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Chiapas: The Mayan World: November 11-20, 2017

Overview

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Chiapas is an enigma – perhaps the most beautiful state in Mexico, an area rich in natural resources, yet many of it’s inhabitants, descendants of the ancient Maya, are among the poorest in Mexico. It’s a fascinating, exciting place to visit and photograph:  One can expect to see wildly beautiful landscapes, rich and mysterious indigenous cultures, the colonial charm of the town of San Cristobal de las Casas, and exotic Mayan ruins. 

While this gem of an area is little known by most outsiders, Chiapas is home to more than one million indigenous people, most of whom are descendants of the ancient Mayans. Each of the eight principal Mayan groups in the state has its own language, beliefs and customs. This high indigenous presence and the cultural variety it entails are among the most fascinating aspects of Chiapas. We will do our best to explore and photograph the various manifestations of the Mayan culture during our stay here.

We’ll begin our journey in the bustling lowland capitol of Tuxtla Gutierrez. There we’ll travel by boat on the Rio Grijalva to visit breathtaking Sumidero Canyon. While we’re on the river we’ll photograph the dramatic 3,000 foot cliffs, as well as birdlife and hopefully crocodiles along the shore. After our river trip we’ll take a short drive up into a different world in the pine-forested mountains to the colonial gem of San Cristobal de las Casas. That will be our base for most of the trip and we’ll visit the most beautiful colonial churches and sites in San Cristobal.    

Our group will also explore nearby traditional Maya villages, where many of the ancient beliefs are carried on to this day.   We’ll visit fascinating San Juan Chamula, a town of about 3,000 inhabitants which supports a community of about 80,000 Chamulans, most of whom live on small farms in the surrounding mountains. Here the people have fiercely hung on to their ancient beliefs and to step inside their church is to step back centuries in time.   As you enter, thousands of flickering candles, thick copal incense, and worshippers kneeling with their faces to the pine needle carpeted floor creates a powerful impression. You will witness numerous healers performing age-old ceremonies on the floor of the church. We’ll then continue on to the weaving village of Zinacantan, where we’ll visit and photograph families who weave some of the most beautiful textiles in the Mayan world. 

We’ll then descend from the cool mountains down to the tropical lowlands to visit Palenque, home to perhaps the most beautiful of all Mayan archeological sites. On the way we’ll visit the beautiful Cascadas de Agua Azul. There we’ll photograph the turquoise waters with numerous cascades (and go swimming if you wish) as villagers approach to sell us local grown fruit.  More adventure and incredible photo opps await while visiting ancient Palenque.  This area stands at the point where the hills rise out of the Gulf Coast plain and the dense jungle covering these hills forms an evocative backdrop to the exquisite Maya architecture.

From there, our group ventures farther off the beaten track, and into the Lacandon Jungle to visit the isolated ruins at Yaxchilan and Bonampak. To visit the ancient Maya city of Yaxchilan, our group will travel by boat down the Usamacinta River, separating Chiapas from Guatemala.  We’ll have the opportunity to view and photograph the colorful murals at Bonampak and the impressive Misol Ha waterfalls is a welcomed stop as we make our way back to San Cristobal.  This exhilarating journey will be topped off with a image-sharing party and celebration dinner.  

Itinerary Chiapas: The Mayan World
Day 1:
(Nov 11)

Flights arrive into Tuxtla Gutierrez, the capitol of the state of Chiapas.  From the airport, you'll be transferred up into the mountains, to the beautiful colonial town of San Cristobal de las Casas, nestled in a valley surrounded by pine-forests. You will check into our hotel, and that evening we'll have introductions and an orientation before our welcome dinner. We will spend the night in San Cristobal de las Casas.

1
Day 2:

In the morning we'll go with our local guide on a walking tour of some of the most photogenic colonial churches and neighborhoods in San Cristobal.  Our group sets off for a photo shoot of some local Mayan people, and sure  to capture interesting images in the late afternoon light. We'll spend the night in San Cristobal de las Casas.

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Day 3:

After breakfast we drive to the shore of the Rio Grijalva, where we'll board our private boat  to take  a photographic river cruise through breathtaking Sumidero Canyon.   Here’s your chance to photograph  towering 3,000 foot cliffs, crocodiles (hopefully) and birdlife.   There’s free time after lunch, then in the late afternoon the group heads out to shoot the last light on the nearby Cathedral and local Maya people.  We'll spend the night in San Cristobal de las Casas.

