Explore legendary Mayan ruins amid the dense cover of tropical jungle
Day 1: Belize City, Belize / Guatemala—Ruins of Yaxha
This morning, you'll hop a short flight to Mayan Flats airstrip in Belize, then transfer overland across the border into Guatemala. Spend the day exploring Yaxha, an impressive site from the Mayan civilization's Classical Period. The ruins, once buried beneath centuries of jungle overgrowth, currently are being reconstructed. You'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—and keep your eyes peeled to spy toucans, parrots or bat-eating hawks from the temple tops. At day’s end you'll watch the sun set behind the lagoon, then continue to Ni'tun Eco Lodge, where you'll enjoy dinner on the terrace overlooking Lake Petén Itza. Constructed to blend in harmony with the environment, the lodge is built of local rock, sand and wood, and furnished with handcrafted textiles, rugs and art that reflects the area's indigenous designs.
Day 2: Tikal National Park—Ruins of 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. The park and ruins, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are part of the 5-million-acre Maya Biosphere Reserve, which anchors the largest remaining natural forest block in Mesoamerica. 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 A.D. During this time, the city dominated much of the Maya region politically, economically and militarily. At the same time, Tikal was interacting with other areas throughout Mesoamerica, including the great metropolis of Teotihuacan in the distant Valley of Mexico, located outside modern-day Mexico City. After a full day of exploration, we return to Ni'tun Eco Lodge late this afternoon to swim, kayak, birdwatch or simply relax by the lake.
Day 3: Ixpanpajul Nature Park
This morning we visit nearby Ixpanpajul Nature Park, a wild reserve surrounding this cradle of the Mayan culture. The park has 200 tree species, 150 bird species and 40 different mammals, all of which you'll watch for on rain forest walks that meander through the canopy on a series of suspension bridges. For adrenaline seekers, there is an exciting zip line opportunity—a chance to whiz through the treetops on a system of cables and platforms that will have you swinging alongside the monkeys! This afternoon, you return to Ni'tun to relax or explore along the lake.
Day 4: Fly to Belize City / Depart
After breakfast at your hotel, 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 for departure earlier than noon.