It is your own responsibility to ensure you have a passport valid for at least 6 months after your date of return.
It is your own responsibility to ensure you have any visas if required. Visas are not usually needed for any of the countries visited on this trip but please check in advance through a site such as this one. If you should require any visas then please contact your nearest respective embassies or alternatively, you can use a visa agency like http://uk.cibt.com/.
SEMANA SANTA/HOLY WEEK IN ANTIGUA
In Antigua, Guatemala is Semana Santa (Holy Week before Easter) a colourful affair. During this holy week thousands of people of Antigua commemorate the suffering, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, ending with a big celebration on Easter Sunday.
The celebration of Semana Santa is descended from the arrival of Spanish missionaries from Seville, who introduced Christianity. Palm Sunday is the last Sunday of Lent and the beginning of holy week. It celebrates the entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. On this day in Antigua, the images of Jesus and Mary are carried through the streets, followed by groups of people who are dressed in purple dresses. This repeats itself throughout the week.
Carpets of flowers
On Good Friday (but often in the days before) the 'Alfombras' are made by the people of Antigua. These carpets of flowers, fruits and other greenery colour the streets and spread a pleasant aroma. Often Roman -, Maya - or colonial motifs are processed. Very early in the morning they prepare themselves for the condemnation of Christ by dressing up as Pontius Pilates, Roman soldiers or spectators. A statue of Christ with the cross on his back is held up against the sunrise and walked through the streets. In the early afternoon this is swapped for a version after his death.
On Easter day the silent mourning of Antigua is ended and everyone joins in the festivities. Fireworks adorn the sky above the streets of Antigua and music sounds out.
The travel itinerary during the festival could be adapted.
DIA DE LOS MUERTOS SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS
Mexico's famed celebration commemorating the dead is a lively, personal and touching celebration: "los dias de los muertos". It is a period in which the living commemorate their deceased ancestors, and where the dead have the opportunity to visit the homes and the families they have left. The party is in some places spectacular, with street festivals, parades, handing out of gifts and plenty to eat and drink. The intensity of the Mexican attitude toward death can be confusing and overwhelming for anyone not familiar with it.
The origins of the celebration of the Days of the Dead is set in the mythological world of Mexico from pre-Hispanic times. At that time there was a whole month dedicated to the spirits of the deceased. Formerly this feast was celebrated in July-August, but with the advent of the Catholic settlers, the festivities moved to Catholic holidays All Saints and All Souls Day on November 1 and 2.
In most areas of modern Mexico, there are actually two Days of the Dead: Dia de los Angelitos, celebrated on November 1 which is dedicated to the souls of deceased children, and Dias de Los Muertos itself, that is on November 2 when the spirits of deceased adults are celebrated. The festivities sometimes overlap with Halloween, on October 31. Such as with Christmas or Halloween in other parts of the world, preparations begin for the festival of the Days of the Dead for weeks in advance. Stores are overloaded with decorative paper skulls, morbid lanterns, costumes, plastic skeletons and candy. Food is all home cooked and special commemorative altars are erected everywhere. Food and drink are an increasingly important part to the celebration. In some areas, entire families go on extensive picnics in local cemeteries. Also they leave food behind on the graves, next to the pictures of the deceased and copal (sort of incense). Many people take radios back to the cemetery, which now are part of the tradition with the family friendly singalong songs blaring about the cemeteries. The children are fully involved in the festivities. For them it is a kind of Christmas, they get all kinds of (spooky) sweets and surprises, from marzipan coffins to chocolate skeletons, toy skulls or dancing skeleton marionettes.
The Dia de los Angelitos is a sad affair. Favourite toys and other objects that recall the deceased children are laid on alters. The spirits of the young dead are then invited to come and visit and participate in the party. Often there is an extra seat for them put out at the table.
The second day, the Dia de Los Muertos, is the most important day of the feast. In many places on the main squares and streets it is celebrated with street festivals and parades with bright colours, uplifting music and dance. In the evening, there are some places lit by candlelight processions. In other villages such as San Cristobal de las Casas, the festival is celebrated in a subdued manor. A large part of the day is generally spent in the cemetery, and in the evening there is a traditional communal meal, where the "bread of the dead (pan de los muertos) is consumed. Often this bread contains a small bone or something else of the deceased, and those that get the aforementioned piece are considered lucky, because it is seen as a sign of prosperity and happiness!
This tour is classified as Category B
The difficulty of our travels varies greatly. Added to this is the fact that travel difficulty is a very personal perception. To give an impression of the difficulty of a particular holiday we have developed a classification system.
Category A: Light travel for everyone to do. Short distances, good hotels, travel at a slow pace.
Category B: For everyone to do as well. Sometimes long distances. Good hotels and camping facilities, sometimes an adventurous overnight experience, travel at a normal pace.
Category C: Good to do for anyone who prepares themself well and is flexible. There are tougher parts of the journey, such as longer distances or walking tours. Several nights can be spent in basic accommodation.
Category D: A relatively difficult journey, travelling long distances, often primitive accommodation or tents, and challenging walking tours.
The 22 day Mexican Mayan route is a Category B tour. It can be made by any reasonably healthy individual. In the summer the trip is considerably more difficult than during the rest of the year. Although in the cities we stay in simple medium-priced hotels, remember that you are travelling in a developing country with much lower living standards than you are used to at home. Also, roads may be temporarily blocked because of the weather or owing to their state of repair, in which case a detour is unavoidable. A flexible and positive attitude is just as important as a good physical condition.
Nature of the trip
In the mountains and jungles of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Belize the Mayans left behind countless archaeological treasures. During this round trip, staying in hotels, you will encounter the most amazing temples and pyramids all bearing witness to their ancient heritage. You will get to know the locals: Latinos living in elegant colonial towns, colourful Indians and, along the coast, the Creoles. The dozens of volcanoes in the mountains of Guatemala are spectacular and the lowland jungle, mangrove forests and picturesque beaches of Mexico and Belize are magnificent. In short, this trip boasts a fabulous variety of views, cultures and people.
We know that travelling to remote corners of this planet has its effects. At Shoestring we really try to make an effort to keep our impact to a minimum. We try to avoid the use of plastic water bottles on our treks through Nepal and we do not dump our litter during our trips through Africa. All of our staff have been trained to take special care to ensure we make as little impact on the environment as possible.Furthermore we support a lot of local projects which are mostly related to clean drinking water or making sure that children get vaccinated against illnesses such as tuberculosis. On most tours you will be able to visit some of the projects we support through our local agents. Find out more about the different projects Shoestring are involved with, how you can make a difference and our environmental policies here
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More country information about Honduras
More country information about Belize
More country information about Mexico
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