Join a select group of just 13 other adventurers on a unique journey through Central America and the state of Chiapas in Mexico. Dive deep into the heartlands of the Ancient Maya with visits to four UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Copán, Quiriguá, Tikal, and Palenque.
This Mayan ruins tour offers more than archaeology. We will also experience dense rainforests alive with wildlife and an array of ferns, orchids, and bromeliads. The expedition starts in Copán and Quiriguá, which have fascinated explorers and researchers for over a century. Then, we will immerse ourselves in the sprawling Maya center of Tikal. As you wander amidst its canopy-shadowed trails, the serene natural landscape will surround you.
Venture further into the untouched corners of Guatemala, and traverse the formidable Usumacinta River, leading you into an unforgettable Mexico Mayan tour. By river vessel, arrive at Yaxchilán, located within pristine forests. Here, discover edifices adorned with intricate limestone carvings that recount tales of politics and power.
Proceed to Bonampak, renowned for its vibrant murals. Then, embrace the allure of Palenque, a gem among the ancient Mesoamerican cities. Many believe Palenque witnessed the pinnacle of Mayan artistic excellence, as evidenced by its preserved frescoes and detailed stucco friezes.
The tour culminates in San Cristóbal de las Casas, a colonial jewel in the Chiapas highlands. This city offers a window into contemporary Maya life, as neighboring villages are home to indigenous communities with distinct languages, customs, and attire.
After a journey filled with exploration and adventure, travelers will fly to Mexico City for their return flight home, or extend their tour in one of the world’s great metropolises.
Find the full tour itinerary below. If you have any questions, please get in touch.
Fly to San Pedro Sula, Honduras and drive to Copán. Spend the next two nights in the charming Hacienda San Lucas, nestled in the hills overlooking the ruins. Gather this evening at the hotel for our festive welcome dinner. (D)
Upon viewing the stunning art and architecture of Copán, archaeologist Sylvanus Morley proclaimed it the Athens of the New World. 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 reconstructing the elaborate facades on the buildings. Throughout the site, finely chiseled inscriptions tell us of the powerful kings in the Copán lineage, from the founder, K’inich Yax K’uk Mo’, to Waxaklajuun Ubaah K’awiil (Ruler 13 known as 18 Rabbit). The day will be spent exploring this exquisite city. (B/L/D)
Begin in the Copán Village Museum located in the town square, then depart Honduras and cross the border into Guatemala to visit Quiriguá, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 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 K’ahk’ Tiliw Chan Yopaat (commonly known as Two-Legged Sky), who freed his city from Copán when he captured and beheaded 18 Rabbit in 738 AD. Board a river vessel to travel up the Rio Dulce, flowing from Lake Izabal, in the eastern part of Guatemala, to the Caribbean Sea. With graceful birds soaring overhead and edged with tall cliffs teeming with verdant flora, the waterway is extraordinarily beautiful. Overnight for one night at the Hotel Villa Caribe where the Rio Dulce River joins the Caribbean Sea in the town of Livingston. While here, learn about the Garifuna people, descendants of escaped African slaves and Arawak people, who have their own language and customs. This experience will provide perspective on Guatemala’s multi-cultural heritage. (B/L/D)
This morning we explore the town of Livingston and continue on to El Castillo de San Felipe de Lara, listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List. This fort was built by the Spanish in 1644 as protection against pirates, mostly English. Strategically located at the narrowest point on the river, this small fortress was used for several centuries in order to prevent buccaneers from robbing ships and pillaging villages along the lake’s shores. We will take a short boat ride to view the fortress and to experience the beauty of the lagoon. In the afternoon, transfer to Flores and explore the brightly painted buildings of this charming island town. Continue to Tikal and overnight for two nights at the simple Jungle Lodge, located within the national park. (B/L/D)
Tikal has been a national park since 1955 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979. The 222 square miles of protected forest are home to wild pigs, or peccaries, raccoon-like coatimundis, jaguar and other cats, along with brilliantly colored turkeys and other tropical birds. Here, in the shadows of the magnificent pyramids, discover the royal families of Tikal through their stories on the carved stone monuments. Learn about the wars of conquest that rocked the region for centuries and begin to understand how the ties of blood created an allegiance between this impressive city and the other sites we will visit, and how these ties were often frayed by battles between the powers that ruled these royal centers. (B/L/D)
Spend the morning in Tikal’s two museums where the finest stone monuments are preserved along with other artifacts from the many years of excavation. After lunch, drive to the village of Bethel, located on the banks of the Usumacinta River, the largest river in Central America and the border between Guatemala and Mexico’s Chiapas state. Here, we board local lanchas for an “African Queen” boat ride that takes us through lovely tropical waterways to the village of Frontera Corozal. Overnight for two nights in the remote Escudo Jaguar, a simple jungle lodge. (B/L/D)
