Oct 30th - Nov 7th, 2018
Day of the Dead Celebrations among the Maya
The hill of Twenty Crosses
Red Tile roofs, cobbled streets
Early morning at the ruins of Palenque
Olmec stone heads
The river highway to Yaxchilan
This is an immersion into the vital, vibrant and dynamic Mayan culture of From the mist-clad uplands where Maya villages and customs still thrive to the lowland jungles that housed the greatest of the ancient Maya cities to, this expedition transports us through 3,000 years of Maya history.
Our travel will being with the celebrations of Day of the Dead, when the souls of the ancestors are believed to return from beyond. This grand festival happens throughout Mexico, but to experience it in the culturally rich Mayan world is a truly special experience. From a crag-top graveyard, brilliant in flower-bathed tombs and the equally colorful and floral villagers to a hill covered in blue crosses draped with orange marigolds, we’ll see how the dead are remembered, from somber to raucous. For a long, fascinating moment, we’ll walk among the Maya, their culture, language and ways alive and well. Floral blouses, wool cloaks, scent of incense, beribboned musicians, another world.
And then too the jungle! This is the land of of one of Mexico’s greatest ancient stories, the stage of the dynasties and kingdoms of the grand Maya. From Palenque with its grand palaces and immense pyramids to the riverside ruins of Yaxchilan, hidden under a dense canopy and only accessible by boat, to the colorful murals of Bonampak, we’ll visit the homes of the deep ancestors of those highland Maya.
We will also visit markets, artisans, explore colonial San Cristobal and get an intimate look at a way of living and being that few outsiders get to see. This is an unparalleled opportunity to learn about the life of the Maya, both ancient and contemporary, an opportunity to marvel at the ancient cities in the jungle and realize that the people and cultures that created those places have not disappeared, but continue to thrive in a far corner of an exotic land.
B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner included in trip cost
Day 1, OCT 30. WELCOME. (D)
Fly into Tuxtla Gutierrez and transfer to San Cristobal de las Casas, a highland town of red tile roofs, cobbled streets and lively humanity. We’ll meet at our hotel for conversation and dinner at 6pm.
Evening in San Cristobal.
Day 2. OCT 31st Arriving at a Place (BL)
We introduce ourselves to the place we have landed today, literally getting our feet on the ground, connecting to this spot of earth and humanity. We will walk through the town of San Cristobal, absorbing the flavors of this cultural hub that draws people from the surrounding Mayan village nations and from nations much further away. Our footsteps will take us through an artisan market under a canopy of trees and a produce market under a canopy of tarps and tin roofs. We’ll peek into churches musty with four hundred years of chilly humidity and innovative shops that tie the past and present. And we’ll also travel to a place called Chamula, and to the heart of a Mayan village nation. Here it is Tzotzil, not Spanish that is the first language, and a walk inside the church is a visit into another world. Welcome to the Mayan highlands of Mexico’s far south!
Evening in San Cristobal.
Day 3, WED, NOV 1st. Graveyard Festival. (BLD)
Twenty towering blue crosses adorned with pine boughs and marigolds top a low hill of cropped grass covered with simple graves. This graveyard is where the Chamula nation comes out in force and in style to remember and celebrate with their ancestors. It is a party for the dead that shouldn't be missed in this lifetime! Mayas dressed to the T in beautifully woven clothing, be-ribboned musicians playing accordions and 12-stringed Mayan guitars, pink cotton candy, red balloons and orange flower petals. This morning we become part of this very Mexican and uniquely Mayan festival.
Then, when our senses have had their fill we travel onward, finding lunch in Teopisca, famous for its it's fresh corn, sweet tamales, sausages and pickled palm heart and a favorite Sunday brunch retreat for locals. Then we head to a quiet graveyard surrounded by corn on a hill overlooking the village of Amatenango and soak up the presence of this Mayan valley, so very different from boisterous fiesta on the cross-topped hill this morning.
Evening in San Cristobal.
Day 4, THU. NOV 2. Solemn Flowers. (BL)
Day of the Dead is a celebration adorned with blossoms. The Mayan village of Zinacantan is famous for flowers, both the cultivated ones from their fields and the embroidered ones on their clothing. Imagine then walking into their cemetery on a crag above the village to find every man, woman and child dressed in their floral best and each tomb covered with grand bouquets. Today you won't have to imagine it. But unlike the party atmosphere of Chamula yesterday, Zinacantan is almost somber. On this wind brushed mountain top one can almost hear the flowers whispering.
From here we leave the deep Mayan world and head into the graveyard of San Cristobal, a grand, almost fortress-like, walled city in miniature with little Gothic chapels and tiny modern houses for the deceased. And so, from the celebrations and silences in three Mayan villages and an urban graveyard, we get a sense of this singularly Mexican ceremony for the dead with a Mayan cultural twist.
