Río Usumacinta Expedition Itinerary

Day 1 

Our journey begins with flights into Mexico, Villahermosa—the largest city in Mexico’s Tabasco province having the most conveniently located airport to our next destination, Palenque. The group will make their way to Palenque to stay in one of the finest hotels in town to have an extravagant dinner and party before heading into the jungles. At dinner, the trip leader will provide a thorough run down of the trip details and provide you a dry bag that will house all personal items you would like to bring on the trip. The hotel is kind enough to allow us to keep our luggage with them while we depart on our jungle adventure! 

Day 2 

Palenque is home to one of the largest and most amazing Mayan ruin sites in southern Mexico, Bàakʼ or Lakamha which translates to “big water”! The Usumacinta is exactly that, being the largest river in the region. The Palenque ruins are well maintained sites with guided tours and manicured lawns. They are a great start to the types of ancient structures that we will be seeing throughout our journey. Unlike the other sites that we will see these are easily accessible. The structures in Palenque are massive—yet very intricate—carvings in the limestone and travertine. This is how the Mayans were able to develop written languages, documented history and primitive technologies like the calendar. These sites are not only above ground but below with underground dwellings and tombs for significant members of the ancient societies.  

Day 3  

After shaking the festivities off from the night before and eating a light breakfast, we set Frontera Corozal in our sights. It is the start of our river expedition down the ancient Usumacinta! Within the first day we will see the most popular attraction within the region, the ancient Mayan city of Yaxchilan—a relic of the peak of Mesoamerican culture displaying the technological advances the civilization had made within such a challenging environment. The site may be our home for the evening for extended night time ruin exploration and maybe even a round or two of the royal ballgame, linked to festivals, sacrifice, even life and death itself. Camp will be directly by the structure for a full tour the next day.  

Day 4 

Today is the full tour of Yaxchillan, witnessing the former metropolis within Mesoamerican society. The significance of this site is their use of architectural features to both record and display the city’s events. Inscriptions on lintels, stairways, alters and stalea describe the events surrounding their history. Passionate tour guides dictate the fine points of the architecture, culture, history and accomplishments of the Maya and Yaxchillan. As howler monkeys project blood curdling screams through the trees, it is hard not to be taken aback by the magnificent power of the jungle to claim anything left in its path. Both campsites this evening are phenomenal locations for a safe comfortable evening with new friends and new experiences to reminisce over.  

Day 5 

After enjoying our time at Yaxchillan, we make our way down stream with about 12 km before our first significant rapid. First, we encounter “Chicozapote” rapid, another name for the delicious Sopapilla fruit that grows throughout the Yucatan peninsula. Most of the rapids today will be class II & III wave trains with a few surfing holes at the right water levels. Feel free to spread out on the enormous football field size beaches that will likely be our home for the evening! Enjoy gourmet camp foods prepared by our world class guide team. 

Day 6 

Rapids, geological wonders and a relaxing day on the river. While there are plenty of exciting portions of the trip, times like today are the perfect chance to catch up on recording the trip thus far in your journal, dive into a good book or even your glowing tan. As explorers of ancient cultures this would be an amazing opportunity to learn about the myths, mysteries and legends of the ancient culture that inhabited these jungles for hundreds of years. By the end of the day we should come upon the ancient city of Piedras Negras, the longtime neighbor and rival to the Yaxchillan society. The hike into Piedras Negras is a brief one through the semi tamed wilderness and if there were a time for closed toed shoes, it is now.  

Day 7 

Piedra Negras is unlike any other ancient sites we will see on our journey. This site has seen minimal excavation or upkeep, preserving the wildness of the jungle reclaiming the man-made structures. All the surrounding civilizations had contact with each other as some of the glyphs displayed at all the sites tell tales of rulers capturing royalty from other cities, competing for resources and gaining subjects to make blood sacrifices to please their deities. This site will make you feel like Indiana Jones, exploring ancient places for forgotten treasure in remote corners of the world. The site is funded by the World Monuments Fund and is now part of the Sierra Dell Lacandon National Park in the Guatemalan Lacandon Jungles.  

Day 8 

After a lazy morning with fresh coffee and a hearty breakfast, we are back on the river making our way to Aqua Azul, a spring fed tributary with unnaturally blue waters and exquisite travertine waterfalls form a picture-perfect river scene of paradise. After we spend some time swimming, playing and enjoying the waters of Aqua Azul, more rapids await down-stream. The section ahead provides numerous class III rapids and waterfalls that are perfect for inflatable and hard-shell kayaks alike. Today is a warm up for the day ahead as San Jose Canyon lays awaits.  

Day 9 

Today the whitewater will be the biggest that we will see on this trip, as the walls shoot up and the river narrows we approach San Jose Canyon. This is the aspect of the river that many compare to the Grand Canyon, with the sheer volume of water and the geological features forming the comparison. As we enter the canyon whirlpools begin to form and the rapids “San Jose” and “San Josito”, approach. These are the largest two rapids on this section, only class III, but class III at these water levels are a whole different ball game. After the crux rapids of our journey there will be six more miles of fun before the river mellows out again and we find camp for the evening.  

Day 10 

This morning marks the final day on the mighty Usumacinta as we break camp and paddle toward the take out. After we reach our take out at the Boca de Cerro Bridge, a beautifully kept boat ramp with welcoming hosts. We’re off to the Palenque hotel to get our luggage we left behind and wash away the remints of our jungle adventure, dinner & party! 

Day 11 

Your trip leader will accompany you to the airport for the flight back home or to the transfer location for your next destination!