Located deep within the rain forest on an oxbow of the Usumacinta River, Yaxchilán was, until recently, almost inaccessible. Here, in the 6th century, the rulers Itzamnaaj Bahlam (known as Shield Jaguar) and his son Yaxuun Bahlam (Bird Jaguar) built towering memorials to themselves. There are more than 125 carved monuments at Yaxchilán, including altars, thrones, steps, walls, and stelae. However, the door lintels are the site’s claim to fame. Sheltered from the elements, these great stone slabs spanned the tops of 56 doorways, and on many of them, the incised hieroglyphs are still fresh after more than 1,200 years. 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, and the rushing river make the overall experience at Yaxchilán very special, even for the seasoned traveler. In the afternoon, return upstream to our jungle lodge. (B/L/D)
To reach the small ceremonial center of Bonampak, travel through the Lacandon Rainforest, some of the last of the uncut jungle in this area. Within a palace are three rooms with walls covered with stunning murals telling of the presentation of the ruler’s heir in 790 AD. The city collapsed about this time and these vivid multi-colored paintings were never completely finished. The detailed scenes of life at court, battles, torture, and ceremonies are considered among the most refined mural frescoes of the Americas. Bonampak is well known for its imagery, but the immense standing stone monuments are equally lovely and the texts that cover them tell of the center’s close relationship with nearby Yaxchilán. Transfer to Palenque and overnight for two nights at the Chan Kah Resort, where private bungalows are situated amidst a pristine jungle environment and clustered around an immense, free-form swimming pool. Dinner is on our own tonight. (B/L)
Set like a jewel in the lush jungle-clad emerald foothills of the mountains of Chiapas, Palenque is certainly one of the most beautiful of the Maya sites. The tomb of the great ruler, K’inich Janaab’ Pakal, was hidden deep inside the Temple of Inscriptions until 1952 when, after four years of excavations, Mexican archaeologist Alberto Ruz discovered it and raised the 4.5 ton sarcophagus lid with truck jacks to uncover the king wearing his mosaic jade death mask.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Palenque is unusual in having almost no carved monuments, instead, 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. The three temples in the Group of the Cross are the most magnificent buildings in the city. Built high on the side of a hill, these beautifully decorated sanctuaries dominate the surrounding countryside. In their interiors, massive, finely carved hieroglyphic panels tell the history of the kings and the glorification of their gods.
In the afternoon, tour the Palenque Museum containing an outstanding collection of artifacts. These include breathtakingly beautiful incensarios, or ceramic incense burners, some as tall as three feet high and richly adorned with masks of Maya gods. Dinner will be at one of Palenque’s charming restaurants. (B/L/D)
An early departure takes us to Villahermosa, capital of the state of Tabasco, where we visit La Venta Park and the Regional Museum of Anthropology. Located on the lovely Laguna de las Ilusiones, La Venta Park is a fascinating outdoor museum that contains a variety of Olmec artifacts, including intricately-carved stelae and the famous monumental heads, carved of basalt and measuring up to seven feet high.
The Museo Regional de Antropologia Carlos Pellicer Camara contains an excellent collection of maps of Olmec and Maya sites, Olmec and Maya artifacts, and pieces from ancient civilizations across Mexico. Dinner will be in one of the city’s excellent restaurants. Overnight in Villahermosa’s Hyatt Regency. (B/L/D)
This morning’s drive takes us to the colorful and historic city of San Cristobal de las Casas, one of the most picturesque towns in all of Mexico. It sits high in the mountains 7,000 feet above sea level, and is the marketing center for the Maya villagers living in nearby communities. Founded by Spanish conquistadors in 1528 after they had conquered the Maya strongholds of the highlands, it is listed as one of the Pueblos Mágicos (Magical Towns) by Mexico’s Secretary of Tourism, the city has tranquil cobblestone streets flanked by houses with red tile roofs and yards full of flowers. Here, discover Colonial architecture and vibrant indigenous culture as well as a thriving art scene.
After lunch, the afternoon will be spent visiting the sites of San Cristobal de las Casas. Best explored on foot, the historic center is laid out in a grid pattern with narrow cobblestone streets and colonial-style buildings made of adobe and stone with red clay tile roofs and wrought iron balconies. The Colonial heritage of this city is evident in its churches. Built by Spanish settlers in the 16th and 17th centuries, they have been maintained for more than 400 years. Visit Santo Domingo church which is the gathering place for the city’s daily market offering produce, household items, textiles, and more. Inside the front door of the carved-stone Plateresque façade (a heavily decorated architectural style fashionable in 16th-century Spain), there’s a beautiful gilded wooden altarpiece built in 1560, walls with saints, and gilt-framed paintings.
