This April, you have the opportunity to join professional photo journalist, Stuart Thurlkill and experience the amazing beauty of Holy Week, (Semana Santa) in Antigua, Guatemala. Antigua’s Semana Santa is the most extravagant and impressive in all Latin America, rivaled only by a similar event that takes place in Seville, Spain. The cobblestone streets of 16th century colonial Antigua are covered in alfombras (carpets) made up of colorfully dyed sawdust, pine needles, flowers, flower petals, corozo (yellow flowers pulled from giant palm pods), berries, fruits, and vegetables.
The celebrations reach crescendo proportion with the big processions and pageants on Good Friday. On Thursday night the streets are meticulously carpeted and on Friday morning a series of processions with teams of penitents wearing peaked hoods and accompanied by solemn dirges (melancholic music from local brass bands) and billowing clouds of copal incense accompany them as they carry the image of Christ and the Cross on massive platforms. Some of these floats weigh over 7000 pounds and require 60 men to carry.
No other town has the appeal and the charm of the world renowned Spanish Colonial Antigua, Guatemala. From its colonial architecture to its local markets, quiet courtyards with ornate gardens, this town is considered one of the most beautiful in Central America. It is like stepping back into time over 300 years.
About the Artist
Stuart Thurlkill is a widely respected photographer & filmmaker who travels the globe photographing destination weddings for high profile clients and discerning couples. Additionally his company Thurlkill Studios has been commissioned for magazine and marketing projects for a wide range of national clients. Stuart has helped create several documentary films and his photographs now fill books, magazines and the walls of clients’ homes.
Stuart’s love of photographing people began while growing up in Montana. Through his adventures, he found that the camera could act as a passport into the lives of interesting people and inspiring places. Studying and working as a photojournalist instilled in Stuart the lasting value a great photograph can have in our personal lives as well as it's potential to change the world.
Our Travel Itinerary
Friday, April 12th
Fly to Guatemala City and after clearing customs, you will be met outside as you exit the customs area. Tonight, our group will gather at the Hotel Inter Continental in Guatemala City. Dinner this evening will be on your own as we await all arrivals. There are many fine restaurants in the hotel and others in the area (we will provide a list of recommendations).
Saturday, April 13th
Guatemala City to Lake Atitlán
Following breakfast we’ll depart for Lake Atitlan. You’ll enjoy a comfortable and secure drive through the Guatemalan highlands as we traverse small towns, beautiful forests and ultimately arrive at the splendor of the Hotel Atitlan. Surrounded by Botanical Gardens, Hotel Atitlán Hotel & Gardens is one of the finest and most charming boutique hotels in Guatemala, situated ten minutes from the main town of Panajachel on what once was the estate of a family-owned coffee plantation. Designed to be a relaxing home away from home for discriminating travellers in search of a truly unique travel experience, it is wonderfully decorated with hand-carved wood furnishings combined with ornate ceramic tiles to reflect the elegant Spanish colonial style of an 18th century Guatemalan plantation. Outside, amidst meticulously cultivated botanical gardens, abundant roses, orchids, bougainvillea and azaleas bloom. An infinity pool gazes onto Lake Atitlán and the majestic Atitlán, Toliman and San Pedro volcanoes in the distance
Take time to enjoy the hotel and we’ll gather together in the evening for drinks and dinner.
Sunday, April 14th
After a sumptuous breakfast, we will depart for a boat trip around the lake, stopping first at the Maya village of San Juan La Laguna to visit a cooperative for demonstrations of weaving and dyeing techniques followed by an opportunity to purchase the completed textiles. You will see village life of the Maya, have an ethno-botanical garden medicinal plants tour, and visit a maguey (Agave or Century plant) production center where maguey is prepared for weaving the plant fibers into usable bags rope and construction.
