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Day by Day Itinerary

Small Groups: Never more than 10-16 travelers—guaranteed!

Travel to Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Belize to delve into the legacies of the ancient Mayan civilization. More than 3,000 years ago this sophisticated culture emerged from the humid rain forests, flourished for centuries, and then vanished. In that time, the Mayans created a complex writing system, devised a calendar equivalent to our own, introduced the concept of zero in mathematics, predicted lunar and solar eclipses, and built the tallest structures in the western hemisphere—all while Paris was just a sleepy village. Today, their ghostly remnants are scattered across Central America in an ancient, 1,500-mile-long trade ring known as La Ruta Maya. From ruins to rituals to rural villages, we’ll trace the footsteps of the enigmatic Mayan culture as only OAT can—in our trademark small groups. Along the way, we'll meet modern-day descendants preserving their Mayan heritage with jade carvings, colorful weavings, and warm hospitality. Join us as we travel back in time to explore the Route of the Maya.

San Salvador Belize City Expand All
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    Today you'll arrive in San Salvador, Central America's second-largest city and the capital of El Salvador, where an OAT representative will meet you at the airport and assist with your transfer to our hotel. There, you'll meet your fellow travelers, including those who took our optional pre-trip extension to El Salvador: Colonial Suchitoto & the Flower Route. This evening, dinner is on your own.

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    Discover San Salvador on a guided tour

    After breakfast at our hotel, we'll embark on an exploration of San Salvador. We'll begin with a visit to the Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen, which collects items such as photos, videos, publications, and drawings to preserve the culture and history of El Salvador. The museum's exhibits focus on human rights during armed conflicts, and offer diverse perspectives on El Salvador's tumultuous military history, as well as how it has affected its people.

    We'll also visit San Salvador Cathedral, a lovely structure in the center of the city and the burial site of Oscar Romero, a prominent Roman Catholic priest and archbishop of El Salvador in the 1960s and 70s. Speaking out against human rights violations and begging the military to stop killing civilians, Romero often clashed with the local government and the Catholic Church. In 1980, he was shot while celebrating Mass, presumably during an organized attack by a Salvadoran death squad.

    Next, we'll view El Salvador's past from a new perspective at the Military History Museum. Here, we'll see a display of military tanks, trucks, and helicopters—as well as the 1992 peace accords that ended the civil war in 1992.

    We'll reflect on the country's past during an included lunch before returning to our hotel, where we'll enjoy some free time. Tonight, we'll gather for dinner at a local restaurant.

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    Eplore Copan ruins in Honduras

    This morning, we’ll explore Joya de Cerén, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the first of five Mayan archaeological sites we’ll discover on this adventure. Located about 30 minutes from San Salvador, Joya de Cerén is aptly nicknamed the “Pompeii of the Americas,” because—like Pompeii—it features remarkably intact dwellings that were preserved for centuries after being buried by volcanic ash. Dating from about AD 600, the ruins here were the homes, communal baths, and public buildings of ordinary people—not, as at most other sites, the monumental temples of royalty. This site was discovered in 1976 and is still being excavated. Evidence suggests that the inhabitants were able to evacuate as the eruption destroyed their village, but they left utensils and textiles behind that provide revealing glimpses of Mayan life more than a millennium ago.

    From Joya de Cerén, we head to the border of Honduras—stopping en route for lunch at a local restaurant—bound for the town of Copán Ruinas, the gateway to the mysterious Copán ruins. This evening, we’ll enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.

    Please note: If Day 3 falls on a Monday, we will enjoy a visit to Fernando Llort’s gallery in lieu of Joya de Cerén, which is closed Mondays. Fernando Llort, who is sometimes called “El Salvador’s National Artist,” is an artist of note whose work hangs in international collections, such as the White House Museum and the Vatican.

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    Eplore Copan ruins in Honduras

    In AD 250, the Maya—Mesoamerica's (and the Western Hemisphere's) most advanced culture—began constructing elaborate cities that flourished until about AD 900, an era now known as the Classic Period of Mayan civilization. After breakfast this morning, we set out to explore the crown jewel of their endeavors: Xukpi (to the Maya), now known as the ruins of Copán. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980, Copán is Honduras' most significant pre-Columbian site and the most elaborate of all Mayan cities, earning it the title “Athens of the Mayan World.”

    We spend a full morning here exploring its sprawling ball court, adorned with markers resembling macaw heads; and the Great Plaza, scattered with altars and lined with carved stone columns called stelae, which represent powerful Mayan rulers and date from AD 711-736. Among the ruins here that have helped unveil Mayan history is Altar Q, a rectangular stone altar with carved portraits of all of Copán's rulers, from the founder, Yax Kuk Mo, to the last ruler, Yax Pac.

