We arrive at the Guatemala City airport and transfer by shuttle to our hotel for check-in and dinner with a welcome party and brief orientation. We overnight in Guatemala City.
Day 2 – (Sat) July 22nd : LDS TEMPLE / KAMINALJUYU (CITY OF NEPHI)
This morning we will enjoy a more detailed orientation and introductions and then visit the Guatemala City Temple. Next we transfer to the Guatemala Relief Map which is a large outdoor relief map of the country to gain a better understanding of the rugged, mountainous topology of the area (Alma 22:27), another reason for which armies and exploration parties were easily lost in the wilderness (Mosiah 23:30, 21:25). This evening we transfer to the ancient archaeological site of Kaminaljuyu which is a proposed candidate for the City of Nephi. At this site we find over 200 temple mounds (2 Nephi 5:16), evidence of several kin groups or lineages (Jacob 1:3), and literacy among the elite (Mosiah 1:2-4). We will visit an ancient temple site and take a few moments to read about the reasons for temple rites ancient and modern (2 Nephi 5:16, Malachi 3:1, 4:5-6, D&C 128:11-13, 24 D&C 138:46-49), outline the evolution of these “sacred man-made mountains”, and discuss their modern-day impact on our ability to live “after the manner of happiness” (2 Nephi 5:27). We return to our hotel for dinner and again overnight in Guatemala City.
Day 3 – (Sun) July 23rd: LDS CHURCH / ORPHANGE
After breakfast, we will check out of our hotel and transfer to San Lucas Sacatepequez to attend sacrament meeting and enjoy the music and spoken word of the meeting in the beautiful Spanish language. This afternoon we will transfer over the continental divide further into the western highlands with its vistas of terraced hillsides and colorfully dressed indigenous women to Godinez which is a small community in Solola. Here we will visit the Safe Homes for Children orphanage. We will play with the children, teach them new games and fun songs, and spend some quality time with them. Afterward we will retire to our hotel for dinner and an overnight.
Day 4 – (Mon) July 24th: PANAJACHEL / LAKE ATITLAN (WATERS OF MORMON)
Today we drive into the highlands past precarious mountainside farms that seem to defy gravity as they cling to steep slopes. We also drive past the waterfall that Freiberg used in his painting of Alma baptizing at the Waters of Mormon. Our travels will take us to breathtaking Lake Atitlan, considered by some to be the most beautiful lake in the world and believed by many to be the waters of Mormon. This lake is fed by springs of pure water (Mosiah 23:4), is very beautiful (Mosiah 18:30), and has a submerged ruin today called Samabaj in the area of Santiago Atitlan – that dates to the same time period as the City of Jerusalem that was covered by water during the destruction that accompanied Christ’s visit to the Americas (3 Ne 9:7). We will take a boat ride on the lake, stop for a few moments in a beautiful and peaceful setting, and contemplate “how beautiful are they [the waters and forests of Mormon] to the eyes of them who there came to a knowledge of their Redeemer” (Mosiah 18:30). We will consider the many lives that may have been changed in this area anciently, then discuss the elements of our own true conversion. Afterward we will visit the San Buenaventura nature reserve to feed the spider monkeys and coati mundis and hike its trails and suspension bridges. For the adventurous members of the group we will join a zip line tour (optional) that zigzags across the ravine for some of the most exhilarating and breathtaking vistas you can imagine of the lake below. Afterward we will return to our hotel for dinner and overnight stay.
Day 5 – (Tues) July 25th: EL CHAYAL / BALNEARIO
After breakfast and check-out we will transfer back across the country to Jalapa, in eastern Guatemala. En route we will stop briefly aprox. 20 km northeast of the capital at El Chayal (“obsidian” in the Kakchikel Maya language), the most important obsidian mine in the Mayan world. Over many years, vast quantities of black obsidian were mined at El Chayal and later chiseled and formed into arrow and spear points, axe and knife blades, and related cutting devices and tools. John Sorensen, a Book of Mormon scholar has proposed that El Chayal is Onidah, the place of arms mentioned as a gathering place for the Lamanite armies (Alma 47:5). Afterward we will transfer to the Balneario Los Chorros, to bath and relax at its water pools. Afterward, we will continue our journey to Copan crossing the Honduran border before checking into our hotel for dinner and an overnight stay.
