La Selva Lacandona

Southern Mexico

If you are interested in ancient and present day Maya culture and exploring one of the most diverse rainforests in our hemisphere, this trip is for you. We will be staying in present day Maya villages and spend time interacting with several distinct Maya cultures. Also on this journey we will visit some of the most famous Ancient Maya sites including Palenque, Bonampak and Yaxchilan.

From the misty highlands to the tropical lowland rainforests, we will experience the incredible biological and cultural diversity of Chiapas. The striking variety of Chiapas is evident from the first moment we arrive. From the concrete urban capital of Villahermosa , we drive directly to the ancient site of Palenque. Throughout our journey we will be in the midst of several dominant present day Maya cultures. While our drive only takes two hours, we travel back in time closely linked to the Ancient Maya.

There are over 25 different languages spoken in Chiapas . After our visit to Palenque, we then travel to the hinterlands of the Eastern Lowlands to visit several protected areas and some truly amazing archeological sites: besides Palenque, we will also visit the famous sites of Yaxchilan and Bonampak; and the hidden site of Lacanjá. There are over 680 species of birds in Chiapas and we will have daily bird walks in the early morning and explore the Lacandona rainforest with present day Lacandona Maya leading us through this lush ecosystem.
  • Day 1: Villahermosa
  • Day 2: Palenque
  • Day 3: Metzobok
  • Day 4: Naha
  • Day 5: Escudo Jaguar
  • Day 6: Frontera Corazal
  • Day 7: Lacanja
  • Day 8: Villahermosa
  • Day 9: Departure

Villahermosa Orientation Dinner

Due to challenging flight scheduling, we begin the tour at our 7:30 PM orientation meeting. If it looks like you may have to overnight the evening before you can fly from either Mexico City or Cancun , we have recommendations for both locations

Overnight: Hotel Calinda Viva

Villahermosa Orientation Dinner

Due to challenging flight scheduling, we begin the tour at our 7:30 PM orientation meeting. If it looks like you may have to overnight the evening before you can fly from either Mexico City or Cancun , we have recommendations for both locations

Overnight: Hotel Calinda Viva

Villahermosa - Palenque

After a hearty Chiapenco breakfast, we get an early start for Palenque (about a 2 hour drive). We will have a quick stop at our hotel to drop off gear and then head directly to the Palenque Archeological Site.

One of the top five ancient Maya archaeology sites, Palenque’s setting in a hilly tropical forest has a magical quality of bringing visitors back to its days of glory. Pakal, its most famous ruler, reigned from 615 to 683 AD, and brought Palenque to the forefront of the Classic Period Maya. Howler monkeys, parrots and collared toucans roam the overstory which surrounds the impressive structures. The most famous structure, the Temple of the Inscriptions, rises 75 feet from the forest floor and holds the tomb of Pakal deep within its bowels. There are over 40 structures to visit, many on single track jungle trails which give a visitor a sense of discovery and excellent opportunities for wildlife observation.

Overnight: Hotel Nututun, Palenque

Palenque to Metzobok

We depart our hotel after breakfast and will have a two hour drive to the Lacandon Maya communities of Naha Metzobok. There are over 21 lagoons and several trails. We will be joined by our Maya guides as we learn about one of the longest surviving present day Maya cultures and their intimate relationship with the tropical forests. The Lacandona still live with many of their ancient traditions still intact. The Lacandona were the most isolated of present day Maya and were not “discovered” until the 1950s. They continue their traditional practices and if you notice recent copal burnings at some of the archaeology sites, it is from ceremonies of the Lacandona Maya. Their knowledge of medicinal plants, local fauna, and forest management techniques is astounding. Our cabanas are a short walk from the banks of a beautiful rainforest river. We will have ample opportunity to interact with local villagers.

Overnight: Cabanas Metzobok

Naha

We start the day with boat trip around the various lagoons. Highlighting this are visits to ancient burial sites. We will also hike up the Mirador trail. We’ll have lunch in Metzobok and then have a short drive to Naha. We will be met by a local Maya guide who will show us the different medicinal uses of the plants along the trail. The highlight of the day will be dinner with Chan Kin – son of the Shaman featured in the book The Lords of Palenque. An amazingly engaging person.

Both days in Naha-Metzobok will have a similar pattern – early optional birding, day hike, cultural interaction, traditional meals. Our local partners have made great strides into developing an engaging and unique itinerary. This is an amazing opportunity to gain insight and understanding of the current and Ancient Maya culture. There are numerous books on these two communities as the last “pure” Maya with practices and rituals dating back over 2000 years.

Overnight: Cabanas Naha

Naha-Metzobok to Frontera Corazal

After a leisurely breakfast we leave Naha-Metzobok for Frontera Corazal on the banks of the mighty Usumacinta River. The afternoon will be open for swimming, visiting the nearby museum or just relaxing in a hammock.

Overnight: Frontera Corazal

Yaxchilan Archeology Site

Set above the banks of the Rio Usumacinta, Yaxchilan has some of best preserved stelae (stone monuments) of any Maya site in Southern Mexico. Just getting to the site is an adventure – two hours downstream by boat. We will try to be the first boat down river and with luck we will see crocodiles basking, scarlet macaws flying, and howler monkeys howling! While certainly not as well excavated as Palenque , Yaxchilan rose to prominence from 752 to 770 AD and covers a larger area than Palenque. This is a full day affair and we should get back to our cabanas around 4:00 PM

Overnight: Escudo Jaguar

Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve

We have a short transfer to the Lacandon Maya community of Lacanja. We will stop by the incredible murals of Bonampak. Obsolutely one of the best preserved sets of murals open to the public. After lunch we will the rich rainforests of Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve. Our guides will take us through rainforests rivers to the small archeology site of Lacanja. The rivers throughout the region are spectacular with crystal clear water with a turquoise hew. In the evening we may have the opportunity to visit a couple of the local homes and purchase artisan products made on the premises. We will also have an optional night hike.