3
Day 4:

On this day we'll visit a nearby traditional Maya village, San Juan Chamula where the steadfastly cling to their ancient Mayan beliefs.   In the church, where photos are unfortunately not allowed, we can witness traditional healers carrying on timeless Mayan ceremonies.   Then, one last photo shoot awaits in the late afternoon in San Cristobal.  After dinner those who want to, will go for a cold refreshment at Bar Revolucion, a favorite watering-hole for writers, poets, artists, travelers, fire-jugglers, revolutionaries, musicians, Zapatistas, beatniks, hippies, and yes - photographers too. They are sure to have an eclectic line-up of live music to enjoy.  We'll spend the night in San Cristobal de las Casas.

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Day 5:

Today we'll visit nearby Zinacantan, a traditional Mayan village slightly more part of the modern world than Chamula. We'll also have some free time in San Cristobal to take photos, shop or rest. We'll spend the night in San Cristobal de las Casas.

5
Day 6:

After breakfast we'll depart for Palenque, with a stop on the way to visit and photograph the gorgeous Las Cascadas de Agua Azul (blue waters with multiple cascades) as well as some local villagers.   The afternoon offers free time in Palenque, then it’s off to dinner near the hotel.   The restaurant and hotel are in a heavily wooded area in the La Canada section of Palenque, serenity away from the hustle and bustle of the main town.   We'll spend the night in Palenque.

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Day 7:

Around 8 a.m. we'll arrive at the exquisite Mayan ruins at Palenque when the gates are opened and when the temples are sometimes still wrapped in photogenic morning mist. We'll have a guided tour of the site and some free time to wander among the ruins and along the stream that runs through the site. Our group will then visit the museum to see exquisite stone carvings of the ancient rulers, and there will also be an optional trip back to the ruins for the last hour they are open.  Dinner will be enjoyed at El Panchan, a famous destination in the international travelers scene. We'll spend the night in Palenque.

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Day 8:

We'll depart early in the morning to venture to the less-visited Mayan sites of Yaxchilan and Bonampak. After a hearty breakfast en route, we'll board our boat for the one hour journey on the Usamacinta River, which separates Chiapas from Guatemala.   Extraordinary photo opps await us at Yaxchilan, the ancient Mayan kingdom with it's jungle setting on the river.  After lunch we'll explore Bonampak, famous for its colorful stone murals, with much of the original paint intact, depicting warriors and other facets of Mayan life.   Tonight is spent in Palenque.

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Day 9:

Following breakfast, the group sets out to visit and photograph the mighty Misol Ha waterfalls!  During times of low rain and good weather the pool at the base of the falls is an excellent swimming option. Your afternoon is free afternoon to go to town, rest, download images, etc.   This evening our group will enjoy a final dinner and image-sharing party.  For our farewell dinner we'll go to El Panchan, the famous hangout of the Palenque archeologists, and now a favorite destination in the international travelers’ scene. Those with enough energy can stay for the popular fire-juggling show. We'll spend the night in Palenque.

9
Day 10:

Everyone is transported to the airport in Villahermosa for flights back home.


Leaders

Jim Cline

Jim Cline

Jim Cline, (founder and trip leader), is an award-winning cultural documentary and travel photographer based in San Diego, California. Jim is known for his willingness to shoot all around the edges of light, creating images with tremendous impact that capture the essence of a place or culture. He always strives to transcend ordinary travel pictures, and to convey a strong sense of place, and the spirit of the people in his photographs.

Jim’s wanderlust and search for compelling images has brought him to many less-traveled areas around the world. He takes particular interest in the indigenous peoples and traditional and tribal cultures of developing nations, and in documenting these disappearing cultures. Through his images he strives to portray the dignity and timeless beauty of these people living in harmony with nature.

As well as winning numerous awards, Jim’s work has been displayed in the San Diego Natural History Museum and the Museum of Photographic Arts, and in many galleries, both in the U.S. and abroad. He gives frequent slide presentation lectures of his travels throughout the world. Jim and his photographs have been featured in several books. His images have also been published in numerous magazines, newspapers, annual reports, tourist brochures, calendars, websites, and CD covers. Jim founded Jim Cline Photo Tours in 2002 and he currently leads small-group photo tours to various locations around Latin America.  

When not busy running his Photo tours business and leading trips to the best photographic locations in Latin America, Jim works on assignment as a photographer for humanitarian organizations. His images have graced the covers of annual reports  for groups such as Freedom From Hunger, and have appeared on websites, brochures, postcards and other mediums promoting their efforts around the globe.


E-mail:  Jim@jimcline.com
Phone: 858-350-1314
Mob. phone: 858-692-2045

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T&Cs

Cost includes: airport transfers, all 9 nights hotel accommodations, all ground transport, all breakfasts and dinners, one lunch, boat trips at Sumidero Canyon and Yaxchilan, entrance-fees at tourist sites, model fees, and English-speaking local guides.