Day 6 – (Wed) July 26th: THE RUINS OF COPAN / ROSALILA PYRAMID
This morning we visit the breathtaking Ruins of Copan, a major Mayan ceremonial complex. It has been said that Tikal is like New York City and Copan is like Paris. The explored ruins of Copan have been featured in many archaeological studies and articles. We will see the great Hieroglyphic Stairway, the longest single written inscription in Pre-Columbian America. This artifact is said to be the Star of David or Solomon’s seal and is a Mayan sculpture of a bearded man. The “Rosalila” Pyramid is a near perfect Mayan ball court, the large and small museums, and a sculpture of a jaguar that looks like the twin brother of BYU’s own Cosmo – immortalized like a charging running back on Copan’s stony wall. Copan rose to prominence during the Classic Maya period, after the close of the Book of Mormon, in large part due to its tributary control of the trade routes on the Motagua river, although its early history shows Olmec influence, the earliest known civilization of Mesoamerica, thought by many Book of Mormon scholars to be the Jaredite civilization (Ether). Copan was the center of a dynasty that ruled the Maya kingdom for over 400 years and today is marked for its majestic art and hieroglyphs. The skill, time, and effort taken to carve these hieroglyphs in stone is remarkable and inspiring. These glyphs have endured the test of time and compel us to remember that these regal but desolate ruins are ruins, because they ‘forgot Him’. We will take some time to contemplate why it is important for us to “remember” and reflect on some eternal truths that we must never forget (Helaman 12). Afterward we will take a tour of the mountain valley on horseback and then return to our hotel for dinner and an overnight stay.
Day 7 – (Thurs) July 27th: QUIRIGUA (ZARAHEMLA) / FLORES, GUATEMALA
Today we travel across the Rio Dulce and visit the ruins of Quirigua. When John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood explored Quirigua in 1840, the Times and Seasons (edited by the Prophet Joseph Smith) published the following statement: “We are not going to declare positively that the ruins of Quirigua are those of Zarahemla” but then added that it would be difficult to “prove that the ruins of the city in question are not one of those referred to in the Book of Mormon.” This Times and Seasons Vol. III published at Nauvoo in Oct. 1842 suggested that Quirigua was the City of Zarahemla because of its proximity to a prominent river (Alma 6:7) and detailed stone inscriptions (Omni 1:20-21). Of course, we know from archaeological excavations today that the site was occupied principally from the 5th Century AD to the 9th Century AD after the close of the Book of Mormon but the extravagant, larger than life stela at the site remind us that power and pride precede destruction (2 Nephi 26:10-11). Quirigua is the site of the tallest, most intricate, and most distinctive monuments of the Mayan Empire – including Stela E, which is over 35 feet tall and weighs 65 tons. The stone depiction of dignitaries dressed in tall decorated headdresses (almost matching the height of the man himself) reminds us of Mormon’s question, “…why do ye adorn yourselves with that which hath no life” (Mormon 8:39) and Moroni’s declaration “pride hath proven their destruction” (Moroni 8:27). We will take a moment to ponder the principle of pride – as pronounced by prophets both ancient and modern. We will transfer to Rio Dulce and take a boat ride on the Gulfette and on the Rio Dulce. Afterward, we will return to our dock and check into our hotel for dinner and an overnight there.
Day 8 – (Fri) July 28th: RUINS OF TIKAL
Today we visit the incomparable ruins of Tikal. These ruins reveal the Mayan civilization in its greatest splendor – being among the most famous, extensive, and breathtaking of all ancient architecture. We will visit the Great Plaza to hear part of King Benjamin’s sermon spoken from the top of a pyramid yet heard across the entire plaza. We will also see Temple I, Temple II, the Lost World Pyramid, and the largely unexcavated 230-foot Temple IV, the reference point from which the Mayan day keepers marked the sacred dates on their agricultural calendar. We will also describe and discuss the significance of the celestial serpent on Lintel 3 found inside the chambers of the temple shrine atop Temple IV associated with the feathered serpent worshipped by the Maya. The source of this important Creator God whose motif is found at many ceremonial sites across Mesoamerica is considered by Book of Mormon scholars to be Jehovah or Jesus Christ the Creator, Healer and Savior of all those who receive Him (Num. 21:8-9, John 3:14-15). We will consider the importance of our relationship with Jesus Christ and the constant need to keep our eyes focused on Him as our fixed point of reference eternally (Alma 33:19-22). This is also where George Lucas shot a scene of the rebel moon base on Yavin 4 for his famous Star Wars film. Back in the Central Acropolis, we will sit on an ancient judgment throne, marvel at palace floor plans, and sit on the edge of an ancient stone bed. We will envision the lifeless body of Alma the Younger laying upon a bed that must have been very similar to this one for three days before coming to his physical and spiritual senses. We will take some time to ponder our own position to the question “Have ye . . . been born of God” (Alma 5:14)? Afterward we will join the Tikal Canopy tour, time permitting, for those interested in a zip line tour. We will check-in at our hotel for dinner and an overnight.
