Explore legendary Mayan ruins amid the dense cover of tropical jungle
Day 1: Yaxha
This morning, return to the mainland and hop a short flight to Mayan Flats airstrip in Belize, then transfer overland and cross the border into Guatemala. Spend the day exploring Yaxha, an impressive site from the Classical Period of Mayan civilization. The ruins, once buried beneath centuries of jungle overgrowth, are currently being reconstructed, and we'll learn fascinating details about Mayan culture and archaeological restoration on a guided tour. The Yaxha (Green Water) and Topoxte (Ramon Tree) sites around Lake Yaxha are home to Morelet's crocodiles. Howler and spider monkeys swing from the trees and myriad birds add color and sound - we may spy toucans, parrots or bat-eating hawks from the temple tops. At day’s end we'll watch the sun set behind the lagoon, then continue to Ni'tun Eco Lodge, where we'll enjoy dinner on the terrace overlooking Lake Petén Itza. The lodge is constructed in harmony with its environment, built of local rock, sand and wood and furnished with handcrafted textiles, rugs and art pieces reflecting local indigenous design.
Day 2: Tikal
Spend the day touring the ruins of Tikal, one of the largest urban centers of the Mayan civilization. The name Tikal means 'City of Voices,' and some have called the world-famous collection of pre-Columbian monuments, temples and palaces the 'New York City' of the Mayan world. Tikal National Park, with its spectacular collection of temples that rise above the dense jungle canopy, has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tikal was the capital of a conquest state that became one of the most powerful kingdoms of the ancient Maya. The oldest architecture dates back as far as the 4th century BC, though Tikal reached its height during the Classic Period from 200 to 900 AD. During this time, the city dominated much of the Maya region politically, economically, and militarily, while interacting with other areas throughout Mesoamerica such as the great metropolis of Teotihuacan in the distant Valley of Mexico, outside modern-day Mexico City. After a full day of exploration, we return to Ni'tun Eco Lodge late this afternoon to swim, kayak, bird-watch or simply relax by the lake.
Day 3: Ixpanpajul Nature Park / Ni'tun
This morning we visit nearby Ixpanpajul Nature Park, a wild reserve amid the cradle of the Mayan culture. The park has 200 species of trees, 150 species of birds and 40 different mammal species, which we encounter on rainforest walks over a series of suspension bridges through the canopy. For the more adventurous, there is an exciting zip line option - a chance to whiz through the treetops on a system of cables and platforms that will have you swinging alongside the monkeys! This afternoon, we return to Ni'tun for a final afternoon to relax or explore along the lake.
Day 4: Fly to Belize City / Depart
After breakfast at our hotel, we board an early flight to Belize City to connect with homeward flights. (Please note that onward flights from Belize International Airport should not be booked prior to 12 noon.)