    The most impressive remnant is the Hieroglyphic Stairway—63 steps with 2,500 glyphs, or symbols, carved into the stone, transforming the pyramid’s steps into the Mayans' longest historical record. The ancient Mayan belief system gave extraordinary importance to precisely measuring and recording the dates of events, such as the reigns of rulers, and many of Copán's monuments—and those of other Mayan centers—are elaborate sacred calendars.

    And the Maya were far from the only residents of the rain forest of Honduras. During our visit—in addition to examining the ruins—we’ll keep an eye out for the fascinating birds that inhabit the surrounding jungle.

    We depart the ruins for lunch at a local restaurant. Afterwards, you may choose to join us for an optional horseback ride through rolling pastures and fields of wildflowers on our way to La Pintada, a quaint farming village of thatched-roof homes and garden patches. We’ll enjoy stunning views of the ruins of Copán as we ride, as well as the opportunity to spot more of Honduras’ colorful wildlife. At La Pintada, we'll mingle with descendants of the Maya and see how the women make traditional dolls out of corn husks before returning to Copán for a dinner of local Honduran specialties.

    Or take the time to explore the sleepy town of Copán Ruinas, with its cobblestone streets and quaint colonial charm, before dinner on your own.

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    View the rolling landscape while traveling from Honduras to Guatemala

    Following breakfast this morning, we travel overland to Guatemala. After we cross the border, we'll stop in Jocotán, a small Chortí Maya village set in the mountainous countryside of Guatemala. Historically, the Chortí Maya resided in eastern Guatemala and Honduras (as well as some parts of El Salvador) and lived as agriculturalists and merchants, selling fruits and vegetables and an array of crafts. We’ll have a chance to explore the modern Chortí culture today as we stroll through a local market, watching as vendors sell some of the same items their ancestors sold centuries ago.

    From there, we continue on to Guatemala City through a patchwork of farmland, stopping en route for lunch on our own. Upon arrival, we check into our hotel and enjoy a brief orientation walk before gathering for dinner at a local restaurant.

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    Encounter friendly locals while touring Guatemala City

    After breakfast, we’ll explore the hardships many Guatemalans face by visiting one of Guatemala City’s poorest neighborhoods. In the area surrounding the city’s garbage dump, countless families are forced to make a living by picking through endless piles of trash, looking for anything of value they can resell. Due to extreme poverty, many of the area’s adults and children are illiterate.

    We’ll visit a local school and nonprofit that is trying to change this by working with children and young adults between the ages of 2 and 21. The more than 550 children enrolled in this program—which is supported in part by Grand Circle Foundation—can attend the nonprofit's full-day school through the second grade. Then, they receive financial assistance to cover the cost of public school enrollment, school supplies, and uniforms, as well as hot meals, homework help, medical care, and sports and art programming. The nonprofit also assists these children’s parents and families by providing them with access to adult literacy and social entrepreneurship programs. We’ll meet some of the nonprofit’s students—from its youngest children to its adult learners—and discuss how they are striving to rise above their difficult situation.

    This afternoon, we’ll have lunch on our own before beginning our explorations of Guatemala City with a panoramic drive, enjoying views of its stately Civic Center, the Neoclassical Metropolitan Cathedral, the ornate National Palace of Culture, the red Baroque façade of the Iglesia Yurrita, and the bustle of Reforma Avenue.

    We’ll return to our hotel in the late afternoon. Dinner tonight is on your own

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    After breakfast at our hotel, we’ll depart for Panajachel—or “Pana,” as it is fondly called by locals. While Panajachel was once a quiet Maya village, it has blossomed into a bustling town, drawing visitors with its volcanic vistas and proximity to Lake Atitlán.

    En route to Panajachel, we’ll stop in El Tejar to meet a family that makes roof tiles and bricks. After lunch at a local restaurant, we’ll also stop in Sololá, one of the largest Mayan cities in Guatemala. Here, we’ll visit one of the most vibrant markets in the highlands—often called one of the best markets in Central America—witnessing colorfully dressed locals selling meat, vegetables, fruit, housewares, and clothing. We’ll also stroll through Sololá’s wide central plaza, admiring the lively Maya culture that has prevailed in this city for centuries.

    We’ll arrive in Panajachel in the late afternoon. After checking in to our hotel and enjoying a brief walking tour of the area, we’ll gather for dinner at a local restaurant.

