Surrounded by three towering volcanoes, Antigua is a grid of cobblestone streets and pastel facades that obscure a wealth of cafes, hotels, language schools, restaurants, and local craft stores. From modern shops with colorful storefronts to indigenous women selling goods in the streets, you will see many sides of Guatemala in Antigua. We will explore the city, complete an exciting photographic scavenger hunt, take dance classes, and climb volcanoes and more.
COMMUNITY SERVICE AND HOMESTAY
We will spend the majority of our time in Guatemala in a small and friendly community in the stunning hills above Lake Atitlan. Students will live with Mayan families while improving their Spanish, learn the basics of K’iche’ and, most importantly, experience this colorful culture firsthand. Students will eat their meals with their “homestay” families and get the chance to perfect their tortilla making while dressing in traditional Mayan clothing. We understand the thought of living with another family can be intimidating, but we believe homestays are extremely rewarding. Students have the choice to be paired with other students or to stay on their own with a family. Walking Tree has carefully selected each host family to ensure a safe, nurturing, and enriching environment.
A highlight of our time in Guatemala will be working alongside a local non-profit Walking Tree helped to create. Our projects aim to benefit the community as a whole and will likely necessitate construction as well as other less labor-intensive skills. When not working on the community service projects, students can take Mayan cultural classes, spend free time with their families, practice Spanish, play soccer, make friends with local youth, and attend community gatherings.
A contender for one of the natural Seven Wonders of the World, Lake Atitlán is a longtime highlight of travel in Central America. The sheer beauty of the ultra-blue water set against the towering volcanoes surrounding the lake arrests visitors’ attention. Small villages dot the lake, offering endless opportunity for exploration. Hiking, swimming, and kayaking are wonderful pastimes, along with relaxing in the comforts of our impressive hotel.
Generally, Chichicastenango is a sleepy, quiet town devoid of tourism, content to only enjoy the great views of the surrounding highlands. This calm is shattered twice a week as one of Guatemala’s best markets comes to life. Every Sunday and Thursday, merchants, tourists, photographers, and local Mayans take to the streets in a near sensory overload of colors, sounds, smells, and crowds. With some savvy, as well as tactful, negotiations conducted in Spanish, most people leave here with fond memories and souvenirs to take home.
As the trees clear and Tikal’s principal temple emerges from the jungle at a towering 180 feet, the grandiosity of this mega-city built around 700 AD becomes obvious. Once seeing the city, it is easy to imagine Mayan priests honoring their gods or women going about their daily chores in one of the many market squares. Tikal perseveres as the most impressive Mayan archaeology site. Our group will spend time in one of the world’s most biodiverse jungles exploring ancient ruins, visiting a wild animal refuge, and taking boat rides through the tropical landscape.