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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 22-30, 2015
  • Mar 26-Apr 3, 2015
  • Duration 9 days
    Group Size 4-8
    Land Cost $2,950
    Single Supplement $875
    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: Lovely Antigua hotel

    Your warm and welcoming guide, Olga Reiche, also works with women's textile cooperatives throughout Guatemala
    Day 2      Antigua Walking Tour

    Olga 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. Olga's knowledge and flexibility are well-known among our travelers, and she is 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: Lovely Antigua hotel

    An iconic view of quiet Antigua
    Day 3      Iximche/Chichicastenango

    Depart Antigua this morning for the three-hour drive to Chichicastenango with a stop at 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 Chichicastenango, known as Chichi. When you arrive, you'll find a quiet town with little hint of the frenzy of the next day's market. Take in the beautiful hills and and colorful Mayan cemetery on the outskirts of town, then settle into your charming hotel for the night.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
    Lodging: Mayan Inn

    Visit the grounds on the site of Iximche
    Day 4      Chichicastenango/Lake Atitlan

    Awaken early and wander the cobblestone streets of Chichi as she slowly comes alive 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. In the afternoon, continue the beautiful drive through the highlands to 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: Charming lakeside hotel

    Mayan women at the Chichicastenango market
    Day 5      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: Charming lakeside hotel

    Visit villages on the shores of beautiful Lake Atitlan
    Day 6      Solola Market/Antigua

    A leisurely drive back to Antigua 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. Afterward, head to Antigua, where you'll note the beginning of Holy Week preparations and witness the city coming to life as thousands arrive to participate in the largest celebration of Holy Week in the Western Hemisphere, the second largest in the world after Spain. Settle into your hotel, your base for the next four nights.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
    Lodging: Lovely Antigua hotel

    The men dress as traditionally as the women in Solola
    Day 7      Holy Wednesday

    Today is Holy Wednesday and it brings a full day of rich experiences. 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: Lovely Antigua hotel

    The evening processions begin on Wednesday
    Day 8      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.

    During the evening back in Antigua, observe preparations for Good Friday's processions. Olga will be happy to recommend a restaurant for dinner, and then in the evening, you can roam colonial streets decorated with intricately-detailed alfombras, or carpets made of flower petals and dyed sawdust as they await a series of increasingly grand processions. Tonight, the crowds and activities reach a fever pitch, with many of the locals spending the entire night out on the streets on the eve of Good Friday.

    (Note: This day is an optional departure for group members who cannot stay until April 7.)

    Meals: Breakfast
    Lodging: Lovely Antigua hotel

    Throughout the day, meet the women creating textiles in small cooperatives
    Day 9      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.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
    Lodging: Lovely Antigua hotel

    Celebrants wear purple for Good Friday processions
    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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