Next, our boat will take us to the private lakeside home of Candis and son, Cameron Krummel, for both a cultural and an ecological experience. Their unique home, featured in Architectural Digest August 2002, is built in the traditional style of Maya Tz’utujil architecture. Our hosts will prepare a delicious traditional Tz’utujil gourmet festive lunch. You will never forget this memorable experience.
That evening, we’ll gather in the bar for a social libation before we dine on a meal especially prepared for us by the chefs of Hotel Atitlán.
Monday, April 15th
Today will be an opportunity to just relax and enjoy your magnificent surroundings, or if you prefer, options abound from hiking in the Atitlán Nature Reserve where you can take a nature walk, see a butterfly habitat, or try the zip-line at Cables X-tremos … all a ten minute walk from the hotel. You may also choose to take a tuk-tuk (small passenger vehicle) into the nearby town of Panajachel for a little shopping and people watching, or stroll through the exquisite botanical gardens of Hotel Atitlán where you will discover over 200 varieties of roses, an orchid collection, a tropical heliconia garden, a small English style knot garden, as well as see their many exotic birds. The swimming pool is heated, the Jacuzzi is delightful, and an incredibly relaxing massage may be arranged at the front desk.
Tonight we will meet in the Ranchito (located in the lower gardens) for a wine reception and dinner at the water’s edge. Dress in any newly acquired traje (native wear), share stories of the day, and dine on Churrasco (a Guatemalan Barbeque).
Tuesday, April 16th
Lake Atitlán to Chichicastenango
Following breakfast you’ll need to have your luggage packed and ready to be loaded on the bus. We’ll depart late morning for Chichicastenango, where the traditions of the past encounter the present in a kaleidoscope of colors and a fury of activity. We will arrive at the Hotel Maya and set out to capture the total transformation of the town center, from a bustling town, to one of the largest marketplaces in Central America.
Wednesday, April 17th
Chichicastenango and Antigua
After our morning breakfast, we’ll have the opportunity to capture the beauty and wonder of the marketplace. What brings the Indigenous Maya to Chichicastenango again and again is exactly what brought their distant ancestors down from the mountain villages or out of the jungles to the pyramids and plazas of Kaminaljuyu or Tikal or Xelaju - the chance to exchange goods at the market, to socialize for a day before returning to the hard work and grinding routine of tending mountain or jungle corn fields, and to bring offerings and prayers to the altars and temples of the gods who ruled their lives. Be totally present to experience this; an amazing day!
We will visit the Santo Tomás Church to witness the convergence of the Catholic religion with the ancient Maya rituals, then on to the Chichi market brimming with handmade arts and crafts as well as everything imaginable for, of, and by the indigenous Maya Indians. We will meet for lunch at our favorite Chichi restaurant.
After lunch, we will travel to the colonial city of Antigua and the renowned Hotel Casa Santo Domingo, which is built around the ruins of a Dominican monastery founded in 1542. The magnificently restored hotel and grounds include an extensive collection of Guatemalan Spanish Colonial religious works of art and is considered the most complete archeological monument in the Americas.
Thursday, April 18th
We will have a fabulous breakfast in a reserved area in the Dining Room of The Monks; eat hearty since we will have a late lunch today. Walk to the Parque Central where we will visit the Cathedral, view the Captains General Palace, and begin our walk through the calles to view the Alfombras (beautifully hand crafted carpets) created by resident’s and businesses of Antigua for the Religious processions. Be prepared for an incredibly moving experience while viewing one of the most remarkable and elaborate religious events in the Americas. The religious procession begins with 60 men (cucuruchos) who lift and maneuver an enormous 7000 pound float that carries the 17th century statue of Jesús Nazareno del Perdón out of the church.
This is immediately followed by another float of the Virgin de Dolores carried by over 40 women. Each float (anda) being followed by its own processional band. Once the procession has left the church We will take you through the streets of Antigua, moving ahead of the procession for photo opportunities.
