Guatemala

Mayan Roots

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Guatemala

Mayan Roots

  • Immerse yourself in modern Guatemalan culture and hear about its history from the descendants of the Maya.
  • Get your hands dirty learning about coffee alongside local farmers on the side of an active volcano in Sacatepéquez.
  • Get your hands dirty for some defensive reforestation in Quetzaltenango with the Chico Mendez Reforestation Project.
  • Follow in the footsteps of guerrilleros on a 2 ½-day trek through the remote forests of the highlands and see the sunrise from the mouth of a super volcano.

Currency:

15-DAY ↑

Fees + Community Contribution 

$1,885 USD + $195 USD
$1,960 CAD + $205 CAD

Program Dates

January 2 – 16, 2018

May 12 – May 26, 2018

June 9 – 23, 2018

9-DAY ↑

Fees + Community Contribution 

$1,230 USD + $95 USD
$1,280 CAD + 100 CAD

Program Dates

February 24 – March 4, 2018

March 17 – 25, 2018

Sample Itineraries

*These itineraries are based on our previous experiences with the region. Programs change every year based on the needs of our partners. This should give you a sense of what our program may look like.

9-day Track

Orientation in Guatemala City & Antigua

We begin our Guatemalan adventure at the front doors of La Aurora International Airport but quickly take our orientation to Antigua where our group will acclimatize to the sights, smells, sounds, and smiles of the region. We’ll explore the cobblestone streets of Central America’s historical colonial capital and orient ourselves to the country’s cultural and geographic landscape.

Coffee Culture – Antigua, San Miguel Escobar

On our first full day we’ll dive right into explorations of Guatemala’s third largest export: coffee! We’ll head out to nearby San Miguel Escobar to explore the coffee chain from seed to shelf with De La Gente, a sustainable agricultural cooperative. We will join founding members Filiberto and Timoteo on the slopes of Volcán Agua where we will learn to pick, process, and roast our coffee. We’ll then sit down with our hosts to share a traditional Guatemalan meal.

Brewing Justice – Xela, Pachaj

After chicken busing through the highlands, we’ll make a pit stop in the indigenous and ladino metropolis of Xela. We’ll join revolutionary-turned-reformer Willy at Café La RED KAT for a delicious meal and an insightful chat about the challenges facing Mayan youth. In the afternoon, we’ll scavenge local markets before driving through the mountain air to our homestays in Pachaj.

Growing Resistance – Pachaj

After waking up to a traditional breakfast of beans and tortillas with our host families, we’ll join Armando and the Chico Mendez Reforestation Project. We’ll spend the day learning about Mayan cosmology and how reforestation is being used to defend local lands, culture, and livelihoods. We’ll also get our hands dirty collecting seeds, clearing invasive species, and cultivating some of our own home-grown seedlings.

Trekking & Temascals – Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan

In the morning, we’ll rise early to begin our 2½-day trek to Lago Atitlan with Nickte and other members of Kuk Tours, a local guiding organization based out of Pachaj. After we say adios to Armando at the trailhead, we’ll start the trek with an ascent onto a highland plain called Alaska. From there we’ll follow in the footsteps of guerrilleros down through bamboo forests and into the town of Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan. We’ll sleep cozied up together on the floor of a local family’s living room and unwind in a real temascal – a traditional Mayan sauna!

The next morning, with beans in our bellies, we’ll continue our trek along the spectacular Nahualá Valley. We’ll conquer the infamous Record Hill and cross the Payatza River 9 times. Finally, we’ll ascend into the small village of Santa Clara where a crackling fire and marshmallows await.

Home is Where the Hub Is – San Juan La Laguna

In the wee hours, our team will wake and hike the last hour to our destination: the Mirador. With hot drinks in hand, we’ll be treated to nature’s light show: a sunrise over Lago Atitlan. The theatrics kick-off with colorful rays creeping up from behind the distant volcanoes of the Antigua Valley before illuminating Atitlan’s own three iconic peaks, and finally the lake itself. We’ll then descend down the famous Indian Nose Trail to Operation Groundswell’s Hub in San Juan.

The Hub is a physical embodiment of OG’s culture, philosophy, and mission. It is a place where solidarity is cultivated in and between people through conversations and collaborative projects. It is also a site where OG can test and develop new ways to create positive impact alongside our participants and our local partners. We will use our time here to participate in alternative agricultural projects such as a collective permaculture project that mixes Mayan Cosmovision with alternative and sustainable farming methods, or a traditional medicinal plant garden.

Disorientation – San Juan La Laguna

After a whirlwind week, we’ll spend our day exploring the town’s many weaving and art cooperatives or just taking a relaxing dip in Lake Atitlan. We’ll be sure to take the time to reflect on our awesome adventure as a team. Finally, we will discuss lessons learned, assess our impact, and prepare for the journey home.

Departures

Finally on day 9, with hearts full of memories, we will return to Guatemala City where our group will say adios and adelante!

15-day Track

Orientation, Antigua

We begin our Guatemalan adventure at the front doors of La Aurora International Airport but quickly take our orientation to Antigua where Guatemala’s vibrant culture and breathtaking landscape collide. Amongst the iconic volcanoes and artisan markets, our group will acclimatize to the sights, smells, sounds, and smiles of the region. We’ll explore the cobblestone streets of Central America’s historical colonial capital and orient ourselves to the country’s cultural and geographic landscape.

