Mexico’s Yucatan Tour – Off the Beaten Path
Tour Mexico’s Yucatan and Visit the Hidden Cities of Balamkú, Ek Balam, Santa Rosa Xtampak , and Calakmul.
with Dr. Stanley Guenter
February 18 – 27, 2018
Why Take This Tour?
- Led by Dr. Stanley Guenter, renowned epigrapher
- Tour Calakmul, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Tour Chichen Itza, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Tour Uxmal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Maximum 14 participants
(click to enlarge)
Day 1: Arrive into Cancun.
Day 2: Tulum. Muyil. Balam Na Church.
Day 3: Dzibanche. Kinichna. Kohunlich.
Day 4: Becan. Xpujil. Chicanna. Hormiguero.
Day 5: Calakmul. Balamku.
Day 6: Campeche Museums
Day 7: Edzna. Santa Rosa Xtampak. Kabah.
Day 8: Uxmal.
Day 9: Chichen Itza.
Day 10: Fly back to the USA.
Deep in the remote southern area along the border with Guatemala, recent excavations have exposed remains of pyramids and cities that until recently, were nearly impossible to reach. Hieroglyphic texts found here are changing our knowledge of the Maya by revealing history that has been hidden for more than one thousand years. At Dzibanché, fragments of polychrome painted stucco and graffiti bear the family glyphs of Kaan, and may have been the center of power prior to Calakmul. Muyil was an important inland trade center accessible to the Caribbean via a series of canals. Balamkú displays stunning stucco murals, still covered with polychrome paint. And Santa Rosa Xtampak contains an immense 44 room palace built in the elaborately carved Chenes style. The trip includes three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Calakmul, now known to have been the capital of the Kaan, or Snake, Kingdom, the formidable empire that challenged Tikal for power; Uxmal with its beautifully decorated buildings; and Chichén Itzá, with its Great Ballcourt, the largest yet found in Mesoamerica.
Join Dr. Stanley Guenter, a Maya hieroglyphic specialist, on our Mexico Yucatan Tour and learn about the Maya rulers’ battle for power as written in the texts on monuments.
Stanley Paul Guenter was first introduced to the Maya culture and ancient script at the age of ten. He has been studying the Mesoamerican cultures ever since. He obtained his undergraduate degree at the University of Calgary, his Master’s Degree at La Trobe University, in Melbourne Australia, and his PhD in Archaeology from Southern Methodist University. He has worked on archaeological projects in eastern Tabasco, Mexico and is currently an epigrapher and archaeologist with two archaeological projects in Guatemala: The Regional Archaeological Investigations of Northern Petén, Guatemala (RAINPEG), and the Southern Methodist University El Peru/Waka’ project. Dr. Guenter is one of the outstanding rising stars of Mesoamerican writing systems and has taught and presented at many conferences in Canada, the United States, Australia, Germany and Denmark. He has done a full study of the inscriptions of Dos Pilas in relation to Tikal (you may see the readings on mesoweb.com). His knowledge of the written history of the ancient Maya brings sites to life!
