Rio Usumacinta and Mayan Heritage 10 Day Tour

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Sights and sounds foreign to our experience excite the senses and stimulate curiosity. After night falls, the rhythmic droning of tree frogs give way to the deep roars of howler monkeys and soon the raucous cries of parrots greet the misty dawn. Shifting patterns of green and red accompany the labored wing beat of the scarlet macaw.

Over a thousand years ago, these shores teemed with  human life. The Rio Usumacinta and her tributaries watched the rise and fall of Maya civilization. From 200 A.D. to 900 A.D. great cities and ceremonial centers arose in the jungle, the sacred river of the monkey god serving as their highway and method of commerce. Giant cayucos carved from the sacred ceiba tree loaded with goods, tools, crafts and even slaves made their way up and down the tree laden meanders of the Usumacinta.

Dynasties  flourished and spread their influence, only to experience the ultimate disappointment of power: decadence, decline, decay and demise. Experts claim that by 1000 A.D the great cities of the Maya were all but abandoned, mysteriously bringing to a close a civilization whose cities housed and estimated 15-20 million people and whose sphere of influence and power stretched from modern day Nicaragua to the American Southwest.

Our journey takes us to two epicenters of the mayan world–the capitols of the powerful jungle city-states of Yaxchilan and Piedras Negras. These sites have contributed immensely to our understanding of mayan culture, daily life, and their writing system.  Our itinerary allows for a full day of exploration at each of these fascinating jungle ruins.

No perfect river trip would be complete without whitewater. The first portion of this trip is typified by lazy currents, large meanders and eddies, and patient observation of the rainforest around us for any intriguing flora or fauna that might present itself. The last few days of the trip present us with high volume class II-III rapids, whirlpools and powerful eddy lines.

Two major canyons guard this stretch of the Usumacinta and accompany our exit from the river.  The San Jose and San Josecito canyon’s large pockmarked limestone walls tower at heights of up to 2000 ft and secretly covet swaths of inaccessible virgin rainforest. The channel narrows to a fraction of its normal width, and the usumacinta roars as it funnels down through these narrow confines.

The maya considered these gorges to be the entrance to Xibalba, their underworld. You will remember the canyons as a stirring finale to one of the most exciting and stimulating trips of your life.

At times we will offer special dates that will be accompanied by Professor Phil Alldritt of the University of New Mexico!

Phil Alldritt is a Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology at the University of New Mexico -Taos since 2000. Traveling with a U.S Treasury permits for research and Education he has conducted 62 trips to Cuba since 1999 focusing on the historical architecture of Havana, Cienfuegos, and Trinidad. He is a professional guide for Belize and Guatemala and is a Belizean National Tour guide Instructor since 1985. He is a professional archaeologist and work on projects for National Geographic in Belize (1987-1989)  and Guatemala (1993). Also, he was a tour guide for Caiman Expeditions guiding the Mayan ruins and raft guiding the Usumacinta (1987-1989). He lived in Belize for 6 years has a Master’s Degree in Latin American Studies from the University of Arizona. He is speaking fluent Spanish and has completed guide training in Belize, Guatemala and Cuba

2020 Usumacinta Dates: Feb 19-27, March 6-15

Double Occupancy: $2,100/person

Single Occupancy: $2,300/person

Rio Shumul-ja full day available before or after your trip! $150/person.

This is one of the best one day raft trips in the world!


The first group of 3 or more to book can save 10%!

Call for info: 575-758-2628

*Custom dates available year around for groups of 6 or more*

Arrival: Please plan to arrive in Villahermosa the night before the trip and spend night at Quinta Real Villahermosa. Lodging this night is included in trip fare.

Day 1: Morning shuttle to Palenque, collect gear, explore town and visit Palenque Ruins.

Day 2: Leave Palenque early, visit Bonampak Mayan site and continue to Frontera Corizal. Spend night at cabins on the banks of the Usumacinta River.

Day 3: Launch river trip. Several hours of floating, lunch on the river, wildlife viewing and local agrarian landscapes. Enter Mayan Biosphere preserve and arrive at our camp at the Mayan city of Yaxilan.

Day 4: Layover day and exploration of Yaxchilan with local mayan guide.

