Inside Semana Santa

Holy Week pageantry, indigenous life, and textile traditions
Overview

overview

NOTE:  The exact sequencing of activities will vary depending on whether your trip includes Palm Sunday or Good Friday, but the overall experiences are comparable. (see More Details for the Palm Sunday itinerary)

Partake in one of JOURNEYS' favorite annual events -- an experience of Guatemalan cultures, beautiful landscapes and the magnificent pageantry of Semana Santa. In the charming city of Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage site, Holy Week celebrations are more elaborate than anywhere else in this hemisphere. Leading up to Good Friday, Guatemalans of all ages carpet the streets with intricate designs of flower petals and pine needles. Thousands of purple-robed celebrants carry enormous floats on the carpeted streets from dawn to dusk. The fervor, emotion, color, and religiosity are intense, and in every aspect reflect the blend of indigenous tradition and Roman Catholicism that defines Guatemala. In addition to exploring Antigua, travel to the highlands to stay at a lovely hotel on the shores of Lake Atitlan and to visit in different lakeside Mayan communities. This trip offers very select hotel reservations in intimate, artistically-adorned accommodations which are exceedingly difficult to obtain within a year of a Holy Week trip.

Inquire about a two or three-day pre-tour to the grand Mayan site of Tikal and the more recently excavated Uaxactun in protected rainforest in northern Guatemala.

itinerary

itinerary

  • Day 1: Arrive Antigua
    Your warm and welcoming guide will meet you in 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
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  • Day 2: Antigua Walking Tour
    An iconic view of quiet Antigua

    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
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  • Day 3: Iximche/Lake Atitlan
    Visit the grounds on the site of Iximche

    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
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  • Day 4: Villages on Lake Atitlan
    Visit villages on the shores of beautiful 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
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  • Day 5: Lake Atitlan/Solola Market/Chichicastenango
    Mayan women at the Chichicastenango market

    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
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  • Day 6: Holy Wednesday
    The evening processions begin on 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
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  • Day 7: Antigua - Semana Santa
    Carpets made of flowers, grains, and even vegetables will be arranged for the processions.

    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
    Show on a map
  • Day 8: Good Friday Processions
    Celebrants wear purple for 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
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  • Day 9: San Pedro/Macademia Farm
    Learn all about the uses for Macademia nuts

    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
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  • Day 10: Depart or Extend
    The carpets of flower petals and vegetables are transitory, though you may bring home all manner of textiles

    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
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Price and Date Details

Price and Date Details

Mar 23-Apr 1, 2015 Includes Palm Sunday
Mar 27-Apr 5, 2015 Includes Good Friday
Or Privately on Request
Land Cost:
$3,330
2-3 person Rate: $3780 7-10 person group rate: $3195 Palm Sunday: 4-6 person rate: $2695 2-3 person rate: 3095 7-10 person rate: 2575
Single Supplement:
$1175
Palm Sunday: $650
Need to Know

Need to Know

Palm Sunday Itinerary: March 23-30, 2015

Day 1  Arrive Guatemala City and overnight if after 2 pm (otherwise transfer to Lake Atitlan)

Day 2  Solola Market 

Day 3  San Juan & Santiago Lake Tour

Day 4  Chichi Market, Iximche and transfer to Antigua

Day 5  Antigua Walking Tour

Day 6  San Pedro and Macademia Farm

Day 7  Palm Sunday Processions

Day 8 Departure

Hotels: Posada Don Rodrigo and Placio de Dona Leonor

Duration:
10 days
The number of days, or duration, in a destination corresponds with the itinerary as published. This is the time period covered by the land cost.
Comfort Level:
3
lovely hotels
Group Size:
4-6
The stated range indicates minimum required for guaranteed departure and maximum accepted on the scheduled dates. Exceptions can often be made for private departures.
Activity Level:
1
light walking

Terms & Conditions: 

Standard

Included in costs: Meals as noted, each night in double occupancy accommodations, land transfers between components, English speaking guides, park or site entry fees, surface transport, equipment other than personal gear, government tax, airport transfer assistance, in-country ticket reconfirmation and check-in assistance (where permitted), complete pre-departure packet, toll-free pre-departure phone assistance.

Not included in costs: Meals not noted as included, gratuities, beverages (except tea or coffee at meals), international or domestic airfare unless specified, airport departure taxes not included with air tickets, visas, itinerary changes after confirmation, any services not included in itinerary, any costs incurred due to canceled or delayed flights, acts of nature or other happenings beyond our control, or other costs as are more fully described in JOURNEYS Terms & Conditions.

Deposit and payment schedule: $500 per person per trip or the applicable amount based on the trip and the proximity of the departure date. A second deposit of $800 per person is due four months prior to departure, and final payment for land arrangements is due 60 days prior to departure.  Any applicable permit fees required in advance are non-refundable as well.  Airlines require full payment when tickets are issued. The deposit may be made by Visa, Master Card, American Express, or check, and the Reservation Form may be submitted by fax, mail, or via our website. Full payment schedule and cancellation penalties are described in our Terms and Conditions as noted in our Global Expedition Catalog, on our website, and elsewhere. Please request these if you do not have them before advancing a deposit.

Air fares: JOURNEYS can make complete air arrangements applicable to your trip as noted in this itinerary. If you wish to redeem frequent flyer mileage or arrange flights directly with the airline, you may do so on your own at no penalty. If you do, please consult with us on exact arrival and departure dates and times before having your tickets issued to avoid errors.

Insurance: When you make your application, we strongly recommend the purchase of comprehensive travel insurance in case of emergency situations. Please contact us for a recommended policy.

Itinerary Change Fee: There will be a $40 fee for changes once an itinerary has been confirmed and approved. Additional cancellation penalties or change fees may apply as per our terms and conditions. The passenger is responsible for such fees.

Resources

Trip Extensions

Trip Extensions

There are currently no suggested extensions for this itinerary. Please ask the Destination Specialist if you'd like to customize one.

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