The Real Deal: Round-trip airfare, six nights' accommodations, motor coach transportation, and guided tours from $970 per person — plus taxes of $232.
When: Through Dec. 9, 2007, and Jan. 1-Mar. 31, 2008; add $250 for Dec. 10-31, 2007.
Gateways: Miami; add $198 for Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Houston, L.A., New York City, and D.C; $230 for San Francisco; $290 for Chicago, San Juan (Puerto Rico); additional cities available.
The fine print: Round-trip airfare, six nights' accommodations, hotel taxes and service charges, breakfast daily, bus transportation, entrance fees, and the services of English-speaking tour guides. Airport taxes and fuel surcharges are an additional 24 percent ($232). Departures are Sundays and Wednesdays only. Prices are per person, based on double occupancy. Single supplement is $450. Additional nights are $53 per person for a double room and $97 for a single. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.
Book by: No deadline; based on availability.
Contact: Tara Tours, 800/327-0080, taratours.com.
Why it's a deal: According to a recent search on Sidestep, the lowest round-trip fares between Miami and Guatemala City in early December are $353 (American). With six nights' accommodations at the assigned hotels, valued at $361 per person, your DIY total would be $714 per person. In comparison, for $970, or about $103 per day, Tara Tours provides airfare, six night's accommodations, including breakfast and hotel taxes, all ground transportation, entrance fees for select attractions, and the services of an English-speaking tour guide, plus the convenience of one-stop shopping.
Trip details: The new Mayan Express package includes round-trip airfare to Guatemala City on an American Airlines carrier. You'll hop on a bus for the 45-minute ride to Antigua, where you'll check into the 77-room Porta Antigua for a three-night stay.
With its cobblestoned streets, well-preserved 16th- and 17th-century churches and mansions, and charming street cafés, Antigua feels like a European town transported to the midst of Central America. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Antigua is full of relics of its colonial past, such as monasteries and convents, which you'll visit on an included guided sightseeing tour.
Next comes a trip to Chichicastenango, a white stucco mountain town about two hours by bus from Antigua. Vendors from all over the country gather here every Thursday and Sunday to take part in the region's most famous indigenous handicraft market, renowned for high-quality textiles and traditional dance masks made from hand-carved wood. Beyond browsing the market, you'll also explore nearby attractions, such as the 400-year-old Church of Santo Tomas. You'll stay overnight at the Maya Inn, located in the heart of town.
From Chichicastenango you'll travel by bus for two or three hours to Guatemala City, making a brief stop along the way in the village of Panajachel, on the shore of Lake Atitlán. You're free to check out the city on your own; you might start would be in the central Plaza Mayor and then to make your way to the Palacio Nacional and the Catedral Metropolitana.
Tara Tours also offers a one-day trip to Tikal, the 2,000-year-old ceremonial center of the Mayan Empire, for $232 per person. You'll stay two nights at the 116-room Biltmore Express, located in the business and commercial district.
For more on tips on what to see and do, visit the official website of the Guatemalan Tourism Commission.
Known as the Land of Eternal Spring, Guatemala has average daytime temperatures between 64 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. That said, there are two distinct seasons: a rainy winter period from May to October and a dry, cool summer from November thorough April. Travelers might find April and May a bit too hot and humid. The best time to visit is December and January, when the temperatures begin to cool off and there is still plenty of sunshine.
The package's valid travel dates are during the fall, when temperatures average in the 50s and 60s Fahrenheit. Before you go, check the weather forecast, the exchange rate, and the local time at BudgetTravel.com.
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.