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adventure travel trip to Guatemala
During this one week each year, the cobblestone streets of Antigua are meticulously adorned with floral carpets.
  • Mar 23-Apr 1, 2015
  • Mar 27-Apr 5, 2015
  • Duration 10 days
    Group Size 4-6
    Land Cost $3,330 Details
    Single Supplement $1,175 Details
    Lodging 3 stars
    Grade I
    Best Time

    Inside Semana Santa

    Holy Week pageantry, indigenous life, and textile traditions

    Day 1      Arrive Antigua

    Upon arrival in Guatemala City, you will be met by your guide for the one-hour drive to your lovely hotel in the heart of colonial Antigua, a UNESCO designated World Heritage site.




    Lodging: Palacio de Dona Leonor or similar

    Your warm and welcoming guide will meet you in Antigua.
    Day 2      Antigua Walking Tour

    Your guide will introduce you to Antigua today on a half-day walking tour. You'll cover the architectural and historical highlights and look at some of the many ruined churches, convents, and cathedrals, including the Iglesia San Francisco, the Cathedral, Central Park, and La Merced Church. The guide's knowledge and flexibility are well-known among our travelers, and they are more than happy to accommodate individual interests, so please don't be shy about what you'd like to do. The afternoon is free to relax or explore.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
    Lodging: Palacio de Dona Leonor or similar

    An iconic view of quiet Antigua
    Day 3      Iximche/Lake Atitlan

    Depart Antigua this morning for a scenic drive to the archaeological site of Iximche. Walk the beautiful grounds and learn about the ancient Mayan history in this area. Enjoy a picnic here, just as many local Mayan families will also be doing today. After lunch, drive to your lovely lake hotel  in Lake Atitlan often cited as the most beautiful lake in Central America and perhaps one of the most breathtaking in the world. Enjoy the art and gardens of your cozy lakeside hotel during your two-night stay.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
    Lodging: Hotel Atitlan or similar

    Visit the grounds on the site of Iximche
    Day 4      Villages on Lake Atitlan

    Cross Lake Atitlan in a comfortable motor boat to visit the villages of San Juan La Laguna and Santiago Atitlan, which vary in size and textile traditions. San Juan La Laguna is quaint, quiet,  immaculate, and distinguished by its white-washed walls adorned by murals painted in the local naif style. Visit artists' studios and women's textile cooperatives. In Santiago, local textile artist Candace Krumel hosts the group for lunch and discussions about life in Guatemala. Enjoy a final evening at your lakeside hotel.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
    Lodging: Hotel Atitlan or similar

    Visit villages on the shores of beautiful Lake Atitlan
    Day 5      Lake Atitlan/Solola Market/Chichicastenango

    A leisurely drive to Chichicastenango after breakfast this morning allows a stop at the Tuesday market in the town of Solola. The flavor of this market is more local than Chichi, and the traditional dress of both men and women is totally distinct. On market day, this town is bursting with life, and local Maya people from all around the area flock to the market to buy and sell their wares for the week ahead. This is a fabulous and authentic market to visit that will give you a wonderful insight into Mayan life in the area. Then make your way to Chichi and wander the cobblestone streets for market day. This is the most famous market town in the central highlands, where you'll find textiles, candles, wood carvings, pottery, gourds, and masks from all over Guatemala. On the market's edges, you'll find trinkets, t-shirts, natural remedies, and all kinds of baked goods. But Chichi offers more than her market; she unabashedly showcases Guatemala's unique and fervent mixture of pre- and post-colonial traditions. The extensive market area surrounds St. Tomas Church where Mayan rituals are freely expressed amidst grand Catholic imagery. On the broad staircase leading up to the church entrance, worshippers burn incense, families have picnics, itinerant merchants rest with their wares, and flower vendors display their sensuous bounty. 

    Meals: Breakfast
    Lodging: Santo Tomas

    Mayan women at the Chichicastenango market
    Day 6      Holy Wednesday

    Today is Holy Wednesday and it brings a full day of rich experiences. Make your way back to Antigua to witness Holy Week preparations such as stencil cutting,  float building, and cooking of special foods for the occasion. Attend the velacion (vigil) at San Felipe de Jesus chruch, then in the evening, see the funeral march band concert, then head out to see the evening processions.