Day 5: River day, keep an eye out for wildlife, especially Scarlet Macaws! Camp at Playa Grande or similar beach.

Day 6: River day. Camp at the late preclassic Mayan City of Piedras Negras. We are now deep in the Peten Wilderness of Guatemala.

Day 7: Layover at Piedras Negras, camp relaxation and guided exploration of Piedras Negras.

Day 8: River Day. Lunch and swimming in the 60 ft. travertine waterfalls at the confluence of the Busiljá and Usumacinta. Enter San Jose canyon and run our first high volume class III rapids. Camp between San Jose Grande and San Jose Chico.

Day 9: Run the last of the large rapids and exit canyon and wilderness. Picked up by motor boat and towed to take out. Shuttle back to Palenque. Direct to Villahermosa available upon request.

Day 10: Shuttle from Palenque to Villahermosa. Guided Service ends.

*Arrangements for a visit to Agua Azul and/or lodging in Villahermosa available upon request.


Get ready to pitch a tent, sling a hammock, throw down a pad, and relax! Every day we will prepare and serve you a delicious riverside lunch and our camp dinners and breakfasts are a classic staple of the Far Flung experience, as 40 years in business has not only taught us the principles of reading white-water…but also of cooking and camp ambiance!

***Please let us know ahead of time about any allergies or special food requirements***

Travel and Camp Gear:

Following is a list of required and recommend items for this multi-day tour through the heartland of southern Mexico and the jungles of the Mayan Empire.  As part of the trip we will provide waterproof drybags for all of your personal items, camp chairs for fireside relaxation and enjoyment, and tents and sleeping pads. We ask that your bring your own sleeping bags, or you may rent them from us for a fee.

Please click here to look at a more in-depth list of required and recommended gear:

International Trips Pack List

River Essentials:

  • The temperature and climate on the river will be that of low elevation tropical jungle. Although January is typically one of the drier months there is always a chance of rain. Being so, we recommend an ample supply of quick drying clothing, lightweight pants and long sleeve shirts for sun protection, a large hat, extra socks, and sandals with straps for the river and sneakers or hiking shoes for camp and side-hikes.
  • A few lightweight thermal layers for potential chilly nights.
  • A small amount of Cash and copy of your passport
  • Rain top and rain pants can be priceless in the jungle.
  • A large towel and a hand towel are great comfort items on a multi-day trip.
  • A book or magazine


  • If you don’t have a passport, we ask that you apply for one immediately in order to allow for ample time for processing and for you to receive it. If you do have a passport, find it and check the expiration date to see that it is valid for at least 6 months from the dates of this trip.
  • Please make a copy of the photo page of your passport and carry it separately from your passport. It is also a good idea to leave a copy with your emergency contact at home. We also request that you send us a copy to keep on file for emergencies during your trip. If your passport is lost or stolen, a photocopy will help the local consulate speed up authorization for replacement. It is recommended that you do not pack your passport in your checked luggage and instead carry it on your person during travel days in case you asked to present it for any reason.


Visas are not required for U.S. citizens to enter Mexico. If you are a non-U.S. citizen, please check with your consulate and communicate with us. We will require proof that you have received your visa no later than three-weeks prior to trip departure.

Your airline will give you a tourist card to complete while on your flight. Be sure that you have signed both copies of this form. Please have this document and your passport available for the customs officer. Keep your copy of this form in a safe place as it is often requested upon your departure from Mexico.

Mandatory Evacuation Insurance

We require that you purchase emergency medical evacuation insurance to participate in this expedition.

Call or visit Travel Insurance Services at 800-937-1387 for inexpensive options that cover this requirement. We strongly recommend that you protect yourself, your belongings, and your vacation through the purchase of a travel protection plan.