Next to the church is the former Convent of Santo Domingo, housing Sna Jolobil, The Weaver’s House, a women’s cooperative. Fine woven goods are on display and some of the very best huipiles (long, sleeveless tunics), blouses, skirts, rugs and other items are for sale. Our final stops will be The Museo de las Culturas Populares, the textile museum, and the Museo Na Bolom, former home to anthropologist Frans Blom and his photographer wife, Trudy. On display is the history of the Maya peoples, from the lacandones to the choles. Overnight for two nights in the Posada Diego de Mazariegos, housed within an 18th century hacienda. (B/L/D)
The fascinating Tzotzil Maya village of San Juan Chamula is famous for its unique religious practices that blend Catholic and Maya beliefs. This morning’s cultural exploration includes a visit to the church, where Catholic prayers and traditional healing rituals can be observed simultaneously, the cemetery with its Maya crosses scattered on the hillside and a walk through the daily food and handicraft market in the village. Considered the region’s finest weavers, the women of Chamula are distinctive in their colorful huipiles and heavy woolen skirts pin-striped in red and grey. White calf-length pants and shirts covered by black and white woolen tunics make the men as impressive. Continue to San Lorenzo Zinacantan. Zinacantan’s role as a regional center for the flower trade is reflected in the brilliant red, blue and purple flowers embroidered on the huipiles of the local inhabitants. The afternoon is free for further explorations of San Cristobal with dinner on our own. (B/L)
The Casa de las Sirenas is the oldest home in San Cristobal de las Casas. We admire its charming façade, decorated with delightful animals and other mythical creatures, including a mermaid. After lunch in a local restaurant, transfer to Tuxtla Gutierrez and fly to Mexico City.
Overnight at the Camino Real Airport Hotel. Dinner is on our own this evening. (B/L)
Begin our Mexico City Post – Trip Extension; see continuation of itinerary below. (B/L/D)
Transfer to the airport to board our flights home. (B)
Arrive in Mexico City in the early evening and transfer to your hotel in the Juarez District for four nights. Built as an aristocratic enclave of 19th-century mansions, Juárez today is a dynamic area that draws young professionals. The area is home trendy eclectic restaurants and is only a stone’s throw away from one of Mexico City’s most famous landmarks, El Ángel de la Independencia. After taking some time to relax and unpack, you will be escorted to your gourmet cooking class where you will learn to make some of Mexico’s most iconic dishes, and of course taste them as well! (D)
Today we visit the magnificent city center, built on top of the ruins of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. Our first stop is the Zocalo (main square), one of the biggest public squares in the world. We will view the Catedral Metropolitana – the biggest church in Latin America, and the Palacio Nacional (if it is open) – which houses Diego Rivera’s murals depicting the history of Mexico. Continue to a handicraft market, where we will have time for some browsing.
We then drive along the famous boulevard Paseo de la Reforma, built during the short-lived reign of Emperor Maximilian to connect the main square and his castle in Chapultepec, to visit the National Museum of Anthropology, containing one of the world ́s largest collections of archaeological and anthropological artifacts from Maya civilizations to the Spanish conquest. Located within Chapultepec Park, the Museum is one of the most comprehensive and impressive (almost 20 acres) facilities in the world. The modern architecture designed by Pedro Ramirez Vazquez is characterized by its iconic umbrella roof supported by a single column, which represents a mythological tree and depicts eagles and jaguars – all important symbols to the pre-hispanic civilizations. Each of the salons displays artefacts from a particular geographic region or culture. One of the biggest highlights of this museum is the Aztec Calendar, this 12-foot, 25-ton carved basalt slab that was discovered buried beneath the Zocalo. (B/L)
This morning we drive to the impressive archaeological site of Teotihuacan, located 50 km northeast of Mexico City. On the way we will make a stop at the Plaza de las Tres Culturas, where three cultures converge: Aztec, Spanish, and contemporary Mexican.
Continue to the Basílica of Guadalupe, Latin America’s most revered religious shrine. It is here where the Virgin of Guadalupe is said to have appeared before an Indian named Juan Diego in 1531, and an image of her was miraculously emblazoned on his cloak. We will have time to explore the New Basilica de Guadalupe (the Old Basilica, built in 1700, is slowly sinking) and to see Juan Diego’s cloak.
The rest of today will be spent at Teotihuacan, one of the most impressive cities of the ancient world, held sacred by the Aztecs. We will explore its temples, palaces and pyramids, including the Quetzalpapalotl Palace Complex, the Temple of the Feathered Conches, the Pyramid of the Moon, and the immense Pyramid of the Sun, ranked among the biggest in the world. Return to Mexico City in the late afternoon (B/L)
Our morning excursion is the floating gardens of Xochimilco in the south of Mexico City. They were once connected to the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City) by a causeway, and the Aztecs grew much of their food here. We will navigate the channels on board of a typical ‘trajinera,’ a flower-decked punt, and discover how Aztec life was before the conquest.