(B) breakfast, (L) lunch, (D) dinner
Day 1: Fly to Cancún and drive south along the Caribbean coast to overnight for one night. (D)
Day 2: Heading south, our first stop is Tulum. Built in the compact style of the Postclassic period, this walled fortified settlement was still inhabited when the Spanish Conquistadores sailed past in the 16th century. Recent archaeological work indicates that the population of Tulum were foreigners to this area of the Yucatan, likely having come from the area of Champoton, off the southern coast of Campeche. Delicate multi-colored paintings decorate the interior walls of one of the flat-roofed temples, and a protective wall surrounds the city. Then we move to Muyil, an inland seaport and a crucial link in the Maya trade route that extended from the coast of Campeche to the Gulf of Honduras. Once accessible via a series of canals, a wide sacbe, or Maya road, stretches from the temples to the lagoon. The moon goddess was a primary deity along this coast, and many representations of her have been found here. Time permitting we will stop by the Balam Na church. One hundred and fifty years ago this was the center of the town of Chan Santa Cruz, capital of the independent Maya who, in the 19th century caste wars, rebelled against their treatment on the haciendas. Overnight in the Hotel Laguna Bacalar, overlooking a lake of the same name. (B/L/D)
Day 3: As we move west, our first stop is Dzibanché, until recently hidden in the forest and rarely visited. Hieroglyphic steps found here contain texts extolling the captures and victories of many Snake Kingdom lords, indicating that this was the capital of the kingdom during the 6th century. Large temples tower over important tombs, one temple contained a carved wooden lintel recording the accession of a kaloomte’ (a Maya imperial title) in 551 AD. A few miles north lies Kinichna with a huge pyramid dominating the landscape. Our final stop will be Kohunlich, discovered in 1971 just before looters could steal a series of spectacular stucco masks thought to portray the Sun God, K’inich Ajaw. Overnight for four nights in a charming, environmentally sensitive ecolodge, Chicanna EcoVillage Resort. (B/L/D)
Day 4: Our explorations take us to four breathtaking sites. Encircled by a steep, dry moat built to ward off invaders, Becán once covered at least 60 acres, and stunningly-beautiful buildings stand as mute testimony of the city’s former importance. At Chicanná, massive doorways represent the earth monster’s mouth (and the entrance to the underworld) that swallows all those who step across its imposing teeth. Xpujil is noted for its false stairways that climb three steep towers to artificial temples on top. Each imposing edifice is decorated with breathtaking masks. Nearby Hormiguero is located deep in the forest and rarely visited. The center contains many impressive structures, but the colossal Temple I is the most impressive. It is extravagantly decorated with two soaring, false-staircase towers on either side of a huge monster mouth portal. (B/L/D)
Day 5: Begin the day at Balamkú, a lovely temple containing an exquisitely painted stucco façade. Two-stories tall, the frieze consists of four lords who are shown as being born out of the mouths of frogs seated atop sacred mountains. Then it’s on to Calakmul, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located deep within the heart of the forests near the Guatemala border, this was one of the largest and most powerful Maya cities of the Late Classic period. During this period the site served as capital of the Kaan Kingdom which competed with Tikal for domination of the Maya world. In ancient times, an interconnected series of canals and bajos (low swampy areas) encompassing more than 40 square miles, protected the city. Excavations have uncovered fascinating structures and tombs filled with precious grave goods including at least four jade mosaic masks. Over 100 carved monuments dating from 435 AD to after 900 AD impart stories of mighty rulers and rituals they carried out to honor their gods. (B/L/D)
Day 6: Depart the Rio Bec region and drive north to Campeche, founded in the 16th century by the Spanish, and since 1999, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city’s port prospered with local timber, silver and gold being shipped to Europe, and it became a target for pirates. As protection, in the mid-1700s huge bulwarks were constructed, each one over 10 feet thick. Of the original eight bastions, seven still stand and one of them, the Baluarte de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, houses a collection of Mayan artifacts in the Museum of Maya Culture. The Museum of Mayan Stelae exhibits an important collection of carved monuments and architectural fragments from nearby Maya cities. Overnight in Campeche at the Hotel Plaza Campeche for one night. (B/L/D)
Day 7: Begin today in Edzná where the monumental zone of the center covers more than two square miles. The remains include fragments of at least 32 stelae, and one of the buildings on the central plaza is decorated with intricate, impressively intact carvings of the sun god with remnants of red stucco still visible. At one time a regional capital with over ten ceremonial plazas, Santa Rosa Xtampak contains a multitude of buildings that are exceptional examples of Chenes architecture. As we walk through the extensive city, we will view an enormous palace containing 44 rooms with two interior staircases leading to different levels. Our last stop is at Kabah to view the facade of the Codz-Pop temple, decorated with masks of the long-nosed rain god, Chac, one of the most characteristic works in the Pu’uc style. We will watch as the setting sun casts a breathtaking light upon the repeating baroque pattern of the curling noses of Chac across the front of the building. Overnight in The Lodge at Uxmal. (B/L/D)
