The aroma of fresh tortillas fills the streets, and the scent of coconut curry entices your taste buds. Your customized tour guides you through the culinary customs of Guatemala and Belize with an introduction to bold flavors, rich cuisine, and a distinct amalgamation of heritages. The jungle hides dramatic pyramids; the Caribbean Sea encompasses a thriving barrier reef. Cacao trees and coffee plants flourish in the tropical climate as chefs prepare succulent dishes and teach you how to emulate...
Antigua – Arrive in Colonial Antigua and Visit the Chocolate Museum
Verdant volcanic peaks surround Guatemala City; each summit challenges the city’s skyline, rising above the tallest high-rise. Locals walk around lavish open-air shopping districts designed to resemble cobblestoned colonial neighborhoods. The city boasts numerous celebrated museums including the Museum Popol Vuh, which exhibits pre-Hispanic figurines, including incense burners and burial urns. Traditional textiles provide insight into the ancient cultures before the Spanish arrived in Central America. A faithful copy of the Dresden Codex, a pained book of the Maya, allows visitors to witness some of the regional heritage and codes of conduct. Your private transfer meets you at baggage claim and escorts you to the colonial streets of Antigua, located 24 miles outside of Guatemala City.
After check-in at your luxurious hotel, meet your welcoming instructor at the Museum of Chocolate, located on Calle del Arco. The scent of rich, sweet chocolate drifts out of the front doors as your guide offers you a sip of chocolate infused tea or chocolate infused coffee. The subtle sweetness offsets the slight bitterness of the stewed tea leaves and roasted coffee beans. Your instructor leads you into a demonstration area, and collection of cacao nibs fills various bowls. Using actual cacao bean, learn the steps it takes to harvest the cacao at a plantation through the roasting and peeling the bean. Follow your instructor’s lead, and grind the grain into a paste; use the paste to create a thick, decadent Mayan hot chocolate before continuing your class.
Antigua – Tour the Preserved Colonial Streets and Visit a Coffee Plantation
The Spanish settled Antigua in the 16th century and acted as the capital of Guatemala until a series of large earthquakes in the 18th century. In the morning, the scent of fresh pineapple drifts out of the hidden courtyards of vibrant cafes. Women roll corn dough and set it on the grill, making fresh tortillas. Your guide leads you along the meandering cobblestone streets to view the living history of Antigua. Iglesia y Convento de la Recoleccion has a tranquil ambiance; a French Franciscan order erected the structure in the 18th century, establishing one of the largest churches in Antigua at that time.
An earthquake in the 18th century toppled the edifice leaving the great arched doorway intact. Walk around the cloisters and notice the boulders and half-strewn masonry of the original walls, connecting the past with the city’s contemporary life. After your tour, make your way into the hills rising alongside the outlying streets arriving at Finca Filadelfia Coffee Plantation, one of the oldest estates in Guatemala. Your tour begins at the nursery where you find growing seedlings.
Your guide takes you on the grounds to visit the wet and dry mills. Coffee beans spread across the sun dried patios and you realize how much time and labor goes into collecting the beans, and ensuring their readiness for shipment. Enter the packing area and the perfume of roasting coffee beans fill the air. At the end of your tour, enjoy a freshly brewed cup of coffee with the beans harvested from the plantation. You will sip the cup and find a light, slightly bitter, and delicately fruity flavor.
Antigua – Trek to the Summit of the Active Pacaya Volcano
In the morning, find the familiar aroma of roasting coffee beans traveling through the streets of Antigua. After your private tasting yesterday, the scent of coffee brings back a pleasant memory of the delightful flavor. Your guide will meet you at your hotel and escort you to the foothills of Pacaya, the most active volcano in Guatemala. Find the trailhead near the town of San Francisco de Sales as vendors sell walking sticks and bags of marshmallows. Grab one of each before heading up the mountain; greenery outlines the dirt track at the beginning of your trek.
Locals guide horses up and down the mountain to assist visitors in need, or those tired of walking. The volcano erupted in 1965 after a period of dormancy and has remained active ever since as the green leaves disappear midway up the mountain, replaced by a barren, lunar landscape. Pockets of steam rise out of the rugged surface as your guide tells you to dig a bit into the soil. You use your walking stick to move away some rocks and quickly feel the heat rising from the shallow hole you made. Take out your marshmallows, and let the natural heat roast your tasty treat, offering you a unique experience of having the earth cook your indulgent snack.