Day 9 – (Sat) July 29th: NEW RIVER / LAMANAI
Today we will transfer to the Belizean border at Melchor de Mencos and cross this beautiful country to Orange Walk on the New River. We take a boat upriver to the archaeological site of Lamanai which is proposed by etymologists to mean “submerged crocodile” in the Yucatec Mayan language. Interestingly, the name of this site is recognized by Book of Mormon scholars as a cognate of Laman or Lamoni, important names of Lamanite kings in the Book of Mormon. According to an early 16th Century AD Catholic church records at the site, Lamanai is thought to be one of the few Maya sites for which the ancient name has been preserved. At Lamanai, we will discuss the meaning of the Mayan world tree or tree of life as it relates to their understanding of the physical and spiritual worlds. We will relate the world tree to Lehi and Nephi’s dreams (1 Nephi 8:10 and 11:7) to gain a better understanding of what the tree of life represents to us and how we can partake of the love of God which brings joy and purpose to our lives. We return by boat down river to our waiting bus and transfer to Corozal for dinner and an overnight stay at our hotel.
Day 10 – (Sun) July 30th: CERROS / TULUM
After breakfast we will visit the local LDS church for sacrament meeting and then return to our hotel for check-out. Next, we continue up the coast of Quintana Roo to the ceremonial city of Tulum, a late Post Classic Maya city (1200 AD to 1600 AD) built on the edge of a 12 meter cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Although Tulum does not date to the times of the Book of Mormon, it is interesting to note that it was conserved as a religious center for Mayan priests. We will visit the El Castillo temple, the Temple of the Frescoes, and the Temple of the Descending and Diving God, associated with Kukulkan, the feathered serpent, and the Venus deity worshipped throughout Mesoamerica and considered by Book of Mormon scholars today to be Jesus Christ. Interestingly, Venus is one of the morning and evening stars, another title of Jesus Christ. We will recall the eye witness account of Christ appearance as the resurrected Lord God to his people at the temple in Bountiful after his ascension at Jerusalem (3 Nephi 11:7-11). Afterward we will transfer to our hotel in Playa del Carmen for check-in and a farewell party and dinner before saying “adios” to those who have helped to create many unforgettable memories. We will overnight at our hotel
Day 11 – (Mon) July 31st: FLY HOME!
After breakfast and check-out we will transfer to the Cancun international airport for our return flight to the U.S. Buen Viaje!
(All Inclusive hotel packages)
For all those interested in staying one or more days after our tour to enjoy the many activities and amenities of the Mexican Riviera, ask us for information about our special discounts for all inclusive, all-you-can-eat resort packages that offer a wide variety of activities such as paddle boats, wind surfing, sailing, snorkeling, swimming, sunbathing, miniature golf, 3-hole golf, ping pong, basketball, water and beach volleyball, water and beach front aerobics, and evening entertainment.
Depending on length of stay, you might choose to participate in other attractions and excursions such as swimming with dolphins and other marine animals, parasailing, wave runners, 4-runners, scuba and snorkeling, jungle zip line or excursions to Chichen Itza, Xcaret, Coba, Cenote Ikil, etc.
This 11 day/10 night Book of Mormon geography tour package price is $3,393 per person (based on double occupancy) and includes ground and water transportation (excludes international airfare), bilingual LDS guide, park and museum entrance fees, hotel accommodations, breakfasts, dinners, tips, and taxes. Not included would be the extra ‘optional’ activities mentioned in the itinerary (zip lines, etc.)