Please consult the following article or explore some different recommended provider options below:


  • All transport pertaining to trip logistics
  • All meals while on the river
  • All required safety and rafting gear
  • Professional guides and mayan site interpretation
  • Lunch on days 1 and 2
  • Hotel Lodging from arrival in Villahermosa to departure from Palenque post river trip
  • Farewell dinner in Palenque post river trip

Not included

  • Airfare
  • Guide tips and miscellaneous gratuities to locals (we recommend bringing between 2-3000 pesos in small bills on the river trip for miscellaneous tips)
  • Any Visa fees you might incur
  • Travel Insurance – including mandatory evacuation insurance
  • Any pre or post trip travel or activity arrangements
  • Dinner in Villahermosa after your arrival
  • Dinner in Palenque before departure for Frontera Corozal
  • Dinner in Frontera Corozal
  • Sleeping Bags (may be rented)
  • Alcohol (We will supply 3-4 beers/person/day on the river trip for those that request on the information form. There will also be wine and liquor. If you wish to communicate about this with us we can purchase any extra that you might want or do our best to accommodate special requests – either will incur additional fees.)


You should make arrangements to arrive in Villahermosa, Mexico the day before our departure for Palenque. Accommodations at the Quinta Real Villahermosa that night are covered by the trip cost. Dinner will be on your own that night and we recommend the great restaurant located in the hotel.

Final information with details regarding your hotel and a voucher for your transportation from the airport will be sent by email before your trip.


There are daily direct flights to and from Villahermosa International Airport (VSA) and Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) operated by United Airlines. There are also several flights that layover in Mexico City operated by Aeromexico and Delta.

Let us know if you’d like assistance with arranging your international flight logistics.

Please do not purchase airfare until your trip has been confirmed by the minimum number of required guests and you have paid your deposit.

January and February in the Peten region of southern Mexico are usually semi-dry and warm but with some chance of storms. In general, daytime highs can be expected to be from the mid-70’s to mid-90’s and nighttime lows in the 60’s and 70’s. Despite the general forecast of drier weather during the time of year that your trip will occur, it is always recommended to pack for afternoon thunderstorms and be prepared for the general dampness of jungle environs.


Your security, health and safety are our highest priorities on any of our trips, but we pay especially close attention to detail on our international excursions.

The Zapatista rebellion and Guatemalan civil war are now distant memories and any related violence is a long gone problem. A common concern for people visiting Mexico these days is drug cartel violence. It is paramount that we stress to you that interactions with people involved in those illicit activities is almost exclusively reserved for those who search them out or are involved themselves.

The states of Chiapas and Tabasco have a well established and safe tourist infrastructure. The cities and remains of the Mayan empire and the pristine jungle around them are world renowned tourist destinations that attract millions of Mexican national and international visitors every year.

Sierra Rios, our partner organization on this excursion, is well established and has a network of local guides and employees who speak a combination of English, Spanish and Chol (local Mayan dialect). On occasion they will employ local security to accompany us through certain areas, help with camp chores, and keep an eye on things during our side hikes. Sierra Rios has been working in the area for a decade and have never had any issues.


Some potential problems are traveler’s diarrhea, bug bites, colds, cracked skin, foot fungus, and skin infections. While we take precautions to minimize any potential problems it is important to remember that you are the first line of defense for your own good health. Participants should consult the CDC website for information on traveling in the destination country and visit a doctor well before the trip. In addition to any prescription medications you might require participants should consider carrying some sort of anti-diarrheal medication, over the counter pain meds, and scheduling appointments to get immunizations if you feel it necessary.

Mosquitos are far less common during the drier months and many people find that wearing appropriate clothing (shoes, long sleeves, pants) and repellent in the evenings is sufficient protection. Malaria medications and other vaccinations that are sometimes recommended for international travel (Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Tetanus, Yellow Fever, Rabies) are easily obtained by a visit to your doctor. Ultimately these health decisions are up to you. The Center for Disease Control website is a great resource for any research you might want to do.

Traveler’s diarrhea:
One of the most common ailments among tourists in less developed countries is traveler’s diarrhea(gastrointestinal problems).  You should try to minimize chances of getting it by avoiding potentially contaminated foods before the trip. We recommend our guests carry a supply of  over the counter anti-diarrheal medication just as a general precaution.

It is possible to encounter unfriendly people at any point on a trip and we cannot control for this. However, on many sections of river where the threats are known, we employ precautions to keep our groups safe. This may involve hiring local guides to accompany our group and/or hiring security to join the group nearby in a motorboat.

We always seek to keep our groups safe from all negative encounters or assaults. Far Flung Adventures Tours, Inc and SierraRios LLC assume no responsibility if there is damage, loss, or death due to unfriendly human interactions