Antigua – Explore the Vibrant Regional Market of Chichicastenango
As the morning rises, leave Antigua behind for the day, venturing to the whitewashed walls of the town of Chichicastenango. On a hilltop, south of town, you find a sacrifice stone with a shrine dedicated to the Mayan earth god Huyup Tak’ah. Stone crosses circle a stone-faced idol, and the avenue easily leads to the central plaza. Follow the bustle and calls emanate from the town center near the 18 steps of Santo Tomas Church. The market draws Guatemalans from around the country eager to buy, sell, and trade their wares.
The market opens just two days a week, filling the city with bright vegetables, dried maize, wood masks, and elegant pottery. Vendors sell soap, sewing trinkets, and toys as the scent of fresh tamales echo from the stalls. Tin roofs shade the vendors from the sun, and the light glints off of the white stucco walls of the church. The market contains the different dialects of cultural Mayans from villages across the highlands and lowlands of Guatemala, providing you with the unique opportunity to see the differences, both large and small, in the cultural evolution of the peoples.
Flores – Fly to the Charming City of Flores and Explore Santa Elena Region
In the morning, depart from the elegant architecture of Antigua and make your way to La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City for your flight to Mundo Maya International Airport in Flores. Your private transfer greets you at the baggage claim and escorts you to the quiet island of Flores, attached to the greater city of Santa Elena by an arched bridge. The lake’s quiet waters lap at the promenade walls encircling the island as small boats travel across the lake, connecting villagers from around the shores of Lago Petén Itzá. The remainder of the day is yours to enjoy the tranquil ambiance of Flores or venture out of town to discover the hidden gems of the jungle. Cobblestone streets run along pastel painted houses.
Tuk-tuks roam the streets taking visitors and locals around the meandering stone avenues. For an introduction into the mystique of Mayan architecture, make your way to El Zotz, a Mesoamerican archeological site named for a large number of bats residing in the nearby cliffs. The site is nearly a half-mile by half-mile and crisscrossed by low ridges. The main temple is known as El Diablo, the Devil, named by locals for its steep sides. Reshaped to include terraces and an acropolis, the structure reaches a height of 148 feet above the plaza. In 2010, archeologists discovered a royal tomb inside the complex attributed to the remains of a king who ruled in the 4th century AD.
San Ignacio – Relish the Sight of the Mayan City of Tikal and Cross the Border to Belize
Wake up before sunrise, and make your way along the jungle road leading to the entrance of Tikal National Park. Pass the stoic edges of Lago Petén Itza as the quiet roadside restaurants are yet to open. Cross in and reach the trailhead of the park. Tikal flourished during the 8th century AD and is bet known for its towering pyramids set in the rich flora of the rainforest. Jaguars roam through the trees in the dark; coati, raccoon-like animals, rummage through the underbrush in search of food. Your guide leads you along the path in the dark, following old Mayan roads.
Pass a finely carved stela and altar in Complex Q as your guide briefly explains the numbering system and shows you the series of dashes and dots on the stone relief. Find steps leading to the top of a hill, but soon realize that you are climbing the tallest pyramid in the ancient city. Pyramid IV was erected around 741 AD and once contained wooden lintels. The Temple of the Two-Headed Serpent adorns the top; the structure reaches a height of 212 feet. Settle onto a step at the top of the pyramid and watch the sunrise over Tikal. Howler monkeys holler in the spreading sunlight as you see the tips of Pyramids I and II in the distance, rising above the trees.
San Ignacio – Follow the Trails of the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve
Wake up in the comforts of your luxurious jungle lodge as collared toucans grab nuts and berries from the treetops. Their yellow and red breasts contrast their black back plumage, resembling an outline of vibrant flames. At breakfast, try the traditional dish of Johnnycakes, a small baked bread cake of flour and coconut milk. The semi-sweet flavor blends perfectly with savory butter dishes, cheese, and refried beans. After breakfast, your guide will meet you in the lobby of your lodge and escort you inside the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve.
The reserve was established to protect a portion of the northern Maya Mountain foothills, along with the biodiversity of the region. A limestone shelf of chalk, marl, and sedimentary layers allow the lush jungle to grow and recuperate quickly. Your guide will lead you along the trails until you come to the edge of an emerald pool leading into the Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave. Your guide will provide you with a helmet and a sturdy headlamp before you venture into the cave mouth.
Foliage and vines dangle around the limestone entrance, the sound of rushing water echoes against the walls. Two subterranean rivers travel through the three-mile network of caverns. During your exploration of the cave, find pottery shards and shells, remnants of Mayan ceremonies. Move around rising stalagmites and beneath chandelier-like stalactites to find the remains of what locals call the “Crystal Maiden,” a complete skeleton whose bones have calcified. In the light, the crystals of the maiden sparkle.