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    Today, we continue our travel in Guatemala with a cruise on breathtaking Lake Atitlán. Encircled by three towering volcanoes—San Pedro, Toliman, and Atitlán—which are reflected in its azure waters, it's been called “the closest thing to Eden on Earth.” And with a depth of more than 1,000 feet, it's also the deepest lake in Central America, formed by a powerful volcanic explosion more than 85,000 years ago. There is no road that rings Lake Atitlán, so we'll travel to its lakeside villages by boat.

    Indigenous Mayan people settled on Atitlán's shores around the beginning of the last millennium, making this the heart of the Mayan world. Their ancient traditions, beliefs, and crafts are preserved in the many Mayan textiles, with their distinctive geometric patterns, that are still created here using traditional methods. We'll witness the fruits of their labors today during a visit to a textile market in the lakeside town of Santiago. While there, we'll also learn about the traveling statue of Maximón—a famous Mayan deity—and visit an altar where local people still perform rituals to honor him.

    After our visit to Santiago, we cross the lake to the village of San Antonio Palopo, a small settlement lined with adobe homes—the residents of which still wear traditional Mayan clothes—where we have lunch at a restaurant overlooking the lake.

    When we return to our hotel this afternoon, you can choose to enjoy time at leisure. Or, you might decide to join us for an optional Canopy & Hanging Bridges tour at the Atitlán Nature Reserve, a 247-acre reserve located on the lakeshore. On this excursion, we'll hike through the region's tropical forest, walking along hanging bridges suspended in the verdant canopy, while admiring the landscape's volcanoes and waterfalls. Then, when we reach the top of the valley, we'll enjoy a thrilling descent by zip-line (eight in total) that brings us back to solid ground.

    We enjoy dinner this evening at a local restaurant.

    Please note: During the rainy season, the Canopy & Hanging Bridges optional tour will be available in the morning, and the other activities will move to later in the day.

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    See Antigua's colonial architecture

    This morning, we begin the overland journey to Antigua, enjoying another look at the lush Guatemalan countryside. We'll stop en route for lunch on our own and, as we approach Antigua, we'll also visit Cerro de la Cruz, or Hill of the Cross, located just north of the city. On a clear day, the hill offers sweeping views of Antigua with the towering Volcán de Agua in the background.

    Later, we'll arrive in Antigua and check in to our hotel. Founded in 1543, “La Antigua” served as the seat of Spain's colonial government—whose influence extended beyond Guatemala to Chiapas (in southern Mexico), Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, and parts of Costa Rica—until the Spanish Crown ordered its relocation to the site of what is now Guatemala City in 1776.

    Tonight, we'll gather for dinner at a local restaurant.

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    After breakfast, we’ll begin our cultural discoveries by visiting a local market near our hotel. Here, we’ll have a chance to interact with local people as they buy and sell colorful fruits and vegetables, textiles, and flowers. Later, we’ll board an authentic “chicken bus”—a colorfully painted school bus that is the main form of transportation between towns, villages, and cities in Guatemala. Our destination is Jocotenango, a village just northwest of Antigua, where we’ll experience A Day in the Life of a Guatemalan village.

    Here, we’ll visit Escuela Proyecto La Esperanza (when in session), a local primary and secondary school supported in part by Grand Circle Foundation. Many of the 450 students who attend this school come from the poor mountainside community of Vista Hermosa, and without the school’s efforts, would not be able to afford an education. We’ll tour the school’s sunny facilities and meet its vibrant students and teachers, who are sure to give us insight into their daily lives.

    Later, we’ll bid the children farewell and enjoy a Home-Hosted Lunch, stepping into a local family’s home and enjoying homemade regional cuisine—not to mention enlightening interactions.

    This afternoon, we’ll return to our hotel, where we’ll have time at leisure to reflect upon our experiences in Jocotenango. Tonight, we’ll have dinner together in a local restaurant.

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    This morning, we head to Antigua's Central Park to embark on a walking tour of the city, one of the Americas' oldest and loveliest—full of Spanish Colonial and Baroque architecture, narrow cobblestone streets, and graceful stucco homes—and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Our tour takes in several of Antigua's museums, as well as the restored convent of Santo Domingo.

    Then, spend the afternoon in Antigua, exploring this charming colonial city on your own. From the stunning volcanoes to the smallest architectural detail, Antigua is a revelation. Wander the winding streets at your own pace, linger in a small café, or shop for handmade crafts. The day is yours to savor the beauty of this lovely Guatemalan community, and enjoy lunch and dinner on your own.

    Or, you can join our optional Life in Guatemala's Mayan Villages tour to deepen your understanding of Guatemalan culture and history. We visit the towns of Santa Maria de Jesus and San Juan del Obispo in the countryside outside Antigua, where we'll meet Guatemalan families and delve into local history. The tour includes dinner at a local restaurant.

