The Best of the Maya

 

 

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- La Venta Olmec Park and the Maya Sites of Palenque, Bonampak, Yaxchilán, Tikal, Yaxha, Quiriguá and Copan -

- - - Our most popular tour! - - -

An unbelievable 8 day/7 night escorted luxury air-conditioned educational Mayan tour of the marvelous Maya ruins of Palenque, Bonampak, Yaxchilán, Tikal, Quiriguá and Copan featuring expert guide, professional driver and all meals. 

Begins in Villahermosa.  Ends in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

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Day 1 - Villahermosa Mexico arrival, meet and greet - As the tour members arrive in Villahermosa and are welcomed by our tour operator partners they will be transferred to the appropriate hotel for a welcome orientation, reception and dinner. (D)

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Day 2 - La Venta Park and Palenque - After breakfast, the tour will visit La Venta Park, a magnificent exposition of Olmec Culture.  The Parque-Museo La Venta is an open-air museum that contains most of the stone sculpture excavated at the Olmec site of La Venta. There are 28 Olmec carvings at this beautiful outdoor museum with an interesting zoo and lake. Each piece was set carefully for optimum viewing.  The huge and amazingly well crafted Olmec heads, intricate altars, and intriguing stele and statues there makes one appreciate these ancestors of the Maya.  Coatimundis, agoutis and other tropical wildlife wander the grounds among some of the last native vegetation in the area.  The tour then continues to Palenque, with lunch along the way, to visit the Museum there.  The tour will check in at the hotel and proceed to dinner. (B, L, D)

              
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Day 3 - Palenque -  After breakfast, there will be a walking site lecture of Palenque Archaeological Park, one of the best preserved of all the Mayan ruins.  A UNESCO historical monument, Palenque is considered a world treasure.  Set like a jade jewel in the emerald foothills of the mountains of Chiapas, Palenque is arguably the most beautiful of the ancient Mesoamerican cities. Deep within the Temple of the Inscriptions the great king, Pacal, was buried and remained undiscovered until 1952. It was then that archaeologist Alberto Ruz raised the 4 ½-ton sarcophagus lid and uncovered the ruler within his crypt. The sight he beheld was the noble lord in his entire splendor wearing magnificent jade jewelry and a mosaic death mask. Palenque is unusual in having almost no stelae but stucco sculptures depicting the city’s royalty decorate many of the buildings while lengthy hieroglyphic texts can be found on tablets inside the palaces and temples. Entering the ruins while the day is still cool, we will guide you through the most significant buildings, reconstructing the fascinating stories of dynasty, succession, and intrigue that are revealed in their inscriptions. We will also visit the modern site museum that houses a full-scale replica of the tomb of Pacal the Great that lies deep within the magnificent Temple of the Inscriptions.

Many scholars believe that the height of Maya artistic achievement occurred at Palenque, and certainly the remains of magnificent painted frescoes and sculptured stucco friezes decorating its buildings show brilliant artistry.  The three temples in the Group of the Cross are certainly the most spectacular buildings in the city. Built high on the side of a mountain, these beautifully decorated sanctuaries dominate the site. In their interiors, massive, finely carved hieroglyphic panels tell the history of the kings and the glorification of their gods. We leave the site along a delightful trail that follows a series of waterfalls, including the Queen’s Baths that flow past the homes of the people of ancient Palenque.  

The tour will then continue to Misol Ha waterfalls for time to swim and refresh. Lunch will be served at the falls, then it’s on to the Hotel Cabanas Valle Escondido at Bonampak.  (B, L, D)

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Day 4 - Bonampak and Yaxchilán - Today the tour journeys to Bonampak and Yaxchilán. First the tour travels to Bonampak, home of famous Mayan murals. To reach Bonampak, the tour travels through the Lacandonian Rainforest Reserve, some of the last of the uncut jungle in this area. Here, within a palace, the "Templo de los Frescos", are three rooms containing the remarkable murals telling of the accession of a new king of Bonampak, whose untranslated name is “Man-eating Jaguar”, in 790 AD. These vivid colored paintings were not completed as the city collapsed shortly after this. Bonampak is well known for its murals, but the immense stelae, or carved monuments, here are equally lovely they tell of the center's close relationship with nearby Yaxchilán.