Cost does not include: international flights, passport & visas fees, travel insurance, vaccinations and medical cover/treatment, meals not specified, tips to guides, drivers and bellboys, and personal expenses such as alcoholic beverages/snacks, internet access fees, laundry fees, etc.

Deposit and Final Payment

A deposit of $800 per person is required at time of booking. Full payment is due 90 days prior to departure.

Cancellation

On cancellations more than 120 days prior to departure, all monies are refunded less a $275 administrative fee.

  • Less than 120 but at least 90 days prior, total deposit amount is forfeited.
  • Less than 90 but at least 75 days prior, 50% of trip price is forfeited.
  • Less than 75 days prior to departure, 100% is forfeited.

Notification by phone or email is acceptable, but please follow with written notice. In the unlikely event we have to cancel a tour, a full refund will be given.

RESPONSIBILITY

Jim Cline Photo Tours LLC and their agents act only in the capacity as agents in all matters pertaining to hotel accommodations, sightseeing tours, and transportation, and are not responsible for any loss, damage, theft, or injury to person or property resulting from a defect in any vehicle, or the actions of any persons who provide services for this tour or for the action or inaction of any third party. Baggage is at the owner’s risk entirely. The tour operator reserves the right to withdraw the tour at any time, to decline any person as a member of the tour for any cause at any time. All prices are based on current rates of exchange and, while every effort will be made to hold them firm, they are subject to change. All participants are required to submit a signed Assumption of Risk and Release of Liability form prior to the tour’s departure.

HEALTH

It is the responsibility of each tour member to inform the tour operator of any possible health problems or handicaps upon registration. By forwarding a signed reservation form and trip deposit, you certify that you do not knowingly have any physical or other conditions of disability that would create a risk for you or other trip participants. Once a trip has been confirmed, medical circumstances will not be considered as exceptions to our cancellation policy. We assume no responsibility for medical care or for special dietary requirements.

TRIP INSURANCEE

To allow for any unexpected contingencies, all participants are strongly urged to purchase trip cancellation and interruption insurance.

ITINERARY

While Jim Cline Photo Tours LLC endeavors to make the itinerary as accurate as possible, it should be considered as an approximate schedule of activities rather than a rigid schedule of events. Trip itineraries are subject to revision due to weather, ocean or trail conditions, government restrictions, and other reasons beyond our control. The tour leader has the right to make changes in the published itinerary whenever in his sole judgment conditions warrant, or if he deems it necessary for the comfort or safety of the tour.

Country Info

Mexico

Mexico

Health Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) website.  To see whether this country is currently affected by Malaria click here.  The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.

Money:  Mexican currency is called peso.  Currency exchange rates

Visa, MasterCard and American Express cards can be used to obtain cash easily from ATMs in Mexico, and are accepted for payment by some restaurants and stores. In addition to major credit cards, bank cards, such as those on the Cirrus and Plus systems, can be used to withdraw pesos from ATMs. The exchange rate that banks use for ATM withdrawals is generally better than the ‘tourist rate’ for currency exchange, though you may be subject to extra handling fees, interest charges and other banks fees.

Internet Access: WiFi hotspots are widely available across Mexico, and even in some of the more rural areas. Many of the hotels we'll be staying at offer WiFi access to guests.  

Electricity in Mexico: Converters & Adapters Required

Visa ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: All U.S. citizens including children are required to present a valid passport or passport card for travel into Mexico.  All U.S. citizens aged 16 or older must present a valid U.S. passport book to return to the United States via an international flight. All U.S. citizens aged 16 or older traveling outside of the United States by air, land or sea (except closed-loop cruises) are required to present a Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) compliant document such as a passport book or a passport card to return to the United States. Travelers with passports that are found to be washed, mutilated or damaged may be turned away at the time of departure, by an airline staff (it happened to an acquaintance) or refused entry to Mexico or return to the United States.   All U.S. citizen travelers should apply for a U.S. passport well in advance of anticipated travel.  For the latest entry requirements, contact the Embassy of Mexico, Washington, DC 20006, telephone (202) 736-1600.