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    Explore Antigua's markets during a tour of Central America

    Enjoy time at leisure in Antigua this morning to make your own discoveries in this charming city. After lunch at a local restaurant, we depart for the Guatemala City airport for our late afternoon flight to Flores. On arrival, we journey overland to our hotel, where we have time to settle in before enjoying dinner on our own.

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    Explore Tikal ruins

    Today, we explore the Mayan city of Tikal, a magnificent 1,800-year-old complex and UNESCO World Heritage Site. At its peak, Tikal was home to an estimated 100,000 Maya, and it was one of the most important urban centers of its time. Immersed in the Petén jungle in Tikal National Park, the grounds are expansive and inspiring, and it’s difficult to determine which is more impressive—the accomplishments of man or those of nature. The Tikal site comprises roughly six square miles and contains about 3,000 structures—including temples, pyramids, tombs, palaces, ball courts, and terraces—the tallest of which rise above the leafy canopy and vie for your attention with the assortment of animals and exotic birds. Within the park, it’s possible to spot a great variety of wildlife.

    As we tour today, we’ll visit Tikal’s Great Plaza and see the 144-foot-high Temple of the Grand Jaguar, the tomb and memorial of Mayan ruler Moon Double Comb, who was buried with many treasures, including 180 pieces of elaborately carved jade. We’ll also see the Plaza of the Seven Temples, dating from the Late Classic period and including an unusual triple ball court. And we’ll enter El Mundo Perdido, the "Lost World," where 38 structures surround a central pyramid in yet another “neighborhood” within the vast expanse of Tikal. While Tikal’s history remains relatively unknown, its ruins stand as a testament to Mayan engineering and culture.

    As we enjoy lunch at the site, our Trip Leader will help unravel some of the mysteries surrounding Tikal. Then, we’ll return to our hotel, where we’ll have some time at leisure before we gather for dinner at a local restaurant.

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    See the Yaxha ruins outside Peten

    After breakfast today, we travel to Yaxhá—an active site in various stages of discovery. Here, we may observe as archaeologists carefully free centuries of Mayan history from the verdant grip of the jungle.

    Yaxhá was a bustling Mayan trade and ceremonial hub located about 20 miles from Tikal, one of the greatest centers of Mayan culture. It is now within the largest protected area in Guatemala, the “Maya Biosphere,” which includes Tikal National Park and a series of smaller national parks and protected areas. More than 1,500 years ago, Mayan priest-kings built scores of pyramids just tall enough to poke above the jungle here and reach the cooling breezes of the lake. They also carved stone monuments, constructed ball courts, and laid out the streets of their city in a grid pattern.

    We enjoy a lunch at a local restaurant near the archaeological site, then continue our overland journey, crossing the border between Guatemala and Belize. Upon arrival in Belize City, we’ll enjoy an orientation walk around the surrounding area before gathering for dinner at a local restaurant.

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    This morning, we explore the ruins of Lamanai (a Maya word meaning “submerged crocodile”), named for the abundance of crocodiles that make the adjacent New River Lagoon their home. Nestled amid thick jungle vegetation alive with exotic birds and howler monkeys, Lamanai is accessible only by boat, and boasts the second-largest pre-Classic structure in the Maya world: its magnificent High Temple. The site also features the 13-foot Mask Temple, a stone temple mask of a Maya king.

    The Maya lived at Lamanai for more than 3,000 years, and the ruins here are some of the oldest in Belize, dating to 700 BC. Excavation of the site began in the 1970s, and thus far less than five percent of the structures here have been unearthed. Excavation of the ruins continues to this day. As we cruise up the New River toward Lamanai this morning, you'll probably agree that getting there is half the fun, as we take in sights of tropical trees gracefully overhanging the water, delicate orchids, colorful birds winging through virgin forest, and freshwater crocodiles lazing on the riverbanks. Then, spend the morning exploring this fascinating site, including its on-site museum, which hosts an extensive collection of artifacts used both for worship and daily life.

    After enjoying a traditional Belizean lunch at Lamanai, we'll discover Belize City on an included tour, taking in the bustle of this colonial city on the Caribbean shore. We check into our hotel late this afternoon, and tonight we toast the completion of La Ruta Maya over a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant.

     

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    • Meals included:

    After breakfast at our hotel, we'll transfer to the Belize City airport. Those who are returning home will fly to the U.S., while those joining us on our Nicaragua's Colonial Cities & Volcanic Landscapes post-trip extension will fly to Managua, Nicaragua via San Salvador.