    

We will then move deeper into the remote area of the Petén and travel by boat down the Usumacinta River to the mysterious site of Yaxchilán. This river contains the largest volume of water flowing in Central America. This incredible boat ride through the rainforest with its huge trees and abundant wildlife makes you feel like you’re in an Indiana Jones movie! Located deep within the rain forest on an oxbow of the river, Yaxchilán was until very recently almost inaccessible. Here, the rulers Shield Jaguar and his son Bird Jaguar built towering memorials to themselves in the 8th century; ancient Mayan Queens exerted great power and the modern Lacandon Indians (of whom there are only 450 people remaining) still use Yaxchilán as a place of worship. There are more than 125 carved monuments at Yaxchilán, including inscribed altars, thrones, steps, walls and stelae, but it is the door lintels that are the site's claim to fame. Sheltered from the elements, these great stone slabs span the tops of 56 doorways, and their incised hieroglyphs are still fresh after more than 1,200 years. Adventurous travelers will want to climb Yaxchilan's highest temple as the view of the Rio Usumacinta and surrounding jungle is magnificent.

               

Here, we will learn the history of the elite and their blood sacrifice to the gods. The howler monkeys hanging from the trees, scarlet macaws soaring overhead, many other exotic birds and the rushing river make the overall experience at Yaxchilán very special even for the seasoned traveler. Then the tour will return back upstream to continue the tour at Escudo Jaguar for lunch, then a transfer to Bethel by boat and change coach to be transferred to Flores Guatemala, near the Tikal National Park for dinner and overnight accommodations at Hotel Petén Esplendido. (B, L, D)

 
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Day 5 – Tikal and Yaxha - Today the tour visits the spectacular Mayan ruins at Tikal. One of the most famous and beautiful of Maya sites, Tikal’s massive and steep pyramids (one is over 200 feet high) loom above the lush jungle of the Petén where one can observe spider and howler monkeys and numerous bird species such as toucans, parrots and macaws.  Here, bathed in a cacophony of jungle wildlife sounds, we will walk through the myriad of canopy-shadowed trails that lace the park.  Wild pigs or peccaries, native to Central and South America, walk the jungle paths, and brilliantly colored ocellated turkeys parade through the forest. Here, in the shadow of the magnificent pyramids, and accompanied by the distinctive call of the howler monkey, learn about the royal families of Tikal as told by their carved stone monuments. For example, the Golden Age here began in 682 AD when King Jasaw Chan K’awiil began his reign. The famous Temple I, towering above his tomb, has carved, wooden lintels that depict the king seated on his throne beneath a towering jaguar god.  Spend the morning in park's two museums where the finest of Tikal's carved monuments are preserved along with other artifacts from the years of excavation.  Lunch will be included. 

 After lunch the tour continues to Yaxha.  Rapidly gaining in popularity and now second behind Tikal as the most popular archaeological site in the region, Yaxhá is situated on the shores of the beautiful Yaxhá lagoon, home of Moreletti crocodiles, and half-way between Flores and the Belize-Guatemalan Border.

What makes Yaxhá so interesting is that, unlike Tikal, restoration of this site is at a very preliminary stage. Of the many temples, only one has been largely restored, while most of the others are either covered in vegetation and trees or being actively excavated and worked upon by archeologists.  As a visitor, being able to see the archeologists work and to talk with them about the site gives one a greater appreciation of the work of archeologists.  