San Ignacio – Zip Line along the Forest Canopy to Witness Jungle Landscape
Your guide will meet you at your hotel and escort you to the private 365-acre jungle reserve near San Ignacio Town. Travel along aerial wood bridges leading you into the trees. On a canopy platform, you can look into the branches and find blue-crowned motmots and the occasional red-lored parrot. Your guide clips you in as local troops of howler monkeys call out in the brisk air of the morning. Their howls can be heard as far as three miles away in the right conditions as you take a leap and zoom across the forest canopy. The emerald leaves turn to a streak of green; the wind brushes against your cheeks and pulls at your shirt.
Travel along, nearly 3,000 feet over seven runs. The thrills of the jungle are endless, allowing you to feel the exhilaration of flying mixed with the thrills of exploration. In the afternoon, return to the lodge and meet your private cooking instructor, eager to teach you the traditional techniques and flavors of Mayan cuisine. Create the staple side of tortillas, working the corn down in balls before flattening the dough. Set the flat, round the dough on the grill, and wait for it to cook through, creating your first, but not your last, handmade tortilla.
San Pedro – Fly from Cayo District Airstrip to the Island of Ambergris Caye
At breakfast, search the trees for hummingbirds or the iridescent plumage of collared trogons. Sip fresh-pressed roasted coffee as the gentle trickle of the Macal River emanates from beyond the trees. After your meal, your private transfer escorts you to the Cayo District airfield for your flight to Belize City to board your connecting flight to Ambergris Caye. The brief journey takes you over the Caribbean Sea; turquoise water shimmers in the sunlight. White sand beaches glisten against the various shades of blue stemming from the water. Land at San Pedro Airport, and continue to your luxurious resort overlooking the sea. Palm trees cast refreshing shade over the powdery sand; lounge chairs look out to the horizon. Turquoise, indigo, and cobalt blue layer the water as sailboats catch the breeze and glide along the horizon. Sit back, relax, and settle into the beauty of Belize’s island lifestyle.
San Pedro – Half-Day Snorkel Tour of the Great Belizean Barrier Reef
Bask in the sound of the Caribbean Sea lapping against the shore as your morning begins. Fishing boats venture out into the distance, filled with locals and visitors searching for a perfect catch. Meet your boat at the end of your resort’s pier and depart to Hol Chan Marine Reserve, whose name in Mayan stands for “Little Channel.” The reserve encompasses a cut through the reef about 75 feet wide and 30 feet deep, located approximately four miles southeast of San Pedro. The boat moors to a buoy and your guide will instruct you on the proper ways to snorkel around the reef ecosystem without disturbing the coral and the marine life.
Put on your mask and dip into the refreshing saltwater; float easily and find the temperate Caribbean welcoming. Swim against the current as it pushes you towards the shore. Coral rises out of the sand and limestone seafloor with finger-like formations. The ridges on the rounded coral lend itself to the name, brain coral. Sea fans wave back and forth in the water; the thin frame resembles latticework. Black tipped reef sharks swim in the deeper edges of the water staying close to the coral. They can grow to more than five feet long and tend to remain in the same area for several years at a time.
San Pedro – Enjoy a Day at Leisure and Learn the Art of Belizean Cuisine
The island of Ambergris Caye offers wonderful possibilities for visitors and locals to enjoy. People set out on the water with kiteboards, the breeze propelling them along the natural wake. In the northern edges of the island, Mayan ruins open up the tree line. The nearby island of Caye Caulker provides tranquil cafes and stunning mangrove forest in which to search for inspiring wildlife both on land and in the sea. The day is yours to indulge in the beauty and adventure of the island before participating in Belizean cooking class in the late afternoon. Much like the activities on Ambergris Caye, the cuisine of Belize is eclectic, with influences from the Caribbean, Mayan culture, Spanish settlers, escaped slaves from West Africa, and even the Yucatan to the north.
The chef works at a restaurant beloved for its colorful décor and traditional flavors; sand decorates the floor, and a large tree acts as a centerpiece to the main room. The chef begins to prepare a Mexican flavored chicken soup, perfect for a weekend morning. Watch as the chef creates some of the favorite dishes in the restaurant or join in with pouring rum into a fruit sauce and tasting the cheese that will soon stuff a chicken breast. By the end of class, you have created dishes from the various cultures amalgamating in Belize, making the class as unique as the country.