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Overall Trip Excellence
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Weather & Regional

Before you travel, we encourage you to learn about the region of the world you'll discover on this trip. From weather and currency information to details on population, geography, and local history, you'll find a comprehensive introduction to your destinations below.  Visit our “What to Know” page to find information about the level of activity to expect, vaccination information resources, and visa requirements specific to this vacation.

What to Know

For more detailed information about this trip, download our Travel Handbook below. This document covers a wide range of information on specific areas of your trip, from passport, visa, and medical requirements; to the currencies of the countries you’ll visit and the types of electrical outlets you’ll encounter. This handbook is written expressly for this itinerary. For your convenience, we've highlighted our travelers' most common areas of interest on this page.

Download the Travel Handbook

What to Expect

Pacing

  • 7 locations in 16 days with some early mornings
  • Some long transfers, including three 7.5-hour drives with regular stops, and 1 internal flight

Physical requirements

  • Not appropriate for travelers using wheelchairs, walkers, or other mobility aids
  • You must be able to walk 3 miles unassisted and participate in 6-9 hours of physical activities each day

Altitude

  • 1 day at altitudes above 8,000 feet

Climate  

  • Daytime temperatures range from 50-85°F
  • The low plains of northern Guatemala are hotter, with tropical temperatures and regular rainfall, most of which occur May-October

Terrain

  • Travel on some rugged paths and trails, city streets, unpaved roads, and uneven ruins

Transportation

  • Travel by 18-passenger air-conditioned minibus (no toilet on board), and 18-passenger boat
  • Three 7.5-hour drives with regular stops, two 1-2 hour boat rides, and a 1-hour internal flight

Accommodations & Facilities

  • Hotel rooms are smaller than those in the U.S. and offer simple amenities
  • Water temperature and pressure may vary
  • Bed sizes may vary
  • All accommodations feature private baths

Travel Documents

Passport

Your passport should meet these requirements for this itinerary:

  • It should be valid for at least 6 months after your scheduled return to the U.S.
  • It should have the recommended number of blank pages (refer to the handbook for details).
  • The blank pages must be labeled “Visas” at the top. Pages labeled “Amendments and Endorsements” are not acceptable.

Visas

U.S. citizens do not need a visa for this trip.

If you are not a U.S. citizen, do not travel with a U.S. passport, or will be traveling independently before/after this trip, then you may need a visa. Please check with the appropriate embassy or a visa servicing company. To contact our recommended visa servicing company, PVS International, call toll-free at 1-800-556-9990.

Vaccinations Information

For a detailed and up-to-date list of vaccinations that are recommended for this trip, please visit the CDC’s “Traveler’s Health” website. You can also refer to the handbook for details.

Before Your Trip

Before you leave on your adventure, there are at least four health-related things you should do. Please check the handbook for specifics, but for now, here’s the short list:

Step 1: Check with the CDC for their recommendations for the countries you’ll be visiting.
Step 2: Have a medical checkup with your doctor.
Step 3: Pick up any necessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Step 4: Have a dental and/or eye checkup. (Recommended, but less important than steps 1-3.)

What to Bring

In an effort to help you bring less, we have included checklists within the handbook, which have been compiled from suggestions by Trip Leaders and former travelers. The lists are only jumping-off points—they offer recommendations based on experience, but not requirements. You might also want to refer to the climate charts in the handbook or online weather forecasts before you pack. Refer to the handbook for details.

Insider Tips

Accommodations

Main Trip

  • Crowne Plaza San Salvador

    San Salvador, El Savador

    The Crowne Plaza Hotel San Salvador is conveniently located near sites such as the Museo de Arte de El Salvador, Monumento al Salvador del Mundo, and Feria International de El Salvador. Each of the hotel’s 197 air-conditioned rooms offers complimentary internet access, an LCD TV, coffee- and tea-making facilities, a safe, an iron, and a private bath with a hair dryer. On site, guests can enjoy a fitness center, outdoor pool, and a restaurant serving international cuisine.

  • Clarion Hotel Copán Ruinas

    Copán, Honduras

    Set on a hilltop overlooking the Copán Valley, the 78-room Clarion Hotel Copán Ruinas is located just minutes from the town and Copán ruins. The hotel features wireless Internet access, an outdoor pool, and an on-site bar and restaurant. Each guest room includes air-conditioning, cable TV, telephone, coffee- and tea-making facilities, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Best Western Hotel Stofella

    Guatemala City, Guatemala

    Located close to the fashionable shops and businesses in Guatemala City's Zona Viva (“Lively Zone”) district, the Best Western Hotel Stofella provides convenient access to many of the city’s attractions. Hotel amenities include a Jacuzzi, on-site bar, and laundry services. Each of its 60 air-conditioned rooms features a private bath with hair dryer, cable TV, a telephone, and Internet access.