Both spider monkeys and howler monkeys inhabit the area. In particular, the howler monkeys add quite an element to the experience of seeing these ruins. So named because of their lion like howl or roar, hearing these animals throughout the afternoon is a constant reminder that you are, indeed, in the jungle.   Later you will return to the Hotel Petén Esplendido for dinner and overnight accommodations at Hotel Petén Esplendido. (B, L, D)

 

Howler Monkey

Tikal

 
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Day 6 – Quiriguá and Rio Dulce – After breakfast the tour's day begins with a drive through the Southern Petén region of Guatemala and a brief stop in the lush tropical rainforest are of Rio Dulce.  From there the tour continues to an exploration of the old United Fruit Company plant in the banana plantation surrounding the ruins of Quiriguá. Upon arrival at the Quiriguá Archaeological Park the tour will begin.  Quiriguá is a lovely site near the shores of the Motagua River. Quiriguá's stelae are the tallest and most intricately carved in the Maya world. The Great Plaza contains zoomorphic sculptures and elaborately carved stone monuments honoring Two-Legged Sky, who freed his city from Copán when he captured 18 Rabbit in 738 AD. 

Later, it's on to Copan where you will check in at the Marina Copan Hotel for dinner and overnight accommodations.  (B, L, D)

   
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Day 7 - Copan - Today it's time to experience a true jewel of a Mayan ruin - Copan!  This UNESCO World Heritage Site represents one of the most spectacular cultural achievements of antiquity. Recent work has helped restore the magnificent hieroglyphic stairway to its former grandeur, and art historians are presently reconstructing the elaborate facades on the buildings. Throughout the site, finely chiseled writing tells us of the powerful kings in the lineage, from Yax K'uk Mo', the founder, to 18 Rabbit, one of the greatest of the rulers.

The site of Copan is perhaps best known for producing a remarkable series of portrait stelae, most of which were placed along processional ways in the central plaza of the city and the adjoining "acropolis" (a large complex of overlapping step-pyramids, plazas, and palaces). The stelae and sculptured decorations of the buildings of Copán are some of the very finest surviving art of ancient Mesoamerica.  The site also has a large court for playing the Mesoamerican ballgame.  Afterwards there will be dinner and accommodations at Hotel Marina Copan.  (B, L, D)

             Copan stellae     

 
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Day 8 - San Pedro Sula, Honduras - To end the tour the group will depart from Copan early in the morning for San Pedro Sula.  If time permits the tour will visit El Puente Archaeological site, halfway between Copan and San Pedro. Then it’s arrival at the San Pedro Sula International Airport for your return flight. PLEASE NOTE – Flights should be scheduled for at least mid day as the transfer from Copan to the San Pedro Sula airport is over two hours.  If your return flights are earlier than mid day a special transfer from Marinas Copan will have to  be arranged at an additional cost of $175! (B)

2014 and 2015 Per Person Tour Prices - Standard Category Accommodations - Double Occupancy

Number of Tour Participants

 2 Persons - $3,130; 4 Persons - $2,155; 6 Persons - $1,895; 8 Persons or More - $1,760

Single Supplement $455

International airfares ARE NOT INCLUDED in any of our tour packages.

Other accommodations could be substituted for like kind and quality based upon availability.

PLEASE NOTE - The Mayan Traveler tours are not "day tours" or "seat in bus" tours.  Our tours are quality, escorted tours designed for a minimum of 2 persons (other than Guaranteed Departure tours)

ALSO, the prices presented are generally higher during Holiday weekends, Spring break, etc. when travel schedules are dictated higher demand.

Occasionally we will schedule "guaranteed departure" tours that anyone (single, doubles or triples) can join.  In those cases the minimum tour size will not apply.

Discounted United Airlines airfares are available with all our group packages!

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The Mayan Traveler Maya Site Overviews Mayan Traveler Tours Colonial Mexico Tours Guaranteed Departures Tour Info Request Health and Packing Inevitable Small Print Why Travel With Us? TMT FAQs

This Tour Includes:  

·        Services of a professional archaeological guide.  

·        Hotels and lodges, hotel taxes service charges, and tips for baggage handling.

·        Breakfasts (B), Lunches (L) and Dinners (D) as detailed in the tour itinerary.

·        Carefully maintained air-conditioned motor coach; maximum 10 tour members per vehicle; experienced driver. 

·        All entrance fees to parks and archaeological sites are included in the program.

·        Complete program of sightseeing and cultural events as described.  

Please Note:  

·        Other accommodations could be substituted for like kind and quality based upon availability.  

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P.O. Box 132739
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The Woodlands TX  77393
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