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Guatemala: The Tradition of Semana Santa March 2021

Guatemala: The Tradition of Semana Santa March 2021

$1685 per person
10 days 9 nights | Group size: 4 - 12

Our Semana Santa (Holy Week) tour in Guatemala will immerse you in history, culture and culinary delights as you dine with locals, visit artisans and entrepreneurs, and attend the amazing Holy Week activities.

Semana Santa is considered one of the most colorful celebrations in all of the Americas with processions and vigils scheduled throughout the 40 days of Lent. However, none are as beautiful and magical as those in Antigua, Guatemala, the lovely colonial city just one hour from the capital of Guatemala. The processions fill the streets of Antigua, passing over-elaborate alfombras made of flower petals, fruits, vegetables, and colored sawdust at all hours of the day and night.

During our time in Guatemala for Semana Santa, we will observe traditions and celebrations in both La Antigua Guatemala and on the famous Lake Atitlán. Not only does this trip give you a deeper insight into the history behind Guatemala’s most celebrated holiday, but we will also immerse you in the multiple versions of “everyday life” that are common here. Finally, our tour focuses on small business and entrepreneurship in Guatemala and is designed to support local artists, artisans, chefs, mixologists, farmers, and business owners!

Be a part of this tradition that has gone on for centuries as we observe respectfully and participate when invited!

Please ask for special family pricing if you are traveling in a group of 3 or more and would like a triple or family room as we may be able to accommodate this request for you to keep the trip more cost effective. Itinerary subject to small changes at the discretion of The Heart of Travel guides in order to provide you with the safest, and most comfortable and enjoyable travel experience possible.

Dates

Saturday, March 27th – Monday, April 5th

Services

Included

All transportation within Guatemala including domestic flights, private shuttles, boats, etc.

8 nights of boutique hotel accommodation and one night with a local family on the lake

9 breakfasts, 8 additional meals (not including alcoholic beverages or tip)

Entrance fees, tickets and local guide fees for all activities included in the itinerary

Assistance searching and booking international flights

24/7 access to bilingual (native English speaking) Heart of Travel guides

Spanish language immersion opportunities for those interested

Not Included

Meals not indicated on the itinerary

Tips to local guides

International airfare to and from Guatemala City

Additional tours/activities done individually during free time (we can assist in coordinating these for you)

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Tour Plan

1
DAY ONE: SATURDAY, MARCH 27th: D included
Arrive in Guatemala City:

Participants will be flying in from a variety of different places therefore travelers are welcome to choose the flight path that best suits their travel preferences and needs. That being said, we encourage participants to book flights that arrive in Guatemala in the morning or early afternoon so that they have time to get settled before the welcome dinner that evening. If you need assistance booking your international airfare please let us know!

Upon arriving at the airport, your Heart of Travel Tour Leader will be waiting to escort you to the beautiful colonial town of La Antigua via private shuttle (1-hour drive, without traffic, 1.5 - 2 hours with). Once in La Antigua, you will be checked into your hotel and given a brief orientation of the city. If you need any assistance going to the bank, store, pharmacy, etc. Chelsea or Ana will be more than happy to accompany you. In the event, you arrive early in the morning and would like to coordinate any specific activities during the day just let us know so we can accommodate your requests. 

6:00 pm: Welcome dinner at Cuscun (included) 

Enjoy a traditional Guatemala meal and learn how to make tortillas during this interactive dining experience at our friend Joaquín’s cooking school just outside of La Antigua. We will dine on the terrace and you will meet the guides and fellow travelers and discuss the upcoming activities for our adventure here in Guatemala.

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DAY TWO: SUNDAY, MARCH 28th: B & L included *PALM SUNDAY*
8:00 am: Breakfast at the hotel (included) 

9:00 am - 12:00 pm: Walking Tour 

Start your first full day in La Antigua with a walking tour of the city. We will begin with a brisk walk up to Cerro de la Cruz, giving us a stunning panoramic view of the city, surrounding towns, and the three volcanoes that tower over us - Agua, Fuego, and Acatenango. From there, we will return to the town center and continue our journey on the cobblestone roads of La Antigua. We will cover a bit of the history of the city, stop in the most iconic plazas and also point out some of our favorite neighborhood haunts for food, drinks, art, and music. 

We will also stop to observe the “alfombras” de Semana Santa in the streets. Alfombras are elaborate “carpets” or floor decorations made from colored sawdust, pine needles, fresh flowers, fruits, and vegetables. The fruits and vegetables are placed on the outside of the carpet as an offering to the saints. The alfombras are constructed by la hermandad (“the brotherhood”) of the town's many churches, but during Semana Santa many residents and businesses work together to create an alfombra of their own which can sometimes take up to 24 hours to construct!

12:00 - 1:00 pm: Lunch (included) 

Enjoy a delicious traditional meal at this local joint loved by travelers and locals alike. After lunch, you can enjoy some free time. 