San Pedro – Depart for Home
In the morning, linger over breakfast and listen to the waves as the colors of the island look brighter; pastel homes create the Caribbean ambiance. The crystal clear surface of the water accentuates the turquoise sweeping across the sea. Even the fronds from the palm trees shine brighter in the tropical sunlight as you sip your coffee and enjoy the scent of sea air. Soon your private transfer will escort you to San Pedro Airport for your flight to Belize City. Board the plane home and take one final look at the mixture of jungle brush and stunning coastline knowing someday you’ll return.
- Discover the rich world of the Mayan during your sunrise tour of Tikal as pyramids tower above the encompassing jungle
- Experience the bold flavors of traditional Mayan cuisine during a private cooking lesson in the Belizean jungle
- Dive into the crystal clear water of Hol Chan Marine Reserve to witness the vibrant marine life at the Great Belize Barrier Reef
- Learn how to make chocolate bars and hot chocolate from fresh cacao nibs during a private demonstration of chocolate cultivation
- Visit a working coffee plantation to learn the process of growing, harvesting, and treating the grain before tasting a perfectly brewed cup
- Indulge in the eclectic tastes of Ambergris Caye during a private cooking class that tells of the variety of cultures shaping Belizean history
- Traverse jungle caves and subterranean river networks in search of remnants of Mayan ceremonies
- Zip line across the jungle canopy and search for the vibrant birdlife and wildlife that lives amongst the trees
- Relish the unique image of the active Chichicastenango market as it fills with hundreds of Guatemalans from around the country eager to buy and sell
- Trek along lava rocks and simmering earth on trails leading to the top of the Pacaya Volcano where you can roast marshmallows over active vents
The cuisine of a country can tell the past, present, and future of its culture. Your 12-day tour focuses on the heritage of Guatemala and Belize, and how tradition has shaped various culinary values. Arrive at La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City where your private transfer meets you at baggage claim and escorts you to the charming cobblestone streets and colonial architecture of Antigua. After you settle into the city, meet your private instructor at the Chocolate Museum, for a brief tour of cacao’s history before teaching you how to create indulgent chocolate concoctions.
The following day, your tour guide will lead you through the city on a tour of Antigua’s rich history. Towards afternoon, you will venture into the jungle to see a bustling coffee plantation. Learn about the history of the estate and the process of cultivating coffee. At the end of the tour, your guide provides you with a cup of freshly brewed coffee made from the beans you walked by. On the next day, venture to the top of Pacaya Volcano. The lunar landscape is unforgettable and provides pockets of natural heat where visitors enjoy roasting marshmallows. Continue on and travel to the town of Chichicastenango to explore the whitewashed walls and elaborate murals before meandering through the lively market.
Then fly from La Aurora International Airport to Mundo Maya International Airport in Flores, located near the eastern border with Belize. The remainder of the day is yours to explore the region, kayak on Lake Petén Itza or travel to a less visited Mayan archeological site. On day six, wake up early for an unforgettable sunrise tour of the Mayan city of Tikal. After your tour, cross into Belize and relax in the comforts of your luxurious jungle resort. The next morning, enter Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve on a guided tour to trek through the jungle brush and explore the subterranean networks of Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave. Venture into the treetops for a zip line tour of the jungle canopy.
In the evening, meet your private instructor for a cooking class based on traditional Mayan dishes. Wake up and fly from Cayo District airstrip to Belize City to transfer to your connecting flight to San Pedro Town on Ambergris Caye. The remainder of the day is at your leisure to enjoy the relaxed pace of island life. Jump into your guide’s boat to discover the majesty of the Great Belizean Barrier Reef, the second largest barrier reef in the world. Visit two magnificent snorkeling spots before returning to shore.
The first half of the following day is at your leisure to experience the beauty of Ambergris Caye as you desire. Return to the water for another snorkeling excursion; visit the island of Caye Caulker to kayak along mangrove forest. In the afternoon, meet your private chef to learn about the variety of cultures in Belize and how those cooking traditions have shaped the flavors and preferred tastes of locals over time. Finish off your adventure as you make your way to the San Pedro airport and begin your journey home.
$4,195 per person (excluding international flights)
Your Zicasso trip is fully customizable, and this sample itinerary is a starting place for your travel plans. Actual costs are dynamic, and your selection of accommodations and activities, your season of travel, and other such variables will bring this budget guideline up or down. Throughout your planning experience with your Zicasso specialist, your itinerary is designed around your budget. You can book your trip when you are satisfied with every detail. Planning your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist is a free service.
- In-country transportation
- Some or all activities and tours
- Expert trip planning
- 24x7 support during your trip
Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
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