Mayan Roots



Mayan Roots

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  • Immerse yourself in modern Guatemalan culture and hear about its history from the descendants of the Maya.
  • Cultivate coffee alongside local farmers on the base of an active volcano in Sacatepequez.
  • Get your hands dirty for some defensive reforestation in Quetzaltenango with the Chico Mendez Reforestation Project.
  • Challenge yourself on 2½-day trek across the Guatemalan highlands and see the sunrise from the mouth of a super volcano at Lago Atitlan.

Program Dates

October 15 – 22

Fees + Community Contribution 

$1,160 + $95
$1,275 + $105

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Sample Itinerary

*This itinerary is based on our previous experience 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.

Orientation, Antigua
Location: 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
Location: 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
Location: 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 jumping into pickup trucks and driving through the mountain air to our homestays in Pachaj.

Growing Resistance
Location: 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
Location: Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan

In the morning, we’ll rise early to begin our 2½-day trek to Lago Atitlan with Nicté 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 guest house 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
Location: 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 and oats 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.

Location: 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.

Location: Guatemala City

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

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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


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

Christine Sanderson

Christine fell in love with Latin America’s cultures, landscapes, and language as a teenager living in Chile and couldn’t get enough. She continued her southern adventures working on an archeological dig in Peru and establishing a community library and youth music program in rural Nicaragua, before finally diving head first into the land of beans & corn tortillas (a.k.a. Guatemala).  Since then, she’s led two seasons of OG programs and after hiking in the highlands, experiencing fast-paced local transit, and becoming addicted to Guatemalan coffee, there’s no turning back!  She’s now living and working at the Hub full time as Guatemala’s Regional Director.  When she’s not in the office you can find her playing with the Hub dogs, Luna & Cappu, climbing another volcano, or out practicing her salsa moves.

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