3:00 - 5:00 pm: Interactive Artisan Workshop 

Get your hands dirty as you make a souvenir to take home with you at the end of your trip. We will meet with a local woodworker to learn about the brightly colored masks seen all over Guatemala and their cultural and historical significance. From there, we will get in touch with our inner child as we make our own mask which will fit perfectly in your suitcase or carry-on bag!

You will then have the rest of the evening free to relax or explore independently. We are happy to give you a list of recommendations of places to eat, grab a drink or listen to some live music! 

3
DAY THREE: MONDAY, MARCH 29th: B & L included
8:00 am: Breakfast at the hotel (included)

9:00 am - 12:00 pm: Tour de Pueblos 

Enjoy a tour of some of the most picturesque towns surrounding La Antigua Guatemala. We start at San Juan del Obispo, visiting one of the first Catholic churches built in Guatemala along with the adjoined convent. Much of the original structure of the church and convent still remain after centuries of renovations. Our next stop is a home-based winery where you will get to taste and buy some artisan wine from the region, with their specialty being the loquat wine. Close by we will try another San Juan specialty, artisan chocolate from the region at our friend Brenda’s place. This small chocolate factory has been the family’s business for four generations! From there we will make brief stops in two more nearby towns, San Pedro las Huertas to see the famous “pila” and Ciudad Vieja to visit a chicken bus factory, before arriving in Alotenango for lunch at our friend Don Jose’s house. 

Coffee Farm Tour with Don José (lunch included)

1:00 pm - 4:30 pm: After a morning exploring the surrounding towns we will be welcomed into the home of our friend Don José. We first met Don José through his daughter, Gloria, who we worked with during our grassroots efforts after the June 3rd, 2018 eruption of the Fuego Volcano. Her husband, Jose Antonio, was a volunteer firefighter who passed away during the rescue efforts, and it’s been an honor to get to know Gloria and her family. We are excited to work with them as a part of our sustainable tourism program. 

Upon arriving at his home, we will have an authentic Guatemalan meal prepared by Don José’s wife, Maria. Then it’s time to get even further off the beaten path as we climb into the back of Don Jose’s pick up truck and ride through the farmland of Alotenango to visit his and his friend’s small coffee plots. Here, he will teach us about all the steps involved in making your morning cup of joe including cultivation, harvest, processing, and roasting. You will also enjoy spectacular views of the countryside and not only will you see coffee but many other crops such as corn, avocado, beans, jocotes and various trees and medicinal plants. After our time on the farm, we will return to Don José’s home to taste a cup of his delicious coffee before saying goodbye to our friends.

You will then have the rest of the evening free to relax or explore independently. We are happy to give you a list of recommendations of places to eat, grab a drink or listen to some live music! 

4
DAY FOUR: TUESDAY, MARCH 30th: B, L & D included
8:00 am: Breakfast at the hotel (included)

9:00 am: Drive to Lake Atitlán 

We will meet at the hotel entrance to board our private shuttle for a 1-hour drive to the nearby farming town of Tecpán. Around 10:00 or 10:30 am we will arrive in Tecpán for a bathroom break and the opportunity to purchase a beverage or small snack. Here, we can also spend some time looking at the artisan crafts. After departing Tecpán we will continue driving to the famous Lake Atitlán.

1:30 pm - 9:00 pm: Cultural Immersion Homestay in San Juan La Laguna 

We will arrive at Lake Atitlán and take a short boat ride to San Juan La Laguna. Here we will spend the day learning about the crafts and traditions of the Tzutujil people. This mellow lakeside town has escaped the commercialization of its neighboring town and has built an impressive and successful cultural/experiential tourism micro-economy that does not rely on Western influence or heavy investments from foreigners. You’ll see this when we tour their cooperatives to learn about agriculture, weaving, textiles, chocolate making and more. In short, the people of San Juan are pioneers of community-based cultural tourism in the country. 

We will spend the entire day and night in San Juan exploring, eating and interacting with individuals from the community who have graciously opened up the doors to their home for you. Lunch and dinner are provided and meals are a great time to interact with your host family! 

5:00 pm: Free time and communal dinner (included)

You’ll then get settled into your host family’s house and can enjoy some downtime for rest or to explore San Juan independently before a group dinner. 

5
DAY FIVE: WEDNESDAY, MARCH 31st: B included
8:00 am: Breakfast at homestay (included)

9:00 am: Tour of other towns around the lake (included)

After breakfast with our host families, we will say goodbye and return to our boat. We will spend the morning and early afternoon stopping at some neighboring towns, including San Pedro La Laguna to check out the art scene there and Santiago Atitlán to visit their market, church and Maximón shrine.

Later in the afternoon, we will arrive at our hotel. From here, you can visit the local nature reserve, rent a kayak, explore the nearby town of Panajachel and much more! Just let your tour leader know what you’re interested in doing and we can arrange it for you!

