Tours in 2012
There should be hundreds of events around the country and throughout the year. Independent travelers with a nose for these things can easily just show up and follow their whims. Or, you can put your itinerary in someone else’s hands and sign up to one of the following tours, each one approaching the 2012 theme with their own Guatemala perspective.
Aventuras en Educación
Aventuras en Educación (www.adventurestudy.com or www.losencuentros.com), in collaboration with Hotel San Buenaventura in Antigua, is offering a weeklong Dawn of a New Age tour (7 days, July 6–13, Nov. 7–16, Dec. 14–21, US$512–722 per person double occupancy) in Lake Atitlán. Richard Morgan Szybist, resident expert and author of several books on the lake basin and its culture, leads the tours and considers Lake Atitlán “one of the planet’s energy vortexes.”
The tour is based in the lakeside town of Panajachel, which has basic services like restaurants, banking, and Internet access. Many activities will be conducted on the grounds of Hotel San Buenaventura, which is surrounded by a coffee plantation and nature reserve. Expect regional Maya cuisine, a fire ceremony, a personal Maya spiritual cleansing treatment, and a reading of your birth date based on Maya calendar energies.
Aventuras en Educación also offers a Land of the Living Maya tour (US$910–1,534 per person) with 10- and 16-day extensions into Petén. Tours cover some of the sites listed above, and include visits to the ruins of the Kaqchikel Maya, one of the two Maya peoples who still populate Atitlán. Meet indigenous arte naïf painters, weavers who dye their own thread from plants grown around the lake, and healers who cure with traditional medicinal plants.
Mayan Zone (tel. 502/2364-8456 or 502/4024-8979, infoguate [at] mayan-zone [dot] com, www.mayan-zone.com) is a Guatemala-based tour operator with experience throughout the Maya region. Tours are focused on travelers who enjoy mixing with the local population and learning about indigenous customs and life in Guatemala. The eight-day Discovery of the Altiplano and the Ixil Triangle is available year-round (outside peak seasons). The trip starts in Antigua and continues with a full tour of the Lake Atitlán area including Chichicastenango, Acul, Chajul, Nebaj, and Iximché. This is an active, thorough tour, and you’ll meet all kinds of people—from village artisans to the Department Chief of Sacred Sites for the Ministry of Culture, who is also a Maya priest and calendar keeper.
If that’s not enough, go with the whole enchilada: the Guatemala, A Sacred Land—2012 tour. This is a 15-day feast of deep Mundo Maya travel, beginning in Antigua and including homestays in nearby Cakchiquel and Tz’utujil Maya villages. You’ll spend days touring the lake (often by boat) and visiting villages such as San Juan la Laguna, a Tzutujil community on the lake’s edge. Attend weaving workshops with local women, hit the highlands, visit Iximché archaeological site, and visit Maximon, a local saint venerated by a Christian-Maya cult in Santiago. The trip includes long excursions through the Petén and Copán, Honduras.
MayaSites Travel (tel. 877/620-8715, mayasites [at] yahoo [dot] com, www.mayasites.com) is offering a Birthplace of the Maya Long Count Calendar: Western Guatemala Highlands tour (6 nights, Dec. 17–23, US$1,780 per person double occupancy) entirely in Guatemala, flying in and out of Guatemala City. The tour focuses on modern Maya culture and archaeological sites with the earliest Long Count calendar dates ever discovered. This includes Tak’alik Ab’aj, Ixmiche, Santiago de Atitlán, Chichicastenango, Quetzaltenango, Antigua, and Izapa (Mexico), plus a gala dinner with a 2012 countdown and special talks on the Maya calendar.
Robert Roskind and Tata Pedro Cruz
The authors of the book 2012: The Transformation from the Love of Power to the Power of Love will host several spiritual adventures in the Guatemalan highlands. Trips will teach that the end of the 2012 cycle will “restore a vibration of love to the planet and should not be feared but welcomed.” For the winter solstice, they will host a Guatemala Gathering of the Peacemakers (Dec. 17–23) at Lake Atitlán.
Unificación Maya (www.ixcanaan.com) is a program offered in December 2011 and December 2012. (They’ve been doing it for six years, leading up to the 2012 event.) The trip is based at Hotel Gringo Perdido (www.hotelgringoperdido.com) in El Remate and offers 7 Sacred Mayan Fire Ceremonies in 7 Sacred Sites over 7 Days with the goal “to bring together a great number of like-minded people, gathering finally in the Central Plaza of Tikal at the winter solstice, the time of rebirth.”
Along the way, you’ll learn your Maya birth glyph, participate in ceremonies, visit the archaeological sites of Petén, sample local food and drink, learn Mayan phrases and cosmology, and meet the tatas and nanas of present-day Maya.
Sign up for a yoga and personal growth retreat on the shores of Lake Atitlán at Villa Sumaya (retreatsatvillasumaya [at] yahoo [dot] com, www.villasumaya.com), located in the town of Santa Cruz La Laguna. In 2012, Vincent Stanzione, an expert on Mesoamerican culture and the head of Villa Sumaya’s Mayan Studies Project, will offer lectures on “Introduction to Mayan Day-Keeping,” “The Mayan Calendar,” and “Two Calendars in One: the Solar Round.” If you are in the area, Stanzione is also available as a Maya storyteller for groups of four people or more.
Cultural Crossroads (tel. 802/479-7040, www.culturalcrossroads.com), a Vermont-based tour operator, is offering the eight-day trip From Plant to Palate: Coffee and Chocolate in Guatemala (Feb. 12–19, US$3,525 per person), based in Antigua. Trips to Maya ruins are mixed with a full-immersion coffee and cacao experience—from hands-on classes to market visits and discussions about fair trade. You’ll meet people in the trade including farmers, roasters, weavers, and chefs. A wine and chocolate reception is held by the Director of the Museum of Modern Art in Guatemala City before a private tour of the museum. Opt for the extension to Copán, Honduras, and attend a cacao seminar at a 100-year-old converted farmhouse, with a full tour of local Maya culture and the archaeological site.
If you find yourself in el barrio historico in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, and you’d like to know what fifth-generation artisan chocolate tastes like, give a call to Chocolate Doña Pancha (10a Calle 16-67 zona 1, tel. 502/7761-9700, www.chocolatedonapancha.com) for a tour of the facility and to see their display on cacao and what it means to the Maya. Run by a 100 percent Quezalteca family who is very proud of their tradition and happy to offer you a taste.
© Josh Berman from Moon Maya 2012