Big birthday coming up? This year, take the party hats to Central America and set out on a 12-day adventure you won’t soon forget. On this gallivant through Guatemala and Honduras, you’ll hit archaeological sites hidden deep in the jungle (and spend some time with a renowned archaeologist, too), horseback ride through the countryside, learn how to make Guatemalan fare with a local chef, and explore myriad colonial and indigenous towns. Plenty of unique touches make this itinerary extra-special: a welcome gift upon arrival, a private boat ride at sunset, a birthday ceremony with a Maya shaman (spiritual leader), and much more.
Day 1: Arrive at the Guatemala City airport and take a private plane to the country’s northern department of El Petén. Transfer to Camino Real Tikal, a modern hotel with comfortable amenities on the jungle-lined banks of Lake Petén Itzá. A celebratory gift will be waiting: Expect anything from Guatemala’s world-renowned Zacapa rum to a basket of traditional coffee and chocolate to a jade pendent carved with your Maya animal spirit.
Day 2: Set out for Uaxactún, a famed archaeological site and Maya community that’s home to chicleros (harvesters of natural gum). Explore the site and village before traveling to the Tikal ruins and taking a private tour of one of the ancient Maya’s largest and most fascinating urban centers. Enjoy a luxury picnic in the park before returning to your hotel.
Day 3: Take a private helicopter to the wildly remote, jungle-enshrouded El Mirador, an archaeological site that’s larger than Tikal and still mostly hidden by jungle. Explore the ruins with a private guide before flying back to your hotel. In the evening, set out on a private boat tour of Lake Petén Itzá with wine, snacks, flowers, and music.
Day 4: Take a private plane to Honduras’s Copán Ruinas, a small town located just outside the famed Copán archaeological site. Explore this charming colonial community before transferring to Hotel Marina Copán, located in the town center. Enjoy dinner and a private presentation of the Copán area ruins with David Sedat, a renowned archaeologist and the former field director for the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology’s Copán Project.
Day 5: Set out with David Sedat for a comprehensive tour of the Copán site before transferring to the Macaw Mountain Bird Park & Nature Reserve to learn about rescued tropical birds.
Day 6: Head to Finca El Cisne to explore a rural Honduran farm by horseback and to learn about the myriad delicious edibles it grows including tropical fruits, coffee, cardamom, and cacao. Enjoy a traditional lunch made with ingredients from the farm. After touring El Cisne, head to nearby thermal baths for a relaxing dip.
Day 7: Transfer to Guatemala’s cobblestone city of Antigua and El Convento, a luxury boutique hotel with excellent suites, colonial charm, and superior service. In the evening, enjoy a cooking class and delicious Guatemalan meal in the house of a local chef.
Day 8: Discover Antigua’s colonial-era ruins and historic and cultural highlights on a private morning walking tour. Spend the afternoon exploring the city and its eclectic mix of shops, boutiques, cafes, and bakeries. Enjoy a romantic dinner in a private, candlelit setting at Panza Verde restaurant.
Day 9: Fly across the Guatemalan highlands in a private helicopter to Chichicastenango to explore its colorful indigenous market. Afterward, continue by air to volcano-rimmed Lake Atitlán, one of the country’s signature sights, and Casa Palopó, a luxe retreat with lovely décor and phenomenal views. Enjoy a late-afternoon on-premise couples’ massage.
Day 10: Explore the lakeside towns San Juan La Laguna (a top spot for naturally dyed, hand-woven textiles) and Santiago Atitlán (a traditional Tz’utujil Maya town where the folk saint Maxímon is worshipped).
Day 11: Travel to the archaeological site of Iximché (the former capital of the Kaqchiquel Maya) for a tour of the site and a private birthday blessing with a Maya shaman (spiritual leader). Afterward, transfer to Antigua and El Convento Boutique Hotel. Enjoy a free evening at one of the city’s top restaurants.
Day 12: Transfer to the Guatemala City airport in time for your departure flight.