After a lovely lunch aboard we visit Coyoacán, a former colonial village, located in the south of Mexico City. Coyoacán still has its own identity, with narrow colonial-era streets, plazas, cafes and a lively bohemian atmosphere. We will walk along the main plaza, viewing churches and beautiful old buildings.
Our final stop is Frida Kahlo’s home (museum), Casa Azul, where she was born, lived much of her life, and eventually died. The house is a treasure trove, not only of her paintings, but also of innumerable artefacts associated with her and her husband, famous muralist Diego Rivera. This evening, we dine at one of Mexico City’s incredible top rate restaurants for our farewell dinner. (B/L/D)
Transfer to the airport to board our flights home. (B)
Price is based on double occupancy and includes:
Trip prices are based on a minimum number of participants. If this minimum number is not met, trip prices are subject to change. Should the prices need to change, Far Horizons will reach out to registered guests to discuss directly.
Should a roommate be requested and one not be available, the single supplement must be charged.
As a tour company that benefits from the cultural and natural riches of our destinations, we have a policy of donating to the scientific and cultural sites and projects which we visit. This has created a bond between Far Horizons and the academic and local communities that has helped us establish an extensive list of lecturers and contacts in each of our destinations. We ask that each participant donate to the noteworthy project we designate. The donation amount is $150.00 per person. Note that the donation is required as part of your registration for the trip and that it is non-refundable.
Prices are based on currency exchange rates keeping below a projected level. While it is unlikely, if the exchange rates should change substantially, Far Horizons reserves the right to charge an additional amount to the trip cost.
A deposit of $1000 per person is required along with your registration & health forms, which will be linked in the email confirmation you receive once you pay your deposit on our booking platform. Final payment is due 120 days before departure. Prior to departure, you will be sent a reading list and a tour bulletin containing travel information.
Cancellations received in writing at least 120 days before departure will receive a refund less a $500 per person administrative fee. Cancellations received less than 120 days before the departure date will not receive a refund. If for any reason you are unable to complete the trip, Far Horizons will not reimburse any fees. Upon registering for the tour, the purchase of travel protection with both trip cancellation and emergency evacuation is strongly advised. Links to recommended insurance policies will be included in the email you receive confirming receipt of your deposit.
International round trip flights are not included in the cost of the trip. If Far Horizons must change the trip dates or cancel the trip for any reason, Far Horizons is not responsible for any air ticket you may have purchased. Please send your complete air schedule as soon as you have it. NOTE: Please contact Far Horizons if you would like for us to handle your air ticketing.
The private tours of archaeological sites and talks by specialists are scheduled in advance and include a donation to each. Specialists working at these sites are excited about showing their work to interested enthusiasts. However, please be aware that there may be times when the director or a member of the staff may not be on site when our groups arrive due to other commitments.
Far Horizons expects all participants to be physically active and able to walk and climb independently throughout the full touring days. This includes walking over uneven terrain (uphill and downhill) for 2 miles or more at each site. You should expect to be on your feet for much of each day, averaging as much as 5 miles of walking per day. As such, each participant should be able to walk unaided at a pace of 3 miles per hour for at least an hour at a time, and to stand unsupported for at least 60 minutes. Bearing this in mind, we suggest that, if you have not already done so, you begin walking several miles every day, ideally including stairs and hills. If you have questions about your ability to keep up with the group or the strenuous nature of this trip, please contact the Far Horizons staff.
This tour is designed for flexible, energetic people who like to be active, have a spirit of adventure and a positive attitude. We have designed this trip to be as comfortable as possible, while also aiming to visit some remote or unique sites that other companies do not attempt to include in their itineraries. There may be days where we have very long drives and the conditions of the roads may vary. Hotels and transportation in some remote areas may not be up to western standards. There may be times when no bellhops are available; please pack with the understanding that you need to be able to handle your own luggage at times. At times we may be walking over uneven trails for a mile or more; hiking boots are strongly recommended. Not every meal will not be haute cuisine and several lunches may be picnics or box lunches. By maintaining a flexible attitude we will soon be captivated by the beauty of the natural scenery, the hospitality of the local people, and the fascinating sites we will see. Your flexibility and patience will be appreciated.
Changes in our itinerary, accommodations, and transportation schedules may occur. While we are committed to keeping as close to the published details as possible, sometimes it is simply not possible. Weather events, government affairs, or other factors out of our control sometimes come into play. A good book to read as well as patience, flexible attitude, and a sense of humor are essential.