  • Porta Hotel del Lago

    Panajachel, Guatemala

    Located on sparkling Lake Atitlán, Porta Hotel del Lago features a colorful garden setting with volcano and lake views. Enjoy your stay in one of 54 rooms, each equipped with cable TV, coffee- and tea-making facilities, and private bath; and gather with fellow travelers at the restaurant, pool, and Jacuzzi—or even in the hotel's art gallery.

  • Hotel Los Pasos

    Antigua, Guatemala

    Converted from an old Spanish colonial estate, every aspect of this hotel, from the tiling in the bathroom to the room and lobby décor and the terrace, is evocative of its surroundings. The quiet and cozy two-story hotel is a short stroll from the UNESCO World Heritage Site Antigua Cathedral and the heart of the town’s green space, Parque Central. There is a restaurant on-site and your room features cable TV, a safe, high-speed wireless Internet and a private bathroom.
  • La Casona del Lago

    Flores, Guatemala

    La Casona del Lago is a Caribbean-style hotel located directly on the shores of Lake Petén Itzá, facing the island of Flores. The hotel features an outdoor pool, Jacuzzi, wireless Internet access, safes, and on-site restaurant and bar with magnificent lakeside views. Each of its 32 air-conditioned rooms includes a private bath, hair dryer, telephone, and TV.

  • Radisson Fort George Hotel and Marina

    Belize City, Belize

    Located in the heart of Belize City, Radisson Fort George Hotel and Marina is located near attractions like the National Handicraft Center, the Museum of Belize, and the House of Culture. On-site amenities include three restaurants, two bars, a pool, and a fitness center. Each of the hotel’s 102 air-conditioned guest rooms features cable TV, safe, coffee- and tea-making facilities, complimentary wireless Internet, and a private bath with hairdryer.

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  • Hotel Los Almendros

    Suchitoto, El Salvador

    Situated in the center of Suchitoto, near the main square and Santa Lucia Church, the Hotel Los Almendros is housed in a lovingly restored colonial hacienda. The hotel features an on-site restaurant, serving local and international cuisine, as well as a tropical garden, and a patio offering scenic views of Suchitoto. The hotel's 11 rooms include modern amenities such as air-conditioning, wireless Internet, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Hotel Misión de Ángeles

    Concepción de Ataco, El Salvador

    Located just outside of the city of Ataco, Hotel Misión de Angeles is surrounded by historic cobblestone streets and old adobe houses.  Each of the hotel’s 10 air-conditioned rooms offers cable TV and a private bath. On site, guests can enjoy a bar and restaurant.

  • Casa del Consulado Hotel

    Granada, Nicaragua

    The Casa del Consulado is located in Granada’s historic section and has a hacienda-like design incorporating enclosed courtyards and a fountain. Each of the 9 air-conditioned rooms features cable TV, wireless Internet access, and a private bath. Hotel facilities include a small swimming pool and a spa.

Flight Information

Flight Options to Personalize Your Trip

Whether you choose to take just a base trip or add an optional pre- and post-trip extension, you have many options when it comes to personalizing your air—and creating the OAT adventure that’s right for you:

Personalized Air Routing

  • Work with our expert Air Travel Consultants to select the airline and routing you prefer
  • Upgrade to business or premium economy class
  • Customize your trip by staying overnight in a connecting city, arriving at your destination a few days early, or spending additional time in a nearby city on your own
  • Combine your choice of OAT adventures to maximize your value

Your Own Air Routing

  • Make your own international flight arrangements directly with the airline
  • Purchase optional airport transfers to and from your hotel
  • Extend your Land Tour-only Travel Protection Plan coverage and protect the air arrangements you make on your own—including your frequent flyer miles

OR, leave your air routing up to us and your airfare (as well as airport transfers) will be included in your final trip cost.

Standard Air Routing

w/out standard air $2495
w/ standard air $3195

Partner since: 2010
Total donated: $45,030

Making a difference in Guatemala

Simply by traveling with OAT, you support the work of the nonprofit Grand Circle Foundation. Alan and Harriet Lewis created the Foundation with the mission of changing people's lives through travel — which includes both the travelers who journey with OAT, and the local people who welcome us so warmly into their homelands.

Learn more about our work in Guatemala, and what you'll experience during your itinerary:

A Day in the Life of Jocotenango

Most OAT itineraries feature A Day in the Life experience, which is specially tailored to showcase daily life in your destination—in this case, Jocotenango village. In this village just northwest of Antigua, you’ll get to know the local people through conversation and hands-on activities, getting an authentic glimpse of what life is really like here—and not just the typical tourist’s version.