Day 8: Spend this morning exploring dazzling Uxmal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With its splendid geometric friezes made up of thousands of hand-carved stones, Uxmal displays the peninsula’s finest example of Classic Puuc architecture. The impressive Pyramid of the Magician is 100 feet tall and dominates the city, and the Governor’s Palace stands on three terraces overlooking the plain. After lunch, drive to Chichén Itzá, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Adjacent to the site, the 17th century Hacienda Chichén originally operated as a cattle ranch and later as a sisal plantation. In the early 20thcentury, it was the home of Mayanist, Edward Thompson, and will be our home for one night. Here, lovely cottages are built around a swimming pool and amidst flowering gardens filled with a fascinating variety of subtropical birds and wildlife. (B/L/D)
Day 9: Although other Maya centers were being abandoned during the tumultuous 9th century, magnificent Chichén Itzá rose to become the most important city of its time. In its great ball court the lords of the city constructed an expression of the new age they intended to rule. Among the structures we will explore are the Castillo towering high above the plaza; the Caracol, a round temple constructed on a series of platforms probably used for tracing astronomical events; and the Temple of the Warriors, where sculptured columns form colonnades that once supported mammoth roofs. We will also walk to the cenote, known as the “Great Well of the Itzá,” where artifacts of gold and jade, along with copal incense, have been found. Our festive final dinner party will be held in the original living quarters of the Hacienda Chichén where we overnight for one night. (B/L/D)
Day 10: Transfer to the airport in Cancún for your flight back to the USA. (B)
Single Supplement: $995.00. Should a roommate be requested and one not be available, the single supplement will be charged.
Cost Does Not Include: Meals other than those listed in the itinerary; food, alcoholic and other beverages not on set menus; a separate donation check of $150.00 per person to a designated donation project; passport and visa fees; airport fees and taxes; excess baggage charges; gratuities to guides and drivers; email, telephone, and fax charges; laundry or other items of a personal nature.
Fuel Surcharges: Far Horizons must pass on price increases when additional fuel charges are levied.
Donation Checks: 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 projects and museums 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 write a check to the noteworthy project we designate. The donation amount is $150.00 per person and is made by check directly to the donation project. Note that the donation is required as part of your registration for the trip and that it is non-refundable. We will be designating a donation project for this trip shortly.
A deposit of $500.00 per person is required along with your completed and signed registration form. Upon receipt of your deposit and completed registration form, you will be sent a reading list and tour bulletin containing travel information. Prior to the trip, we will send links to various websites of pertinent interest to the trip. Click here to download our Registration Form.
Cancellations received in writing at least 90 days before departure will receive a refund less a $300.00 administrative fee. Cancellations received less than 90 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. The purchase of travel insurance protection with both trip cancellation and emergency evacuation coverage is strongly recommended.
If you do not fly on the group flight, you are responsible for all flight arrangements and transportation (including airport transfers) to join the group. 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. If you issue your own international flight, please send a copy of the e-ticket as soon as you have it.
Private Tours of Archaeological Sites
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 onsite when our groups arrive due to other commitments.
Note About Itinerary Changes
Changes in our itinerary, accommodations, and transportation schedules may occur. A good book to read as well as a flexible attitude and a sense of humor are essential.
Travel in this Part of the World
This trip is for the hardy! The adventurous nature of the itinerary makes it essential that you be in good physical condition. Long walks may be required to reach some areas, including walks over steep gradients and over poorly maintained paths. To reach some of the site centers entail long walks, as much as a mile or more each day. Participants, unassisted, must be able to walk on rough trails and keep up with group members. To reach the top of some of ceremonial centers steep climbs up tall, uneven stairs are necessary. The roads in this part of the world are frequently dirt or poorly paved, and may involve long drives over uneven terrain. Meals will not be haute cuisine and several lunches will be picnics. Remember that bellhops are seldom found in the jungle! A flexible attitude, team spirit and a good sense of humor are essential! If you have questions about your ability to handle this sort of challenge, please call us.
This Archaeological Tour to the Yucatan is Limited to 14 Participants