Overnight: Cabanas Lacanja

Villahermosa – La Venta Park

To ensure flexibility for early departing flights we will return to Villahermosa. We should arrive mid-afternoon in time for a visit to La Venta Park. While not quite as mystical as Palenque, it is an astounding cultural collection of the Ancient Olmec. The Olmec were the founding civilization in the region pre-dating the Maya. They are most famous for the gigantic round head sculptures. It is an excellent finish to an amazing trip.

Overnight: Hotel Calinda Viva

Departure

Accommodations Listing (4 Star System)

Hotel Calinda Viva, 4 Star, excellent service and facilities, great location near La Venta Park and airport .

Hotel Nututun, Palenque, 3 Star, very nice and modern with river front rooms and a great place to swim.

Cabanas Naha & Metzobok , 1 Star, new construction, very basic, fantastic location and cultural interchange with the Lacandon Maya.

Escudo Jaguar, 2 Star, spacious and airy cabanas, great restaurant, along the banks of the Rio Usumacinta.

Cabanas Lacanja , 1.5 Star, basic, great location on the banks of a beautiful laguna. Great food and Lacandona hosts.

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PRACTICAL INFORMATION

This is a trip to one of the more remote areas of Mexico . It provides the opportunity to enjoy the beauty and solitude of one of the most pristine protected areas remaining in our hemisphere. Viewing wildlife in the rain forest can be frustrating. With the thick vegetative cover, one must proceed patiently and cover an area thoroughly. The probability of seeing a macaw is good; the probability of seeing a jaguar or tapir is poor (but we should see some sign). For orchid, bromeliad and heliconia enthusiasts, we can guarantee numerous sightings (plants are nice that way).

It is not a particularly rigorous trip but will involve some walking and hill climbing. This tour should only be taken by persons who are in good health. The trails are in very good condition and have been used by local people for generations. However, there is a limestone base and loose rocks are common. Light weight hiking boots with strong ankle support are recommended.

WEATHER:

The weather, depending on our location, will vary from warm and sunny to cloudy, misty, foggy or rainy. We can expect daytime temperature highs in the low 90s. Precipitation is one of the key factors in creating the rain forest ecosystem and we can expect heavy rain any day even in the dry season.

TOUR SIZE:

This tour will be limited to a maximum of 14 participants and a minimum of 2 participants.

TRAVEL DOCUMENTS:

A US passport valid beyond your anticipated date of return to the US and tourist card (available on flight) is required. Currently no visas or immunization certificates are required. Those with foreign passports should contact the Embassy of Mexico for details.

FINANCIAL ARRANGEMENTS:

The fee for the tour is $2,298 per person based on double occupancy from Villahermosa . Single rates are an additional $500. This includes: all food, three meals per day, from lunch on Day 1 to breakfast on Day 9; all lodging for 8 nights during the tour: ground transportation, and guide services provided by the tour leaders and local conservation professionals. It does not include international airfare, departure tax, alcoholic beverages, special gratuities, phone calls, passport fees, or items of a personal nature. Rates are based upon group tariffs; if the group does not have sufficient registration a small party supplement may have to be charged.

HEALTH PRECAUTIONS:

For comprehensive information please contact the Center for Disease Control and Prevention on the Internet at www.cdc.gov or by phone at 404-332-4559. The CDC information is a comprehensive listing of any disease reported in a particular region or state.

STATE DEPARTMENT TRAVEL ADVISORIES:

Currently there are no travel advisories for traveling in Chiapas. You will be updated on any significant developments that pertain to our trip. http://travel.state.gov

TOUR REGISTRATION:

To register for the tour, fill out the registration form and include a deposit of $500 per person. Full payment of the tour fee is due ninety days prior to the tour.

CANCELLATION POLICY:

Refunds are made according to the following schedule: If cancellation is made eighty days or more before departure date, the deposit less $150 is refundable. If cancellation is made between seventy-nine and sixty days before departure date, the deposit is not refundable, but any payments covering the balance of the fee will be refunded. If cancellation is made fifty-nine days or less before departure date, no refund is available except for amounts recoverable through our agents. We recommend that you purchase trip cancellation insurance which you will receive upon registration.

If the Mesoamerican Ecotourism Alliance (MEA) cancels the tour or the tour must be postponed during a time period starting seven days before tour departure and /or through the duration of the tour, MEA will refund all money recoverable through our agents, not yet spent and/or all refundable deposits. MEA reserves the right to cancel, postpone or suspend any tour based on the judgment of MEA, its staff and representatives, in order to insure the safety of our guests.

RESPONSIBILITY:

The Mesoamerican Ecotourism Alliance (MEA), and/or their Agents act only as agents for the passenger in regard to travel, whether by railroad, motorcar, motorcoach, boat, or airplane and assume no liability for injury, damage, loss, accident, delay, or irregularity which may be occasioned either by reason of defect in any vehicle or for any reason whatsoever, or through the acts or default of any company or person engaged in conveying the passenger or in carrying out the arrangements of the tour. They can accept no responsibility for losses or additional expenses due to delay or changes in air or other services, sickness, weather, strike, war, quarantine, or other causes. All such losses or expenses will have to be borne by the passenger as tour rates provide for arrangements only for the time stated. The right is reserved to substitute hotels of similar category for those indicated and to make any changes in the itinerary where deemed necessary or caused by changes in air schedules. The right is reserved to cancel any tour prior to departure, in which case full refund will constitute full settlement to the passenger. No refund will be made for any unused portion of the tour. The right is reserved to decline, to accept, or to retain any person as a member of the tour. Baggage is at owners' risk.

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