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A Day in the Life of Jocotenango

Most OAT itineraries feature A Day in the Life experience, which is specially tailored to showcase daily life in your destination—in this case, Jocotenango village. In this village just northwest of Antigua, you’ll get to know the local people through conversation and hands-on activities, getting an authentic glimpse of what life is really like here—and not just the typical tourist’s version.

"Our home hosted lunch was fun. It was nice watching the kids, then trying to talk to the parents. Our group included the grandmother as well as the parents. They were sweet. I was able to practice my rudimentary Spanish there too!"

Diane Cummings
Carmichael, CA

Meet the People of Jocotenango

During your A Day in the Life experience, you’ll meet friendly members of the Jocotenango village community, who will be eager to welcome you into their daily lives. Your day begins with a visit to Escuela Proyecto La Esperanza, a primary and secondary school supported in part by Grand Circle Foundation. After touring the school, you’ll meet its teachers and interact with its lively students—who are sure to give you a glimpse into the bright future of Guatemala.

Following your visit to the school, you’ll enjoy a unique look at Guatemalan culture during a Home-Hosted Lunch with a local family. In addition to sampling the local cuisine—and perhaps lending a hand in its preparation if you like—you’ll have a chance to get to know our hosts and learn about their daily lives.

Grand Circle Foundation

Supporting a World Classroom: Guatemala

By funding improvements at local schools, the Foundation’s World Classroom initiative is focused on supporting society’s most precious resources: its children. In Guatemala, you’ll visit an education-focused nonprofit and school funded by Grand Circle Foundation: Escuela Proyecto La Esperanza.

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Supporting a World Classroom: Guatemala

By funding improvements at local schools, the Foundation’s World Classroom initiative is focused on supporting society’s most precious resources: its children. In Guatemala, you’ll visit an education-focused nonprofit and school funded by Grand Circle Foundation: Escuela Proyecto La Esperanza.

"As a retired teacher, this was a highlight. The students and teacher worked very hard to make our visit enjoyable and meaningful. We especially liked joining one student's family for a meal. It doubled the experience for us and gave us a better perspective of the community as a whole."

Janet Hirsch
Bartlett, IL

Escuela Proyecto La Esperanza

Partner since: 2014

In many of Guatemala’s poor, mountainside communities, parents simply cannot afford to send their children to school. Instead, these children must stay home to take care of their younger siblings—or perhaps even join the workforce. Escuela Proyecto La Esperanza, a primary and secondary school in Jocotenango village, is working to change this.

The school supports about 450 students between the ages of 5 and 16, giving them access to a high-quality education, which, for some children, includes English classes. However, because most of the students receive little or no food at home, the school also provides filtered water, a mid-morning snack, and a nutritious lunch. Students receive regular health screenings to ensure their wellbeing, and have access to a Safehouse if needed.

With support from Grand Circle Foundation—and travelers like you—Escuela Proyecto La Esperanza hopes to continue in its mission to use education to bring more opportunities to Guatemala’s at-risk children.

School in session:

Mid-January through November

Gifts to bring if you're visiting:

  • Colored posterboard
  • Crayons
  • Tempera paint
  • Play dough
  • Glue
  • Coloring Books
  • Board games
Grand Circle Foundation

Alan and Harriet Lewis founded Grand Circle Foundation in 1992 as a means of giving back to the world we travel. Because they donate an annually determined amount of revenue from our trips, we consider each one of our travelers as a partner in the Foundation’s work around the world. To date, the Foundation has pledged or donated more than $97 million in support of 300 different organizations—including 60 villages and nearly 100 schools that lie in the paths of our journeys.

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Private Adventures—New for 2015

How do you arrange a Private Adventure?

It’s simple: You choose the people you travel with. You choose the departure date. You choose the size of your group. OAT does the rest.

Your lifelong memories are only a phone call away: Call us toll-free at
1-800-955-1925

Group Size Additional Cost
4-6 $1000 per person
7-9 $500 per person

Now you can reserve an EXCLUSIVE departure of Route of the Maya with just 8 travelers. Enjoy a truly special adventure—starting from only $500 per person more than our published trip price.