We will enjoy lunch at one of our favorite restaurants in Antigua. After lunch there will be a special tour of the Convento Capuchinas, one of the most unknown and misunderstood, but one of the best preserved, of all the colonial buildings in the new world.
The afternoon will be reserved for free time to explore Antigua.
Dinner this evening will be on your own at one of the many exceptional restaurants in Antigua. We will hand out a recommend list.
Friday, April 19th
Depart for La Merced Church where you will witness the largest and most solemn of the Lent and Holy Week processions. We will follow the route of the procession in order to view some of the most colorful carpets before they are walked over by the processions. Then we will skirt the procession locating the best places to view and photograph this magnificent event.
Return to the Casa Santo Domingo for breakfast and a rest.
Lunch on your own, then free time for shopping and exploring Antigua.
In the afternoon, preparations are made for a mock trial and sentencing of Jesus Christ where participants are dressed as Jesus, Pontius Pilate and Roman soldiers. After 3 p.m. on Good Friday, the time appointed by the Church when Jesus died, peeling church bells let all of Antigua know that it is time to change from purple (the color of passion) to black (for mourning). A float with a sculpture of Jesus carrying the crucifix leads crowds of mourners who pray silently and offer penance. The participants in this solemn procession dress in black. In the late afternoon, we will view the procession from the Escuela de Cristo Church – depicting the Crucifixion. In the evening, floats with statues of the crucified Jesus are returned to the churches.
Meet to walk to dinner at one of Antigua’s favorite restaurants.
Saturday, April 20th
We will have a leisurely morning and a fabulous breakfast in the Dining Room of The Monks.
After breakfast we will explore the grounds, museums, and archeological sites of this 16th Century Monastery, which was once a stronghold of one of the grandest of all convents in the Americas. This monastery was partially destroyed in the Santa Marta earthquake of 1773. The hotel is notable in that it preserves the architecture from the baroque period of ancestral America and contains a number of treasures from this period on display. Additionally, the grounds contain some of the best-preserved archeological discoveries of the period.
We will visit the Church of San Francisco, a Monastery of the Franciscan Order and the tomb of recently canonized Saint Hermano Pedro de San José de Bethancourt, a Franciscan friar of the late 17th century, who was known for his great charity and love for the poor.
Lunch today at Café Sky, overlooking the Church San Francisco followed by free time to explore this magnificent Colonial City.
Dinner tonight in the Monastery’s Five Star Hotel’s Dining Room of The Monks.
Sunday, April 21st
Antigua to Guatemala City
Our group will depart Antigua and return to the international airport in Guatemala City for final departure
Included in your Semana Santa Tour: ▪ 10 days, 9 nights at unique and luxury hotels ▪ meals per itinerary, including gratuities ▪ hotel baggage handling gratuities ▪ deluxe motor coaches and private boat, including driver tips ▪ excursions and entrance fees listed in itinerary
NOT Included: ▪ Airfare from your hometown to Guatemala ▪ Airport baggage handling tips (we recommend 5Qs - or .75 cents per bag) ▪ Any “optional” venues listed as such in itinerary ▪ Alcoholic beverages and tips (10%) for alcoholic beverages ▪ Any Airport Security Taxes ▪ Any expenses incurred should you choose to deviate from the itinerary
Price: $2870 (Double Occupancy), $700 (Single Supplement)
Explore Amazing Places prefers payment to be made by check. You may make the $500 per person deposit*, pay your Balance Due, or pay the full amount for your tour by sending checks:
PAYABLE TO: John Korte
MAIL TO: Explore Amazing Places
20553 W Legend Trail
Buckeye, AZ 85396
*If you are registering 120 days or less prior to the departure date of your tour, you must pay for the trip in FULL, rather than a $500 deposit.
If you prefer to pay by credit card, please use the link below and we will send you information on payment through Pay Pal. Explore Amazing Places was previously known as Explore Guatemala. All payment references are listed under the previous company’s title. Rest assured, your payment will be received by Explore Amazing Places.