6
DAY SIX: THURSDAY, APRIL 1st: B & L included
9:00 am: Breakfast at the hotel (included)

10:00 am: Begin the drive back to Antigua with various stops along the way!

After a slow morning waking up and enjoying breakfast overlooking the lake, we will meet in the lobby to load up the van and begin making our journey back to La Antigua, but not without a couple of stops along the way. 

Ceramic Workshop, Iximche Ruins & Lunch in Tecpán!

First, we will visit the town of San Antonío Palapó to learn more about the beautiful handmade pottery this village is known for. From there, we will head towards the main road, once again making a stop in Tecpán for lunch and to visit the Iximche Ruins. Iximche was the capital of the Maya Kingdom from 1470 until the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in 1524, where they also established the first capital of Guatemala. Here we will spend a couple of hours exploring and hearing all about this amazing site.

6:00 pm: Arrive at La Antigua

Arrive back to La Antigua for a relaxing evening to catch up on rest!  We’ll give you some great dinner recommendations close to your hotel. 

7
DAY SEVEN: FRIDAY, APRIL 2nd: B & L included *GOOD FRIDAY*
7:00 am: Breakfast at the hotel (included)

8:00 am - 5:30 pm: Pacaya Volcano Hike & Afternoon at Spa 

Enjoy a half-day of adventure as we soak up the epic views at the top of one of Guatemala’s most popular and active volcanoes! This moderate hike will begin at the base of the volcano in the village of San Vicente Pacaya where you will make 1.5 - 2-hour ascent up the side of one of Guatemala’s three active volcanoes, taking in the beautiful surrounding landscapes along the way. On a good day, you will get to peer down at the fiery lava and have the opportunity to toast marshmallows and enjoy a picnic lunch.

Afterward, our group will hike down to the trailhead, and take our private shuttle to a thermal spa, whose natural springs are heated by the linked underground activity generated by the very volcano we just climbed. Plus you’ll get a relaxing massage and delicious smoothie.

If you would prefer not to participate in the volcano hike there are a variety of alternative activities that we are happy to recommend or organize for you, just let us know! 

 

What to bring for the volcano hike:

  • Day pack/light backpack
  • Hiking boots or sport sneakers
  • Light jacket
  • Sunblock
  • Bathing suit 
  • Water bottle 
  • Picnic lunch (Provided by Heart of Travel)
 

7:00 pm: Optional Dinner (not included) and Procession Observation 

After everyone has had time to shower and freshen up after an active day, we will head out to dinner and to watch the Semana Santa processions as the festivities kick into high gear! 

8
DAY EIGHT: SATURDAY, APRIL 3rd: B included *HOLY SATURDAY*
8:00 am: Breakfast at the hotel (included)

9:00 am - 4:00 pm: Walking Tour, Semana Santa Celebrations and lunch (included)

With Easter Sunday just one day away, La Antigua is going to be an absolute madhouse. We will leave the schedule for this day fairly open to accommodate the crowds and constant changes that happen throughout the city during this time. Our plan is to mix in some stops at interesting places in La Antigua with stops to take time to observe processions and alfombras and visit the pop up outdoor markets. We will have a group lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, Chermol, which offers a fusion of Guatemalan and Argentinian cuisine. 

After we finish the structured portion of the day, we encourage everyone to explore on their own, as Semana Santa can be a personal experience for many. For others, the crowds and traffic might get to be too much at some point and you may prefer to relax at the hotel or another tranquil area. We are happy to set up any alternative activities you might be interested in. 

9
DAY NINE SUNDAY, APRIL 4th: B, D included *EASTER SUNDAY*
11:00 am: Sunday Brunch at Fermento 

We will meet at the hotel to walk to one of our favorite restaurants in town to enjoy their delicious Sunday brunch! 

1:00 pm - 6:00 pm: Free Day

Free day to explore independently and do last minute shopping and packing. We are here to help with anything you might need!

6:00 pm: Craft Cocktails at Ulew (1 drink included) 

Join us for a pre-dinner cocktail at one of our favorite little joints in the town, known for its delicious craft cocktails. Choose from a small menu of pre-set options or tell the bartender what you’re in the mood for and let them surprise you with a unique beverage made special just for you!

7:30 pm: Farewell Dinner at Angie Angie (included)

After a delicious cocktail to wet your whistle it’s time to whet that appetite of yours at one of Antigua’s most charming restaurants. Get ready for an incredible meal and live music by the fire in the courtyard at this eclectically decorated restaurant on Antigua’s lively Primera Avenida South. Here we will share stories of our favorite moments on the trip and celebrate another fun and successful adventure with Heart of Travel.

10
DAY TEN MONDAY, APRIL 5th, B included
7:00 - 10:00 am: Breakfast at the hotel (included) and departure to the airport (included) 

We’ll have breakfast at the hotel at any hour you’d like between 7:00 am and 10:00 am.  Then, we will provide you with transportation to the airport to catch your flight. Please confirm your departure date and time with us so we can coordinate your transportation to the Guatemala City airport. 

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