Far Horizons explores Maya cities

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FLORES, Guatemala -- A six-month pursuit of looters of Maya antiquities in Guatemala led to the recovery of a 600-pound, carved-stone altar taken from the ancient site of Cancuen in the remote area of Petex-Batun, south of Tikal.

"This is marvelous news," said Mary Del Lucas, president of Far Horizons and an archaeologist. "The excitement created by the successful capture of the looters and the retrieval of this Maya altar masterpiece will heighten our travelers' sense of discovery."

Cancuen is one of the Maya sites included on Far Horizons' nine-night Lost Cities of the Maya tour, departing on April 5.

Federico Fahsen, co-director and epigrapher of the Cancuen archaeological project, will accompany the tour. Fahsen was also Guatemala's first secretary of tourism and was ambassador to the U.S. from 1983 to 1985.

Following a first night in Guatemala City, tour members drive to Quirigua, a lovely site containing the tallest and most intricately carved monuments in the Maya world, followed by an overnight at the Banana Palm Lodge at the edge of Lake Izabal.

At Dos Pilas, archaeologists continue to discover stone stelae - providing clues to the Maya civilization. On the second day, travelers visit the Candelaria Cave, one of many in the region the Maya people consider to be the dwelling place of underworld gods. There they'll see ceramics and petroglyphs left by past worshipers.

From here it is an all-day trip to Cancuen. Presently, a U.S. team from Vanderbilt University is conducting the first large-scale site excavations at Cancuen, in cooperation with Guatemalan archaeologists and the National Geographic Society.

Ceibal is the next ceremonial center on this Maya route, and from a bungalow complex at the site, travelers for two days set out to explore the center's finely carved stelae, watch flocks of scarlet macaws in flight and take a one-day journey by foot or horseback through the jungle to Dos Pilas. The trip is six miles roundtrip.

Capital of the Petex-Batun, the city's temples were protected by fortifications and stones inscribed with long texts of Maya history.

A boat ride provides access to the fortress-like ruins of Aguateca en route to a two-night stay in the Tikal National Park to tour the towering temples built by Maya kings, enjoy the rich wildlife and visit the park's two museums.

The tour returns to Guatemala City for the final night and a gala dinner, one of many features of this all-inclusive program.

The per person, double, cost of $3,995 covers air fare from Houston to Guatemala City and all land arrangements.

Far Horizons can customize this tour and other cultural Central American itineraries for FIT arrangements.

For information, call Far Horizons at (800) 552-4575 or visit www.farhorizons.com.

To contact reporter Carla Hunt, send e-mail to [email protected].

Ladatco tour crosses borders

GUATEMALA CITY -- The Mundo Maya Organization is a group charged with making it easier to travel along the Route of the Maya. U.S. tour operators are offering multicountry tours that journey along the route, traveling the new roads connecting ancient sites.

For example, Ladatco Tours is offering a new 15-night program, the Best of Mundo Maya, which travels overland between Tikal in Guatemala and Caracol in Belize, and between Copan in Honduras and Quirigua in Guatemala.

Departures are weekly on Wednesdays from Honduras. Visit www.ladatco.com. -- C.H.

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