After a traditional breakfast of eggs, beans, & tortillas, we’ll dive right into a fun-filled exploration of culture and ecology with De La Gente, a sustainable agricultural cooperative based in nearby San Miguel Escobar. There we’ll join founding members Filiberto and Timoteo on the slopes of Volcán Agua where we will learn to pick, process, and roast coffee.

Highland Culture, Xela

We’ll then travel by chicken bus through the Western Highlands to the city of Quetzaltenango, popularly known as Xela (pronounced Shay-la). Here in Guatemala’s ladino and indigenous metropolis, we’ll see the confrontation of traditional and modern cultures close-up. We’ll start by joining revolutionary-turned-reformer Willy at Café La RED KAT for a delicious meal and insightful chat about the “Guatemalan Dream” and how it impacts local Mayan youth. We’ll meet some of their young chefs and even learn how to prepare a traditional dish or two!

The next day we’ll meet up with our partners at Escuela La Paz, a local Spanish school born out of the armed conflict. After getting some of the local language under our belts with a morning of either beginner, intermediate, or advanced group lessons, we’ll set you loose to scavenge through Xela’s markets. In the evening, we’ll learn about the traditional art of Mayan backstrap loom weaving with our friends at Y’abal Handicrafts, a Fair Trade Certified organization that works with marginalized communities of indigenous weavers outside of Xela.

Mayan Roots, Pachaj

The next morning, we’ll jump into the back of pick-up trucks and take a short half hour journey to the town of Pachaj where we’ll join Armando and the Chico Mendes Reforestation Project. For three days we’ll live with local host families while learning about Mayan cosmology and how reforestation is being used to defend local culture and livelihoods. We’ll also get our hands dirty collecting seeds, clearing invasive species, and cultivating some of our own home-grown seedlings.

Old Paths, New Perspectives

In the morning, we’ll rise early to begin our 2½-day trek to Lago Atitlan with Nickte and other members of Kuk Tours, a local guiding organization based out of Pachaj. After we say adios to Armando at the trailhead, we’ll start the trek with an ascent onto a highland plain called Alaska. From there we’ll follow in the footsteps of guerrilleros down through bamboo forests and into the town of Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan. We’ll sleep cozied together on the floor of a local family’s living room and unwind in a real temascal (a traditional Mayan sauna)!

The next morning, with beans in our bellies, we’ll continue our trek along the spectacular Nahualá Valley. We’ll conquer the infamous Record Hill and cross the Payatza River 9 times. Finally, we’ll ascend into the small village of Santa Clara where a crackling fire and marshmallows await.

Growing Change, Lago de Atitlan

In the wee hours, our team will wake and hike the last hour to our destination: the Mirador. With hot drinks in hand we’ll be treated to nature’s light show — a sunrise over Lago Atitlan. The theatrics kick off with colourful rays creeping up from behind the distant volcanoes of the Antigua Valley before illuminating Atitlan’s own three iconic peaks and, finally, the lake itself. We’ll then descend down the famous Indian Nose Trail to San Juan La Laguna and Operation Groundswell’s Hub.

The Hub is the physical embodiment of OG’s culture, philosophy, and mission. It is a place where solidarity is cultivated between people and local partners through conversations and collaborative projects. For two days we’ll work with local partners on alternative agriculture projects. Past projects have included work in an organic vegetable garden, getting our hands dirty in a medicinal plant garden, and planting cattails in the lake with the local fisherman’s organization.

On our last night, we’ll gather around a BBQ and bonfire for disorientation. This is a staple of every OG program; it’s a time kick back and reflect, discuss lessons learned, assess our impact, and prepare for the journey home.

Departures

Finally on day 15, with hearts full of memories, we will return to Guatemala City where our group will say adios and adelante!

Scroll below for more program details

What’s Included?

A comprehensive program itinerary and educational curriculum focused on the issues facing your specific region

Experienced and caring program leaders with you 24 hours a day

All lodging and accommodations throughout the program

Three local meals a day

All group tours, entrance fees, and excursions

All group transportation on the ground

Regular discussions and workshops to help you internalize and reflect on your experience

Support from OGHQ whenever you need it

Accommodations

With OG, you live like the locals. Whether it’s a youth hostel in Antigua or a bamboo bungalow on the shores of Lago Atitlan, we will be sleeping and eating as a team in ways that reflect a backpacker’s ethos. Grassroots travel and homestays will allow us to immerse in the local culture but living as the locals do sometimes means living without some of the comforts we’re accustomed to. Cold bucket showers are common while continuous electricity can’t always be guaranteed – so come prepared!  Be ready to share the wonderful simplicity of life in rural Guatemalan communities.

Meet Our Regional Director

After running programs on three continents in as many summers, Bobby returned to his OG roots in Guatemala to manage the Hub as Regional Director. Throughout his travels he has found himself standing on top of an active volcano in Ecuador, watching the sun set across the Salt Flats of Bolivia, and working barefoot in the rice paddies of Cambodia. But nothing tops the smell of the pine forests back home in New England. When he’s not brainstorming new projects and animals to bring to the Hub, you’ll probably find him doing handstands.

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