    There are two type of carpets made during Semana Santa. In the churches, carpets made by the brotherhoods are placed in front of religious sculptures and surrounded by fruits, vegetables, and candles brought as offerings on the preceding day. Outside, people who live along the procession route invite friends and relatives to join them in covering the streets in front of their homes with carpets that express both religious as well as contemporary themes. Preparations for the carpets begin weeks, or even months, ahead of the celebrations. Sand or sawdust is generally used to level the cobblestone roadway. Sawdust is then collected and dyed purple, green, blue, red, yellow, and black. Pine needles and flowers such as bougainvillea, chrysanthemums, carnations, and roses are readied to be incorporated into the designs. Carpets are laid the day before the processions and the construction is timed so that the carpets are finished just before the arrival of the first floats.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
    Lodging: Palacio de Dona Leonor or similar

    The evening processions begin on Wednesday
    Day 7      Antigua - Semana Santa

    Today you’ll experience some of Semana Santa’s main events - prepare for a late night. You and your private guide will start the day with two morning processions hosted by the San Cristobal and San Francisco churches, respectively. After you’ve seen the marches in a few different spots, you’ll have a free afternoon.

    Following dinner, you’ll meet your guide to check out night-time processions. Filled with smokey incense and candles, night processions have a somewhat mystical aura and feel quite different from processions that take place in daylight. Around midnight, the alfombra-making for the following day’s Good Friday processions begins. You’ll see entire families up all night carefully crafting their colorful carpets. If you’re up for it, head to La Merced chuch to watch the start of its procession, which leaves at 4:00 a.m. (Good Friday) Throughout the night, there are plenty of people out and about, lots of busy cafés, and myriad coffee and food vendors out on the streets—the city is safe and lively.

    Meals: Breakfast
    Lodging: Palacio de Dona Leonor or similar

    Carpets made of flowers, grains, and even vegetables will be arranged for the processions.
    Day 8      Good Friday Processions

    Well before breakfast, in the pre-dawn hours, join hundreds of locals on the streets of Antigua. Observe the final touches being made to the alfombras in advance of the solemn processions which leave from each church and follow a route through Antigua lasting several hours. There are thousands of carriers for the processional floats. All-male or all-female contingents as large as 80 members, in all-purple or all-white or all-black robes, carry floats weighing up to 7,000 pounds, bearing the churches' most important religious sculptures. Because of the enormous weight of the floats, carriers are matched in height and carry for only about a block before a new contingent takes over. The choreography involved in transferring the weight from one group to another is impressive. The largest procession from La Merced Church carries sculptures of Jesús Nazareno and Santísima Virgen de Dolores. You are encouraged to dress modestly to show respect for these religious ceremonies and for the emotions they engender in their devotees.

    After the early morning procession you may want to return to your hotel for a rest. Then enjoy the rest of the morning on your own. 

    In the afternoon, you’ll meet your guide to see the reenactment of Christ’s crucifixion at noon. Afterwards, you’ll spend the afternoon checking out some of Semana Santa’s biggest processions and watching as the alfombras made with such care the night before are trampeled beneath the feet of hundreds.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
    Lodging: Palacio de Dona Leonor or similar

    Celebrants wear purple for Good Friday processions
    Day 9      San Pedro/Macademia Farm

    Head out with your group on a day trip to the lovely village of San Pedro. Wander among the stalls around the plaza. Visit Valhalla Experimental Station, at the foot of Agua Volcano, a fascinating macademia nut farm that cultivates some 300 species of this tasty treat. Learn about the farm's founding in 1985, the founders' ongoing efforts in environmental protection and sustainable agriculture, and see and sample the many products -- not just nuts, but oils, other nut-based foods, and even cosmetics. Return to your hotel and enjoy the rest of the afternoon at leisure.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
    Lodging: Palacio de Dona Leonor or similar

    Learn all about the uses for Macademia nuts
    Day 10      Depart or Extend

    This morning, you will transfer to the airport for your international departure flight or for a domestic flight to Flores in the north of Guatemala in order to tour the famous Mayan site at Tikal.




    Meals: Breakfast

    The carpets of flower petals and vegetables are transitory, though you may bring home all manner of textiles

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