Evening in San Cristobal
Day 5, Nov 3rd Into the Jungle (BLD)
Our journey’s pace changes today as we leave the land of the living Mayan nations and the cool highlands. We begin our migration to the jungle low-lands, to the land of the roots, the origins, the ancient and abandoned cities of the Maya where the celebration of a rich civilization has long gone silent. Befitting such a journey, our road is long and sinuous, winding through pine forests that slowly give way to the greenery of tropical exuberance and bouncing past small villages and large towns of farmers and ranchers. Near trails end we will pull off the highway and into the jungle, get out, stretch with a sigh and breathe in the lush and humid air. Before us, pouring off a tall cliff is a wildly misting cascade of water. This is Misol Ha. We will call it our gateway into the other world of the jungle and the ghost-memory of the spectacular kingdoms that once filled these valleys and plains. Early evening will find us arriving in the town of Palenque and a hotel with good air conditioning and even a swimming pool!
Evening in Palenque.
Day 6, Nov 4th Palenque (BLD)
The air in the lowlands is moist and delicious to taste at dawn. And it’s cool, a perfect time to venture into the forest and across the plazas of ancient Mayan cities. We will head out early to visit the breath-taking ruined Mayan city of Palenque. We will be guided through this elegant Mayan city, exploring palaces, temples and ruins down jungle trails. Above and around us in the trees will be the calls of exotic birds, the buzzing of jungle crickets and perhaps even the roar of howler monkeys, the caw of a flying toucan. Later we travel deeper, our road paralleling the Usumacinta river, which was a highway for the old time Maya. We will settle in a town called Frontera Corrozal, on the banks of that wide river, which even for us will become a highway after sunrise tomorrow.
Evening in Frontera.
Day 7, Nov 5th Yaxchilan (BL)
On a great horseshoe bend of the Usumacinta river, where the trade and commerce of this jungle highway could be controlled, rose the dynasty of Yaxchilan. That same horseshoe curve in the broad river served as a flowing, moat-like protection for this city, leaving it exposed by land only at the narrow neck on one side. A good strategy for a kingdom in competition with those around, including Palenque. But we will be welcomed there this morning, traveling down the river on long motor boats, then climbing up the banks, under the deep canopy of the forest and among the stone walls of grand temples rescued from the roots of trees with their ornate facades and decoration. Jungle trails lead past huge tree trunks to semi excavated temples, long stairways among the trees and shady creeks. This is truly a city lost in time! In the afternoon we will return to the town of Palenque, but enroute we'll visit the ruins of Bonampak, rediscovered by archaeologists buried in the jungle in the mid 1940s. Though small, these ruins are famous for the well preserved murals that, with Mayan elegance, depict warfare and bloodletting.
Evening in Palenque
Day 8, Nov 6 Out of the Jungle (BLD)
The final leg of our journey takes us from Palenque out into the vast wetland plains of Tabasco, bathed in the warm, humid air coming off the gulf of Mexico. We’ll visit the jungle waterfalls of Agua Blanca before coming to the more urban jungle of Villahermosa where we’ll spend the night amidst the bustle of this gulf coast business hub. While here we’ll visit a jungle preserve in the heart of the city, reluctant, perhaps, to leave the forests with their wild animals and stone ruins behind. La Venta park in Villahermosa is a fabulous open air museum of Olmec stone relics, including the spectacular stone heads of the Olmecs. It’s a zoo as well, so animals abound in this urban wilderness.
Evening in Villahermosa
Day 9, Nov 7 Buen Viaje (B)
After breakfast we say our final adioses. There is a convenient international airport in Villahermosa.
Date: Oct 30th - Nov 7th, 2018
Duration: 9 days / 8 nights
Where: Highland Chiapas
Cost: $2,950 usd per person
Single Supplement $300 usd
Full payment of your tour is required at time of booking.
Trip Guides: Roberto Murphy
IMPORTANT TRAVEL NOTE: This tour begins in San Cristobal de las Casas and ends in Villahermosa. The closest airport to San Cristobal is Tuxtla Gutierrez, about an hour away. Villahermosa has an airport in the city. We recommend people purchase round trip airfare to Mexico City and purchase one way flights from Mexico City to Tuxtla and from Villahermosa to Mexico City. Aeromexico, Interjet, Volaris and Aeromar are all good Mexican airlines. As an alternative, in the past some people have purchased round trip airfare from their home base to either Tuxtla or Villahermosa. These cities are connected by frequent bus service. About 5 hours/$25 on first class buses. www.ado.com.mx
* All Lodging during trip based on double occupancy
* Most Meals (listed on itinerary Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)
* Superb Guide
* Transport in private van
* Entry fees
* Airfare and transportation to and from the trip pick-up/drop-off locations
* Lodging before and after the trip
* Personal items purchased during the trip
* Alcoholic beverages
* Some meals are not included. On these trips, Traditions Mexico invites you to explore the local cuisine at your leisure.
* Gratuities for your Traditional Mexico Guides may be given at your discretion in response to their professionalism and leadership.
* Industry standard is for each individual guest to tip the guide team 5-10% of the trip price.
* Room Service
* Travel Visa Fees