relax. Whatever you choose to do, it’s bound to be impossible to keep the smile off your face. If you feel like snorkelling, ask your leader about organising a trip to the colourful coral reef nearby, or perhaps head further afield to Hol Chan Marine Reserve, home to the world’s second-longest coral reef. Manatee spotting is one option nature lovers should consider, as the opportunity to encounter these gentle giants is a special one. Of course, you could always take a stroll and find a swaying palm tree with your name on it. They make the perfect place to nap, read a book and soak up the island vibes.

Day 6 Caye Caulker

What’s better than one day in paradise? Two, of course! Wake up when you like, because you’ve got another free day. Like any good seaside Eden, Caye Caulker is home to super fresh seafood, which you can dig into with your feet planted in the sand at one of the many ‘floor free’ outdoor restaurants. The islands famous lobster are available between 15 June and 15 February, and you can expect to pay far less than at home but more than your average island meal. Some of the best meals can be found by the roadside, so why not grab some grilled shrimp and a rum and coke made with fire water to really get into the spirit.

Day 7 San Ignacio

From the islands to the highlands, today you’ll bid farewell to Caye Caulker and catch a ferry to Belize City (one hour) and then take a local bus to San Ignacio (three and a half hours). Local buses in Belize are a little more basic and crowded than you may have experienced elsewhere in Central America. Get ready for a stop-and-go experience on the journey; there are very few official bus stops in Belize, so the bus will stop as required by roadside passengers. On arrival, your leader will take you walking tour of San Ignacio and its twin sister Santa Elena, which will give you a sense of how vibrant the local Garifuna and Maya communities are. Perhaps tonight head out in search of a Maya-style dish like cochinita pibil (slow-roasted pork marinated in citrus).

Day 8 San Ignacio

You have a full day at your leisure to discover San Ignacio. This beautiful town is surrounded by fast flowing rivers, waterfalls and Maya ruins, making it the ideal base. One optional activity that will appeal to history buffs is a day trip to Xunantunich, an impressive Maya ceremonial site positioned on a hill that overlooks the countryside. Getting to the site is half the fun, as you'll need to take a hand-cranked ferry to cross the river. Also nearby is the cave of Actun Tunichil Muknal, a living museum of Maya relics. Wade through cool waters to find ceramic pots and crystallised skeletons preserved by the calcium-rich environment of the cave for over 1400 years. Easily spooked? Maybe you'd prefer the a cave with fewer (as far as we know) skeletons, like the one in Mountain Pine Ridge. In the late afternoon, the barbecue stalls of Santa Elena start to set up for the dinner rush. It's only a 15-minute walk, so consider wandering over to enjoy a juicy chicken leg and a chat with the locals. 

Day 9 Tikal

Rise and shine for an 8 am taxi ride to the Belize-Guatemala border. Once you've crossed over, board a bus to Tikal National Park (approximately 2.5 hours). In Tikal there will be time to buy lunch before visiting the impressive archaeological site. Towering above the jungle, the five granite temples of Tikal are an imposing sight and one of the most magnificent Maya ruins. Hidden in the evergreen forest are a maze of smaller structures waiting to be explored. The energetic can climb to the top of the ruins for spectacular views over the canopy and the chance to spot toucans, macaws and other colourful birds. Choose to explore on your own or pay a little more for a guided tour (or maybe see the site from above on an optional zip-line ride). Tonight, set up the tents and mattresses and spend some time under the stars. The weather is always warm in this part of the world but a thin blanket is provided for extra comfort. There are also basic shared bathrooms and showers at the camp.

Day 10 Rio Dulce

If you can't get enough of Tikal, you have the option to visit the site again in the (very) early morning at your own cost before departing at 8 am to Flores. It's just a one-hour ride away, and on arrival your leader will take you on a walking tour of the island of Flores. Continue by private minivan to Rio Dulce (approximately 4 hours). On arrival in Rio Dulce, transfer to the hotel by boat. The easiest way to get back into town is also on the water, a journey which can be organised through the hotel. Alternatively, a 40-minute jungle walk will get you there. The hotel is a great place to relax and look over the water, with reasonably priced meals and drinks served in the hotel restaurant. Now that you are back in a Spanish-speaking nation, why not join an informal Spanish lesson put on by your leader? Muy bien!

Day 11 Rio Dulce

With plenty of free time today, consider taking advantage of some of the optional activities available. Maybe take a scenic boat trip down the river to the coastal enclave of Livingston for a taste of Creole-Caribbean culture. This laidback town on the Caribbean coast feels very different from the rest of Guatemala thanks to its Garifuna population. Or perhaps go boating on the lake, take a tour to spot local manatees or explore nearby San Felipe Fort.

Day 12 Antigua

Leave the 'Sweet River' behind and travel by private minibus to the city of Antigua, a journey which should take around eight or nine hours, allowing time for lunch. The road between Rio Dulce and Guatemala City is one of the busiest in the country. Traffic is slow, there are frequent road works and many, many, many (seriously) slow trucks. Be armed with patience, music and a good book and the journey will be easier to handle. Spend the night in Antigua before heading to Lake Atitlan tomorrow. Though there's not much tie in Antigua today, you owe it to yourself to reward you patience with a tamale – meat and dough steamed in a corn leaf. You could also give the pepian a try, which consists of a rich dark sauce served with vegetables and meat (usually chicken). You may also want to take this time to purchase a few snacks for your time at the homestay on Lake Atitlan as the meals there can be very basic. 

