“A 16 day holiday, travelling in a small group, around the Mayan sites of Guatemala, Mexico and Belize. Staying in hotels. ”
Ruta Maya/Mayan Trail in Guatemala, Mexico and Belize | Antigua, Guatemala | Panajachel | Lake Atitlan | San Cristobal de Las Casa, Mexico | Agua Azul Falls | Palenque | Campeche | Uxmal | Mérida. | Chichén Itza | Tulum | Swimming in cenotes | Caye Caulker, Belize | Xunantunich | Tikal
Description of Central American holiday, La Ruta Maya
This sixteen day Central American holiday takes in as many of the Ruta Maya or Mayan Trail ancient sites as possible, allowing some chill out time on a caye in Belize, a boat trip on Guatemala’s Lake Atitlan, dipping in and out of wateralls or swimming in cenotes in Mexico.
It is the Mayan history and architectural remains from their great ancient civilisation that people are really seeking out on this trip, however, and we do manage to visit the greats. Starting and ending in Guatemala, this part of the cultural circuit includes the magnificent colonial city of Antigua, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After some time on the country’s stunning Lake Atitlan, we cross over into Mexico, where the Mayan magnificence really kicks off. We visit the Chiapas' Mayan ruins at Palenque, the ruins at Uxmal with the Pyramid of the Magician as its centrepiece, the largest collection of Mayan ruins at Chichén Itza and, finally Tulum, overlooking the Caribbean.
After all that sightseeing, we move into Belize for a few days and start off Belizean style, by chilling at the beach. On the stunning Caye Caulker island, where you also have a free day to swim, snorkel or dive. Or just sleep in the sun. We then spend a day inland, exploring the country’s Mayan ruins at Xunantunich. Close to the border with Guatemala we take our final couple of days back in this country again. And for the finale, we visit Tikal, probably the greatest Mayan ruins of all. Climb to the top of one of the five enormous granite temples into the jungle canopy to not only take in the ruins of this great city, but also the beautiful birdlife that still thrives here.
As well as visiting ancient sites, this holiday also enables us to spend time in rural areas of Central America where Mayan culture still thrives today, as we eat traditional Mayan food, shop for heritage crafts and enjoy the language, customs, and warm welcome of the Mayan people.
Hello. If you'd like to chat about this holiday or need help finding one we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.
Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, travelling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week holiday, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.
The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travellers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.
We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.
What are the main benefits?
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.
Make the most of your holiday time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!
Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travellers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your holiday.
Solo travellers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those travelling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.
Less confident travellers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travellers their own room.
“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.
“The accommodation will be basic” Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.
“I won’t like the other travellers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.
“Will we be following an umbrella?”
Meet a group Leader
Name: Valerie Parkinson
Story: The first British woman to climb Manaslu, Valerie climbed Everest for her 50th birthday. She’s spent fourteen Christmas Days trekking to Everest Base Camp, and is involved insetting up Responsible Tourism initiatives in the Himalayas.
Meet a local guide
Name: Roshan Fernando
Story: Roshan has led over 130 trips – he adores showing travellers around Sri Lanka. He won the company Leader Award in 2010, but his career highlight was working on their Tsunami Project – which earned him a responsible tourism award.
Responsible tourism: Central American holiday, La Ruta Maya
Conservation: We actively work with local communities and non-profit organizations with missions based in conservation & sustainable development to make good on the promise of ecotourism as a catalyst for sustainable development. We are an active member of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council and sit on the Board of Advisors of Oceanic Society. We are also working with Grupo Tortugero and RED Sustainable Travel to operate travel experiences that protect the local environment, gather information about the state of the environment, and provide alternative economic activities to traditional resource depleting activities.
UK Office: It all starts at home so we have first worked at reducing our carbon footprint in our UK Offices. Through energy conservation measures and recycling policies, we are proud to be actively reducing the waste produced and our impact on the environment. We support various projects all over the world to try and give something back to the places we visit.
Accommodation & Meals: We use predominantly locally run accommodation, which contributes directly to the local community as local staff are employed and locally produced or sourced goods are bought for the accommodation benefiting the wider community. Where meals are not provided, clients are encouraged to buy locally grown produce and try the abundance of fresh food being made. For example, your tour leader will point out the best food markets in Chicicastenago, San Cristobal de las Casas and San Juan Chamula and will be able to advise you on which dishes to pick and what they contain. We will have the chance to visit a traditional restaurant called ‘Halach Huinik’, which we have been supporting for years for slow cooked pork and chicken with achiote paste and wrapped in banana leaves.
Local Crafts & Culture: Mexico has such a deep and rich culture and this is reflected in the variety of handmade crafts on offer. We try to engage with these cottage industries as much as possible- for example, we visit San Juan La Laguna, where we will visit the home studios of local painters and a textile cooperative where women are engaged in hand weaving and natural dyeing processes. The cooperative was formed in 2005 after hurricane Stan and so the income generated by travelers buying jewellery and embroidery here goes to re-building the community. Here there is a real opportunity for cultural exchange as clients can even learn to make their own tortillas by hand and then eat with beans or spicy chili (if you are brave!)
Group size: This small group tour has a maximum of 15 participants, meaning that we have a low impact on the communities we visit and are able to ensure that we do not disrupt or lead to the displacement of local people. The small number also allows us to stay in unique, family-run hotels that cannot benefit from coach tours and other mass tourism due to its limited size e.g. Casa Don David, which has its own botanical gardens where clients can learn about the ancient Mayan plants which grow there and their uses.