Guatemala Rafting and Mayan Archaeology

During our time in this intense country, we will raft the exciting white waters of the Rio Cahabon & Rio Dulce and swim in the enchanting pools of Semuc Champey. We then transfer to the rainforest to explore the Mayan archaology by boat and by foot.

The trip was fab – we loved all of it and the last few days in Belize were really relaxing.

Walcott Family

Guatemala (‘place of many trees’) lives up to its name and gives visitors an thrilling view of Central America. The country with the highest and most active volcanoes, remarkable Mayan ruins, dense jungles and an indigenous culture that flourishes through its traditional music, lively dance and colourful embroidered clothing. The Mayan heart of Central America, Guatemala borders Mexico to the north and west, Belize to the northeast and Honduras and El Salvador to the east. Scattered around this mountainous and jungle covered country, the impressive ancient Mayan ruins and colonial buildings are a reminder of Guatemala’s heritage and civilised past. Until recently, Guatemala was little visited and this culturally rich, archaeologically fascinating country, with its diverse natural environment, is a one-off that must be visited to be understood. At the end of this trip you have an optional 3 day extension to visit Monterrico on the Pacific Coast. This all black sand beach is a haven for turtles and you can visit the nurseries of the Parlama turtle as well as enjoy a mangrove tour or simply relax on the beach listening to the ocean.

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Day 1: Arrive Guatemala City (D)

On arrival at “La Aurora” international airport in Guatemala City, you will be met and transferred to your hotel. You will have time to relax at your leisure before meeting the group and enjoying a welcome dinner.

Day 2: Coban and Lanquin (B,D)

We make an early start to rendevouz with our rafting guides and travel through the local countryside to Lanquin.
We will stop en-route at the Quetzal Reserve on the way, giving you the chance to walk through one of its natural trails through the forest with the possibility of seeing monkeys and birds including the national bird of Guatemalas – the Quetzal.

We lunch in Coban enroute to Lanquin, where upon checking into the hotel we immediately set off to visit the beautiful travertine pools of Semuc Champey. We can enjoy swimming in the tranquil waterfalls and travertine pools of mineral water that have formed a natural bridge over the Cahabon River. With utmost caution we will also be able to walk to the violent entrance of the river that appears to be swallowed by the earth bridge.

Day 3: Begin Rafting Expedition (B,L,D)

This morning we transfer in pick up trucks to the banks of the Lanquin River, a few kilometres out of town, which is our raft put in. After a safety and orientation talk, we board the rafts and begin descent of the Rio Lanquin to its confluence with the Rio Cahabon. We continue on the Cahabon, navigating some of the river’s largest and most exciting rapids.

The day is full of excitement, a perfect combination of rapids, tranquil pools, friendly Maya-Keck’ chi Indians and wildlife. Enjoy the subtropical jungle with its large variety of orchids and bromeliads blooming throughout the year. Marvel at the local bird life like Montezuma Oropendula, Bluebelted and Amazon kingfishers, Amazon parrots or a glimpse of the Keel Billed toucan. In the afternoon we arrive at the small village of Tamax where we will camp on an inviting beach.

Day 4: Rafting the Rio Cahabon (B,L,D)

After breakfast, we continue on through more challenging and exciting rapids, placid pools perfect for swimming, pristine side creeks, colorful bird life and beautiful scenery of remote and seldom seen regions of the Alta Verapaz. Dinner and camp upstream of the spectacular Cataract of Chulac.

Day 5: Rafting the Rio Cahabon (B,L,D)

Following breakfast and campsite breakdown, our rafts and equipment are transported around the unrunnable and deadly cataract known as Chulac Falls. After a short walk around the falls, we board our rafts at the base of the last drop. We continue downstream through the Lower Gorge, where the river enters a rugged canyon of unspoiled natural beauty with a perfect mixture of exhilarating rapids, tranquil pools and natural hot springs we’ve dubbed ‘The Little Paraiso’. By mid-afternoon we reach our take-out point at the small village of Cahaboncito. Switching from rafts to an awaiting vehicle, we transfer overland a short distance to the town of El Estor set on the shores of Lago Izabal (Guatemalas’ largest freshwater lake).

Day 6: To Flores (B,L,D)

Today we have an early breakfast and board vehicle for land transfer to Flores. On the way we can make a short visit to the hot springs of “Finca Paraiso” or to Castillo de San Felipe, at Rio Dulce Bridge. Here you will have the opportunity to practice Bungee jumping if you wish – 100 feet drop before splashing into the deep waters below. We will also stop at the new Canopy and Sky walk bridges (1 hour away from Flores) which are set in the high jungle Canopy and we will may see spider monkeys among other jungle animals and birds.

Day 7: Maya Ruins & Lake Petexbatun (B,L,D)

After breakfast we drive to the frontier town of Sayaxche, on the banks of the Río Pasión. Here we take an outboard boat to the start of a short jungle trek to explore the intriguing ruins of Ceibal. NOTE: Ceibal is now being excavated by Takeshi and his team during the months of Jan-May, until 2011. The ruins are surounded by forest and shaded by huge ceiba trees and have some outstanding and well-preserved carvings. We have plenty of time to study the unusual stelae and experience the surrounding rainforest’s flora and fauna. Return to Sayaxche and continue to the Lake Petexbatun for lodging and dinner.

Day 8: Aguateca (B,L,D)

First thing today, we visit the site of Punta De Chiminos right outside our hotel door. Later, we board a boat to arrive at ruins of Aguateca. We spend the day walking in the protected jungle, visiting the plazas and experiencing the natural cliff boundaries that eventually led to its demise. Although there are no imposing temples here, the ruins are among the best preserved and restored in Guatemala. We have a picnic lunch at the site and continue to explore the chasm which was the natural barrier of defense for the ancient Maya city. At the end of the day, we re-board the boat to travel back (upstream) to our hotel.

Day 9: Ancient city of Tikal (B,L,D)

After breakfast, we board the boat to travel upstream to the town of Sayaxche. Here we will board a van for our transfer to the magnificent National Park of Tikal. All afternoon we can explore this incredible ancient city, considered by most to be the most impressive in the Mayan world. You will note that most visitors to Tikal are “day trippers”–arriving in the morning and leaving in mid-afternoon. As such, we will have the park largely to ourselves in the afternoon, as we will be staying overnight at the Jungle Lodge, located in the park itself. Staying in the park will give a much greater appreciation for the area and its abundant flora and fauna–especially the howler monkeys and coatimundis!

Day 10: Tikal / Expedition Ends (B)

After breakfast and an early morning tour to view the wildlife of Tikal, we have some free time before our transfer back to the airport.


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Pioneer Expeditions
Average rating:  
 1 reviews
byWalcott Family onPioneer Expeditions
Guatemala Rafting and Mayan Archaeology

The trip was fab - we loved all of it and the last few days in Belize were really relaxing. Special mention for Max (whitewater raft guide) and Carlos (guide on the trip). They were both fantastic. We thought the balance of activities was just right.

  • Duration10 days/9 nights
  • Price£3,450 $4,350
  • Tailormade DeparturesOn request - Minimum 4 pax

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