Day 13 Chichicastenango / San Jorge La Laguna

Be up early and ready for an 8 am departure. Travel by private transport for two and a half hours on winding roads to Chichicastenango. Home to perhaps the most colourful market in the country, on Thursdays and Sundays locals come from the surrounding villages to sell their wares and the streets are lined with stalls offering multi-coloured textiles and fresh produce. After doing a little shopping at the market, head to San Jorge La Laguna, a small Maya village overlooking Lake Atitlan (about 1.5 hours). Arrive in San Jorge La Laguna, meet your host family and start getting to know each other. The group may be split in twos or threes, depending on how large it is. Locals in San Jorge La Laguna are both very friendly and very shy. In order to make the most of this experience, it may take a bit of effort from your side to break the ice first. Draw on your newly learnt Spanish and get ready for some serious hand signals. Houses in San Jorge La Laguna are very basic. Your room may only consist of a couple of beds with clean bedding, and the bathroom will most likely be outside your room and shared with the rest of the family. The mother of the family will cook dinner and breakfast for you and the meals can be very basic but filling, consisting of corn, rice and beans. 

Day 14 Lake Atitlan / Panajachel

Say goodbye to your host family this morning and move on to the neighbouring town of Panajachel. Located on Lake Atitlan with distant volcanoes looming in the background, Panajachel has a thriving market, good eateries and many water-based activities to enjoy. Once you arrive in 'Pana' your leader will take you on a brief walking tour of town so you can get your bearings. The rest of the time is free for you to explore. Why not go for a swim, hike to San Pedro volcano or kayak on the lake, there aren't many places in the world that serve up active adventure in such a beautiful locale. The surrounding area is also dotted with villages which can be reached on foot or by boat. Watch women weaving at Santa Catarina Palopo or explore the colourful markets of Santiago Atitlan. 

Day 15 Antigua

Morning! Hit the road again at 9 am and make the three-hour journey back to Antigua by private vehicle. 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 seen. Your leader will take you on a walking tour of Antigua including Cerro de la Cruz lookout, the local market and the chicken bus station next door, where the colourfully-decorated American school buses park. The rest of your time in Antigua is free for you to explore at your own pace. If you fancy a spin on the dance floor and want to learn some moves, Antigua is the place to be. Many dancing schools offer hourly lessons so you'll be able to perfect your moves. As always, ask your leader for details.

Day 16 Antigua

Enjoy a free day exploring this photogenic city. Perhaps check out the ChocoMuseo located on 4th Street West, two blocks away from central park. Learn all about chocolate, which was first documented by the Guatemalan Maya, as well as it's historical importance. Otherwise, grab a coffee from one of the many myriad shops in central park and sit back, relax and enjoy Antigua's chilled-out vibes. If you want to learn more about Guatemalan coffee, you can go on a coffee tour, visit the plantations, do some coffee tasting and buy some to take home. 

Day 17 Antigua

Your adventure comes to an end this morning, there are no activities planned for the final day. Please note you are required to comply with the check-out time set by the hotel. As there's a great deal to do in Antigua, we recommend staying a few extra days to make the most of this traveller favourite. If you need help booking extra accommodation, our reservations team will be happy to assist.

Availability

Checking price
Price From $ 1,262
Price Per Day: $ 74 per day
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Checking price
Start DateFinish DateBase PriceDeparture GuaranteedAvailability 
Sep-21-2019Oct-07-2019$ 1,485NoSold Out Reserve
Oct-05-2019Oct-21-2019$ 1,262Yes8 spots left Reserve
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Dec-25-2021Jan-10-2022$ 1,460No16 spots left Reserve
Dec-28-2021Jan-13-2022$ 1,460No16 spots left Reserve
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Stride Featured in

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3,182 Intrepid Travel Travel Reviews & Ratings

98%
4.7 out of 5 (100+ reviews)
Excellent 2,376
Great 625
Average 101
Disappointing 37
Terrible 38
Value
4.7
Guide
4.7
Activities
4.7
Lodging
4.7
Transportation
4.7
Meals
4.7

Maya Encounter

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was a fantastic trip

4.0
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was a fantastic trip

The cost of the meals etc. was

4.0
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The cost of the meals etc. was markedly more than the suggested costs such that the trip cost much more than expected.

great destinations and activities, comfortable efficient transport

5.0
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great destinations and activities, comfortable efficient transport, very knowledgeable and passionate leader, great quirky hotels, very smoothly organized by leader
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The trip gave me a good chance

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The trip gave me a good chance to experience the attractions and integral parts of culture that are on offer in this part of Central America

The tour leader, Carlos Oropeza was the

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The tour leader, Carlos Oropeza was the icing on the cake. His enthusiasm and professionalism made the trip all worth while despite some misgivings I had on the trip.
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This is the second trip we have

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This is the second trip we have done with intrepid and have been very happy with the organization and flow of the trip. Nothing is ever perfect but I cant think of a reason why I wouldn't suggest it to someone else
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Details

Group Size:

Small Group - 24 max

Maximum Number of People in Group: 16

Accomodations

Hotel (12 nights),Camping with facilities (1 night),Multishare lodge (2 nights),Homestay (1 night)

Guides

All Intrepid group trips are accompanied by one of our group leaders. The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. Intrepid endeavours to provide the services of an experienced leader however, due to the seasonality of travel, rare situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders. Your leader will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends. While not being guides in the traditional sense, you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the places visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. At Intrepid we aim to support local guides who have specialised knowledge of the regions we visit. If you were interested in delving deeper into the local culture at a specific site or location then your leader can recommend a local guide service in most of the main destinations of your trip.

Additional Information:

Finish point

  • Posada Los Bucaros
  • #94, 7a North Avenue
  • Antigua
  • 03001
  • GUATEMALA
  • Phone: +502 78322346

Trip ID#:

intrepid-QVRA

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