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Chiapas: El Mundo Maya
November 12 - 21, 2013 with Jim Cline

Cost: $3,875 includes all ground transport, all 9 nights hotel accommodations, airport transfers, all breakfasts and dinners, one lunch, boat trips at Sumidero and Yaxchilan, entrance-fees at tourist sites, and English - speaking local guides.
The price is based on double occupancy. A single supplement of $455 applies.

Trip Leader: Jim Cline - The trip will be limited to 9 participants

Chiapas is an enigma - perhaps the most beautiful state in Mexico, but little known by most outsiders. (Many from the U.S. only know it from the headlines from January of 1994, when the Zapatista rebels briefly took over the town of San Cristobal de las Casas, before being driven out by the Mexican Army a few days later.) It is an area rich in natural resources, yet many of it's inhabitants, descendants of the ancient Maya, are among the poorest in Mexico. It's a fascinating, exciting place to visit, with wildly beautiful landscapes, rich and mysterious indigenous cultures, the colonial charm of the town of San Cristobal de las Casas, and exotic Mayan ruins.

Chiapas is home to more than one million indigenous people, most of whom are descendants of the ancient Mayans. Each of the eight principal Mayan groups in the state has its own language, beliefs and customs. This high indigenous presence and the cultural variety it entails are among the most fascinating aspects of Chiapas. We will do our best to explore and photograph the various manifestations of the Mayan culture during our stay here.

We'll begin our journey in the bustling lowland capitol of Tuxtla Gutierrez. There we'll travel by boat on the Rio Grijalva to visit breathtaking Sumidero Canyon. While we're on the river we'll photograph the dramatic 3,000 foot cliffs, as well as birdlife and hopefully crocodiles along the shore. After our river trip we'll take a short drive up into a different world in the pine-forested mountains to the colonial gem of San Cristobal de las Casas. That will be our base for most of the trip - we'll visit the most beautiful colonial churches and sites in San Cristobal, and venture out to nearby traditional Maya villages, where many of the ancient beliefs are carried on to this day. We'll visit fascinating San Juan Chamula, a town of about 3,000 inhabitants which supports a community of about 80,000 Chamulans, most of whom live on small farms in the surrounding mountains. Here the people have fiercely hung on to their ancient beliefs - to step inside the church is to step back centuries in time. As you enter, thousands of flickering candels, thick copal incense, and worshippers kneeling with their faces to the pine needle carpeted floor creates a powerful impression. You will witness numerous healers performing age-old ceremonies on the floor of the church (sorry - no photography allowed inside the church). We'll then continue on to the weaving village of Zinacantan, where we'll visit and photograph families who weave some of the most beautiful textiles in the Mayan world.

We'll then descend from the cool mountains down to the tropical lowlands to visit Palenque, home to perhaps the most beautiful of all Mayan archeological sites. On the way we'll visit the beautiful Cascadas de Agua Azul. There we'll photograph the turquoise waters with numerous cascades (and go swimming if you wish) as villagers approach to sell us local grown fruit. The following day we'll visit ancient Palenque - standing at the point where the hills rise out of the Gulf Coast plain - the dense jungle covering these hills forms an evocative backdrop to the exquisite Maya architecture. Then we'll venture farther off the beaten track, into the Lacandon Jungle to visit the isolated ruins at Yaxchilan and Bonampak. To visit the ancient Maya city of Yaxchilan, one must travel by boat down the Usamacinta River, separating Chiapas from Guatemala. Next we'll have the opportunity to view and photograph the colorful murals at Bonampak. On our way back to San Cristobal we'll stop off first at the impressive Misol Ha waterfalls. We'll finish our journey with a group imae sharing party and celebration dinner.

To see a gallery of Jim's photos of Chiapas click here

To see Jim's gallery from the Nov, 2008 tour click here


Day One (Nov 12): Arrive in from your flights in Tuxtla Gutierrez, the capitol of the state of Chiapas. You'll be transferred to our hotel in the beautiful colonial town of San Cristobal de las Casas. We'll spend the night in San Cristobal de las Casas.

Day Two: In the morning we'll go with our local guide on a walking tour of some of the most photogenic colonial churches and neighborhoods in San Cristobal. In the afternoon we'll go for a photo shoot of some local Mayan people in the late afternoon light. We'll spend the night in San Cristobal de las Casas.

Day Three: After breakfast we drive to the shore of the Rio Grijalva, where we'll board our private boat to take us for a photographic cruise on the river through the breathtaking Sumidero Canyon. There we'll photograph the towering 3,000 foot cliffs, crocodiles (hopefully) and birdlife. After lunch we'll have some free time, then in the late afternoon we'll go to photograph the last light on the nearby Cathedral and local Maya people. We'll spend the night in San Cristobal de las Casas.

Day Four: On this day we'll visit a nearby traditional Maya village, San Juan Chamula. Here the Chamulans cling steadfastly to their ancient Mayan beliefs. In the church we'll witness traditional healers carrying on timeless Mayan ceremonies on the floor of the church (sorry - no photos inside the church). We'll return to San Cristobal in the late afternoon, in time for one last photo shoot. After dinner those who want to, will go for a cold refreshment at Bar Revolucion, a favorite watering-hole for writers, poets, artists, travelers, fire-jugglers, revolutionaries, musicians, Zapatistas, beatniks, hippies, and yes - photographers too. They are sure to have an eclectic line-up of live music.We'll spend the night in San Cristobal de las Casas.

Day Five: We'll visit nearby Zinacantan, a traditional Mayan village slightly more part of the modern world than Chamula. We'll also have some free time in San Cristobal to take photos, shop or rest. We'll spend the night in San Cristobal de las Casas.

Day Six: After breakfast we'll depart for Palenque. We'll stop on the way and visit Las Cascadas de Agua Azul, blue waters with multiple cascades to photograph, as well as some local villagers. We'll then continue on to Palenque, arriving in time for some free time before dinner. We'll go for dinner near where we're staying in the La Canada section of Palenque, a heavily wooded section away from the hustle and bustle of the main town. We'll spend the night in Palenque.

Day Seven: We'll arrive at the exquisite Mayan ruins at Palenque when they open the gates at 8:00 a.m., when sometimes the temples are still wrapped in the morning mist. We'll have a guided tour of the site, and some free time to wander among the ruins and along the stream that runs through the site. We'll visit the museum to see the exquisite stone carvings of the ancient rulers. There will also be an optional visit back to the ruins for the last hour they are open. For dinner we'll go to El Panchan, a famous destination in the international travelers scene. We'll spend the night in Palenque.

Day Eight: We'll depart early in the morning to venture to the less-visited Mayan sites of Yaxchilan and Bonampak. After a hearty breakfast en route we'll board our boat for the one hour journey on the Usamacinta River, which separates Chiapas from Guatemala. We'll then arrive at Yaxchilan, the ancient Mayan kingdom with it's jungle setting on the river. After lunch we'll drive to Bonampak, famous for its colorful stone murals, with much of the original paint intact, depicting warrriors and other facets of Mayan life. We'll spend the night in Palenque.

Day Nine: After breakfast we'll visit and photograph the mighty Misol Ha waterfalls. During times of low rain and good weather the pool at the base of the falls is an excellent swimming option. We'll have a free afternoon to go to town, or download images. In the evening we'll have dinner and an image-sharing party. We'll spend the night in Palenque.

Day Ten (Nov 21): You are transported to the airport in Villahermosa for your flights home.


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