Multi-Country Tours and Packages
It is entirely possible to piece together your own Maya-based adventure that ignores modern country boundaries. If you can afford the time and cost, independent travel is a great way to go, as long as you can devote a minimum of a few days to each country and avoid day trips to Tikal from Belize or other rush jobs at world-class sites.
Be careful of spreading yourself too thin with your limited time.
Multi-country tours allow travelers to note subtle cultural differences as they pass between Honduras and Guatemala, or between Central America and Mexico—or between anywhere and Belize. If you’d rather leave the planning to someone else, explore one of the following 2012-related tours offered by a range of experts.
The highly experienced and knowledgeable guides at Archaeological Tours (tel. 212/986-3054 or 866/740-5130, www.archaeologicaltrs.com) have been giving professional tours of the Mundo Maya for a long time. They have two trips planned in 2012: Lords of the River and the Plains: The Northern Maya Kingdoms (16 days, Jan. 6–21, 2012, approx. US$5,500 per person) and Guatemala with Copán (15 days, Mar. 3–17, 2012, approx. US$4,700). Both are led by William Saturno, a professor of anthropology at Boston University. Dr. Saturno received his PhD at Harvard University and has conducted research throughout all the Mundo Maya countries.
Maya Exploration Center
The Maya Exploration Center (MEC, www.mayaexploration.org) is a nonprofit organization based in Austin, Texas, dedicated to the study of ancient Maya civilization. They offer regular courses for travelers, a lecture series, and education programs for students, teachers, and the general public. On MEC trips, the fee covers lodging, transportation, entry fees, breakfasts, archaeological guides, five evening lectures, and a final dinner. They have two special trips planned for 2012.
Ancient Calendars and Modern Maya: Summer Solstice 2012 Tour (June 19–29, 2012, $2,800 per person) is led by archaeologist Dr. Christopher Powell. The trip begins in Villahermosa and travels to Chiapas, Mexico, and the highlands of Guatemala. It starts with a doozy: a private viewing of Tortuguero Monument 6 (the only stela in the Maya world with the date December 21, 2012). Next is summer solstice at Palenque, where you’ll get to see the dawn hierophany (trick of light and shadow) in the Temple of the Sun. This is followed by a boat trip up the Río Usumacinta to view the “deep time” date panel at Yaxchilán, followed by the Maya village of Chamula for their biggest festival of the year. The trip continues on to Izapa, where the Long Count may have began, and Lake Atitlán, Guatemala.
Another 2012 MEC offering is Surfing the Zenith in the Maya World: Zenith Passage 2012 Tour (8 days, Aug. 5–15, 2012, $3,100 per person). The trip begins in Guatemala City, where your guide, archaeologist Dr. Edwin Barnhart, will give an introductory lecture followed by a museum visit. An afternoon flight to Flores in the Petén leads to Tikal and a boat trip up the Río Pasión to Ceibal for the first zenith passage. The tour chases the zenith passage south to witness it again in Quiriguá, where the tallest stela in the Maya world stands. Afterwards the tour travels to Copán for the zenith passage on the Maya creation anniversary of August 13. The tour stays in Copán for two days before finishing in Guatemala City with a visit to the National Anthropology Museum and a celebratory final dinner.
Maya Field Workshops
Maya Field Workshops (www.mayafieldworkshops.com, mayafieldworkshops [at] gmail [dot] com) conducts intensive on-site seminars on Maya studies. Renowned archaeologist and epigrapher Dr. David Stuart will be offering two workshops in 2012: one in Copán during the second week in June, and the other in Palenque the second week of December.
The Mayan Traveler (tel. 888/843-6292 or 713-299-5665, www.themayantraveler.com) is a long-established Maya tour specialist. Their 2012 offerings will satisfy the most serious temple junkies. Sign up for the seven-night Maya Adventure Tour, which includes the top sites of Honduras, Guatemala, and Belize with visits to Copán, Quiriguá, Xunantunich, Yaxhá, Caracol, Tikal, and Ceibal. Tours begin on the first and third Saturdays of each month and begin and end in Guatemala City.
The Best of the Maya Tour begins in Villahermosa, Mexico, and continues to Guatemala before ending in Hoduras. Guests will meet some of the region’s top archaeologists along the way, including Dr. Ed Barnhardt, Christopher Powell, and David Sedat, who lecture and answer questions at key sites.
The Ancient and Living Maya in 2012 trip focuses on some of the most important sites in Maya calendar development. The tour begins in Antigua then presses on to Izapa, Mexico, the birthplace of the Long Count. This is followed by a night in Tapachula before returning to Guatemala and the Preclassic jewel of Tak’alik Ab’aj, the market of Chichicastenango, Tikal, Yaxhá, and two sites in Belize.
They have even longer trips, including a 10-night Great Cities of the Maya covering Copán, Quiriguá, Xunantunich, Yaxhá, Caracol, Tikal, Bonampak, Yaxchilán, Piedras Negras, Sak-Tzi, Palenque, and Tonina. Whew.
MayaSites Travel (tel. 877/620-8715, mayasites [at] yahoo [dot] com, www.mayasites.com) is offering various Traveling in Maya Time tours in Mexico and Guatemala over the 2012 winter solstice. They also do custom trips.
Antigua-based Viaventure (tel. 502/7832-2509, marcia.vanog [at] viaventure [dot] com, www.viaventure.com) is a full-service tour operator specializing in Guatemala, Belize, and Hoduras. They offer a number of five-day tours in each country (available year-round outside peak seasons), plus custom trips. In 2012, they are adding a 12-day Maya Magic and Mystery tour. It begins in Antigua, Guatemala, with tours of the area and a workshop on jade and fair-trade coffee. Guests continue through the lake area on more coffee tours, boat rides, and a visit to the Chichicastenango Market. Sign up to see a shaman ritual at Pascal Abaj as well. After that, you’re off to Copán and the Petén.
© Josh Berman from Moon Maya 2012