The benefits of your Private Adventure …

  • Travel in an exclusive group of friends or family members
  • Work with your Trip Leader to create unique experiences and special memories
  • Tailor the pacing of activities—spending more time doing what interests your group most at the speed that fits your comfort level
  • Enjoy the security of knowing we have regional offices nearby

This program is available on new reservations in 2015 only, and cannot be combined with any offer within 60 days to departure or with our Group Travel program. The additional cost of a Private Departure is per person, on top of the departure price and varies by trip. Private Departures do not include any changes or additions to our standard itineraries. Age restrictions may apply to some itineraries and must be at least 13 years old to travel with Overseas Adventure Travel. Ask your Group Sales Team for details. Additional taxes and fees will apply. Standard Terms & Conditions apply. Every effort has been made to present this information accurately. We reserve the right to correct errors.

From Ancient Empire to Contemporary Culture

The Maya then and now


Although the Mayan Empire ended, the Maya continued to thrive in agricultural villages throughout the mountains of Central America ...

When Hammurabi ruled Babylonia and the ancient Egyptians were under Hyksos influence in the 13th Dynasty, another great empire was forming in the Americas. The ancient Maya began as farmers but went on to develop some of the most advanced forms of architecture, mathematics, language, and religion known to the Americas at the time. Even after the end of their 2,700-year reign of power in the region, the Maya continue to wield their influence on contemporary Central American culture, particularly in Guatemala, where modern Maya people comprise approximately 40% of the population.

Using glyphs to understand the past

It is through ancient Maya monuments, art, and architecture that scholars learned about the system of Maya writing, which many suspect is ancient Mesoamerica’s first writing system and the only ancient language in this region to be comprehensively translated. One of the landmark examples of Maya writing is the Hieroglyphic Stairway, consisting of 1,800 ascending glyphs in Copán, an ancient Maya city in western Honduras. While ancient Maya scribes created glyphs both in stones and in paper texts, the Spanish conquistadors burned most of the paper texts in the 16th century while converting the Maya to Christianity, and discouraged the use of Maya script. After the last of the Maya scribes died out, the text remained untranslated until Western explorers in the 1880s renewed interest in the glyphs.

The glyphs themselves were not fully translated until the 1980s—and a world of dynastic succession and a society beset with violent conquest and gruesome religious sacrifice came to life. The texts and stone carvings also illustrate vivid mythologies, the most seminal of which involves mortal twin brothers fighting gods in the underworld, eventually going on to feed the Maya and then transforming into the sun and moon.

Uncovering the world of everyday Maya

While ancient cities like Copán and Tikal harken to a golden age of architecture, art, and ideology in Maya civilization, our understanding of ancient Maya life greatly improved with the 1976 discovery of the village of Cerén, located in western El Salvador. Called “the Pompeii of the New World” because it was enveloped in volcanic ash in AD 590, the site serves as a time capsule for daily life in a small village of that era. Though it appears the residents had time to escape the eruption, they left behind an impeccably preserved village. Excavations revealed that cassava was widely grown. Some archaeologists have posited that this hardy, nutritious tuber—which remains a staple to this day—may have enabled the Maya Empire to accommodate up to two million subjects at its peak.

Although the Maya Empire ended, the Maya continued to thrive in agricultural villages throughout the mountains of Central America—and their cultural heritage still lives on today. Throughout Spanish conquest, they maintained the spoken language of their ancestors, of which there are dozens of dialects spoken in Guatemala alone. Maximón, the ancient Maya god of the underworld, was reincarnated as San Simón after hundreds of years of forced conversion of the Maya people to Roman Catholicism. In addition to a name change, Maximón also got a bespoke makeover and is usually seen in 18th-century European clothes. Many handcrafts produced in the region today reflect the art of their ancient ancestors, such as jade carvings and intricate textiles. The historic and contemporary legacy of the Maya serves as a window to their civilization at its peak, a haunting reminder of the impermanence of great empires, and a reminder of how the roots of the past give shape to a vibrant modern existence.

Enhanced Itinerary

Based on feedback from our travelers, we’ve made several trip enhancements to our Route of the Maya adventure—changes that not only feature additional cultural discoveries, but a more relaxed traveling pace that will allow you to better enjoy your experience. These enhancements will begin with 2015 departures.

More days

By adding an extra day in both San Salvador and Guatemala City, you’ll now have more opportunities to delve deeper into Central America’s colorful culture—while also enjoying more free time to relax and reflect on your adventure.

More discoveries

We’ve added several more included features to our itinerary. For example, our extra day in El Salvador allows for more in-depth discoveries in the bustling capital of San Salvador. Here, we’ll explore local culture by visiting the Military History Museum and the San Salvador Cathedral.

More authentic cuisine

We’ve increased the number of included meals, with all lunches and dinners at local restaurants. You’ll now get to enjoy more authentic dining experiences—ones that better reflect the regional cuisine—and more opportunities to experience local culture.