Always had a secret desire to tap into your inner Indiana Jones? Then consider an upcoming trip with the Mayan Exploration Center, with a working archeologist as your guide.
The next trip on the calendar for the MEC, a non-profit research center based in Austin, is an eight-day excursion to Mexico and Guatemala to visit two of the major capitals of the Ancient Maya world: Palenque and Tikal. The trip provides a firsthand look into the mysteries of the fascinating Mayan culture, from the unique perspective of an archaeologist.
You'll fly into the Villahermosa airport in southern Mexico, but your real immersion into the Mayan world starts at Palenque, an enigmatic city that, for reasons still unknown, was abandoned about a thousand years ago.
At Palenque, you'll wander among impressive pyramids that peek through thick canopies of foliage, with elegant temples housing the most sublime examples of Mayan art ever found, from sculptures to stone carvings to elaborate ornaments, pottery and hieroglyphic tablets.
From there, the journey moves through ruins, rain forests, and indigenous towns to the Guatemalan border and cross the Usumacinta River before arriving at the island of Flores. If everything is on schedule, you should arrive in time to watch a stunning sunset over Lake Peten.
Your Thanksgiving Day will be one to remember (no football or Macy's Day Parade involved). You'll explore and learn about Tikal's vast metropolis, including the steep temple that makes its way into plenty of postcards. Later that evening, you'll feast on wild turkey, Maya style, on the island of Flores.
Along the journey back to Mexico, you'll visit the remote ruins of Yaxchilan, accessible only by boat. The trip wraps up in Palenque, with a chance to explore the ruins' museum, relax and mingle with MEC archaeologists at a final celebratory dinner.
The trip runs from November 20-28 and costs $2,100, with accommodations, breakfasts, lunches, site entry fees, and all tours and talks included. Visit www.mayaexploration.org to register ($400 is due upon registration, with the balance due 30 days in advance). November is the start of the dry season in southern Mexico, but pack a poncho, since rain is a constant year-round in the rainforest. (And, for the die-hard Indiana Jones fans, don't forget the whip, though we don't recommend trying to carry it on your flight.)
For general trip-planning information, see our Mexico Travel Guide.