Sea to Highlands

This is a tour made for people interested in flora and fauna and also would like to take the opportunity to explore Mayan culture and the landscape as well. Our tour starts in the former capital of Guatemala, Antigua Guatemala. This is a UNESCO world heritage site. On your first day in Antigua we will visit Finca El Pilar. a private nature reserve nearby where you can start to enjoy looking at the flora and fauna of the mountain forest.  We will also be hiking an active volcano, Pacaya, where you can see the lava fields from recent eruptions. In the next leg of the tour we will be heading towards the Pacific coast, the Sipacate-Naranjo National Park, where we can do some botany in the mangroves and in the sand dunes as well as visiting the salt pans and the giant Pacific green turtles in their breeding lagoon. Then we will be ascending towards the highlands near beautiful Lake Atitlan, where professional botanist Samuel Secaira will be showing us the cloud forest. Then we will take you to the highest mountain range in the country, 3,800 meters above sea level, Los Cuchumatanes, where the limestone rocks and the cold weather have produced amazing sub-alpine prairies and paramo habitats.  We will see endemic flora as well as amazing landscapes with traditional Maya Mam indigenous communities. The tour then will be staying in Guatemala City and visit a hidden archaeological site, surrounded by ravines, Mixco Viejo, kingdom of the Pokoman people. We will finish our tour with a visit to the biology collections and Botanical Garden of Universidad del Valle de Guatemala.

Day one

Arrive to La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City.  I will pick you up and then go to Antigua Guatemala, where we are going to be staying for 2 nights in a self-catering villa.  Approx. travelling time between airport and Antigua 1 hr.

Antigua Guatemala is a UNESCO world heritage city. It has cobbled streets, Spanish style churches, convents and buildings. It has plenty of museums, restaurants and cultural activities going on.

 


Courtyard of Santa Clara’s convent

Day two

After breakfast, we will travel to nearby Finca El Pilar, a private nature reserve. Approx. travel time 20 minutes. We will hike the nature trail, which will take us through semi-tropical montane forest and we will see some of the native flora plus views of Antigua. The trail is 2 km (1.5 miles) long and requires a  medium to hard effort with steps in places. After the hike we will travel to the neighbouring village of San Cristobal El Alto to have lunch there. You can visit the organic allotments and orchid greenhouse plus be rewarded with views of Fuego and Acatenango volcanoes. 

We will come back to Antigua in the afternoon and you will have time to explore the city.  We will meet for a communal dinner at the villa. 

 

View from Cerro San Cristobal Restaurant

Day three

We leave Antigua towards the Pacaya volcano. This in an active volcano which can be hiked in safety to almost where the most recent lava fields are.  You can hire a horse if you want to enjoy the views without the effort.  Walking time to the top is approx. 2 hrs. 


Verde-ecology tours’ tourist at Pacaya Volcano 2015

Day four

We will have a morning boat trip visiting mangroves, salt mines, Parlama turtle lagoon and “the barra” the place where the sea meets the estuary. We will be having a professional UVG biologist with us to help with mangrove ecology and bird identification.  Approx. tour time will be 2 to 2.5 hours. Afternoon free to enjoy swimming pool or the beach.


Beach front at El Paredon Surfhouse

Day five

We depart to Lake Atitlan, about a 2.5 hour journey. The lake is situated in the highlands at about 1,500 m above sea level, it is surrounded by 3 volcanos Atitlan, Toliman and San Pedro. There are Tzutuhil and Kakchiquel indigenous villages around it.  We are going to stay in Posada Santiago at the shores of Lake Atitlan in the village of Santiago Atitlan. After lunch we will have a short presentation by professional botanist Samuel Secaira and then we will have a boat trip to visit the dry semi-tropical forest at the slopes of the lake. Boat trip approx 3 hrs. 

View of Atitlan Lake

Day six

Morning hike to Nature Reserve Ikitiw in San Lucas Toliman to see cloud forest. Botanist Samuel Secaira will be with us to help identify trees and epiphytes. Afternoon free to enjoy Posada Santiago swimming pool and outdoor Jacuzzi or if you wish we can visit main plaza, handcraft market and Maximon in Santiago. Evening meal in Las Lagartijas restaurant.


Ceiba pentandra tree in cloud forest

Day seven

We Leave Santiago Atitlan early in the morning to the highlands of Los Cuchumatates, the tallest mountain range in the country (3,860 m or 11,500 ft. above sea level). This is a long journey of 6 hrs. Free afternoon to enjoy the environments of Posada Unicornio Azul, where we are going to be staying. This a Spanish style Guest House with stable and horses.


Horse riding in Los Cuchumatanes

Day eight

Morning hike to the nature trail in Todos los Santos Cuchumatan. I will be doing the botany and ecology for this very special “paramo” habitat, plus we will have a Mam indigenous guide with us as well. Afternoon visit to Todos Los Santos Cuchumatan a stronghold of Mam culture.


Nature trail in Los Cuchumatanes

Day nine

We leave Los Cuchumatanes to go back to Guatemala City. We are going to be travelling on the Panamerican road and we will visit the post classic archaeological site of Iximche. Lunch in Pizza Loca.  We will be staying in Casa Carmel B&B in the Historic Centre of Guatemala City.

Day ten

Visit to the Mixco Viejo archaeological site, kingdom of the Pokoman group.  Then in the afternoon we will head towards Antigua Guatemala to take part on the “Burn of the Devil” festival.  Full of fun and fireworks. Back to the city to stay the night there. 


Day eleven

Visit to the Herbarium guided by botanist Elfriede de Poll and entomology collections of Universidad del Valle de Guatemala. Visit to Botanical Garden and talk by Claire de Masaya, head of the Biology department about the collections and research in UVG. Afternoon visit to Centro Historico and Bar Granada.


Jardin Botanico Guatemala City

Day twelve

Transport from Casa Carmel B&B to La Aurora Airport. 


Tour includes

All transportation, all accommodation (10 nights), all breakfasts, tour guides both local and professional from Universidad del Valle de Guatemala. Entrance fees to volcano and nature reserves. Also includes some lunches and dinners.

Tour does not include

Fight from UK to Guatemala, travel insurance, lunch on days 2, 4, 5, 9 & 10, and dinner on days 5, 6, 8, 9 & 10 (prices vary but usually will be able to eat for equivalent of £10/meal or less).


£1,400

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