FAQs

Concerning photo equipment to maximize the photo opps on this tour, what is suggested? A digital SLR (or Micro 4/3) camera with lenses offering a focal length from wide (24mm or wider) to telephoto (100mm or longer), a circular polarizing filter for scenic shots, and a laptop or notebook computer running image viewing software. Additionally we strongly recommend a back-up device such as a portable external hard drive.
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Testimonials

"The trip was fantastic and truly exceeded my expectations.  Jim is a very friendly and knowledgeable individual, who tries to help everyone in the group regardless of photographic knowledge.  He was always attentive to the needs of the group and did an outstanding job.  Jim was very helpful with camera settings and spent considerable amount of time assisting tour participants when photographing various scenes.  He also did a great job to select for us indigenous people to photograph in the street and at their home.  Every time I am out photographing with Jim my photograph improves. Having said that, I learned more from Jim on this trip vs. the previous trips I've been on. He is very detail oriented and he runs his tours like clockwork.  For all these reasons, I can recommend this trip for photo tours in the Americas." -Javier Montiel, participant 2013

 

“Many thanks again for a great trip.  Jim really went all out to make the trip special in so many ways, and I recognize him for the attention to detail that he appears to specialize in.  The choice of restaurants was great as well.  I am already looking forward to Guatemala [my next Jim Cline Photo Tours trip].”  -Polly Rogers (2013)

 

"I would rate this trip a 10 as it exceeded my expectations and feel that it is good value for the cost.  The restaurants were fine, I enjoyed photographing the models, and definitely got some great shots."  -Alan Barber, participant 2013

 

“Thanks for putting together a first rate photo tour.   I can't imagine a more thorough nor more enjoyable journey to Chiapas.  But beyond the photography, you gave us a cultural and visual adventure that will long be treasured.  I enjoyed the wonderful diversity of locations, culture, food and traveling companions.  It was a spectacularly fun and productive trip.  The hotels were clean, comfortable and well located, the restaurants were excellent, the size of our group was perfect.  And the itinerary was well selected as to time, subject and location.  Jim did a great job; he was there to help if needed and knew when to let go of the leash.  I'm already looking forward to my next adventure on a Jim Cline tour.  If anyone asked, I would suggest one of their photo tours.”  -Ron Smith (2012)

 

“The trip was "fantastic" ...every aspect was quite good and well planned, organized and executed.   It was an incredible photographic experience, beyond my greatest expectations.  Critical to our enjoyment was the meticulous attention to planning, organization and execution regarding your selection of the quality hotel accommodations, restaurants and local guides.  The combination of your proficiency with the Spanish language and interpersonal skills, resulted with a unique inter-action with the local people and many fabulous photo opportunities throughout our journey.  Now, I realize why you have attracted so many repeat participants from your other amazing tours, as was evident with your Chiapas venue.

The distinct opportunity to enter and take photos in your friends' homes in Zinacatan and climbing high-up the pyramid to photograph the exquisite wall murals of Bonapak were unique and exceptional highlights of entire journey.

The structure of tour was well balanced between the formal tour segments and free time.   Your judgment is very sound, because of your understanding of group's characteristics and various needs and previous tour experiences.

Both hotels were clean & comfortable and provided more that adequate services and facilities. plus the staff a both hotels took pride with accommodating their guests..  The Palenque Hotel’s full service restaurant featured good quality food in a clean and pleasant atmosphere, and the full service bar was a positive thing.   All the restaurants [we also went to] were very good - food quality, clean, service and atmosphere.  

[About the local guides on this trip...one and/or both of them]  provided very good insight into the local historical and cultural aspects of the towns; were exceptionally receptive to answering questions; extremely creative & animated with tour presentation, entertaining, knowledgeable of the historical and archeological significance of Palenque.

The photo opportunities exceeded my expectations and Jim] helped me improve my level of understanding of my camera and some of the basics of its tool box and the introduction to some of the critical aspect of light. The tour was worthwhile from a photographic learning and entertainment experience.  I captured some good images relative to my particular level of experience, plus Jim’s constructive input and this unique photographic experience will definitely help me in my future endeavors. I was very impressed by the creative and artistic abilities of the other participants, all of whom have benefitted from their experiences with your previous tours.  The show and tell session prior to each dinner was beneficial and enhanced experience.  Every chance I get I would  recommend taking a Jim Cline photo tour!”  -Chap Solomon, Mountain View, California (2012)

 

"This was a great trip!   It was well organized: What was planned was accomplished!  I had a good experience at all restaurants and really loved the variety...I [also] loved the villages!  The local guides were wonderful and really connected with the group.  My main concern is to become a better photographer and Jim has certainly been helping with that!  My photography likely improved [evident by the fact] I’m taking fewer pictures but getting more good one.  This tour presents a wonderful opportunity to see an area that is often overlooked by travelers.   I only wish the trip had been longer.”  -Ann Thompson  (2012)

 

“This is my second time traveling with you, and as before, I had a MARVELOUS time.  Your planning and execution of the itinerary is EXCELLENT.  Your knowledge of the area and the personal relationships with the people there truly make your trips exceptional.    It all adds up to a truly enjoyable travel and photographic experience.  Thus, I always highly recommend you to anyone with interest in the areas that you visit. I'll look forward to traveling with you again at some point in time.  Thank you!”  -Rita Florea (2012)

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